I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

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Udwin
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I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Udwin » Wed Dec 16, 2015 2:09 am

I’ve recently had a dearth of topics to research in the interest of better visualizing Middle-earth, and as I didn't want to derail Greg's recent crafting update (groovy knife, by the way!), I spent an evening looking up references and writing up a new essay.

Leading Question, courtesy of Elleth: “Do we have textual support for paper in our area of Middle-earth, or would they have been using (hide) parchment?”

With this intriguing question point in mind, I combed my resources for references to paper, books, scrolls, letters, &c, and came up with an interesting picture.

Let’s start with a brief discussion of writing materials.
The earliest material that humans have used to encode information was clay, which would be impressed while wet (with a stylus or stamp) and could then be fired, fixing the message permanently. The Sumerian cuneiform is generally held up as the first writing system, though the ‘Vinca symbols’ of southeast Europe—which significantly predate the Mesopotamian system—are considered by some to be a ‘proto-writing’ system.
Paper is a writing material made from shredded-and-flattened cellulose fibers and originates in Han dynasty China (~200BCE-200CE); it eventually spread through Asia and entered Europe through contact with the Islamic sphere in the ~700s CE.
Paper is etymologically derived from papyrus, a thicker Egyptian material that dates from at least the 2500s BCE. Papyrus is not a true paper, however, as it is made by laying thin layers of sedge pith at right angles and then gluing or smashing together.
Both of these are in contrast to parchment, a scraped and stretched animal skin, which can include vellum, though that tends to be finer material. Parchment was known and used in Europe at least as early as classical Greece (400s BCE).
Although the late Third Age corresponds to approximately 4,000 BCE, both paper and parchments were known and used by various cultures in Middle-earth.

Parchment is specifically mentioned in relation to Gondor, and could be found in both books (bound sheets) and scrolls:
“‘We in the house of Denethor know much ancient lore by long tradition, and there are moreover in our treasuries many things preserved: books and tablets writ on withered parchments, yea, and on stone, and on leaves of silver and of gold, in divers characters” (Bk4 Ch5);
“In the night [Pippin] was wakened by a light, and he saw that Gandalf had come and was pacing to and fro in the room beyond the curtain of the alcove. There were candles on the table and rolls of parchment.” (Bk5 Ch1)
(Although it is nowhere mentioned in Tolkien, given its Numenorean heritage and Mediterannean climate/locale, I would not be surprised to find examples of papyrus in the archives of Gondor.)

Animal-derived writing materials were also apparently used by Dwarves, as Thror’s map of Erebor is described as “a piece of parchment rather like a map” (TH Ch1). We do not know what the other Third Age dwarvish document, the Book of Mazarbul, was written on; we read how when it was handled, “the leaves crackled and broke”, but I do not know if this should be taken as evidence of parchment, or if it is simply a result of the abuse it suffered (“slashed and stabbed and partly burned”), followed by 30 years of abandonment (Bk2 Ch5).

Finally, there may be a precedent for parchment use by hobbits, although not, apparently, by those of the late Third Age. As we read in Appendix D, “Not many ancient documents were preserved in the Shire. At the end of the Third Age far the most notable survival was Yellowskin, or the Yearbook of Tuckborough. Its earliest entries seem to have begun at least nine hundred years before Frodo's time…” The book’s name seems suggestive of vellum or a similar animal parchment.

Paper specifically appears in several Middle-earth contexts:
As part of his vision in Galadriel's Mirror, Frodo gets "a glimpse of Bilbo walking restlessly about his room [in Rivendell]. The table was littered with disordered papers…" (Bk2 Ch7), and upon reaching Rivendell on their return-journey, the Four Travelers immediately search out said room, which they find “was littered with papers and pens and pencils..." (Bk6 Ch6). (!!!)
The source of this paper is unknown, though I suggest that it was either brought by Bilbo to Rivendell (when or where from is debatable (see below), or it was ‘borrowed’ from Elrond—quite possible, given Rivendell’s position as a repository of knowledge (“the storied and figured maps and books of lore that were in the house of Elrond” (Bk2 Ch3).

