The invention of paper is traditionally attributed to the Chinese, but it was actually the Arabs who, after having learned the rudiments of manufacture and made a few improvements, spread the new product throughout the west. It was a long, arduous process that was completed in the second half of the 13th century in Fabriano, a little town of the Marche inland. The reason for this location, which made Fabriano the most important paper production centre of Europe, is very probably linked to the vicinity of Ancona, a port that was particularly open to trade with the Arab world.
The growing ability of the increasingly numerous and qualified artisans in Fabriano allowed them to make a real leap in terms of quality. Three innovations in particular led to the rise of Fabriano as the cradle of modern papermaking.
Paper Watermarking which allowed for the insertion of distinctive marks that can be seen against the light, and which were initially used to reproduce the brand name of the various different paper manufacturers.
The invention of the hammer mill (13th C. to hammer rags), which replaced the stone mortar and the manual wooden beater used by the Arabs, yielding more homogenous fibres.
Finally, the innovation involved the use of animal gelatin for surface sizing, allowing for better writing and eliminating the problem of the rapid deterioration of paper due to wheat starch sizing (the main reason why registries and notaries were forbidden to use paper for public deeds).
The importance and diffusion reached a peak in the Renaissance. This is proven both by the many documents that have remained and by the use of a great many watermarks at the time. Many of these can also be found in the letters of some great artists of the period, such as Michelangelo Buonarroti.
The artisan workshops
There is a great deal of proof verifying the progressive affirmation of the Fabriano artisan workshops both on the markets of the Italian cities (Rome, Genoa, Florence and Venice) and abroad (Provence, northern France and Spain).
The promotional activity carried out in the commercial sector is also significant, seeing merchants involved in maintaining contact with regular visits to their customers located in the major cities of Italy and Europe.
The industrial district
In the 1600s and 1700s, the Fabriano paper industry experienced a decline, very probably due to the shift in trade flows linked to the discovery of America.
It was during the Industrial Revolution, around the same time as the French Revolution, that the industry experienced a marked upturn, thanks to the entrepreneurial skills of Pietro Miliani, who, in 1782, founded Cartiere Miliani. The new company boasted great efficiency and in a short space of time attained a leadership position in the industry.
His nephew, Giuseppe Miliani, followed the same approach, successfully transforming a family business into a major industrial complex and, above all, returning Fabriano to its privileged status on the international markets. His success was evidenced by the most prestigious awards, such as the gold medal, the only one to be awarded to any of the Italian states represented at the 1851 London Fair. Giovanbattista Miliani is the last great representative of the family: he was an eminent politician, Mayor of Fabriano, Minister of Agriculture during the Great War and Senator for the Kingdom. Under his leadership, Cartiere Miliani merged with the other paper mills of the area, creating a major industry and gaining international importance. This allowed for the acquisition of important orders by national and foreign Credit Institutes and Central Banks, particularly due to the company’s unsurpassable skill in security paper production.
On 6th June 1906, 'Società Anonima Cartiere Pietro Miliani’ was founded. In 1928, a majority share was sold to Portals of London. In the 1930s, with the passing away of Giovanbattista, the Miliani family left the company management and on 15th October 1931, to nationalise the factory, a consortium was set-up consisting of public bodies, including the Banco di Napoli, the Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni (I.N.A.), the Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato (IPZS - the Italian Mint) and Banca Nazionale del Lavoro. On 9th April 1947, at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting, the company name was changed to ‘Cartiere Miliani Fabriano’. In 1972, I.N.A. became the majority shareholder, replaced by I.P.Z.S. in 1980.
On 21st March 2002, Fabriano joined the Fedrigoni Group of Verona, which holds 99.99% of the share package.