New publication: Bellingradt, Daniel: Vernetzte Papiermärkte. Einblicke in den Amsterdamer Handel mit Papier im 18. Jahrhundert. Köln: Herbert von Halem, 2020.

The book announcement comes from our network member Daniel Bellingradt.

PapierThis book is devoted to the trade of paper in Europe’s first period of paper. As is commonly known, the first European paper period started with trade imports of paper by papermakers and via Arab trade contacts from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and thrived in early thirteenth centuryon the Iberian Peninsula and in Italy. As paper historians have highlighted so far, by the fourteenth century, the art of making paper spread through Europe and paper sheets became a commonly known and transregionally moved, traded,and sold good economic good. My book takes the case study of Amsterdam around 1700, a hot spot of the early modern paper trade, as an example to investigate into the yet mainly unknown trading activities of the artefact paper. I wrote this book because the alleged first Paper Age of Europe with all its references to producing paper mills, and the later cultural uses and effects of paper being present has long and often enough been highlighted in many historical (sub-)disciplines without at all examining the trade of the good. Even though it is a well-known fact within historiography that a short-term lack of papermeans that no administration records, orletters, orpublications can be producedwhatsoever, the history of the paper trade remains one of the least studiedareas of early modern history.In a nutshell, my book argues that moving, storing and selling one of the main artefacts of the period, a mass product that came in many formats and qualities for a variety of usages, was a relevant, but largely overlooked, economic activity that needs more interdisciplinary attention. As the paper trade functioned as the essential link between the manufacture of paper and the usage and consumption of paper products in the social worlds, my book advocates to stop writing paperless histories of the period in which paper is only produced and used, but never moved and traded.

My book is structured in eight chapters, each offering different ‘insights’ (in German: Einblicke, as referred to in the title) to different aspects of how to access both the details and impact, and importance of the historical paper trade. The introduction begins by arguing for the importance of studying the paper trade, as millions of annually produced fresh paper sheets were traded in Europe. For example and only rearding the chosen Amsterdam case stufy, it is estimated thatfor the decades around 1700 northern Dutch paper productionforonly writing and printing papers comprised annually about 60 million sheets. That is 120,000 reams, the most common trade unit of the paper trade in these days each consisting of about 500 sheets per year, that neededto be traded, sold, and stored before someone would use it for printing or writing purposes. The estimates for the eighteenth-century northern Dutch production are even higher, and range between 200 million sheets annually (D. Bellingradt) and 140 million sheets annually (Henk Voorn). What follows is a short highlighting how communication history and paper history has not paid much attention to this trade, how economic and trade historians have lacked interested in paper and while book historians sometimes mention the connection of paper production and its selling to the world of printing, theytend to eschew the details linking trade activities. In order to investigate this paper trade, the introduction explains analytical benefits of combining approaches of book and paper history, of economic history, of communication and media studies, and of market sociology. Throughout the book, the leading question to access this shadowy paper economy is: where are the (yet invisible) trading activities behind all of these visible paper relics that were once produced, moved, read, stored, used,and recycled all over Europe?

In the second chapter, the relevant goods of the paper trade are highlighted – the plurality of paperish products and raw materials traded on the early modern markets for paper. It seems worth rememberingthat dozens to potentially hundreds of different kinds of paperish products and relevant raw materials requiredin paper manufacture made up the material flows of the paper trade. Firstly, there were newly produced writing and printing papers in a plethora of different qualities and formats in Europe, usually as white paper but there were also smaller amounts ofblue and coloured papers. These ‘fresh’ and ‘unused’ paper sheets came with the most confusing range of names referringto watermarks, usages, format, quality, and place of manufacture. Among these newly and ‘fresh’ produced sheets were also many special drawing papers popular among artists,as well asall sorts and variations of ‘brown’, ‘blue’ and ‘grey’ wrapping and packaging papers, includingcardboard and cartons, that were constantly present and traded by paper merchants, and bought from apothecaries byalmost all other businesses that needed wrapping for their goods. Alsoavailableon these paper markets were used and old papers from unsold, rejected,or slow-selling books,as well asfrom ephemeral publications like small pamphlets andcheap newspapers that were systematically sold to customers like fishmongers and grocers, and of course to paper makers in need of this material resource for the manufacture of new paper.There werealsoall sorts of waste papers from printshops (i.e. leftovers, unused and damaged papers from the printing processes)and often even linen rags (as the main textile raw material for the manufacture of new papers). Because all these paperish materials were typical goods of the paper trade business, the historical view ought to highlight these relevant material flows carefully and in detail. Buildimg on this, the third chapter reflects the trading aspects of these goods of the paper trade – for example the trade units, the costs and prices of paper, and the involved actors responsible for the paper flows in a paper economy. In the fourth chapter, the (again overlooked) variety of paper products in the early modern book trade is highlighted. Especially booksellers systematically dealt with all sorts of paper products, fresh and used, damaged and functioning, printed and non-printed upon. Paper was cheaper and more widely available to buyers than history usually mentions. In the fifth chapter, the early modern markets for the trade with paperish goods and products are accessed in general, and in detail for eighteenth century Amsterdam. Building on ideas presented in market sociology and economic sociology, the markets for the trade of paper are understood and interpreted as social figurations allowing an interactionist analysis of economic cooperations and activities. As is argued, such an an actor- and praxis-orientated approach to human involvement intradeactivities that make up in sum the ‘paper trade’ opens a relevant discussion on the materialty and sociality of this trade. In the sixth chapter, the business location Amsterdam, as the exemplary investigated hot spot of the early modern paper trade in Europe, is set into perspective. The seventh chapter is a case study of the business networks and materials traded by an exemplary Amsterdam paper merchant named Zacharias Segelke. Using the methodology explained in chapter 5, this case study follows the practices of the paper merchant and make visible network activities of those involved in the trade, the variety of paperish goods traded and stored, and the interrelationship patterns from the paper mills to the various places of storing and reselling. Segelke dealt with raw materials for future paper manufacture (like shredded papers of different qualities), and with every other paperish products available in the book trade and paper trade, for example from blank sheets to almanacs and novels, and established complex buyer and seller relationships with paper manufacturer and print workshop owners alike. Finally, the last and eighth chapter of the book sets out to explorethe perspectives and benefits of a future historical research into the matter.

The reflections on a future paper history promote the presented methodologies and perspectives of the book. Among these final reflections is the plea for a bigger picture of a circular paper economy – a bird’s-eye view on the patterns of paper flows within a larger paper economy. By describing the historical contexts of the paper trade as a connected economic sector in which necessary materials of the paper markets were manufactured, traded, stored, sold, bought, used, re-used and finally recycled by a numerous range of cooperating actors and networks, a larger textile, rags,and paper economy becomes visible. This circular ‘paper economy’ is much more than just a supplemental aspect of an alleged “age of print”of early modern Europe, as it has been influentially characterized in the last decades by media and book historians alike. In fact, a broad to-be-designed paper history of early modern Europe is an alternative master narrative for the epoch in question. A new kind of paper history is looming.

More information on the book can be found on the publisher’s website:

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