In Lucca domestic paper production, kitchen towels, toilet paper and handkerchiefs

+39 0583 947736

History in brief

  • 1307 - The Corporation of Paper makers was born
  • 1400 - In Bagni di Lucca it began to spread the paper obtained by rags
  • Middle of XVI century - The first real paper mill was born
  • End of XVII century - In the State of Lucca there are 8 paper mills
  • End of XVII century - The "war of rags" begins
  • 1700 - A strong development of paper mills takes place
  • 1834 - The "carta paglia" is created in Villa Basilica
  • 1971 - The paper mills are 211

History of paper in Lucca

Papermaking in Lucca has very distant sources over time and it is closely linked to the abundance of water in the territory. A first important trace is dated 1307, when it was formed the “Corporazione dei Cartolai” in Lucca. The “Cartolai” manufactured vellum paper to write (made from the fleece of animals-sheep and goats - also called "vellum") and produced paper and books mainly, among which the so-called "books of reason", used by merchants for accountancy.

In 1400 the activity of "Cartolai" ceased and at the same time in Bagni di Lucca began to spread the paper obtained by rags.

In the middle of the XVI century the first real paper mill was born in Lucca thanks to Vincenzo Busdraghi. The venue was an old mill, equipped and restored thanks to the financial help of the noble family Buonvisi. For about a century it remained the only existing paper mill in the territory of Lucca.

Around in the middle of the XVII century some important noble families of Lucca, and in particular the Biagi family, dedicated to the sector of paper and at the end of the century there were 8 paper mills in Lucca: Buonvisi paper mill, Montecatini paper mill at Piegaio, Biscotti paper mill at Villa Basilica, Tegrimi paper mill in Vorno, paper mill of Captain Francesco Pacini in Villa Basilica, the paper mill of Anchiano and the paper mill of Collodi. Among them Tegrimi paper mill of Vorno stood out. It produced high-quality paper, perhaps thanks to the excellent water of the area, and had intense relationships with foreign countries.

In this period the paper mills in Lucca area were generally on three floors, which corresponded to the different phases of the paper manufacture:

  • on the ground floor there were the tank (to wash rags) and "pile" (a sort of wooden hammers moved at regular intervals by water mills to grind rags)
  • on the first floor rags were prepared, it was completed the work of paper finishing-off and packaging in reams and bales
  • on the top floor it was placed the drying rack to dry

The 8 paper mills of this period reached an annual production of 16.000/20.000 reams of paper.

However this flourishing of paper mills and the consequent prosperity led, towards the end of the XVII century, to the "war of rags". It was a fight between some rags merchants who, through the port of Viareggio, aimed to export their product, and entrepreneurs of the paper-mills, who wished to keep at home the raw material. The paper entrepreneurs "won" and the export of rags was limited and regulated.

The XVIII century was theater of strong developments in the field of paper and it continued to be a source of intense activity in Lucca

In 1834 there was a very important turning point for the paper sector in Lucca: this year a pharmacist of Villa Basilica, Stefano Franchi, invented by accident the paper straw (the yellow paper used for packaging). He used a compound formed by straw, mortar and water. Thanks to this "invention" it could be created an easy and low-cost supply. Its success was truly notable and in 1911 the province of Lucca had 106 paper mills, with about 1,400 employees in total. In that context the main product was the paper-straw, with 65,000 tons of production per year. So big was the importance of the paper-straw that in the area of Borgo Giannotti in Lucca the price of the raw material (straw) was set and defined the reference cost for the whole Europe.

In 1971 the paper mills in Lucca were 211 and in the 70's the paper-straw was replaced by the production of tissue paper and corrugated board. Actually the age of the so loved "yellow paper" was over: in 1976 a law, aimed to protect water as an environmental wealth, made it too much onerous. Luckly the local companies were able to turn to new products, creating in Lucca an industrial paper area of worldwide importance.