1836 - Murray, John. An Account of the Phormium Tenax, or New Zealand Flax - POSTSCRIPT, p 25-34

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  1836 - Murray, John. An Account of the Phormium Tenax, or New Zealand Flax - POSTSCRIPT, p 25-34
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Some years ago, I wrote a small work,, entitled "Remarks on modern Paper," and presented the MS. to the late Mr. Blackwood, of Edinburgh, in the hope that its publication, through his influence, might be useful. The public were partially roused and alarmed, but the effect was transient, and like 'a morning cloud, it has passed away.' Advantage has been taken of this apathy and torpor, and the paper market is now inundated with the most wretched trash conceivable, which gains an unsuspected currency, under the name of 'paper'--a sad abuse of terms, and no more like what that material ought to be, than a shadow to the substance.

Let Our modern books be consulted in the brittleness and decay of the paper, and the decomposition of the ink, and compared with former tomes, --works printed when the paper material was more sound in its constitution than it is now, and the bleaching process was not pushed to such a ruinous extent, and the contrast presented in the review, will be not less extraordinary than startling.

Nothing can be more erroneous than the foolish and mistaken idea that any thing and every thing will do for the manufacture of paper; that, for instance, cellular substance or parenchyma is good enough for paper. A genuine and sterling paper must of necessity be composed of a fine fibrous structure, forming a dense, matted, and consolidated plexus, that cannot be easily disintegrated--a fibrous pulp cemented by size, and presenting an even homogeneous surface and close texture, undecomposeable by the agencies of air and moisture, consequently free from all tendency to mould, or being affected by damp; any deliquescent salt, therefore, would be ruinous, if suffered to remain, and the decomposition of any of the ingredients of the size prove equally destructive. It follows that, in order to secure homogeneity, the papyraceous material should be uniformly obtained from one source of supply--the vegetable kingdom--not vegeto animal, or a mixture of both; and its cohesive strength, or its durability and permanence, must, from previous

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remarks, depend on fibre uniformly diffused. But the evil does not stop here,--the chemical processes to which the fibre is previously subjected, act to destroy; and the chloride of lime, subsequently employed to bleach the material, completes the destruction previously begun, in forming a deliquescent salt, rooted in the paper; decomposing and, in process of time, altogether obliterating the ink and destroying the M.S. or print. --'Look on this picture and on that.'

A mere glance or hasty survey of the evil is all that I venture to attempt in this P.S., and my only object is to rouse attention. The evil is indeed deeply footed, and it ramifies far and wide, while the rapidity of its progress is fearful. The public have been warned, and they have remained inattentive fo the summons; it now only remains to be seen whether Government will come forward to stem the ill-fated current, and apply the axe to the upas tree. It is impossible to do more than merely enumerate some of the papyraceous materials that have been used,--and even those specimens of paper that I have in my own cabinet, are sufficiently numerous in variety to form a curious list. I possess paper formed from the following substances:--

Unbleached flax (excellent).
- - - - Phormium tenax. Bleached ditto.
Roots of trees from the Himala, Mountains (excellent).
Daphne cannabina.
Paper mulberry.
Husks of Indian corn!
Coccoons of the silk-worm.
Shavings of leather.
India paper (calpy).
Shavings of wood!
From the Loo Choo Islands.
&c. &c..

Paper has also been made of hop bines, hollyhocks, potatoe stalks, cotton waste, thistle down, liquorice root; 1 and fragments of paper

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that has already served its purpose, have been remanufactured, the ink being expunged by chloride of lime! and, as if these were not enough, Mr. Mallet has gravely proposed that the turf bogs of Ireland should be forthwith converted (risum teneatis!) into paper! --the reddish brown spongy fibrous, vegetable matters, which are the ruin and remains of aquatic or paludose vegetation, in an incipient stage of decomposition. - These Mr. Mallet proposes to substitute for rags! and, according to his calculation, about 18 lbs. of pure fine white pulp may be procured from 100 lbs. of genuine native turf! It must be confessed that this paper mine is not likely to be exhausted for some time. In a communication to the Academy of Sciences at Paris, the culture of the papyrus antiquorum in the south of France is recommended as a papyraceous material, should it be found superior to straw, &c.!

What is called paper is adulterated to an extent, and with substances that may well surprise us: among these adulterations may be mentioned chalky gypsum, clay, curriers' shavings, chopped hair and wool, cotton flyings, thistle down, &c.; hop bines and similar materials are sufficiently common, and straw paper is extensively manufactured in this country. A vast proportion of the letter paper now in use owes its seemingly compact texture and its thickness, consistency, and weight, to a mixture of plaster of Paris with the paper pulp. Mr. Braude states he discovered by analysis in some specimens of paper upwards of twenty per cent. of gypsum: and I have frequently found from 15 to 18 per cent. of the same ingredient; so that it is really little else than what may be called, not inaptly, a papyraceous stucco! being merely prevented from crumbling to powder by the infusion of finely chopped hair, and the fractional portion of vegetable fibre that is suffered to remain. It is certainly a curiosity in its way, but ought not to be called paper.

