A few nights ago, I attended a lecture at the Center for Book & Paper Arts here in Chicago by master papermaker Jacques Brejoux. He was accompanied by bookbinder Nadine Dumain, with whom he often collaborates.
Brejoux (center) teaching, from the Moulin's website
Brejoux makes his fine papers, which are used primarily for conservation work, at the 500-year-old Moulin du Verger in the Cognac region of France. During his presentation, Brejoux showed us a film which details his process and the building of his Medieval stamper. Since I know very little about papermaking and, in usual discombobulated form, forgot to bring a pen and paper along to take notes, I can't tell you exactly how the pulp created using a medieval stamper differs from that of its descendant, the industrial Hollander Beater. If I recall correctly from the lecture, it allows for longer strands of fiber to remain in the pulp therefore creating a stronger paper. Any papermakers out there: feel free to correct me or elaborate on this! In his video, I was most struck by how immense this contraption is (the basin in which the pulp is processed was carved from the trunk of a giant sycamore). For some reason, with its paddles and spindles it reminded me of a machine from a Tim Burton film... or perhaps a Rube Goldberg Machine.
Brejoux's Medieval Stamper, from the Moulin's website
The whole process struck me as quite romantic: Brejoux uses 70-year-old linen and hemp clothes as the fiber for his cloth. He explained that they must be worn and old in order to have the right character for his pre-19th century papers. He sources these antique rags from older citizens in the area who, he said, "do not like to throw anything away." The water he uses to make the pulp comes from a nearby spring. The bacteria and natural debris help in the rotting/fermenting process the pulp undergoes before being made into paper. So the final product is inextricably linked to its place of origin. How lovely. The paper itself is also simply gorgeous. It even has a wonderful smell.
Furthermore, Monsieur Brejoux is an delightfully sanguine man. The whole experience of going to this lecture was just charming. If you have the opportunity to hear him speak about, do!