Recent acquisitions on printing and papermaking

Coloured pattern containing red, blue and yellow shapes

Coloured paper sample from Tesuki Washi Shuho

Title page of Traicté des manieres

Traicté des manieres de graver en taille douce svr l'airin, by Abraham Bosse, Paris, 1645 (RB/2841)



The Library actively collects material relating to the publishing industry, including the history of printing, paper making, book binding, intaglio, lithography and other production techniques. Recent additions to the collection that complement the Library’s holdings on the development of printing and paper production include a first edition copy of the first work published on engraving and etching published in 1645, and a three-volume work on traditional Japanese papermaking published in 1980.

Traicté des manieres de graver en taille douce svr l'airin, by Abraham Bosse, Paris, 1645
Written for professional engravers in 1645, this book, which translates as “Treatise on the manners of intaglio on copper plates by means of etching and soft and hard grounds”, was the first manual on engraving and etching to be published, and remained the standard work on printmaking for over 100 years. It describes techniques for chalcographic engraving, etching and printing of intaglio plates, and includes a finely illustrated plate for each process. Acquired in November 2017, it is the only copy held in an Australian library. 

Abraham Bosse (1604-1676) was an artist and etcher born in Tours, France, to German parents, and was one of the first printmakers in 17th century France. In 1620 he commenced an apprenticeship with Antwerp-born engraver Melchior Tavernier, who produced some of the most important illustrated books of the early 17th century. Bosse produced over 1500 etchings throughout his working life, many of which contributed to the development of caricature and cartoon, as well as a number of treatises on the art of painting and perspective in addition to his manual on engraving. Some of his pieces were included as illustrations in books and some were sold separately. His style was highly influential at the time and was later parodied by William Hogarth. Of great importance to art historians, Traicté des manieres de graver is a seminal work on printmaking and has served as a reference point and a source of inspiration for subsequent scholars and practitioners.

Tesuki washi shuho  [Fine handmade papers of Japan], by Yasuo Kume, Tokyo, 1980
Acquired in February 2018, Tesuki washi shuho features 207 contemporary samples of handmade paper produced in Japan, along with historical text and accounts of the individual papers published in both Japanese and English. 

Yasuo Kume (1921-2015) was one of the major paper scholars in Japan who produced numerous works on the art of Japanese paper making, known as washi. The craft dates back 1400 years and has long been a central aspect of Japanese culture, with the technique changing little over the centuries.

Historically, washi was used for structural elements of home design such as partitions and window frames, and for making decorative items such as umbrellas, lanterns, fans, kites, hats and storage boxes. It was also used in traditional tea ceremonies and for Shinto worship, as well as more practical applications such as correspondence, record-keeping, printing and publishing. The oldest datable paper in Japan is from 710 and was used for census records.

Due to industrialisation of the paper industry in the twentieth century and a worldwide focus on machine-made paper using wood pulp as the raw material, the number of papermaking households decreased from around 70,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to 350 in 2010, despite government schemes to support traditional papermaking in the 1960s and 70s. Although washi is still a significant art form in modern day Japan, contemporary practitioners tend not to come from traditional washi making families, but instead are attracted by a love of the craft.


A man in traditional Japanese clothing holds a gun

Tesuki washi shuho / Fine handmade papers of Japan, by Yasuo Kume, Tokyo, 1980 (RB/Q736)

Zoe Melling
Specialist Librarian, Published Collections