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HERE are a number of objections to dry-printing for work that is to endure. In the first place, soft papers like the Japanese made from mitsumata and gampi fibers, are easily soiled, and rubbing the surface of them will raise the fibers so that cleaning by the method usually employed on harder papers is impracticable; secondly, dryprinting on a hand-press requires four or five times more ink than is needed on dampened stock to achieve the same denseness; and thirdly, hard, dry paper is harsh on the woodblock, and yields but little character compared to dampened paper.
Dry-paper printing requires not only more ink, but a softer one - one with a greater proportion of oil to pigment. This excess of oil will affect the print disagreeably, often in a very short time. It separates from the color and spreads around the lines in a yellowish cast, and unless the prints are interleaved with clean sheets of paper, they will offset; that is, stain the printed design on each other. The more ink used on an impression, and the fresher and more liquid it is, the greater and swifter this deleterious effect. This evil impends over all dry-printed work regardless of the paper used. The blame rests largely with the ink manufacturers, for the product they offer is fit generally only for transient work. The amalgamation of oil and pigment, or the digestion of the oil, is not complete at the time of marketing. Ink should not only be so stiff as to be unmanageable for dry-printing but it should be aged. Some inks cannot stand aging because of a tendency to 'liver'.
From the foregoing it will be seen that if permanency only be the object machine-made papers instead of hand-made might just as well be used when dry-printed on a power press. Dampened paper is not used in commercial printing because it makes more work, and thus slows down production; that, of course, is fatal to our sacred economic philosophy.
The requirements then for durable work are paper made preferably after the oldest paper-making method of good, old rags, free from injurious chemicals, dampened when printed and on which is used the oldest and stiffest ink that is possible to manipulate.
It is difficult to make prints on thick dampened paper by burnishing. A viscid ink will hold the paper well to the block, but the burnishing of a large black area under such conditions is quite an ordeal. It is easier to burnish with the undesirable thinned ink but the paper is likely to shift on the block before the job is finished, and that's not so good either. But since we had acquired a press in the previous chapter we will use it.
I prefer wove paper to laid - a personal idiosyncrasy. Prominent water-marks are apt to get in the way of producing good impressions, especially when there are large areas of black, and so they had better be avoided. The papers that I have found satisfactory are 'No. 808 Vidalon Velin' made by Canson & Montgolfier; 'Arnold's Unbleached Wove'; 'Rives'; 'Arches'; the Swedish 'Orebro'; 'Van Gelder'; Whatman's smoother water-color papers; 'Fabriano' when the surface is not too rough, and 'Shogun' unwatermarked. The latter has a tendency to turn yellowish after a time. The Zerkall 'Cranach 1701' and 'Leipsic 1509' offer nice printing surfaces. Of the numerous hand-made papers the English are considered the best, the Japanese are good, but the Italian quality is poor. One takes a good deal of a chance anyway. I think it is of far more importance to use a machine-made paper of good ingredients, free from harmful chemicals, than some handmade products compounded of who knows what rubbish. Any paper that emits dust when torn is not a good one to use; the dust is dirt filler.
A machine-made paper tears more easily one way than another because the wet sheet is shaken in process of manufacture in but two directions, whereas in the hand-made the mould is shaken in four directions and consequently the fibers are interlaced at right angles to each other.
Papers vary in their absorbent power - both in ink and water. It is difficult to lay down an absolute method for dampening them to a definite degree. The method given will serve as a guide. It is better to confine the batch to one kind of paper, for it generally takes half a dozen impressions before the proper relations between the ink and the paper are established, and to be experimenting with different kinds when printing a small edition leads to nothing more than annoyance.
For an edition of fifty prints on fairly heavy stock, four blotters somewhat larger than the sheets to be printed are saturated with clean water. These are interleaved between five dry ones and put between covers (two pieces of linoleum make good ones) under a weight for an hour or so. Then sheets of paper are sandwiched between blotters. After a while eighteen dry sheets are again interleaved between every damp one and blotter, with one outside each end against the cover. An hour or two later the remaining thirty-four drys are laid between the wet ones and allowed to acquire virtue through the night. Sixty sheets will be accounted for - ten being allowed for spoilage. In the thinner and softer Japanese papers batches of six or seven sheets could be placed between the wet blotters and left undisturbed over night. Before commencing to print, the following morning, every other sheet might be turned upside down, and the driest put next to blotters at the bottom of the pile. At the same time make sure that the proper face is uppermost. The watermark gives the clue. If the upper face of the uncut sheets are marked before cutting apart it will save trouble later in determining the proper side to print on.
The paper ought not to present a mottled appearance, nor should moisture be visible; that would indicate too much dampness. The printing is done as when dry paper is used, except that as the impressions are made they are placed between dry blotters - a tissue sheet above the print to keep them clean. It will be necessary to guard carefully against the use of dirty or colored papers as well as blotters which have been charred in drying, coming in contact at any time with dampened paper, for dirt and color are very easily absorbed.
If the white coating on the block has been too thick the damp paper is likely to adhere when being printed. The white of egg used as binder for the paint is responsible for the misdeed. The surplus coating has to be carefully scraped down with a sharp steel scraper, and perhaps some details on the block recut.
When the edition is finished the whole is put under a stiff board and pressure of about ten pounds or so, enough to prevent the papers from curling. After about an hour fresh dry blotters are substituted for the damp ones and the pile again put under the weight. Another change should be made several hours later, and the next day the prints ought to be sufficiently dry not to wrinkle. In damp weather the blotters should be heated to drive out any lurking moisture. The point is not to allow the papers to remain damp any longer than necessary, as dampness induces mildew. If the prints still have a tendency to curl when exposed to the air it is an indication that they are not quite dry and ought again to be placed between warmed blotters.
There is another way of drying prints and that is to paste down the edges of the sheet to a stiff board - using gummed paper tape. The deckle edge is lost, of course, but that is no great matter as it would not be visible anyway when the proof is matted.
Cries for permanence of print papers are going up. A paper may be made of rags and by hand and yet be of little value in durability if chemicals have been used to bleach the pulp. There aren't any pure paper laws - if 'pure' laws are good for anything when fat profits are at stake - so it is much a matter of chance in selecting durable stock. The print-maker cannot very well make paper as he would blocks, to insure absolute reliability in manufacture. It becomes annoying at times when a possible purchaser of a print demands assurances for absolute permanence of it. He would pay the same amount for a print as for a seat at the opera, theater, or a prize fight, or for a bunch of flowers, or for a box of candy, and it never would enter his head to demand that these things be permanent. He gets what pleasure he can absorb from the spectacles, or the scents, or the tastes, and trusts to his memory for future pleasures from them. He trusts to an ephemeral bunch of flowers or a box of disfiguring candy to win the regards and favor of his lady love; the lady love throws the flowers into the garbage can the next day, and wisely feeds the candy to her dog. If our hero would but stop to think he could present the fair one with a print, and regardless of what paper it were printed on, it would endure as long as his love, and just so long would the gift be a pleasant memento of his solicitude. But when it comes to a matter of prints he suddenly becomes shrewd - (a word made respectable by business), the purchase of them must bring not only pleasure but profit. They must not only be permanent; they must increase in value for ever and ever.