University of Virginia Library

Search this document 


expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
collapse section 
collapse section2. 
Ledger Entries Mentioning Paper
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 

expand section 

Ledger Entries Mentioning Paper

Since Strahan mentioned paper in only 7% of the ledger entries, the 631 entries discussed below represent an extremely small percentage of Strahan's business. But the very existence of these entries constitutes the first evidence leading to the conclusion that the customer provided his own paper. The entries fall into four categories, each of which internally supports the conclusion. Taken cumulatively, the five kinds of evidence are conclusive: it was standard practice for the customer to provide his own paper.

1) "Special Entries" for Paper

The first category of twenty-seven entries consists of ten credit entries and seventeen debit entries of a "special" nature: they show


Page 182
the method Strahan used on those occasions when he was asked to keep a detailed record of large amounts of paper. All of the entries occur between 1753 and 1767 and are long and detailed.

In the ten credit entries, Strahan listed paper spoiled or not used for large contracts or for large partnerships involving several joint customers. For example, Strahan "abated" Andrew Millar's account on five occasions by crediting the well-known bookseller with amounts of paper spoiled or left over from large jobs. One of these credit listings reads:

[Mr. Andrew Millar] Contra Cr. [Credit to the Account] 
Oct 1762  Qr  [Reams and Quires]  £ s d 
by Robertson Paper 8vo   1:  19:  at 14s  1. 7.6 
Hume 4to   1:  17½  at 13s  1. 4.6 
Hume's Casars [sic] spoilt  15  0. 9.9 
Fielding's Royal  1:  1. 4.0 
Chambaud's Paper  15  0.10.6 
[Ledger A 12or] 
The five works in this example were printed before the entry date of October, 1762; but in no other place, either in the standard debit entries for the printing of the works or in the entries for extra charges, had the paper been mentioned before Strahan credited it to Millar's account. It is therefore plain that Millar provided the paper and asked that Strahan credit the remainder to his account after a series of large jobs.

Similar to the credit entries, in that they are rare, long, and detailed, are the seventeen debit entries which list paper used, spoiled or not used for large contracts (thirteen are for works published in partnerships). The entries show contracts in which the customer specified a certain paper dealer (in eleven instances) and asked for a record of his shipment. Strahan simply listed the paper received; the cost to the customer was obviously a matter between the customer and his paper supplier.[3] For example, in 1754 Strahan printed part of


Page 183
Benjamin Martin's Lingua Britannica Reformata; or a new English Dictionary. The entry reads, in part,            
Partners in Martin's Dictionary 
1754  £ s d 
March  Printing 34 ½ Sheets of Do. No. 4000 &c.mmat;4.9.0 p. Sheet  153.10.6 
34 ½ Sheets takes up 276 Reams had at different times of Mr. Stiles  [no charge] 
[Ledger B 7r] 

The debit and credit entries in this category indicate contracts in which the customer supplied the paper. Taken alone, they do not prove that this was standard practice, but there are three other kinds of entries for paper to add to this evidence.

2) Entries Mentioning Size or Quality of Paper

The second category consists of forty-five entries in which Strahan designated the size or quality of paper used in a job, but did not list any charge for the paper in his billing. Again, it seems obvious that the customer supplied the paper and that Strahan had some special reason for going to the trouble of listing the kind of paper used. Eighteen of the entries show one of the special reasons: a split run


Page 184
of paper. The customer split his run between a majority of books on ordinary paper, usually common Demy, and a small number of books on large paper, usually common Royal, to be given to subscribers or influential people. Though common Royal would cost the customer more than Demy because of its size, it had the advantage of giving the impression of quality by allowing a large margin, and it did not cost as much as a finer quality of larger paper would have cost him.[4] A typical entry reads        
Guthrie's Grammar 4to  
Novr.  Printing Do. 101 Sheets, No. 750 Demy & 250 Royal &c.mmat; £1:6:0 per Sheet  [£]131.6.0 
[Ledger F 25r] 

The first two categories, then, are composed of seventy-two entries in which the customer supplied paper for the job. The third and fourth categories which follow offer a different kind of evidence, for their 559 entries indicate contracts in which Strahan provided the paper.

3) Printing Entries "with Paper"

Category three consists of eighty-eight entries distinguished by use of the term "with paper" at the end of the standard debit entry for printing. They establish that Strahan did have a method for indicating contracts which included paper he supplied. The existence of the method throughout the ledgers indicates that these are the only times when he supplied paper as part of the contract.

