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A Quick Guide to Papers found in Europe up to the 20th Century.


Before the 12th century

Parchment & Vellum are "commonly" used for writing manuscripts & legal documents.Paper is quite rare & is imported mainly from the Arabic regions & Asia Minor both as laid and wove sheets.The nearest papers today are some smooth, fine, closed papers from India & Bangladesh in a soft white or light brown colour.

13th Century

Paper is made in Italy & Spain in the 13th Century for the first time. Papermaking techniques are adapted to suit European climate & availability of raw materials. Papers are made unsized or are sized with gelatine...unlike the imported papers of Arabic origin which are predominently unsized or sized with starch. European made papers are laid only.Chain lines are of varying widths & watermarks are of relatively crude construction.

14th Century & 15th Centuries

Papermaking spreads through Western Europe. Mills producing the finer papers are usually situated near cities & in areas where there is a good supply of clean water & the greater availability of fine linen rags. Coarser & inferior quality papers were made by mills near ports where old sails & ropes could be used.

Paper mills in the country areas produced , as a rule, papers of rough or intermediate quality. Paper is exported between countries in Europe.

Chain lines are still of varying widths but watermarks begin to be better made & sometimes more complex in design.

17th & 18th Centuries.

Handmade papermaking comes of age & some of the finest papers ever made by hand are produced. Pulp quality is improved by the adoption of the Hollander Beater & paper moulds of superior construction ..particularly in England.

In the mid 1700's the first wove paper of European origin is made in England. However it wasn't until just over 30 years later that wove paper was produced in any great quantity. Synthetic bleach began to be used to correct the colour of the pulp. Chain line spacing in laid papers becomes more standardised & watermarks can be highly decorative.!

19TH Century.

A period of great change in the papermaking industry.The invention and adoption of the papermaking machine in the early decades of the 1800's brought about a sharp decline in the number of handmade mills. Paper continues to be made from linen,hemp & cotton rags until the first commercially supply of wood pulp becomes available in the 1850's. Natural dyestuffs begin to be replaced by the new synthetic chemical dyes.

20th Century

Some handmade mills survive by producing paper for niche markets whilst other mills survive as working museums .Working knowledge is gradually lost as the last generation of traditionally trained full - time working papermakers lay down their moulds for the last time.
Below are photos of three English paper mills that stopped making handmade paper in the 20th C.


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