The Exeter Papers, Studies in British Paper History, Volume II

The welcome appearance of The Exeter Papers, the second volume of the BAPH's Studies in British Paper History series, provides all who are interested in this complex and fascinating field of study with a substantial publication that offers an incredible wealth of paper history in a relatively small volume. Researched in depth, these erudite papers covering a wide range of paper history, reflect the extent to which this study of paper is intrinsic and complementary to other disciplines; they also reflect the scope of BAPH's remit and members' research interests. These studies put paper history into perspective and add to our understanding of paper's role in other spheres and as a context for other disciplines. The papers published here will both inform and intrigue; amateur and professional paper historians, whether with a specific or more general interest, equally should enjoy and benefit from reading this publication.

The introduction gives a useful and thorough overview of, and context for, the topics covered at this conference, particularly highlighting the forces of dynamic change within the industry and the crucial part played by watermark identification. It does, perhaps, reveal too much of the substance that the reader then finds repeated in the texts.

A dominant, important characteristic of these proceedings is the placing of each piece of research into a wider context. Richard Hills' paper on James Watt and his involvement with paper and papermaking underlines paper in relation to other disciplines, whilst his second paper, on the technical difficulties of developing the use of thermo-mechanical pulp, is in the context of commercial considerations of producing a viable and practical process. The intriguing story of the German forgery of British currency during the second world war by Peter Bower is set in the context of political manipulation. Colin Harris considers the technical and commercial development of papermaking locally and the effects on the people of Stowford Mill, Ivybridge, within the setting of industrial developments generally from Elizabethan times.

The varied researches in this volume are well balanced, a feature that makes it as enjoyable to read as it is informative. Technical texts complement those of economic and social historical studies. Professor Ravenhill used humour as a counterpart to his serious investigation into the interpretation of a 'Saint' watermark in the Saxton Atlas c1590, and Ian Dye suggests a rarely used source in the Abstracts from Census Returns, demonstrating the rewards of an in-depth statistical analysis alongside the human story.

A west country setting, to acknowledge the Exeter conference location is given by Professor Minchinton's exploration of the local waterborne import and export paper trade, while Ian Maxted relates the Exeter paper trade to the book trade and examines the local migration of paper makers; the history of Stowford Mill, and Tuckenhay Mill's working conditions described in the welcome reprinting of the papermaking extracts from Eden Philpott's novel, Storm in a Teacup, add further local background.

The care, thoughtfulness and attention to meticulous detail is evident in the way this volume has been designed and compiled; illustrations of west country watermarks interspersing the papers; the photographs, sketches, diagrams and transmitted light images used as illustrations; and the pertinent post-conference notes and publications' references are examples. It is marred only by minor blemishes: misplaced footers and the omission of conventional typesetting details. Where double instead of single quotation marks have been employed (by convention double only for reported speech) certain pages have a rather untidy appearance.

New historical evidence in this field and direction to less obvious sources of research material are important and welcome outcomes recorded in these proceedings. Excellent referencing in most papers will allow readers to delve further into tangents of there interests. The quality of these texts, and of the publication overall, makes it essential reading for everyone involved in paper history research.

I commend The Exeter Papers as much to the curious amateur as to the expert professional. This volume is excellent value and complements the equally erudite earlier volume in the Studies in British Paper History series, The Oxford Papers.

Jean Stirk