Italian handcrafts: Paper from Fabriano

Mar 16, 2017 292

Fabriano is one of the few cities in the world where paper is still being made by hand as a testament to the will not to lose its ties with a tradition that is hundreds of years old. The first paper in the West was created here thanks to the technological innovations that this area brought to the manufacture of this product.

The most important innovations were the introduction of gluing the sheets with animal gelatine to make them impermeable against the ink, the adoption of the hydraulic multiple hammer mill to refine the mixture, and the invention of the watermark as a security element to demonstrate the quality of the paper and identify its manufacturer.

The precious watermarked sheets from Fabriano are destined for distinguished purposes, and are made with carefully selected raw materials through a method that has remained unchanged for 700 years.

The pulp is spread across a canvas with a frame. The sheet is then detached from it and pressed to remove the water, after which it is placed in the "stendaggi" (hangers) to dry. Next, it is immersed in a bath of animal gelatine that makes it impermeable to ink and ensures its preservation. After being place in the hanger a second time, the sheet is ready for finishing. The production capacity of a "vat" is very small, and the maximum amount it can achieve is 100 kg per day.

In the thirteenth century, several Fabriano based master paper makers were attracted by the possibility of capitalising on their technical knowledge and founded paper factories in various Italian cities, thereby instigating fierce competition beyond the city limits. From 1782 onwards, Pietro Miliani and his descendants successfully revived the Fabriano paper-making tradition by gathering together the remaining paper makers and taking the industry back to the standards it had set in the second half of the thirteenth century.

The regional diaspora makes it difficult to define the “Fabriano paper” production zone. It is therefore preferable to connect the production area with the municipal territory of Fabriano, where many centuries of traditional work has remained alive through the craftsmanship of the master papermakers.

By Camera di Commercio di Ancona

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