So it is pretty known that TES world's literacy rate is relatively high. We have an enormous amounts of books, journals, notes, we see maps, scraps of paper, drawings. Overtime it was established that indeed Tamriel is not a stranger to technology of printing press. But there is one question I couldn't find anywhere on this subreddit, therefore I feel I need to ask it.
Where all this paper comes from?
We have newsletter scattered across streets of Mournhold. We have an author casually saying he's going to print so many copies of his book that in time it will be used all over Tamriel. We have newspapers given away for free on the streets of Imperial City and beyond. We have almost every representative of almost every race having a reason to keep a journal.
And this is not a question of just money – education and books are pretty available to an average folk. It's a question of principle. Where do they get so many paper? Who makes it? How?
While searching for answers I found only one clue. Letters of Urbek, commonly used on the subreddit as a proof of existing printing presses, has this mention:
- Urbek sorry for not smashing you letters sooner. Urbek been busy learning about books. Books not of interest to Urbek before, but since Urbek has been smashing words Urbek taken bigger interest. You know paper is made of smashed trees? Urbek plan to try smashing paper soon.
- Smashing wood to paper much harder than Urbek expect. Have to sweep out workshop and pluck out splinters now, but Urbek get back to you.
- Urbek decide it best to buy paper from now on. Urbek on to something more interesting than smashing wood into paper, so Urbek not stay distracted for sake of curiosity. Also, Urbek has to keep smashing your orders.
And… that's all. For now, that's the only mention of the paper making process I have seen at all. And thus I need your help.
Information I myself collected while searching for answers:
If we're talking just about paper as an object, Daggerfall has "Parchment" that acts like letters, Morrowind has "Paper" and "Rolled paper" as clutter/books and book "Parchment with Scrawlings", Oblivion has "Rolled up Portrait" as quest item and many items named "Crumpled Piece of Paper", both blank and filled, Skyrim has miscellaneous item "Roll of paper".
This post regarding what Bosmer use for writing. In short – might be vellum or parchment (both are made from animal skins), we see quite a few Bosmer decorations that are rune-covered animal hides, but also Green Pact doesn't forbid Bosmer from importing paper.
Regarding history of paper making, it existed since 105 year B.C. Technology came to Arabs in 8th century, in 9th-11th centuries paper comes to Spain (imported from Arabs), first papermills in Spain show up in 10th century. In 11th century technology comes to France and Italy, in 13th-15th centuries it goes even beyond that and enters other European countries. In 14th century they started making playing cards and advertisement posters. There was not many changes to the process from 15th to the beginning of 18th century so I suspect this is the period we can shoot for. As far as I understand, water paper mills were used for paper making, and we do see watermills at least in Skyrim, which makes it a possibility. This view of paper-making process' evolution also goes well with Urbek's letters. "Paper was made in a very primitive way – by hand grinding the mass with wooden hammers in a mortar and scooping out forms with a mesh bottom."
Due to the same reasons I guess paper is made locally in those provinces where appropriate resources are available (which doesn't mean obligatory wood, it can be cotton, bamboo, hemp, silk, wasp nests, nettles – basically fibers). So Cyrodiil, Skyrim, High Rock and Summerset Isles for sure, Valenwood not at all because Green Pact, Morrowind – before Red Year maybe, but I don't think it was made from wood fiber, Blackmarsh and Elsweyr – I don't have a clue, Hamerfell – I'm not sure, either some sort of local source or imported.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Are there anything missed? Do you think paper is made with magic? Please, share your thoughts! I'm a bit desperate from all this paper-making related reading please don't leave me alone
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