Finally, in The Hunt for the Ring (Unfinished Tales), it is revealed that the 'squint-eyed Southerner' encountered at Bree was a Dunlending agent of Saruman, and “had orders also to get into the Shire if possible… He was well supplied with maps, lists of names, and notes concerning the Shire”; these notes and maps are later referred to as “Saruman's papers.” Where Saruman’s paper comes from is a mystery, as the folk of Rohan are said by Aragorn to be “wise but unlearned, writing no books but singing many songs”, so he likely did not obtain paper from them!

However, by far, the majority of references to writing materials in Tolkien’s works refer to paper in the context of hobbits.
Before we even get into Book One proper, we learn that “By no means all Hobbits were lettered, but those who were wrote constantly to all their friends (and a selection of their relations) who lived further off than an afternoon's walk” (Prologue III—Of the Ordering of the Shire).
If the lettered hobbits are “constantly” writing and sending letters, there must be significant demand for a similarly constant supply of writing materials in the Shire. With this in mind, I find it quite unlikely that the hobbits would be using historically-expensive parchment or vellum for everyday correspondences such as the “hundreds of polite variations on Thank you, I will come” sent by those invited to Bilbo’s 111th birthday party.
It is possible to infer that for hobbits, like modern folk, paper was a disposable material (as evidenced by Bilbo’s bequeath of “a large waste-paper basket” to his second cousin Dora) and cheap enough that the hobbits were not in the habit of reusing old papers as palimpsests.
There are even different grades of paper available to hobbits: Bilbo has special “note-paper” on which Thorin writes his letter, and after his disappearance, Bilbo carefully wraps up his party clothes in “tissue-paper”!

So, after establishing that ‘paper’ is entirely commonplace in the late Third Age, the next question we need to answer is: where does it come from? Thankfully, there are clues we can put together to point at a source.

After the Long-Expected Party, we read that “People came and began (by orders) to clear away the ... [long list of party trash including] crumbs and cracker-paper... and the uneaten food (a very small item).”
The cracker-paper in question should not be understood to mean ‘paper used to package baked goods that produced the above crumbs’, but rather the refuse of a specific type of party-favour, which we read elsewhere in Chapter 1 were in fact imported by Bilbo and present at the Party:
“Hundreds of musical crackers had been pulled. Most of them bore the mark DALE on them; which did not convey much to most of the hobbits, but they all agreed they were marvellous crackers. They contained instruments, small, but of perfect make and enchanting tones.”

So, if we put these passages together, it would appear that some sort of what we today call Christmas Crackers (rolled paper tubes with goodies inside) were known in late Third Age Middle-earth, and were being produced in Dale! I do not know if Dale is the source of the rest of the Shire’s non-cracker paper, but it is the best lead we have. If so, it is possible that much of the paper Bilbo used to compile his memoirs while at Rivendell came with him following his post-Party trip eastward to Dale.
Actually, considering the near-at-hand “swiftly flowing” Celduin (River Running), I imagine Dale would be an ideal candidate for many kinds of water-powered mills, but for the purposes of this essay, I think we might surmise that a paper-mill was one of them, and this seems especially likely, given the reinvigoration of the Erebor/Dale/Lake-town economical sphere in the years after 2941 TA.
(The next question, which I have no idea how to answer, is: where did the Shire get its paper during Smaug's 171-year occupation of Erebor?)