In almost all cases, the entries "with paper" are for "job work" rather than for the "book work" which really sustained Strahan's business; that is, the contracts usually involved fewer than 2½ sheets,


Page 185
usually cost (including paper) less than £3½, and usually had runs of 500 or 1000, which I have established in my earlier article as being "average" runs. A typical entry is:        
Thomas Gilbert Esqr. 
June  Observations on the Poor Bill, one Sheet, No. 350 with Paper  [£] 3.3.0 
[Ledger F 29v] 

It is a fairly simple matter to reconstruct the circumstances which led to these entries. A customer with a small job (usually not a book-seller) asked that paper be included in his contract, since it would be a great deal of expense and trouble for a "layman" to buy one ream or only a few reams; whereas Strahan could provide the paper from stock on hand which had been bought at wholesale prices and was therefore cheaper to the customer, even at Strahan's profit markup, than the customer's purchase of it would have been.[5]

As his business grew, Strahan accepted more of such work. By 1766, it was relatively common for customers to use Strahan's paper in the smaller contracts for job work. However, even though the incidence of entries "with paper" increased through the years, it was still the exception rather than the rule. On one occasion, Strahan actually made a special note in the printing entry when a customer for a very small job did provide his own paper. Although the wording is unique in the ledgers, the entry serves to confirm the date when "with paper" entries became common.

Mr. Bingley 
June  1000 Bills (his own Paper)  [£] 0.7.6 
[Ledger B 74r; from category one: "Special Entries"] 

4) Paper as an Extra Charge: "Ream-and-Quire" Entries

Among the 631 paper entries, the largest single category, 471 entries, is that in which Strahan recorded paper as a separate, "extra" charge on a separate line following the standard printing entry for


Page 186
the particular job. The amount of detail varied from one entry to another and from one year to another. For example:                          
Wilson and Co. 
1752  £ s d 
June  History of Betty Barnes, 2 vol. 25 Sheets No. 1000 &c.mmat; £1:1:  26. 5. - 
For 50 R/ of Paper for Do. &c.mmat; 12s.  30.-- 
[Ledger B 2r] 
Mr. John Lockman 
1741  £ s d 
March 26  To printing Verses to a Lady of Quality, one Sheet 4to 500 Coarse, and 175 fine  0.16.0 
For a ream of Coarse Paper for Do.  0.15.0 
For 2 Quires fine  0. 4.0 
For 6 Quires finest  0.15.0 
[Ledger A 18v] 

The distinction between this ream-and-quire method of entry and the "with paper" entry is a fine one, probably determined by (a) the customer's wish to have paper itemized and (b) Strahan's need to have a bookkeeping record. The method may also have been in part a "sales device" (still used by printers today) of demonstrating to the customer, by billing the item separately, that the cost of his paper was as great as the cost of setting, correcting, and printing the job.

In one entry, Strahan changed the billing after the contract had been recorded, from ream-and-quire to "with paper." From this significant entry, we can see not only the close relationship between the two methods of recording paper, but also a clear example of the bookkeeping method Strahan must have employed: "roughing in" a skeleton entry of the contract before he finished the job and could put in the details of actual work and consequent price. This method provided him with a running, up-to-date list of the jobs in work for a customer, and at the same time allowed the customer to make changes without forcing Strahan to cross out or rewrite an entry:

George Whitefield 
1734/4  £ s d 
and Paper of [sic
Janry.  For printing / a New Edition of the 20 Serm[ons] & Prayers, No. 2000  91.13.0 
For Reams of Paper for Do. &c.mmat; 10s, 6d. p. Ream  [no charge] 
[Ledger A 5v] 


Page 187

In a little over half of the ream-and-quire entries, 253 out of 471, Strahan recorded evidence of how much the customer paid per ream: the "unit price," which naturally was not the wholesale price but included Strahan's markup. In thirty-eight of these entries, the price is known because exactly one ream of paper was used: the price per ream of paper is the same as the total price for paper. But in the remaining 215 entries, Strahan actually recorded the price per ream. In 130 of the 253 entries, Strahan also recorded the kind of paper used — both size and quality. I shall use this information in the second half of this study to reconstruct the scale of prices Strahan charged.

The existence of 631 entries mentioning paper cannot be considered a "mistake" but is rather an indication that Strahan was using a system to record the use of paper: the four categories discussed above comprise that system. Further, these four categories divide naturally into two larger groups: 1) seventy-two entries indicate that Strahan had methods for recording certain special considerations when the customer provided the paper; 2) 559 entries indicate that Strahan had two methods for recording jobs when he supplied the paper. The latter two methods for occasions when the customer did not supply the paper provide the final evidence necessary to prove conclusively that the customer did supply the paper in standard practice.

If we consider the 559 entries as "exactly half" of the occasions when Strahan supplied paper (for purposes of clarity), then the total number would be 1,118 out of the 18,129 entries of Ledgers A, B, D and F. We have seen that Strahan mentioned paper in 7% of the entries; now we see that Strahan supplied paper in 6% of the entries while the customer supplied it 94% of the time.