According to Printing Art, an Illustrated Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Graphic Arts, May 1920, referencing Drew’s Imprint, blotting paper was invented by accident in Berkshire “once upon a time”. Apparently some goof forgot to add size to a batch of fibers, and the resultant paper was set aside for waste. Fortuitously the boss tried to write a note on it and found it would just drink in the ink; so he had the bright idea of selling it to soak up excess ink, a job previously carried out with sand. Maybe it’s just the “once upon a time” bit that makes me skeptical.
Here’s a charming contemporary advert from Lindenmeyr Paper Company showing that back then they had a wide range of offerings — including blotting paper. Nice to see they already had a relationship with the S. D. Warren Company (which is now owned by SAPPI). I don’t suppose Lindenmeyr, or Lindenmeyr Munroe their commercial division, still offer blotting papers, though of course there are many industrial and heath-care uses for absorbent papers.
Once upon a time every office desk had its blotter, a rigid frame built to hold a large sheet of blotting paper. I had one made as a publicity item by Cramp of Cornwall, a Bible bindery we used to use back in the seventies. It would hold half a dozen 22½” x 17½” sheets, and would be used every time you signed a letter. As the top sheet got dirtier you’d turn it over, and discard it when the back was full too. I just tossed mine which had been beaten up over the decades, but hung onto the paper as I use it in my manuscript project.