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Paper-making: a shared heritage

Creating a Franco-Japanese glossary

Japan and France are the guardians of an invaluable paper-making heritage that demands to be preserved and handed down. A new five-year project will study and compare these parallel traditions, and draw up a glossary to support mutual understanding, knowledge-sharing and exchange.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Paper-making: a shared heritage
© Tsuneo NAITO

The art of paper-making has long accompanied the evolution of French and Japanese culture. Developed in the 6th century AD, Japanese paper – wa shi (‘Japan’ and ‘paper’) – has spawned a rich terminology and a living tradition pursued today by some 250 artisan paper-makers. In France, the art of paper-making was developed in the 18th century and refined with the advent of industrial manufacturing processes. Less than five artisan paper-makers are still active today, and the specialist lexicon of this expert trade is falling into disuse.

The two countries’ traditions have their own distinct characteristics, including terms with no equivalent in the other language, making it difficult for each fully to understand the other’s usage and processes. Steered by two specialist paper restorers – Valentine Dubard and Tomoko Kawamura – the project brings together paper-makers, experts and restorers to deepen French and Japanese understanding in the field, through conferences and exchanges between artisans and researchers from both countries, leading to the publication of a reference glossary for the paper-making industry as a whole.

In 2012, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès will renew its 2011 support for the project, which is also supported by the Japan department of the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, the Japan Foundation, the Musée du Louvre and the French Foundation for the Study of Japanese Language and Culture, under the aegis of the Fondation de France.

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