To help visualize and connect these threads, on the attached map I have marked with green those locations known to be associated with ‘paper’, with blue those with non-specific (letters, books, scrolls, &c.) association, as well as known trade routes.
I believe we can draw these conclusions/assumptions:

*Gondor seems to be more scroll- and parchment-oriented (in addition to other methods of information transfer—clay, stone or metal tablets)
*Trade along the North-South road between Gondor and Arnor had collapsed long before the end of the Third Age.
*Most of Rivendell’s library was there before Bilbo arrived and settled down in his ‘retirement’.
*Following the Battle of Five Armies, Dale began (or resumed) making and exporting paper to the lands along the Great East Road (Rivendell, Bree, Shire, &c).
*To further demonstrate his growing influence, Saruman imported paper from the Shire (originally from Dale) among their other goods and produce.
Attachments
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Greg
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Greg » Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:39 am

Thread's derailed anyway...but this deserves its own, for sure!

I knew the instant Elleth posted that question that an Udwin response was coming. This is a great analysis.

My map, to make this immediately pertinent, was drawn on a modern parchment, but I'm happy with the material. I wanted to keep costs down, and that's the paper the cartographer was using already, so it worked nicely and can be referenced easily as a Gondor-sourced map.

Thanks, once again, for doing some legwork for us!
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Elleth
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Elleth » Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:54 am

WOW!

Thank you for researching this in such depth - and so quickly!

Hrmm.. I assumed at first that the reference to scrolls was to ancient documents, not contemporary work- though perhaps not. The mixed chronology of parchment scrolls and wastepaper baskets is maddening... Then I remember our real world has dudes founding companies building private space ships a day's flight from (at least mostly) untouched tribes carrying spears.Truth is stranger than fiction I guess. :)

As regards what that means for rangering folk and the realms of men in Eriador... Im inclined to think that archival "quality" texts would be on parchment, regular documents were on some manner of rag or pulp paper, and that the correspondences of hobbits - to the extent they were noted at all by the outside world - were for some reason regarded more as a curiosity than something to emulate.

Which is odd in itself... Unless I suppose that the "post apocalyptic" nature of the West we've previously discussed means that there's just little need for distance correspondence for most folk, since there's not a lot of population movement.
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Ringulf » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:13 pm

Very nicely done Udwin!

You sir are one of our formost scholars! :D

And my appologies for derailment Greg! :oops:
A heartening sight by Day or Night, Dwarven warriors bold! To add their Might to any Fight, Precious more than Gold! A Dwarven friend is to the end, Never shall they fail! Their word does not bend, wherever they wend,
through Cavern, Hill or Dale!"
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Greg » Wed Dec 16, 2015 5:24 pm

None necessary...thread derailment is a happy hobby on this forum, loved and shared by all.
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Ringulf » Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:14 am

In our meetings we call it "Birdwalkin", and I do have a habit of going off on a...Squirrel!!...tangent at times. :mrgreen:
A heartening sight by Day or Night, Dwarven warriors bold! To add their Might to any Fight, Precious more than Gold! A Dwarven friend is to the end, Never shall they fail! Their word does not bend, wherever they wend,
through Cavern, Hill or Dale!"
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Pergamena » Mon Nov 07, 2016 8:28 pm

Hello all,

As an erstwhile Middle Earth/LOTR fan, I have been looking for the opportunity to combine my actual livelihood with an interest in maps and Tolkien lore. I found this forum looking for "animal skin parchment maps of Middle Earth".

I operate a tannery and parchment making production facility. Our company Pergamena is the only producer of animal skin parchment in the United States and we have a history of working with animal skins that stretches back almost 5 centuries. We produce, goat, calf, sheep, and deerskin parchment along with traditionally tanned (a method of using vegetable based tanning extracts) leather. As parchment and vellum goes, we produce parchment for several markets such as interior designers, drum makers, book and manuscript conservators, illuminators, calligraphers, and map makers. We have done prototype maps and custom projects before, working with printers who specialize in printing on parchment and vellum. We have produced parchment for copies of historical documents as well as supplied material for hand drawn maps. Specifically, I have produced parchment for copies of the well known map of Middle Earth, as well as the Map of the Lonely Mountain.

