The invention of paper is traditionally attributed to the Chinese, but it was actually the Arabs who, after having learned the rudiments of manufacture and made a few improvements, spread the new product throughout the west.
It was a long, arduous process that was completed in the second half of the 13th century in Fabriano, a little town of the Marche inland. The reason for this location, which made Fabriano the most important paper production centre of Europe, is very probably linked to the vicinity of Ancona, a port that was particularly open to trade with the Arab world.
The growing ability of the increasingly numerous and qualified artisans in Fabriano allowed them to make a real leap in terms of quality. Three innovations in particular led to the rise of Fabriano as the cradle of modern papermaking.
Very few companies can claim a longer or more distinguished heritage than Fabriano. Dating back to 1264, the Fabriano mill’s fine arts papers were used and highly praised by Michelangelo. Fabrianese paper masters pioneered many of the processes now common in paper manufacture today, including the watermark and the technique of surface sheet gluing using gelatine.
In 2002, Fabriano became part of the Fedrigoni Group, which backed it with significant new investments. The company is committed to renewable energy and makes extensive use of self-generated hydroelectric power. The production yield from the six continuous machines, one of which is dedicated entirely to producing bank notes and security papers, makes the company unique in the European paper industry and one of the leading players in its field worldwide.
To celebrate its 750th birthday, Fabriano just published a new book “Cotone, Conigli e invisibili segni d’acqua. 750 anni di storia della carta Fabriano” (In English, Rags, Rabbit Skins and Invisible Watermarks. 750 years of papermaking in Fabriano). The book, edited by Chiara Medioli, whole reenacting the history of this prestigious paper mill, puts a lot of emphasis on materials and technologies involved in paper production. Indeed, “Cotone” reminds about the materials origianlly used to produce paper; “conigli” about the special glue Fabriano experts created using rabbits’ skin to strengthen paper resistance, and “acqua” about the fact that we can’t have paper without water.