Friday, June 5, 2009

A Paper Museum Mystery with Tiffany and Crane

The Crane Museum of Papermaking opened last week for the season (Monday through Friday, 1-5 p.m.). As you can imagine, I've strolled around the exhibits hundreds of times over the years, and it finally came time the other day to seek some help on a nagging question. Why is there a set of handmade paper moulds and deckles watermarked with Tiffany and Company New York and the date anno domino 1450, along with a lance-toting horseman?

Here are the moulds and deckles in question:

There are no records in the archives giving any hint to their origins, and there are no markings to indicate their maker, so I am left to guess and to seek your thoughts.

Here's where my thinking is at the moment. Dard Hunter, the Roycroft artist and paper historian, probably had something to do with the situation. He was commissioned by the Crane family in 1929 to build this beautiful model below of the vat room at Crane's first mill, built in 1801. At the time, he was operating a handmade paper operation with his family and a couple of British papermakers out of Lime Rock, Conn.- just down the road a couple of hours. Included in the model are small hand moulds, and they were used to make small sheets of paper to help illustrate the process.

Several years ago, I noticed that these sheets had developed rust spots, so I made some new sheets with the little moulds. I learned subsequently, that Hunter had some problems with the water in Lime Rock, most notably iron

Now, let's have a look at a sample sheet made from the Tiffany mould. See those rust spots? I have to believe that this sheet was made by Hunter or his British papermakers in Lime Rock in 1929. Just too many coincidences.

But where did those moulds and deckles come from? What's their story?

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