Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Historic Ream Wrappers

Early Paper Ream Wrappers. They are seldom seen today as these paper wrappers were truly considered disposable. Printers went through volumes of paper in the process of printing books, billheads, broadsides and handbills and the paper wrapper packaging was quickly discarded. For historians of papermaking ephemera, they are considered to be the most ephemeral of all.  
     Displayed here is a small collection of rare ream wrappers from US paper mills in the 19th century. Most are from New England paper manufacturers. The earliest examples were generally printed as woodcut engravings and later copper and steel engravings were used, according to a great post on The Art of Old Ream Wrappers written by Stephen Gertz of Booktryst a couple years ago. He provides some other fine examples of European and US ream wrappers and explores some of the historical significance of these rare specimens. What was common to most all of these labels and wrappers was the great care given to the artistry, the design, the printing and the typography at that time. It is interesting to note that many of the beautiful illustrations on these wrappers were created by Dr. Alexander Anderson (1775-1870), who many readers here may recognize from several earlier posts I've written. All of the wrappers featured here (and more) are included in a database of graphic arts images from the American Antiquarian Society.

I believe the term Vellum Foolscap was considered a very common kind of paper in the 19th century. However I am not familiar with the term Pot as it relates to paper. Surely this doesn't refer to hemp paper, but I am curious what it means, as I noticed it repeated often. Does anyone else have a clue? 


  1. It is a French paper size, 31x40 cm.

    But that doesn't seem to fit with the samples?

  2. I also found this. It seems to be more accurate.

    Here, you have both Pott (12,5x15 in) and Foolscap (13,25x17 in)

    1. Thank you for this link Jonas. I had no idea there were so many international terms for paper formats. Princess? Elephant? Granted, most are not in use anymore, but it is a very rich history. I'm learning so much as well. ; )

  3. And now I've also learned the words Ream and Vellum! My English vocabulary is growing for each day!


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