2.1.3: 1585 - 1725 - Paper (incl. production, watermarks, paper trade)

The fall of Antwerp in 1585 formed the beginning of a period of great paper scarcity in the Northern Netherlands. The Spaniards occupied the Southern Netherlands and blocked all trade routes between France and the North. Up until that time, France was the major manufacturer of paper for the Dutch market. The town of Troyes acted as a central depot. Besides this 'Troy paper, paper was, to a lesser extent, also supplied by Italian travelling merchants, the so-called 'Lombardy paper. Finally, a small proportion also came from southern Germany especially from the regions along the Rhine.

Dutch traders who used to buy paper at the Frankfurt Book Fair, blew new life into the ailing Swiss paper industry with Basle as its major centre. Strasbourg grew to become a major centre for paper in the east of France. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the majority of paper used in the Netherlands therefore came from Switzerland, eastern France and southern Germany. It was transported by ship down the Rhine, free of any Spanish interference. The 'Compagnie van Duitsche Papieren' (Company of German papers) belonging to the Amsterdam merchant, Cornelis van Lokhorst, was the largest importer. During the Twelve Years' Truce (1609-1621), the trade became freer and many refugee Flemings settled in French mills. After 1621, however, the Spanish once again blocked the access roads to the Netherlands. There was also serious interference of transports by sea from Bordeaux and La Rochelle. Until the Treaty of Westphalia (Munster, 1648), Switzerland, eastern France and Germany continued to be the major suppliers.

Immediately after the fall of Antwerp, attempts were made to set up local paper mills in the Netherlands. There was plenty of clean water available although the power was missing to drive the beaters. Only at the periphery of the higher areas, such as the Veluwe, could fast-flowing streams provide enough power to run small mills. Windmills as a source of energy only became strong enough to be used in the paper industry in the course of the seventeenth century. After 1648, French exports of paper to the Netherlands increased explosively and quickly replaced Swiss production which had become too expensive. In the second half of the seventeenth century, Dutch paper merchants, the so-called 'factors', had a lot of influence in the French paper industry. Known factors were, among others, Abraham Jansen and Gilles van Hoven who also supplied paper to England and Scandinavia.

The extent of the role of the Dutch paper trade in France was shown by, among other things, the use of the watermark 'Arms of Amsterdam'. Paper with this watermark was called 'Papier Stradam' in France and was as least as well known as paper with the watermark 'Foolscap' or 'Strasbourg lily' in a shield. The names of the factor and/or the papermaker (also called 'paper manufacturer') were often given as initials in the watermark. The initials of famous papermakers, such as IV (Jean Villedary) and WR (Wendelin Riehel) were copied and had a fixed place in the watermark later, long after the death of the papermaker in question.

In the course of the seventeenth century paper makers from the Veluwe succeeded in taking over a large part of the Dutch market. Around 1675 the windmill became sufficiently developed as a source of energy to be useful for paper production. Subsequently, in the Zaan area a windmill park came into being that was able to meet a fast growing part of the national paper needs by the end of the century. Technical innovations such as the installation of the Hollander instead of the old beaters were of great importance. French imports had a serious competitor. White-paper production in the Zaanstreek grew in the period 1680-1700 from 200,000 kg to 700,000 kg. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) meant a dramatic reduction of Dutch influence in the French paper industry. This development, however, coincided with the rapid growth of the Zaanstreek paper industry so that, on balance, the national paper market was shared in the period up to 1725 between French and Dutch paper, the latter mostly from the Zaanstreek.

author: Th. Laurentius

Paper (incl. production, watermarks, paper trade)


Definition: tanks in which processed rags are beaten with hammers (beaters) in water until the fibres of which paper is made are released. The hammers are moved up and down by means of a camshaft.