Shakespeare and Law and Papermaking, Oh My!

My favorite class this summer was—surprise!—my English 1102 class. It was a class about Shakespeare and Law. My teacher, Dr. Higinbotham, was absolutely amazing. I highly recommend her. She was so enthusiastic, supportive, and kind. (She’s also brilliant, but I guess that part is a given.) We had so many thought-provoking discussions, both in class and after. She encouraged people to challenge and argue with her. One on one, we talked about ideas and fairytales and research and Jane Austen. And she was as eager to do so as I was.

Anyway, I could fangirl over her for a while. One thing that she really emphasized in this course, however, was Shakespeare’s first folio. Dr. Higinbotham made sure that we all knew the year that it was published (1623). She made sure we knew how big of a deal it was. Because it was. Making books was hard back then! Actually, forget the entire book, making the paper itself was a feat.

This was something that she wanted us to experience and understand first hand. So, instead of having a regular class on June 28th, we trekked on our own to Georgia Tech’s own Paper Museum on West Campus. We passed the West Campus dorms, reached the paper museum, met our class, and were immediately immersed in the process itself.

We had to fill the tubs with cloth-based pulp and use the wooden screens to catch it. We took turns, struggling to flip it at the proper speed. We added things that we had been collecting over the past several days to our sheets.

I added flowers that I had unceremoniously yanked from a tree on Freshman Hill earlier that day. Being the Pride and Prejudice freak that I am, I had also printed out Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth to add. My English professor loved this.

Some people just added pictures of their dogs.

After we added these various things to our small sheets of paper, we got in line to make large pieces. Like, folio-sized pieces. They were maybe 12×16? Pretty large, and very cumbersome to flip. It took two people just about to collect the pulp and sift the water out. It was difficult, but it was really cool.

We got to watch as the paper was pressed, as the water drained and the sheets stretched and thinned. We had to wait a day or two for it to dry, but we got to keep the paper we had made. I still have it, and have used it to both write and paint on so far. It’s pretty, and handmade.

There’s something special about handmade things. I appreciate both the paper and Shakespeare’s folio so much more after taking part in this process—just as I have a greater understanding for Law and Shakespeare himself.

We walked through West Campus and it basically looked like the Pit from Parks and Rec. I half expected Andy to be down there somewhere.
We were able to put different materials into our paper. These are flowers from the trees on Freshman Hill.


Before and After

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