I like this new spirit of optimism, I like bullish markets, and, most of all, I like the sense that almost anything is possible. Don’t tell me about the good old days – they didn’t exist. I have always preferred to look forward, and from where I’m sitting the view of the paper industry and paper-based design looks pretty exciting.

Of course, prices will carry on with their ebb and flow as the pulp producers and manufacturers continue their tug-of-war of supply versus demand. And there is also some unease about the continued strength of the pound; British paper producers are having a tough time keeping up their exports. But we’ve seen huge investment in the mills and the past few months have witnessed the launch of quite beautiful papers and boards on the market. And perhaps it’s because there’s a little extra dosh available in budgets that such excellent work is being produced.

One big trend this year has been the launch of new identities and the repositioning of familiar brands. The Devon-based Silverton Mill (part of St Regis Paper) has had an identity facelift to look the new millennium square in the face; the ever-familiar Croxley stationery brand from Sappi Europe has had a massive overhaul by Sampson Tyrell; this autumn will see the repositioning of another major brand – but I’m sworn to secrecy until the event.

And websites continue to click up on screen. Paper merchant Robert Horne has put its second generation site on line at www.roberthorne.co.uk. It has been redrawn as a quick, practical paper selection tool. With a similar intention but coming from a slightly different angle, commercial printer PrintHouse Corporation offers a paper advice and samples service and can be viewed at www.printhouse.co.uk/printhouse. Use it for free advice on which stock to use and for samples. PrintHouse has devoted three full-time staff to the project so a bit of support will ensure it continues.

Thanks to a Lottery grant of 148 000, work is poised to start on cataloguing and digitising the world’s earliest and largest paper archive at the British Library. The focus of the work is the

Dunhuang Collection, containing documents which relate to pre 11th century Chinese and central Asian history. The haul of more than 20 000 manuscripts, scrolls, rubbings and other documents were found by British archaeologist Aurel Stein in a cave at the village of Dunhuang in 1907. Further information can be found on the website www.bl.uk/oioc/dunhuang-project.html.

Continuing the multimedia theme, board manufacturer Iggesund has published its snappily-titled Paperboard Know-How CD-ROM. But don’t be put off by the name, this little disc is a gem. If you don’t know much about the paper and board-making process, forestry care or how to select the right materials, this could be right up your street, and it is neat and easy to navigate (copies are available by calling Ray Burton at Iggesund on 01908 640123).

Italian paper-maker Fedrigoni, with its new British base in Ashford, wins my annual prize for the most exquisite marketing pack. The swatch book’s sturdy ring binder, containing more than 200 Fedrigoni papers, features on its cover a black and white shot of a motorbike crossing a cobbled piazza – you’re instantly thinking “Italy”. As I flipped over sheet after sheet of glorious paper samples I reflected that the Italians were unbeatable at this sort of simple, seductive design. Then I read the press release and discovered the thing had been designed by Tricket & Webb – and I take my hat off to them. (Copies from 0541-555 517.)

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