History of paper in Muscovy 16th/17th century

Stefan Schneck's picture

Dear colleagues,

I am interested in how the use of paper changed in Moscow before and in the 17th century: What was it used for, what role did it play for people, where was it available and in what quantities, where did it come from, how did the price and the quality develop. I found some useful information in some older publications e.g. from Lichacev and Melnikov, but I was wondering, if there was a book, which is about (or a colleague, who is working on) such a „kulturhistorische“ perspective on paper in Muscovy in the 16th/17th century systematically. I would be also glad about some hints/ideas, where to find some statistical materials which could be helpful to understand better the role and dynamics of paper in the culture of Muscovy.

Warm regards,

Stefan Schneck

PS: I am interested in this topic as part of my PhD, which is investigating the change of the order of knowledge in Muscovy of the 17th century such as medicine, mathematics, music and grammar.


Н.П. Лиха­чёв “Бума­га и древ­ней­шие мель­ни­цы в Мос­ков­ском госу­дар­стве: Исто­ри­ко-архео­гра­фи­че­ский очерк”, 1891 г.,Спб.

Н.П. Мель­ни­ков, П.Н. Мель­ни­ков “Исто­рия, ста­ти­сти­ка, лите­ра­ту­ра пис­че­бу­маж­но­го про­из­вод­ства”, Спб, типо­гра­фия П.П. Сай­ки­на ‚1906г.

Dear Stefan:

A good first step, if you haven't done so already, may be to look at the preliminary essays published in the watermark album by Zoia Vasil'evna Uchastkina, "A history of Russian hand paper-mills and their water-marks" / Edited and adapted for publication in English by J. S. G. Simmons (Hilversum, Holland : Paper Publications Society, 1962). Monumenta chartæ papyraceæ historiam illustrantia, vol. 9. If you don't have it readily at hand, I can send you images of the table of contents.

M.A. Johnson
Curator, Hilandar Research Library
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio, USA

Friday, Aug. 13, 2021
23:01 EDT

I have written, somewhat hastily, a response to this interesting query and placed it in pdf format in my personal Dropbox in an Early Slavic folder that you can freely access via this link:


There is an older book notice file there; the new one with my response on the paper question is:


Do be aware that I have not worked actively on most of this material for years and thus may well have missed some important work that is relevant. I trust others on the Early Slavic list will volunteer corrections and suggestions.

Daniel Waugh
University of Washington, Seattle

Dear Stefan,

I think this sounds like a great topic. I'll respond now just quickly, without notes. I don't have answers to your specific questions, but I'll share that, reading Siberian customs book for my first book, The Merchants of Siberia, I encountered now and then instances of paper (Stopa bumagi) being transported; I think it was generally westbound but I'd have to check. Also, I encountered state documentation about trips being made to acquire paper (and candles, office supplies). And of course, the amount of palimpset in the archives suggests paper shortages weren't rare.

As you proceed on this research, if it serves your needs, please feel free to get in touch directly and I could try to dig up these references in my notes.

With all best wishes,
Erika Monahan

Dear Stefan,

Have you looked at Simon Franklin’s work? I can’t remember specifically whether The Russian Graphosphere discusses paper production and watermarks at any length, but it’s worth checking!

Julia Leikin