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The history of Paper in LUCCA


The fabrication of paper in the district of Lucca has distant origins and it's deeply connected to the amount of water in the region. In 1307 the Cartolai Corporation was founded. They were busy producing parchment paper (from animal fleece). They produced mainly paper or books, among wich there were the so called “libri di ragione”, used by merchants to keep track of their business.
In 1400 the Cartolai had to stop their activity; meanwhile in Bagni di Lucca began the production of paper from rags.
The first real paper mill was founded in Lucca around the middle of 1500 by Vincenzo Busdraghi. It was located in an old, refurbished mill, perfectly equipped thanks to the economic support of Buonvisi family. It was the only paper mill in the region for almost a century. Around the middle of 1600 many noble families, particularly the Biagi, began to be concerned with the business of paper, and at the end of the century there were 8 paper mills in the district of Lucca: the Buonvisi's paper mill, the Montecatini's paper mill in Piegaio, the Biscotti's paper mill in Villa Basilica, the Tegrimi's paper mill in Vorno, the captain Pacini's paper mill, also in Villa Basilica, and finally the Grassi's paper mill. There were two more paper mills in Archiano and in Collodi.
In time the Tegrimi's paper mill became prominent among the others, because of the production of high quality paper, thanks to the type of water in the region. Its main aim was to export products. This prominent role let unisiness and envy raise among the other paper manufacturers.  In that time paper mills were usually made up of three levels, connected to the three stages of paper making: at the ground floor there were the vat (where the rags were cleaned up) and the “pile”, some sort of wooden power hammers that were put regularly in motion by watermills, to grind the rags. At the first floor rags were preparated, refining activities were completed, and the paper was  packed up in reams and bales. At the top floor there was the drying rack. The 8 paper mills produced about 16000/20000 paper reams every year. At the end of 1600 the so called “rags war” began: on one side the mechants sailing from Viareggio wanted to export  the rags, while on the other side the paper manufacturers preferred to keep this material in Lucca Paper manufacturers made it so that rags export strictly defined and regulated. The 18th century was characterized by a great development of the paper industry. The paper mill in Villa Basilica remained a property of the Buonvisi until 1800, when the line ended, so their heritage was joined together to the Montecatini 's one . The Giusti family rented the Buonvisi's paper mill. After a census it was found out that in that time there were 12 working paper mills in the whole territory of  Lucca: five of them (the Buonvisi's, the Pacini's, the Bertolozzi's, the Bestini's and the Biscotti's) were located in the district of Villa Basilica. Then there were the Buonaccorsi's paper mill in Colognora di Valeriana, the Garzoni's paper mill in Collodi, the Micheli's paper mill in Lucignara, the Pollera's paper mill in Piegaio, the Santini's paper mill in Chifenti, the Sardi's paper mill in Archiano and the Tegrimi's paper mill in Vorno. A few of them worked regulary and at high levels. The XIX century broght a change: straw could be used in the production of paper, as well as rags.
The scenario in Lucca changed deeply: the time of modern paper industry had started. 1834 is considered as a turning point for the paper industry in Lucca: a pharmacist in Villa Basilica invented the straw paper, used for packaging. It was made by straw, mortar and water. Thanks to that a cheap and widely available product was created. Its success was great: in 1911 the province of Lucca boasted 106 craft, family-run paper mills, with almost 1400 workers. They mainly produced straw paper, with an amount of 65 000 tons every year. Straw paper had become so important that only in Borgo Giannotti the price for the material was decided and the cost for all Europe was established. In 1971 there were 211 paper mills in Lucca. In the 70s the production of straw paper was changed into the one of tissue and corrugated paper. The time of the “yellow paper” ended: a law of 1976 that was supposed to safeguard water as a fundamental part of the environment made the production too expensive. Luckily the local paper mills were able to change and begin new productions, so that Lucca became a world- wide known production site.

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