Until the introduction of papermaking machines in the early nineteenth century, paper was made by hand, using methods that had hardly changed since the thirteenth century. The wire paper mould has vertical ‘chain’ lines and horizontal ‘laid’ lines. Additional wires make the watermark that reads: ‘C. M. Fabriano Italia’.
The papermaker dips the mould and deckle (a rectangular frame that fits over the mould) into the vat and picks up a thin layer of pulp. He tips the liquid gently – from side to side and lengthways – to distribute pulp evenly over the surface. He then hands the mould to two couchers who flip it over to deposit a wet raw paper sheet on to a piece of felt.
The mould is then gently pulled away and handed back to the papermaker, who makes another sheet. The couchers put another piece of felt on top of the paper and the whole process is repeated to produce a pile of sheets and felts (called the posta or ‘post’ in English).
The next step is to press the posta to remove as much water as possible.
This machine further dries the paper. A worker sits with a stack of paper in front of him and carefully places the sheets, one at a time, on the conveyor belt of this vintage (1920s) machine. The slowly moving belt takes the papers around a steam-heated cylinder that removes most of the remaining moisture.
For the next stage, the paper is sized with gelatine and carried to a room that dates back to the nineteenth century. Here, motorised drying racks move slowly up and down for two hours to air-dry the sized paper.