If you decided to travel to the Amalfi Coast, and are willing to discover all its secrets and cultural histories, you can’t miss what’s behind the history of the paper of Amalfi and the visit to the paper mill.
Generally speaking, paper was discovered by a Chinese prime minister who was on the pond bank looking at a woman washing very old clothes. The clothes frayed easily and the fibers concentrated in a corner of the pond formed like a veil. The minister picked them up and put them to dry on the grass. Once the veil of fibers dried, the minister observed that it was soft but solid at the same time and he understood that it was possible to write on it.
So how did the paper arrive in Amalfi, becoming such a famous production?
In the Middle Ages the paper arrived in Arabia from the East and Amalfi that was the oldest of the Sea Maritime Republics and had strong business relationship with the Arab. Amalfi had also warehouses in Syria and on the coasts of Palestine where the major centers of paper-making were located. The procedure for making the paper remained the same for centuries and the Italian improved and mechanised the production even with rudimentary tools to reduce the cost.
Even today Amalfi and Fabriano compete for the primacy of having first introduced the paper in Europe.
As a raw material, the “cartari” ( the paper producers) used linen, hemp, rags that were whitened, frayed and reduced into pulp by hammers sprung by water mills.
The pulp was filtered by frames in bronze and brass containing the coat of arms of the noble families in filigree.
Each sheet was turned on a woollen cloth and covered with another cloth and they were all stacked together, then pressed to remove the water and left to dry.
Each cartaro jealously preserved its formulas, procedures and secrets.
Today the “Paper of Amalfi”, means Cartiera Amatruda, the last paper factory in Amalfi famous all over the world.
The paper mills fell in economic crisis in the 50s because the “Handmade paper” appeared as “faulty’ with frayed sides, not perfectly smooth, not perfectly white, the high costs of transport and the lack of space for expanding the production and to accommodate new machines.
Even for the Cartiera Amatruda the future seemed to be the ends but the Maestro Cartaro Luigi Amatruda, had the intuition to “go back to the past”: to make a type of paper that had all the requirements of the paper by hand (uncoated sides, paper grain, transparency , softness, etc), but made with the support of a moving paper machine.
Finally a commission came from the publisher Mardersteig (former printer of D’Annunzio) and from that moment the paper mill Amatruda produces its paper for important publishing projects.
In 1979 Luigi Amatruda died at the age of 66, in such a delicate historical phase, and his wife Rosa came into the business leaving the management to the two daughters Teresa and Antonietta. For a long time, in fact, we will talk about Amatruda as “the women Paper Mill“. Alongside the Amatruda sisters, Giuseppe the son of Teresa is already the “future” of the company.
The highly prestigious orders continue for the Amatruda paper mill also in the 2000s: it was always the paper of kings, large publishing houses, artistic prints, and valuable documents.
Today they still produce the paper “by hand“ as it was made in 1200/1300, obviously without the use of rags but using cellulose or cotton; the former is mainly used for the production of writing paper while cotton one, which has higher cost is used mainly in publication or special uses such as watercolour.
The production of Amatruda is kind with the environment because they use recycle waters and they do not use polluting material during their process.
The Amatruda Mill is a living testimony of the incredible craftsmanship of Amalfi and its weight in the world, and you can’t miss its visit while in Amalfi.
The museum of paper and the mill of Amalfi are a unique educational experience, that we will be happy to help you organize while staying with us at the Hotel Aurora, where we also have inside workshops to produce your own paper.
Write us now to have all the information about the visit to the paper mill and to organize you paper workshop here at the hotel: firstname.lastname@example.org