While parchment is not a cheap material, I would like to think there is a market for producing high end map reproductions, or other custom maps or documents. I hope you will forgive the not so subtle pitch for our company, but I think there might be an interest in our craft and products among interested people such as yourselves. I apologize if this is not the right venue to mention this, but any suggestions or questions from your forum would be welcome. If anyone is interested in more information, you can find our website at http://www.pergamena.net or call us 845.457.3834. Thanks in advance! Best, Jesse
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Peter Remling » Mon Nov 07, 2016 9:44 pm

Hi Jesse adding this to the existing thread is fine. Welcome to the forum.
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Elleth
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Elleth » Tue Nov 08, 2016 12:26 am

Hi Jessee - that's awesome! I've been wanting to get into illumination one of these days, just... not this year, clearly. :)

I see you do other vegtan products as well. By any chance, would you consider offering -

- bark tanned hide, especially deer (it might get some traction here, but the colonial reenactors will go nuts for it)
- hair-on traditionally tanned goatskin? I finally gave up looking for a source and just ordered a traditional bota, but I'd love the chance to make make a traditional one in a pattern of my own design.

Finally - what's the dye process you mention? Do you do traditional / medieval leather dyes by any chance?

*bookmarks site for next year's manuscript making projects*

Thanks!
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Pergamena » Wed Nov 09, 2016 4:33 pm

Hi Elleth and Forum in general...

Thanks for the warm welcome and your questions. Most of the leather we are currently producing is vegtan, using a chestnut extract, although we have also produced material using a blend of mimosa and quebracho (a S. American conifer). While it is not exactly tanned in actual bark, we do tan a lot of deerskin in chestnut extract. It yields a light grayish brown colored leather that is very glovey and has lots of character and a good thickness.

At the moment, we can't do hair on hides as that requires a different type of tannage that is better at preserving the delicate hair.

The dyes we use are mostly synthetic dyes, although we have tried doing natural dyes before, such as cochineal, but the natural dyes are very weak and barely change the color at all. They also tend to fade quickly on leather. I have done some dyeing of parchment though and we have a walnut color (warm grey brown) as well as Fustic (a Caribbean tree extract that yields a golden brown).

Please let me know if there is any interest in leathers or in our parchment, or custom map projects and we are happy to help you out. We have sample books of our materials available on our website.

Thanks for your interest...

Jesse
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Ringulf
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Ringulf » Wed Nov 23, 2016 2:06 am

Thank you for thinking of us and going one step further! I would love to get connected with you As my wife is a Scrivener Royal in the SCA and I love cartography. I will follow your link and try to get connected to you, if if I can't, feel free to send a pm to me...Christmas is coming :mrgreen: !
A heartening sight by Day or Night, Dwarven warriors bold! To add their Might to any Fight, Precious more than Gold! A Dwarven friend is to the end, Never shall they fail! Their word does not bend, wherever they wend,
through Cavern, Hill or Dale!"
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Brandwyn » Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:04 am

I bet Ringulf thought I wouldn't find this thread. Heh heh... Yes, Christmas is coming!

Jesse,
Do you perchance sell to the Limner's Guild in the SCA who markets at the Pennsic Wars?

If so, I suspect I have 4 sheets of pergmena among my stash of goat skin parchment and sheep vellum that I bought from the Limner's Guild and from Master John the Artificer.

I would love to see what you have in stock.

I loved the history and musings by Udwin on paper. Thanks for posting that!

Brandwyn
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Re: I never imagined I'd enjoy pondering PAPER this much!

Postby Pergamena » Wed Dec 07, 2016 4:37 pm

Hi Brandwyn,

We have sold to the Limner's Guild before, and I think someone represents us there now. We have worked with members of the SCA for several years now. On the whole, a great group of people. We have a great deal of parchment in stock here at any one time. If there is something in particular you are interested in, please let me know.

Speak to you soon!

Jesse

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