Estimate on savings in paper production costs resulting from the use of the Fourdrinier machine versus handmade.
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Estimate on savings in paper production costs resulting from the use of the Fourdrinier machine versus handmade.

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Testimony About the Fourdrinier Patent Explains the Key Role of Machine-Made Paper in Mass Media

5/9/1837 to 5/12/1837
Title of the Report from the Selecto Committee on Fourdrinier's Patent
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Between May 9 and May 12, 1837 various papermakers, printers, and publishers testified before the Select Committee on Fourdrinier's Patent. Their testimony was published in the British Parliamentary Papers. From the testimonies we may conclude that there was a consensus that papermaking machines produced paper that was larger and better quality for printing by machinery than could be produced by hand. In addition, the speed at which papermaking machinery produced paper (roughly 25 feet per minute per machine) provided a much more reliable supply for printers and publishers, and eliminated the need for them to stockpile paper, so reducing their capital investment. In addition, machine-made paper was less expensive. For all these reasons all the printers and publishers who testified preferred machine-made paper to handmade. As a result, they had great appreciation for the commercial value of the Fourdriniers' invention and believed that the family, which had invested so much money in its development but had never profitted, but had instead suffered ruinous losses, was then entitled to compensation. At the time this report was published there were 240 Fourdrinier papermaking machines in operation in England.

Charles Knight, publisher of The Penny Magazine, The Penny Cyclopedia, and many other publications, testified:

"260. Will you state your opinion as to the benefit arising to the community from the use of this machine? —Perhaps it will be better that I should state my own experience of the benefits with regard to my own consumption. First, with regard to the cheapness of printingpaper; there is a positive cheapness, as compared with the former prices of printingpaper made by hand; but there is an additional cheapness arising from the improved quality of the paper; taking the paper, for example, made by hand, weighing 20 pounds, I should say that the paper of 18 pounds per ream made by machine would be of quite equal quality for all purposes of printing; the larger sized papers that are now made, and which are used for newspapers and double newspapers, and also for many other publications, could not have been made by hand of a thinness adequate to the purpose; for example; a paper as large as the double Times must have weighed very much more.

"261. Could it have been made at all by hand?—It could not have been made at all by hand; no paper larger than the antiquarian drawing paper could have been made by hand; that was a most expensive paper; but there is an incidental saving to which I am enabled more particularly to speak; there is a saving in printing which is consequent upon larger size; we now use many double papers at the printing-machine, which could not have been made by hand except at a large expense; that is, as the cylinder in the printing machine makes so many revolutions a minute, we can, according to the width of the printing machine, obtain two impressions for one; for example; in printing the Penny Magazine, which I publish, and the Penny Cyclopaedia, we print two of the cylinder; we use larger paper, consequently there is a saving upon the rapidity of supply, in which rapidity is included certainty; the supply is such as to enable one with perfect ease to meet the demand, however large, without keeping any stock in hand: for example: I use about 1,500 reams of paper per month; unless this machine had been invented, I could not have gone into the market with the certainty of purchasing 1,500 reams of paper for the month's consumption; and I should have been obliged to have kept two or three months' consumption to have insured a regular periodical supply; that amounts to a large saving to a person engaged in publication. I do not know that I have any thing futher to say that peculiarly arised out of my own  experience."

John Davis, Superintendent and Publisher of the Religious Tract Society testified:

"275. Is there any statement you would wish to make to the Committee uon the subject? — I think I may venture to say that that reduction of 10 or 15 per cent enables us to go to market again much sooner; for instance, if I before gave 1£ for a ream of paper, and afterwards can buy it for 16s., I have 4s. to go to market again, which we otherwise should not lay out, because we have a limited sum; but we make it go a great deal farther by continual fresh purchases of paper that we save 4s. a ream upon.

"276. Does it enable you to carry on the business of publishing to a much greater extent? — Our facility of doing that arises partly from the introduction of stereotyping and steam printing; but by means of this invention we obtain our supplies of paper with certainty, which we could have have done otherwise. We use nearly 25,000 reams annually; if we could not have the supply which we want, we should be compelled to keep a very large stock on hand, and that stock we do not keep."

"279. Has Messrs. Fourdrinier's invention had the effect of greatly reducing the price of paper?— The price of paper during the last 20 years is greatly reduced, and I attribute that in a great degree to the facilities afforded by the machine.

"280. Have you made any calculation upon that subject?—I have a letter which has been put into my hands from a printing office at Oxford, stating the prices of the fine quality of paper from 1814 to 1834, commencing at 1s.5d. per lb., and reduced in 1834 to 1s.; the second qualities of paper were 1s.3d per lb. in 1814, and in 1834 they were reduced to 11d."

Luke G. Hansard, Printer to the House of Commons, testified:

"307. Will you state your opnion as to the benefit arising to the community from the use of the paper made by Messrs. Fourdrinier? — I think great benefit must have arisen, inasmuch as the public has been benefited by the increase of printing. The great circumstance, as it appears to be me, which is productive of advantage in economical printing, is the extensive surface which can now be printed; the difficulties which opposed that mode of printing in former practice were two, the difficulty of procuring paper large enough, and the dificulty of producing the impression upon that paper; both those difficulties seem to me to have been completely got rid of by the introduction of the machine-made paper, which has led to the introduction of the machine printing. Paper of an extensive surface could of course be produced without it, but only to a certain extent, and when so, was necessarily very expensive, as has been explained by some of the practical witnesses before the Committee to-day; and, of course, machine-printing could have been carried on to a certain extent, even by hand-made paper, but it would manifestly have been much more limited than it is at present; the extnesive surface which can now be made by the machine enables printing to be executed of any resonable extent, and the introdcution of the machines for printing, by which the impression is produced by cylinders, enables the use of that sized paper to a greater extent, and of course increases the extensive application of that kind of printing for the purposes of the diffusion of knowledge."

George Clowes, of the large London printing firm Wm Clowes & Sons, testified:

"311. Would you state to the Committee whether or not, in your opinion, this invention of Messrs. Fourdrinier has been beneficial to the trade and the public?— It has been most beneficial to our trade, principally in reducing the price of paper, so enabling us to produce books at a much cheaper rate; and, in fact, the paper machine, in connexion with the printing machine, without which the printing machine would have been comparatively useless, has effected a complete revolution in our business; where we used to go to press with an edition of 500 copies, we now print 5,000."

"325. Do you attribute the production of the Penny Magazine and all those cheap publications to the discovery of Messrs Fourdrinier? —Yes, the Penny Magazine could not have existed without this discovery. I had forgotten to state this additional advantage to be obtained from the use of this machine; we are enabled to have paper of any size that we require, so that we can print a larger number of pages at one time; for instance, in printing a common demy octavo volume, instead of printing 16 pages in the sheet as we used to do, we can now obtain paper of twice the size, that is, double demy, and so print 32 pages in the same time that we used to print 16, so that we can print a book off, when it is ready for press, in half the time we used to do."

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