The 19th Century Moral Panic Over Paper Technology.
Then came the early 19th century, which saw enormous changes in the manufacture of paper and improvements on the printing press. These changes both contributed to and resulted from major societal changes, such as the worldwide growth increase in formal education. There were more books than ever and more people who could read them. For some, this looked less like progress and more like a dangerous and destabilizing trend that could threaten not just literature, but the solvency of civilization itself.
The real price of books plummeted by more than 60 percent between 1460 and 1500: A book composed of 500 folio pages could sell for as much as 30 florins in 1422 in Austria—a huge amount of money at the time—but by the 1470s, a 500-folio book would fetch something in the neighborhood of 10 florins. There were even books on the market that sold for as little as 2 or 3 florins. In 1498, a Bible composed of over 2,000 folio pages sold for 6 florins. Costs continued to decline, albeit at a much slower rate, over the next three centuries. As a result, books were no longer reserved only for the clergy or for kings: Owning a printed Bible or book of hours became a coveted status symbol for the emerging class of moderately wealthy merchants and magnates.