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The Value of Printed Ink on Paper

Monday, 25 August 2014 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

My wife refuses to pay more than a couple of pounds for the books she buys on her Kindle. She looks to see what’s on offer and if one of her favourite authors has something new, she will put it on her wish list and wait until the price drops. I am full of admiration for her parsimony – I only wish it extended to her clothes shopping.

Hopefully she won’t read this blog, so I can get away with that comment, but her book purchasing habits do contrast somewhat with the recent news that a 540 year old book printed by William Caxton has just sold for more than £1million. Admittedly this version was not downloaded onto someone’s Kindle, but the “The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye” printed by Caxton around 1474, raised eyebrows when it was sold at Sotheby’s in London.

BBC News reports the sale of The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, Caxton’s first printed publication
The high value of printed publications demonstrated in the sale of

“The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye” by William Caxton

The book is a romance based on Greek mythology and was printed in English by Caxton. He was commissioned by the Duke of Burgundy to print the book as a gift for his wife Margaret, the sister of the then English King Edward IV. The current owner, the Duke of Northumberland had to sell the historic publication in order to raise funds to repair his ancestral home in Newcastle following severe flood damage.

Of course with such a valuable publication, you are not going to sell it through Amazon and although the contents sound just like the sort of romantic fiction my wife enjoys, there is a very limited market for such a unique example of Master Caxton’s work.

The Market for Print Remains Strong

Although I am making a rather light hearted comparison of William Caxton to e-books, there is a serious point here. The fact that the volume is of such interest to collectors who want to purchase and own the first book that William Caxton printed in English, shows the value of ink on paper – or parchment in this case. Another example is Johannes Gutenberg’s famous 560 year old bible printed in Mainz. There are only 48 copies left in the world and the valuation on those runs into tens of millions of pounds.

There are many other examples of valuable printing such as a Spiderman comic with a valuation of around US$900 or the first issue of US comic Daredevil which currently on sale in the USA for US$2,300.

Spiderman comic
 Printed Spiderman comic price in 1962: 12¢ (US)

The key point here is that people want to possess the physical item. Both the content and the history of the document are tied up in the craft of putting ink on the paper, whether using a Gutenberg press, an offset press or a Nanographic Printing® press. No matter how much the popularity of e-books grows – and there’s some suggestion that it’s slowing down – the market for print remains strong.

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2 Image source (lower):!bJaR8A

Landa S10 - Printing Press