Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Roman Holiday

Last week I was fortunate enough to be on holiday in Italy visiting Rome and Pompeii. On one of the days which was rather wet we were at a bit of a loose end. I saw a town called Amalfi on the map and remembered (by chance!) that there was a handmade paper mill there. So we hopped in the car and off we went to see a paper mill that was established in the 13th century - real medieval stuff!
It is situated half way up the mountainside on which the town of Amalfi is situated. At one time there were 16 paper mills on the mountain making use of the fast flowing fresh water streaming off the mountain to make paper and power the water wheels. The mill itself (which is now preserved as a museum) is carved out of the solid rock. This is a picture of the mill entrance:
The inside of the mill, hewn out of the rock:
The vats of pulp/water for handmade paper production:

Now, here's a truly amazing thing - the mill installed a "Hollander Beater" which is a machine which was a 18th century Dutch invention, to more efficiently break down fibres (rags) for papermaking - rather than beating them with a hammer with sharp spikes. This mill invested in this new technology and the machine was installed on 18th November 1745 - and this is the machine, still powered by the water wheel which I saw actually working , pictured below:
In the 19th century, the mill made inverstments in the new fangled paper machines which are shown below - although they are not currently in production (they only make handmade papers now), they work on the same principle as all modern paper machines.
On the picture below, note the saw in the foreground, which is the way in which the sheets were cut off the (very slow) machine and also in the background, the way that they created extra room for the machine by cutting further into the mountain:
...and to prove I was actually there, here I am with the machine in the background:

If you are in the area, it is definitely worth a visit.
Posted by Justin Hobson 25.04.2012

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