History of the Fabriano papermill

The Chinese have traditionally been credited with the invention of paper, but the Arabs were the ones who, after learning the fundamentals of papermaking and improving on these techniques, began to introduce this new product to the West. This was a long and complicated process that was not completed until the second half of the thirteenth century in Fabriano, a town in the inlands of the region of the Marches, in Italy.

wax stamp Fabriano

In all likelihood, the reason that Fabriano became the most important papermaking center in Europe can be found in the fact that it is located near Ancona, a port particularly open to commercial exchanges with the Arab world. It must also be noted that the ever greater skill shown by the growing numbers of qualified craftsmen in Fabriano led to a significant increase in the quality of the paper made here.

the red line shows the paper route

Two important process innovations led to the rise of Fabriano as the cradle of papermaking in the modern conception of this term. One was the use of animal gelatin for surface sizing of the paper. This innovation permitted better writing on the sheet and solved the problem of aging caused by starch sizing, the main reason that chancelleries and notaries were forbidden to use paper for public deeds. The second innovation was the invention of the hydraulic hammer pile with multiple screens (13th century) used to beat the rags, thus eliminating the stone mortar and wooden pestle, which had to be operated by hand, in use among the Arabs.

waterpower driven paperhammers

Another major product innovation in Fabriano was the use of watermarks on sheets so that when they are held up to light, these famous symbols can be seen. They were used initially to reproduce the trademark of the different papermakers.The art of papermaking achieved its most widespread circulation and importance during the Renaissance. This is proven by the many extant documents as well as the use during this period of numerous watermarks. Many of them can also be found in the correspondence of some of the great artists of the era, such as Michelangelo (shown here is one of Michelangelo's letters, preserved at the Biblioteca Laurentiana library in Florence).
There is extensive documentation demonstrating the gradual rise of Fabriano's workshops in the markets of Italian cities (Rome, Genoa, Florence, Venice) and also abroad (Provence, northern France and Spain).
Much effort was also devoted to the commercial side, with traders involved in maintaining their contacts through periodic visits to their customers located in the most important cities in Italy and across Europe.


The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were marked by a long period of decline in papermaking in Fabriano, due probably to the shift in the flow of trade following the discovery of America.
It was during the Industrial Revolution - which took place at virtually the same time as the French Revolution - that there was a decisive revival, thanks above all to the business acumen and organizational skills of Pietro Miliani, who in 1782 founded the paper mill known as Cartiere Miliani. Miliani quickly led his new company to an unheard-of level of efficiency and in just as short time his company became what today we would define as a "leader" in this field.
His nephew Giuseppe Miliani followed along these lines, transforming the mill from a family business to a major industrial complex. Above all, however, he brought Fabriano back to the forefront in international markets, as proven by the most prestigious awards, such as the gold medal won at the London Exhibition in 1851 - the only one awarded to the Italian states.


Giovambattista Miliani was the last great representative of this family.

With him - he was also an eminent politician, the mayor of Fabriano, Minister of Agriculture during World War I and a Senator of the Kingdom - Cartiere Miliani incorporated all the other paper mills in the area and rose to a top industrial level, gaining international acclaim that allowed the company to win important contracts with financial institutions and central banks in Italy and abroad, particularly because of the company's unrivaled workmanship in the field of security paper.

On June 6, 1906 the joint-stock company of "Società Anonima Cartiere Pietro Miliani" was established and in 1928, the majority stake was sold to the Portals Company of London.

Following the Giovambattista's death, during the Thirties the Miliani family left the company management and administration. To nationalize the company, on October 15, 1931 a consortium of public agencies was formed, the main ones being Banco di Napoli, INA, IPZS and BNL.

On April 9, 1947 the Extraordinary Shareholders' Meeting changed the company name to "Cartiere Miliani Fabriano". In 1972, INA became the majority shareholder, and was replaced in this role by IPZS on August 8, 1980.