Paper has been made of grass, and our modern paper is evanescent as the 'flower of grass' and 'the grass which to-day is, and tomorrow, is cast, into the oven,' is only a fit and faithful emblem of the ephemeral nature of our present paper! and we may well. exclaim--

"Can these things be--
O'ercome us like a summer cloud,
Without our special wonder."

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The unquenchable rage for blenching that now prevails is carried to an extent which is altogether irrational, and which our calmer judgment would condemn, if suffered to interpose. Isinglass is bleached at the expense of its properties; ginger is bleached, though its virtues are thereby attenuated, if not destroyed; starch is bleached, though the linen to which it is applied becomes yellow; sugar is bleached, and this explains the reason why sirup of violets loses its colour--our continental neighbours have, however, got the 'whip-hand' of us in this instance, for 'smalts' are added to impart a feeble tinge of blue, and as smalts contain arsenic, their cau sucre is poisoned. In fact, every thing is now bleached more or less; and by and by, I doubt not, but our 'daily bread' will be bleached with chloride of lime, as it now is with alum, and sundry other ingredients, though health may be forfeited.

Paper, when bleached, if the chloride be not removed, or permanently neutralized, produces effects of the most disastrous kind, and oftentimes where the cause is little suspected. The delicate blossoms of plants folded up in our herbaria lose their colours; coloured silks, especially delicate tints, as violet, mazarine blue, lilac, &c., become eventually blanched when wrapped up in white paper. A silk manufacturer once bitterly complained to me of the loss he sustained from the difficulty he experienced in preserving coloured silks; I bade him use any paper but white paper, and the evil was cured. The manufacturer of paper hangings and stained paper had lost hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, before the cause was discovered. Gilt buttons to the amount of two or three hundred pounds have been returned unsaleable to the manufacturer, because folded up in white paper--chlorine having the property of acting chemically on gold, and forming a chloride of that metal. It is easy to see what would be the effect of allowing delicately-coloured silks, muslins, &c., to remain in boxes or a chest of drawers lined with similar paper. It might be supposed that the chloride of lime employed to bleach the 'half stuff,' or the paper pulp, was ruinous enough, but in this inference we should be mistaken; to complete the work of destruction, some paper; after it is entirely manufactured, must be bleached by being exposed to the nascent gas! Such paper is called by the trade, "doctored." The typographer, lithographer, engraver, all complain of the difficulty. of "working"

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particular kinds of paper, and the shreds of the wool and hair will also sometimes perplex them. I have been informed; that with some paper not more than a hundred impressions can be taken by the lithographer, before the impress on the stone is almost destroyed, while with the best qualities of paper, some thousands of copies. may be obtained before it is sensibly altered. Government, if I am not misinformed, finds it necessary to employ a person to superintend the entire process of the manufacture of the paper employed for the beautiful maps of the grand trigonometrical survey of the British Isles. Let a rigid inquisition be made of the books printed within the last thirty or forty years, and the lamentable effects will be seen in all their intensity. I have a copy of the sacred volume, issued by the British and foreign Bible Society, and printed at the Oxford University press in 1816; nearly the whole of the Genesis of the Pentateuch has already, mouldered into dust, and, I believe not one perfect copy now remains Of the entire impression, amounting to many thousand copies. I wrote the then venerable President of the Bible Society, Lord Teignmouth, on the subject, and submitted portions of the decayed and decomposed leaves to the late Bishop of Lichfield, and Mr. Wilberforce then in parliament, when I pointed out the causes, and consequences of inattention to a subject of such vital importance. I might refer to myriads of similar instances; let one example suffice, and it is a good illustration because it serves to shew the evil and its cause.

Tegg's Edition of Clarke's Bible Commentaries is printed on a paper which. "tells its own tale" already. Let the numbers already issued be examined, and the contrast of pale and almost illegible pages, when compared with others that still maintain their blackness, will evince the evil of which I complain. A person once informed me that some of the accounts of his ledger could not be deciphered, and perhaps the records of the House of Customs might be appealed to as a commentary. Letters have fallen to pieces in transition through the Post-office, and dropt their contents in the postage; letters have crumbled away in the pocket, or, when put past and subsequently consulted, have been discovered to be a carte blanche. One of the Society of Friends at Chesterfield, in consequence of what I had written on this subject, was induced to examine sundry valuable deeds and documents in his 'strong box,'

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and he informed me that many of modern date were become nearly illegible and useless, some entirely so; while the more ancient were uninjured; The paper is indeed white at first, but soon changes, chameleon-like, by light; into a sickly yellow or cream colour. 'Nimium ne crede colori,' the maxim adopted from Virgilius Maro, by Linnaeus, in reference to the suspicion that ought to attach to the question of colour as the test of species in plants, is equally worthless applied to discriminate the excellence of paper.

