History of a papermill


This is traditionally thought to have been the year when the Arches Mill was created, although much about its true origins is still a mystery. The mill was subsequently purchased and expanded by various local middle-class (bourgeois) landlords.

View of the old Arches mill.


The paper mill provided the means for producing incunabula (books of that age), such as Dürer's "Chronicle of Gutenberg". (Nürnberger Kroniken ??)

View of the old Arches mill.

According to legend, paper was first discovered in 105 A.D. in China by Cai Lun, a noble of the Han Court, who, whilst observing wasps, saw how they collected plant fibres, ground them up with their mandibles. With the resulting paste, the insects would build the walls of their nests. Cai Lun cut some bamboo stalks, ground them up in water, and then formed a paste, which he gathered on a sieve and then placed against a smooth wall in order to enable the moisture to evaporate. Paper was born.


During the Battle of Talas,, near Samarkand, the secret of paper production was made known to the Islamic world, as some of the Chinese prisoners were paper makers.

A paper maker and his tools - Manuscript from Kashmir, circa 1850-1860 (India Office Library and Records, London)


Our story begins in the Vosges, near Epinal... The first paper factories were constructed, using converted grain mills, on the Rupt-de Raon stream, now called Raon-au-bois, in Arches.


Other mills were converted for paper production on another tributary of the Moselle, the Ruy d'Archettes. All of these mills were collectively known as the Archettes paper mills.


The Arches and Archettes mills were resolutely geared towards the top of the line. Their watermarks are present on some of the most famous works of the period.

The "dubbele C" and the crown of the emperor


In 1766, the Arches paper mills were sold to Claude CUPERS, but management problems and difficulties in getting the enterprise under control caused it to collapse.

Reproduction of labels placed on packets of Arches paper, circa 1760


The buyout of the paper mills by famous writer Caron de Beaumarchais is a significant chapter in the history of Arches. In order to promote a work written by his friend Voltaire, whose works were banned in France, Beaumarchais acquired the Arches paper mills, as well as a printing house in Germany, through the help of ostensible intermediary Jean-François Le Tellier.



Beaumarchais was recognized in a deed drawn up by a solicitor as the real owner of the Arches factory.



After an adventure that lasted 13 years, Beaumarchais could not bring his plan to a successful conclusion due to a lack of subscribers. Ruined, he sold Arches to the Desgranges brothers, who were paper makers in Luxeuil. Arches entered yet another difficult period.

Document signed by Baron de Beaumarchais (1789)

For 15 years, Arches produced two million sheets of paper that displayed remakably high quality and new formats, called Eléphants, Grand-Monde and Grande-Egypte, which was financed by Napoleon I upon his return from his Egyptioan campaign. The paper bore a special watermark that comprised these words: "Ancient and Modern Egypt". But the extraordinary investment required for this publication ruined Arches, since the Empire did not pay well.

General view of the pyramids


The Cossacks besieged and sacked the factory.


Dennis Couad assumed management of the Arches factory and finally put it back on the right economic track. His daughter, Marie-Thérère Morel, succeeded him.


Auguste Morel inherited Arches and, forming an association with Albert Masure and his nephews, the Bercioux, they created a new factory. This new facility was located just a few metres from the old unit in order to avoid overly frequent floods.

Le Ruy d'Archettes

The launching of the Ingres MBM paper, developed for design in collaboration with painter Dominique Ingres, whose surname is followed by the initials of the three owners (Morel-Bercioux-Masure). This paper still exists today. At the time, Arches paper already enjoyed a solid international reputation. The paper was sold to the coloured print producers Pellerin dÉpinal, a well-known illustration company, to the Atelier du Timbre (the first postage stamp printing company), and also a number of German publishers.

Paper tank

Jules Perrigot, the son-in-law of Albert Masure, became the sole manager of Arches. He thorougly transformed the factory in order to propel it into the modern age. A visionary, he knew how to apply the most modern industrial processes to paper production. Arches specialized in the production of 3 types of paper, intended for banknotes, watercolours, and the publications of art books.

The Arches factory at the turn of the 19th century


First universal exposition in Paris: Jules Perrigot presented his archives here. The cylinder replaced manual labour at this point, whilst steam accelerated the drying process.

Portrait of Jules Perrigot


Thanks to the quality of its watermarks, which are recognised worldwide, Arches began to succesfully produce currency papers (banknotes....).


Jules Perrigot died. Etienne, his son, and Alex Carretelet, Perrigot's son-in-law, took over the family business. The factory became diversified in the production of industrial paper products: filter paper, abrasive backings, and stratified backings (e.g.: formica base)

Dragers voor schuurpapier

At this time, there were four competing paper mills that manufactured sophisticated paper products with high added value, especially security papers (banknotes, passports, etc.) A joint merger plan was drawn up in 1954 and led to the formation of the first French paper-manufacturing group: ARJOMARI. The name of the group came from the first two letters of the names of the paper mills participating in the merger: Arches, Johannot, Marais, Rives.

The Prioux company joined the foursome, and the group became ARJOMARI-PRIOUX, one of the first and foremost global paper-manufacturing groups.
Development of the durability of watercolour, design, and art publishing paper. Henceforth, this paper would be made without acid or optical brighteners in order to ensure that they may be stored safely over time. Arches paper manufactuers symblised this advance by including an "infinity" sign in the watermark used for these types of paper.

Arjomari merged with Anglo-American paper manufactuer Wiggins Teape Appleton to become Arjo Wiggins Appleton (AWA); the resulting company bercame number 1 worldwide in the production of paper with high added value.


A prosporous year for the Arches paper mills. There was a celebration, with much fanfare, of 500 years of making very high quality paper.