3.1.3: 1725 - 1830 - Paper (incl. production, watermarks, paper trade)

During the eighteenth century, the share of the Dutch product in the national paper market became larger and larger. The importation of French paper declined for a number of reasons. The fact that Dutch interests in the French paper industry had largely disappeared by the end of the seventeenth century would certainly have had an influence.

The change in quality was probably just as important. It was usual in France to allow rags to rot longer before processing them into fibres. While this did simplify the production process, it was at the expense of the strength of the paper. Dutch paper, on the other hand, was of high quality, not least because of the excellent sizing. It was also exported in large quantities. Much paper of moderate quality was imported from France for the production of cheap printed matter.

Just as in the seventeenth century, the name of the factor and/or paper manufacturer was often indicated by his initials in the watermark or as a separate countermark. In some cases, more information was offered by the data on the packaging around a ream of paper (usually 500 sheets), the so-called 'ream wrapper'.

The full name of the paper manufacturer was now also regularly specified in the watermark or in the countermark. Traders' names also appeared in full later in the eighteenth century as watermarks or countermarks.

Throughout the eighteenth century, methods were sought to work with cheaper raw materials or to make paper more attractive in other ways. A somewhat wider screen with thicker copper wires was used from about 1690. This invention, which was probably Dutch, accelerated the production process. Later in the eighteenth century, there were experiments with the addition of blueing to give a somewhat cooler and apparently fresher tint to the paper. Honig, the paper manufacturers, achieved nice results with this.

The major change was as a result of the invention of the woven copper screen on which the paper was cast without the old pattern of chain lines and laid lines. The first paper resulting from the new invention came from the famous English manufacturer, James Whatman. An old story has it that he developed, at the request of and in co-operation with the type designer and printer, John Baskerville, a smoother and more regular paper which showed the fine serifs in Baskerville's new typeface at their best. Although the invention of the modified screen had already been accomplished in 1756, this `wove paper' only became established towards the end of the eighteenth century. The Zaandam manufacturer, Jan Kool, went to work around 1806, partly financed by colleagues, as a servant for Whatman in order to discover the secret of wove paper. This type of paper was then also produced in the Netherlands from 1807 onwards.

Dutch paper was a major, high-quality export product throughout the second half of the eighteenth century. The major manufacturers were the Blauw, Honig, Van der Ley and Van Gerrevinck families. The late introduction of wove paper was, however, an initial indication that the Dutch paper industry had started to lose its powerful position within Europe.

The search for mechanical methods for the manufacture of paper resulted in 1799 in a machine for which the Frenchman Nicolas-Louis Robert took out a patent. In 1801, a patent was issued to John Gamble in England for a comparable machine. Especially after the improvements made by Henry Foudrinier, this new machine started its triumphal march and more or less completely overwhelmed hand-made paper within a few decades. As it had done with the production of wove paper, the Dutch industry reacted somewhat slowly to industrial developments. The result was that it eventually lost its premier position within Europe.

author: Th. Laurentius

Paper (incl. production, watermarks, paper trade)