I have already said that the false and fictitious estimate of economy we employ is a circumstance that countenances and perpetuates the evil; nothing can be more injurious than this blighting and baleful conduct. Quantity is every thing, and quality nothing: we choose the evil and reject the good, and such is the ruinous competition that appears in the market to tamper with this degraded appetite and taste, that a conscientious paper manufacturer and an excellent paper have no chance: paper is offered at very much less than the original cost of the rag! or the material employed in the manufacture of a sound and staple article! what marvel then, that clay, and plaster of Paris, and chopped hair, cotton flyings, and the like delectable Commodities should be employed to make up the deficiency! Were I to stipulate with the confectioner for a pound of his Confectionery, and obstinately refuse to give more than 4d., when a moment's reflection would inform me that the sugar of which it should be entirely composed, costs more than double, it would only be reasonable to expect that the difference of weight should be made up of pipeclay and chalk; and I cannot murmur at the bonne bouche.

What I am desirous to see enacted, is some provision by which those who are willing to avail themselves of the rule of judgment, may have the privilege of selecting a sound and durable material; and if a penalty be not annexed to the adulterations of paper, at any rate let it be branded with the proscribed title 'bad;' and if any choose to commit themselves by the purchase, with them rests the entire blame, and it is at their own risk and peril. Many might willingly make the purchase for memoranda, or school copy books; but for permanent and valuable MSS. and documents, and scientific works; and literary and religious works of sterling eminence and worth, let us know assuredly that such and such paper is made of

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linen rags, or of some strong vegetable fibres; and let a distinction be drawn between linen fibre and that of cotton, between unbleached, half-bleached, and entirely bleached paper, and paper of rude and worthless materials: in fact, a bold line of demarcation between good and bad qualities of paper, and 'highly improved and refined' or badly conducted and imperfect manufacture. We did sufficiently well before the present bleaching process was introduced; the paper was good and abundantly fair, and there can be no doubt that the method now in universal operation, may be safely and yet efficiently conducted in the production of good white paper, of sufficient strength and durability.

The Chinese manufacture paper from the bark of many vegetables, as well as from the fibres of hemp and straw of rice; and in the two, former it might be well to copy them. Government would do well to consider how far the duty, on the importation of rags tends to encourage the adulteration of paper, by holding out, as it were, a bonus for the nefarious practice. We would also do well steadily to keep in view the necessity of employing strong fibrous materials in the constitution of our best paper. The inner bark of the lime, birch, bramble, the nettle, and numerous other substances might be employed; and we should act a wise part to depend less on the mouldy and rotten rags that are too often imported and employed. Good Hamburg rags are the best of the kind; but flax, hemp, Phormium tenax, musa textilis, &c. are the materials that demand chief attention, and, if even employed in part, would give a solidity and a strength and permanence to our paper which it could not otherwise possess. The pamphlet which preceded this I printed on paper I had manufactured from the plant which forms the subject of the present memoir, and the strength of the fabric almost equalled that of parchment; it was unbleached; the present is also in the same condition. I cheerfully acknowledge my very grateful obligations to Mr. Smith, of Morton Paper Mills, in this county (Yorkshire), whose friendly exertions in the manufacture, and whose practical skill in paper manipulation, is cordially, appreciated and recognized. I have great pleasure in quoting the following opinion from the manufacturer of the Phormium tenax paper, on which, the present pamphlet is printed:-- "You will observe the paper is very strong; indeed, in my own opinion, nearly

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as durable as parchment itself of the same thickness. Had the raw material been hackled, or cleaned, previous to manufacture, I have no doubt but it would have been equally as strong, of a beautiful colour, and a first-rate paper, more durable than any thing ever seen in the shape of paper." I may merely observe that I find that the tow of the New-Zealand flax will make an excellent and stout paper free from specks, and the cost of the material would be reduced ONE-HALF. It is not my intention, however, to enter on an estimate of comparative expense, because it is not generally known what a good paper should be, or the qualities which ought to distinguish it. Our paper generally wants the very principle, which should characterize it; there is, indeed, 'the tale of bricks;' but straw is lacking in their composition.

