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16th Century

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The advantages of this mill-based papermaking technique, which spread throughout Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries far outweighed the disadvantage of considerable outlays of time and capital for building and fitting out with new machinery and equipment. However, the change in the production process, thanks to the division of labour, boosted output and improved quality. And it could certainly generate a profit, as some examples prove. On the other hand, there was a growing risk of an imbalance between costs and earnings, a state of affairs noted in the numerous reports of business failures among papermakers.

Later, many paper merchants took over the mills as owners, while the master papermakers practised their trade as lessees. This trend was stepped up by the special conditions prevailing in the book sector, where a book printer or publisher had to fund the production costs (paper, composition, printing) of a work before the sale of

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