17&18TH CENTURIES Papermaking technology improves – demand for paper increases

Technical progress continued throughout the 17th Century. The invention of the ‘Hollander beater’ confirmed the Dutch as being at the forefront of papermaking technology. It was a much more efficient way to make pulp compared with the stamping mill, which it began to replace, dividing papermakers into traditional versus modern camps.

Meanwhile, improvements in the printing process, namely the introduction of movable type, greatly increased demand for paper. It led to a serious shortage of raw materials and to regulations governing the trade in rags, the primary raw material for making paper.

The 18th century saw the establishment of larger-scale operations. Such ‘manufactories’ were dependent on skilled papermakers who were organised into craft groups. The search for innovations to step up production and to have as many of the jobs done by machine as possible (partly to overcome the constraining rules of the papermakers) culminated in the design and construction of new papermaking machines.

The initial model built, by J.N.L. Robert in 1798, was the first flat-screen papermaking machine. The design was further developed in England, mostly by Donking and the Fourdrinier brothers. Additionally, the French chemist Claude-Louis Bertholett invented the chemical bleaching of pulp in 1785. The French Revolutionaries were probably the first to use really white paper.