The Ugliest Machine-made Paper?


The Franklin Paper Co. Franklin Inlaid Sample book. Early-Mid 20th c.

Handmade paper generally has chain and laid lines. These were originally aspects formed by the making of paper, though are artificially replicated in machine made papers. What is called “fake” chain and laid lines are, in fact, thinner deposits of pulp in the paper, often made by a dandy roll. The chain and laid lines in the Franklin Inlaid paper are beyond fake, however. They are printed on the surface of the paper. The chain and laid lines in this paper were available in four colors.

Franklin Blue Book

The Franklin Paper Co. Franklin Inlaid Sample book. Early-Mid 20th c. Enlarged Detail.

As someone who routinely works with paper, I feel confident in describing this paper as pretty ugly. The chain and laid lines look more like mortar between brickwork than a thinner deposit of pulp.

But in the top image, if I can forget these are supposed to be chain and laid lines, it looks pretty good. With the expansive letterspacing, the chain and laid lines function as a ghostly background image. A faked material aspect of paper becomes part of the image.

2 Replies to “The Ugliest Machine-made Paper?”

  1. Am pleased that you’re lecturing at Syracuse (my University; I studied there with such achknowledged typographic experts as Laurence Siegfried and was graduate assistant to Dave Norton teaching graphic arts in the then Goudy Typographic Laboratory). I would hope that your lecture was/would be somewhat more advanced than the blog on mechanical “laid” paper which I thought any child who knew anything about papermaking would have learned on day one if not before. You might note that printing via letterpress on such stock can be tricky unless the paper has been dampened; offset, of course, offers no problems as the reproduction process readily accomodates the unevenness in the paper surface.
    Best regards.
    George Hamilton, Vienna (Austria)

  2. It seems you have missed the main point of this post, or I failed to express myself clearly. This paper does not have mechanically produced chain and laid lines, they are printed on the paper. Fake fake chain and laid lines, so to speak.

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