Rags! Rags! Paper and Rags!

Posted on Sep 20, 2019 | 0 comments

Paper and Rags, sequel to Bottle and Glass, is set to launch in Kingston on Sunday, Dec. 8th, 2PM-4PM at the Kingston Brew Pub.  A Toronto launch is taking place on Sunday, Nov. 10th, 2:30PM – 4:30PM at the Supermarket Restaurant and Bar in Kensington Market.

As a special lead-in to the launch, I plan to make paper in the old-fashioned way, by hand, from cotton and linen rags provided by friends, family, readers, writers – anyone who is interested. Once I have a stack of paper made, Vincent Perez of Everlovin’ Press, using a traditional letterpress, will print a new, commemorative front page of the first Kingston Gazette (Sept. 25th 1810 – a paper copy of this edition no longer exists – see below for more info). If all goes well, I’ll have these freshly printed Gazettes available at the launch alongside the book: free with a copy of Paper and Rags, or $10 without, until supplies last.

Please send me token pieces of your (clean!) rags, clothing scraps, discarded paper, anything that is cotton, linen, or recyclable RagsRags1paper, preferably un-dyed. For example, you might send a fragment of a tattered t-shirt from a favourite vacation, or a portion of an outgrown baby blanket, or a favourite poem on yellowed paper, or an old love letter. You get the idea. Items with historical or personal relevance are most welcome. The more meaningful the component parts, the richer the provenance of the resulting paper. When making your contribution, I encourage you to include a note indicating the significance of your contribution. And please indicate whether you are interested in purchasing the finished product so that I know how many to make. All those who pre-order will find their names somewhere in the commemorative text of the newspaper.

Please make your contribution before Oct. 20th to allow enough time for processing.

I will send out updates in the coming weeks, including more details of the actual book launch. Please forward to anyone who might be interested and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.


Click here for full details


The First Kingston Gazette

In the course of researching Paper and Rags, I encountered a mystery.  Stephen Miles, the original printer and publisher of the Gazette, Kingston’s first newspaper, plays an important part in the story.  But, the paper copy of his first edition, dated Sept. 25th, 1810, is nowhere to be found.  It exists on microfilm, created in the late 1940’s, but the physical copy seems to have disappeared. gazette-Dec1810

I began my search at the Queen’s University Archives.  They directed me to the Queen’s Stauffer Library, which led to the Kingston Public Library, and then the W.D. Jordan Rare Books & Special Collections at Queen’s, where I found paper editions beginning from the tenth issue (Nov. 1810), but not the first.  Instead, there was a note from Stephen Miles, written near the end of his life, stating that he had lost his copies of the first ten editions of the Gazette.  Kimberley Bell, of the Jordan Collections, suggested I contact the National Archives.  The National Archives referred me to the Ontario Archives.  The Ontario Archives replied to say they do not hold originals of the 1810 Gazette but that the source of the microfilm is identified as “Queen’s Un. – Amer. Ant. Soc.”  Kimberley suggested that “Amer. Ant. Soc.” likely stands for American Antiquarian Society, but after checking their holdings it turns out they don’t have it either.  The first edition seems to no longer exist.  I’ll keep searching.

In the meantime, I hope to create a new commemorative front page of the Gazette from your donations of rags, clothing scraps, and discarded paper, produced in the traditional fashion.


Paper Making

Stack old newspapers. Waste paper pile in vintage style. Abstract background. Close up. Environmental protection.Paper making has a fascinating history.  Just 200 years ago, before a process for making paper from wood pulp was developed, rags were a valuable commodity.  Rag picking and rag cutting were full time employments.  The Kingston Gazette was the only newspaper in Upper Canada to publish throughout the War of 1812.  Only a paper shortage could stop it.  In my research, I was struck by how it took a community to gather the material to produce a newspaper and how important, in return, the newspaper was in serving that community.  Making paper from the contributions of a diverse group of people is a apt metaphor for creating the fabric on which the stories of a community and a culture get written.  Interestingly, confirming the prejudices of those who mistrusted the papers as pulp fiction, old undergarments and unmentionables made up the majority of rag paper, probably because they were made of a softer, whiter cotton.


I’ve built my own 11″ x 17″ mould and deckle.


I have my DIY version of a hollander beater (a 700 watt, 18 speed Oster in faux stainless steel). 



I’ve experimented with different paper making techniques.




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