Choosing a good paper for letterpress book


I am letterpress printing a decent sized book (about 60 pages). I am hoping to print an edition of around 200. I will be printing 8 pages to every sheet, folding down and binding by hand.

I have never done a project quite like this and was wondering if anyone had any suggestions regarding paper? I am looking for a decent book weight paper that is not too expensive, prints well and folds well. Any recommendations on paper and advice about what to watch out for would be greatly appreciated.


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There are many sheets of interest that you might consider. The first question is what size are you going to run? You say 8 pages per sheet, so I would think you are thinking 4 fronts, four back. What size are you printing? What size is the folded signature? What size is the finished book?
How will you bind it? What consideration of folding and binding have you thought about? What is the coverage, and are there images? Just type, type plus illustrations, or even half tones? What press are you printing it with?
I am not trying to be a wise ass with all these questions. I’ve been in the paper business for almost 40 years, damn I’m old. But with these answers I can direct you to some very satisfactory choices. If you’d like to speak off line let me know.

There is a lot to consider when shopping for book paper. The size of the finished product is first, and the size of available papers might determine the end result. There are machine made, mould-made, and handmade papers to choose from, and you should probably get some swatch books from Talas in New York, Dolphin Papers in Indiana, and Atlantic Paper in Pennsylvania. I lean toward using mould-made and handmade papers for book projects, because you want to invest in a paper that is made of cotton or linen for durability. You must be conscious of the grain of the paper, making sure that the grain of the paper goes vertically through the page for easy turning. Then you have to look at color and finish and weight (how thick the sheet is). I recommend looking for a book titled “Which Paper? A guide to choosing and using fine papers” by Silvie Turner, Design Press 1991. It is somewhat outdated, and unfortunately some of the nicest papers are no longer being made, but it will explain a lot about how papers are made and sold, and a lot of the things I have listed above. Paper is not cheap anymore, and you will have to do a lot of homework to pick the right paper for your project. I’ve been at it 40 years, and am constantly researching available papers.


Steve and Paul,

Thanks for your replies and sorry it took so long for me to get back.

I am printing on a Vandercook press. 4 fronts and 4 backs. The pages are small, so I imagine that the I can print on 11x 17 or 12 x 18 sheets. I can cut down bigger ones too.

The book is made up entirely of text. No illustrations.

I will be hand folding the paper and binding the book. Probably a modified coptic stitch.

I am on a relatively tight budget, but I am thinking mold made paper.

Paul, I will look into the book you recommended and the paper companies you mentioned.

Steve, if you have the time, I would love to speak off line.

Thanks again,


Email me at SV[email protected] and we can set up a time to speak. Sorry for the delaying getting back to you. I’ve been busy and away on a business trip about the newest print technology-high speed production(high volume) inkjet.