Sizing paper with starch paste and Eremurus glue
Starch is polysaccharide extracted from a variety of plants including wheat. The starch is cooked with water and transformed into a viscous paste.
Eremurus spectabilis, known as seriš in Persian, belongs to the family of Liliaceae. Growing over a large area in the region of South and Central Asia it produces edible young leaves and very beautiful ornamental flowers. Seriš paste, made with the roots of this plant, is a strong adhesive which had traditionally been used in Iran for book binding and paper restoration.
150ml hot water
Pour 100ml of cold water in a glass jar with 25 g of starch.
Cover and soak the starch at room temperature for an hour.
Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over moderate heat continually stirring.
Meanwhile heat 150ml of water in another saucepan and just before it starts boiling pour it slowly to the saucepan with the starch/water mixture, stirring the paste vigorously, adding pre-heated water hastens the cooking process. More hot water can be added to reach the desired thickness. Cook for 35 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden stick until obtaining a smooth paste.
Remove the paste from the heat and let it cool.
Meanwhile put 10g of seriš in a glass jar and pour in 200ml of cold water.
Cover and soak. Then filter the extract and add it to the starch paste to thin the paste. Stir and strain the paste to obtain a smooth consistency not too thick and not too thin.
Moisten the paper and apply the paste on the paper with a brush or cotton balls.
Hang the paper to dry. After it is completely dried, burnish it with a burnishing tool to smoothen the surface.
Passage from Ṣerāt al-Ṣoṭur (16th century CE) by the eminent calligrapher Solṭān Ali Mašhadi:
'About producing sizing material and paper sizing
Prepare the size (āhār) from starch learn these words from an old man.
First make a paste, then pour in water, then boil this on a hot fire for a moment,
Then add some glue (seriš) to thin starch, strain it [so that it is] neither too thin nor too thick,
Spread it on paper and make sure, that the paper does not move from its place.
When you are applying size to your paper, moisten the paper slightly with water, carefully.'
Simi Neyšapuri describes how to prepare layered paper with starch size as follows:
'Cook some starch and size paper. Pieces of sized paper can stick together in such a way that they become one sheet. This can then be burnished and written on. Calligraphy on this paper is legible and beautiful, and is as good as it is on soltāni paper.'