Joshua Calhoun discusses Renaissance-era Paper with Shakespeare actor Sarah Day

September 24, 2020

The Friends of UW-Madison Libraries hosted Dr. Joshua Calhoun via livestream on September 24, 2020 to talk about his discoveries while writing his debut book, The Nature of the Page: Poetry, Papermaking, and the Ecology of Texts in Renaissance England. American Players Theatre actor and Friends board member Sarah Day facilitated the discussion.

In The Nature of the Page, Joshua Calhoun tells the story of handmade paper in Renaissance England and beyond. For most of the history of printing, paper was made primarily from recycled rags, so this is a story about using old clothes to tell new stories, about plants used to make clothes, and about plants that frustrated papermakers’ best attempts to replace scarce natural resources with abundant ones. Because plants, like humans, are susceptible to the ravages of time, it is also a story of corruption and the hope that we can preserve the things we love from decay.

Also, especially for this audience, Calhoun revealed some of the bizarre and fascinating discoveries he made in the process of researching for his book.  Listen to find out:

  • How a Renaissance Chicken Saved Shakespeare (HVAC systems and artificial cooling)
  • What iPhones and old paper have in common
  • Star-crossed Fungi; or, Two House Molds, Both Alike in Dignity
  • A Big Mistake in the Bible’s Most Famous Verse
  • Beef Makes Paper: Plant-Based Paper & Animal Byproducts
  • Sourdough Starters, Bubonic Plague, and Handmade Paper
  • Shakespeare, Swear Words, and Failed Censorship

Check it out: