Eighteenth-century paper
The readers’ digest
in Bellies, bowels and entrails in the eighteenth century
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Eighteenth-century boxes and books are material proof that printers' waste and newspapers were a generous source of waste paper. Eighteenth-century women's writing appears, like waste paper, to be a tenuous object. More professional collectors were acutely aware of the consumption of waste paper taking place in the shops. This chapter examines the digestion of paper in the period from two angles. The trade and practices related to the sale and disposal of waste paper in England and France can help trace the varying fates of paper once it has been read. The chapter highlights a most corporeal plight: that of hygienic paper, where expression and excrement meet. Paper evidences the movement of commerce in society, the rumblings of its appetites, the contradictory processes of its digestive system, and the passing of matter through the huge body of the 'commonwealth'.

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