Social life of paper in Edinburgh c.1770 – c.1820
Friend, Claire Louise
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Previous research on paper history has tended to be conducted from an economic perspective and/or as part of the field of book history within a broadly literary framework. This has resulted in understandings of paper history being book-centric and focused on production. We now have a great deal of knowledge about the physical process of hand paper-making, a good knowledge of the actors involved and where in the country paper was manufactured, but there is still very little scholarly discussion of the people, processes and practices associated with paper outside of the mill. Taking inspiration from eighteenth-century ‗it-narratives‘, this thesis takes a holistic approach to the paper trade – loosely based around the framework of social life theory as expounded by Arjun Appadurai and Igor Kopytoff. It encompasses a case study of the rag-collection and paper-wholesale operations of a single Edinburgh firm, a wider examination of paper-retailing in Edinburgh, a look at the ownership of desks in Edinburgh alongside a consideration of advice and instruction relating to desk-use, and closes with an examination of the papers owned by a notable Edinburgh family. The first three chapters consider the scope of the Edinburgh paper trade. Moving through distinct stages in the life of paper, these chapters begin with an account of the Edinburgh rag-trade. Business records relating to the Balerno Company‘s rag-buying operations reveal an active and organised network with connections to a variety of trades. Continuing the focus on the Balerno Company, the second chapter considers the company as paper-wholesalers. It demonstrates that the driving force behind their operations was not the supply of paper for the booktrade but rather the provision of wrapping papers for the purposes of commerce. Using advertisements in local newspapers the third chapter looks at the reach of paper-selling beyond the booktrades. The final two chapters move gradually from the commercial to the personal. Chapter four considers the presentation of desk-use in penmanship manuals and the evidence of desk-ownership in confirmation inventories. Both of which are suggestive of a growing mercantile interest in desk furniture. Finally, this thesis closes by looking at the paper archives of the Innes family of Stow in order to examine the extent to which the findings of previous chapters is reflected in the collection, retention and use of papers across two generations of this family. Overall, this thesis demonstrates the value of adopting an inclusive approach to the study of paper history, as doing so opens up a multifaceted world of paper. Paper history has tended to be understood as the history of writing and printing paper sold by booksellers and stationers. The social life approach allows connections to be made between materials, artefacts and trades; to gain a fuller understanding of the role paper played in people‘s lives.