Monday, July 19

Renaissance Paper Mills

There are a handful of paper manufacturers in the western world that have a history dating to the Renaissance. A manufacturer that has lasted for centuries has a rich history and culture that is intrinsic to their paper-making. It's incredible to think that some of these mills predate the western development of the moveable type press, in 1436.

Two in particular are Cartiere Magnani and Richard de Bas. Cartiere Magnani began production in 1404. Moulin Richard de Bas began in the 15th century as well. Cartiere Magnani still offers mould-made paper amongst its wide portfolio, while Richard de Bas makes paper, in mould, by hand, at a rate of only 200 sheets per day.

Both houses enjoy a fantastic history of use. Moulin Richard de Bas was used for the Constitution of the 5th French Republic in 1958. They have also made the papers for the issuance of the degrees of the Nobel Prize. Cartiere Magnani provided paper to Picasso and was the paper of choice for Napleon's wedding invitations.

So, what makes these papers so valuable that they would be used for the most extraordinary events of western culture? Their history, of course, contributes to their desirability. However, I think that what makes them truly luxurious is that they are often made from cotton, and mould-made, meaning that the paper slurry is dried by hand in a sheet mold, rather than in a long conveyor in web (a long roll of paper stretching from slurry to the dried product). Some of the de Bas papers have floral inclusions (floral material mixed into the cotton). Both mills produce sheets that have four deckled edges (a "deckled edge" is the unfinished edge that is a result and proof of a hand-laid paper, either in a mould or loose on a screen).

In the end, however, I believe that their desirability is tied to their unique manufacture. These paper stocks look and feel like nothing else. Their stability is exceptional. They are anything but ordinary.

So, what motivated me to mention this? Recent use of one of my own favorite manufacturers, a bit more current at a mere 400 years old, rather than 600 years, Hahnemühle. After looking at the extraordinary texture and quality, I felt compelled to look at some of the more ancient stocks, and all of this has inspired me not just to pass it along to you, but to undertake making my own hand-laid stock. So look forward, hopefully, to a post in the near future where we'll make paper ourselves!


Michelle May said...

Adoniram, Your post is so informative and also exciting. To think of Picasso and Napoleon, the paper and the mills, gives such importance to the use of paper invitations and their historical value. Thank you for your post! The Magnani Mill, known for it's name especially intriques me. The cylinder mold machine that makes the paper is still used with the bridge of new and eco friendly technology of today. If I could, I would love to see Magnani first hand! Our friends at Legion Paper have told me wonderful things. (oops, I reposted due to a spelling error, I surely did not want to spell the name wrong.)

Adoniram said...

I agree! We should TOTALLY order some Magnani! Maybe Legion would send us a sample or two, or a folio sheet if we begged... hmm!

Michelle May said...

Oh Adoniram, "see" Magnani was not in regards to seeing the paper in house. "See" Magnani meant go to Italy and visit the mill and take it all in!

Adoniram said...

Hahahaha, well I am DEFINITELY game for that. I could return to Italy any day, any reason...