[LMB] WGW literacy and paper generally

pouncer at aol.com pouncer at aol.com
Mon Jan 28 03:05:50 GMT 2019

John Lennard writes: 
>The big question is literacy. Every time the historians 
>revise their estimates, it seems that more people were 
>more literate earlier, but (a) literacy falls as well as 
>rises, and (b) it didn't make a big enough difference 
>until the printing press began to generate a lot more 
>things that could be read.
>Do we know with certainty that there are or are not 
>printing presses in the WGW? 

     No but that's not to mention the problem of paper making.
 Mass producing paper, that is. Or making industrial quantities 
of parchment or other alternatives. 

     I think we generally are shown actual paper through 
out the WGW.  Paper making in the just-pre-industrial era 
of our history tended to involve a lot of rag-picking.  But 
we see the problems, high labor cost, and low production 
rate of spinning and knitting to get cloth both at West 
Blue and the Lakewalker camp. The idea of rag going to the 
scrap collectors is hard to envision. 

     Other sources of fiber have been used -- papyrus of 
course.  Flax.  Hemp.  It would not completely surprise me 
to learn there was a Lakewalker camp in the south, on the 
river, supplying a farmer town with plunkin husk fibers to 
feed that industry.  Some sources of fiber like the flax 
have to be "retted" -- a process I confess not to quite 
get. I have the impression from the word itself it's 
related to "rot" -- biological digestion of one kind of 
molecule, interrupted to get something convenient and not 

     Ha, now I'm thinking of silk worm fiber, and silk 
fabric,  and BUTTER BUGS -- turning raw organic matter into 
something useful.  And what Fawn calls MILKWEED BUGS (I 
always sort of assumed to be Monarch ButterFLIES.)  My 
memories are tingling.  Google ... YES! At least a few 
people have posted techniques for harvesting milkweed fluff 
and stalks and making paper from that plant. So, possible 
but not maybe THE solution. 

     Making enough milkweed paper to put together a leather 
bound book -- wow!  What effort!  

     All that does NOT reduce the value of literacy though.  
Where we started.  Painted signs -- mixing images and text 
like an instructional comic book, I'd guess -- would be 
helpful in a lot of situations. (What's a geographical map 
except such a mixed document?) The record book.  Labels on 
the glass jars and clay pots to show contents. Initials 
branded into items both personal and manufactured -- like a 
trademark or hallmark. The property records also imply 
offers, bids, contracts, bills of lading, packing slips, 
notice of defects, complaints, one-star-reviews for bad 
products, and solitictations for sexual services...  The 
sort of stuff archeologists dig out of trash middens all 
over the world for all literate societies. There were all
kinds and classes of people sending each other notes, and
graffiti-ing up the walls, in all kinds of places and 
cultures, long before Gutenberg.

     Anyhow,  I want to not to focus on moveable type.  A 
hammer stamper and rollers to squeeze fabric into screens 
is as important to paper making.  Riverside mills, again. 
Machines.  We see a culture in renaissance, and it's great. 

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