“You had more beard when I last saw you”: a set of Shakespearean shaving papers
Sarah Hovde posts this at Shakespeare & Beyond, part of the Folger Shakespeare library site:
Two Folger exhibitions in this anniversary year have explored Shakespeare’s far-reaching effect on consumer culture: first, America’s Shakespeare considered how the United States has made the Bard our own, and now Will & Jane examines the celebrity status of literary superstars William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. This month’s Folger Find is another example of how deeply Shakespeare has saturated Western culture: a set of “Gentlemen’s shaving paper with quotations from Shakespeare.”
Shaving papers were small scraps of paper used to clean a straight razor after one had finished shaving with it (or in between strokes). Obviously any stray piece of paper could serve this purpose, and several magazines published humorous anecdotes of book pages being used, but this depended on one’s available paper products or ambivalence toward their personal library.
Ideas for shaving papers and shaving paper cases appeared frequently in domestic and arts magazines well into the twentieth century, from woven mats and embroidery to painted cardboard and tissue paper supernovas. (You may notice that these craft ideas were generally marketed towards wives and children to make for their husbands and fathers. Though both men and women have employed various methods of hair removal throughout the centuries—a history stretching back at least as far as the ancient Egyptians—men were the main consumer base for the modern mass-produced razor industry until the mid-1910s, when the first razor marketed to women was produced.)
If you had no books to spare, or no one interested in crafting you a homemade set as a gift, you could also buy ready-made pads of shaving papers, such as the one featured in this post. These were mass-manufactured and bound with string or glue for the convenience of the shaver. . .