The cheaper alternative
Paper became an alternative to parchment in the later Middle Ages. The new material was introduced into Europe in the late twelfth century. Initially imported from the Arabic world by merchants, from the second half of the twelfth century paper was also produced in European mills, first in Italy and Spain, then in France, and finally in England and Germanic countries. At first, the new material was exclusively used in administration.
It was not until the late thirteenth century, however, that paper was introduced in book production, where it became a more affordable (and sometimes more plentiful) alternative to parchment. Although paper made the production of manuscripts somewhat cheaper, the objects still remained expensive: they were a luxury good for people with less money. The watermark that is usually found in a paper sheet helps the book historian date and localize the paper batch used for a manuscript.