Fibre being admitted as essential, it may next be remarked that the great bane of the fibre is the alkali employed. It is truly a powerful detergent, but it acts upon, and finally decomposes the fibre: it softens and subdivides the fibre, but it also devours it. In the employment of potassa and soda too much caution and care cannot be enjoined. In the size, part of the ingredients must be subject to mould, the consequence of decomposition. But this decay can, by the most simple means, be prevented or checked. The yellow mould that sometimes attacks paper, and riots so destructively in the hortus siccus, is called by modern botanists eurotium herbariorum, and is referrable to this source. Another question that ought to be attended to is to get rid of every remaining portion of chloride of lime after its purpose of bleaching is fulfilled. The bisulphate of alumina employed subsequently would tend, in virtue of its excess of acid, to decompose the residual chloride of lime, and the chlorine would soon pass into hydro-chloric acid; or the chloride of lime might be converted into hydro-chloride of lime; a highly deliquescent salt; but if entirely separated by frequent ablutions, &c. the bisulphate should nevertheless be neutralized. The decomposition and destruction of the ink is effected by the two-fold agency of the chlorine or the chloride and the excess of acid in the supersalt.

Our age teems with wonders in arts and manufactures: we have soap from flints, and elegant snuff-boxes are made in Germany from potatoes; so in the article of paper there is something for

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marvel--the glass paper and papier linge are two of these curiosities.

I am informed by an intelligent French gentleman that the former fabric has been kept au secret, and is not now to be obtained even in Paris, its discoverer, having been reduced to extreme distress. The sheets that I have seen were very beautiful and more transparent than mica; indeed I have seen specimens that rivalled glass itself. The papier linge is a singular production, and has been used in France not only as napkins and table-cloths; but even employed as shirt collars! They were snow white, and had a fine gloss; the 'stitching' was remarkably well imitated, and each cost two sous! (a penny), or the price of washing in ordinary cases; and, like Constantine's table-cloth (of asbestos), when done with, were thrown into the fire; though their respective fates were different, for the one was purified, while the other was consumed. A lady's gown of papier linge cost two francs (1s. 8d.). The best test and the most sensible re-agent to detect residual chlorine in paper, or excess of acid in the bi-sulphate of alumina, is the sirup of violets, which will promptly turn red, if such excess remain.

The bad qualities of modern paper lead by a natural transition to the question of ink, and here again I fear it will be found we have not improved. I know but little practically of "Stephens' writing fluid," but that little enables me to speak favorably of it. With regard to the ink in general use we can scarcely be worse. Two ingredients are added, the agencies of which are more than questionable. The first of these is the sulphate of copper, and is the agent by which the penknife loses its edge; and the steel pen its point. The effects are chemical, and the phenomenon one of decomposition; the permanency of such ink is therefore doubtful. The other ingredient is corrosive sublimate, a suggestion originating with Mr. Brande: unquestionably it would prevent the 'ink mould' (hygrocrocis atramenti); but it would also poison our schoolboys, who sometimes suck their pens or sip their ink. This substance would act with equal fierceness on steel. A staple ink must consist in a close and permanent affinity with the paper, and an unalterability by light or air, &c., undecomposable also by chlorine, &c. Oxydes of silver and gold would only become more intense in their colours by light, and an infusion of soluble carbon would resist the destructive agencies of chlorine: some salt of iron,

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&c., entering into the composition of the paper fabric, would stamp a greater permanence on the writing ink; but I must confess I still think an entire substitute for gallate of iron or hydrocyanate of iron is 'a consummation devoutly to be wished.' Mucilage is added to suspend the colouring matter; and an essential oil, as that of cloves, will prevent the formation of 'ink-mould.'

I have made numerous experiments on the restoration of illegible MSS., some of which were, I believe, obtained from the 'Record-office,' and found the following simple method quite sufficient, for my purpose, and altogether successful. I steep the vellum or parchment for a short period in a tepid solution of chlorate of potassa, and when entirely dry, apply a strong decoction of galls, or hydrocyanate of potassa; in the former case it is black, and blue in the latter.

N.B. --A few weeks ago, I observed in the island of Guernsey, a neglected specimen of the Phormium tenax, in a shrubbery, in the vicinity of St. Peter's Port; it was healthy, and luxuriant, and nearly seven feet high. The interesting islands of Jersey and Guernsey seem admirably calculated for this new and valuable produce, and would well repay the cultivator.

The cultivation of beet root for the obtainment of raw sugar, if at this moment the chief question of agrarian interest in Belgium; and the field of Waterloo is completely studded with sucrieres. At Amiens, I was informed there were sixteen manufactories of this new branch of industry in the environs; in Lille, too, they are numerous. The white and red varieties of the beet root are preferred to others. The specimen of refined beet root sugar, I have in my possession, is beautiful; it crystalizes readily and they now manufacture from it in France a fine sugar-candy.



1   Excellent For billets-doux!

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