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Cost of paper in 15th century

15/02/2014

Today paper is taken for granted. It is cheap, readily available (despite predictions three decades ago about the ‘paperless office’) and durable – mostly. Not so in the 15th century.

I take these comments from Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy by Francis Ames-Lewis (Yale UP,  1981) who notes that paper had been in production since 1276 at Fabriano (of course paper had been produced in China long before then – during the Han dynasty, c BCE200-200AD), and which by the mid-forteenth century had become one of Europe’s leading centres. images

The invention of printing by moveable type in Europe triggered the expansion of paper making but prices were high since the raw material continued (until the 18th centre) to be cotton. Ames-Lewis observes that ‘in the 15th century good quality paper cost about one-sixth the price of parchment…[and] the cost of paper was a surprisingly high proportion of the total cost of book production. For the edition of 1,025 copies of Ficino’s translation of the complete works of Plato, printed in Florence in 1483, the paper cost between 120-160 florins, whereas all the printing costs came to only 90 florins.’

Her reference is to paper as used by draughtsmen and I would be interested to learn of references to paper and printing in that period.

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