Manlio Calegari


Skilled workers and entrepreneurs

When research is into remote ages – Jean Irigoin’s statement referred to early Italian papers – and evidence is scarce or absent, that available, as it is really rare and trifling, rises a lot of interpretative problems. [1]  But evidence concerning Italian papers of the twelfth century showed – added Irigoin – they were ‘Arabie’ papers and, only in the second half of the century, Spanish papers (Valencia).  For a change in the panorama we had to come to the early decades of the thirteenth century when changes in format, closer space between the laid lines, pulp and something else were started.  The changes were not always for the better, noticed Irigoin; in fact there are still signs going back to primitive techniques.  But what counted was since 1220-1230 a different sort of manufacturing process had started different from the previous (the Spanish one) that, notwithstanding its primitivism, would show during the following decades it could be improved rapidly.


We are still asking questions about the places of origin of this new kind of production, though in comparison with the time when Irigoin wrote his observations, we know something more on the subject.  But mysteries remain. For example there are two documents, respectively dated 1235 and 1255, which prove the existence of a local production in the area of Genoa, and where 3 or 4 men mentioned in the deeds carne from other regions.  The fact suggests that not only there was the circulation of 'skilled workers' but also a variety of experiences unfortunately thickly shaded. The case of Genoa should not be isolated, since – Irigoin himself remarked once more time [2] – in the same period Spanish paper was handing over its standing position to different kinds of production up to, towards the end of the thirteenth century, Fabriano paper had started to impose itself, as already Briquet noticed its spread also in Sicily and in the Neapolitan area at the time.  The historical achievement of Fabriano paper – said Irigoin – was already fulfilled before the end of the thirteenth century.  He added, it was to be ascribed to three factors at least: the use of nailed stamping hammers instead of the wooden ones; sizing with animal gelatine instead of starch; the invention of the watermark, a ‘sign’ attesting the trading quality of the product.


It is the point of arrivai of an investigation which has had its main document in the paper sheet, in its composition, its structure, without forgetting, of course, other sorts of documentary sources. The outcomes of the archaeological research into the paper sheet made in the territory of Fabriano format, pulp, laid and chain lines, etc. and its trading area of spread between the thirteenth and the fourteenth century, perfectly coincide with the documents published by Aurelio Zonghi almost 120 years ago. The 18 deeds of Matteo di Mercatuccio, drawn up between 1320 and 1321, deal with people owning buildings and equipments, who lease out or sublet gualcherias for term productions, in which people work secundum consuetudinem dicte artis, where reams of paper are made at prices stated by agreement, as well as the profitability of the investment is previously defined.  They deal also with locatio operis where other people are employed ad operandum et studendum artem bombicinarum, within variable terms but always in manufacturing productions with a limited duration, in exchange for money and sometimes, exclusively on diebus laborativis, also for expenses.  They also deal with apprenticeship agreements, where parents grant locant under-aged children to others for the life of production.  These locationes are contracts where differences in pay show differences in the roles people hold, more than the life of the contract.  The whole setting shows an apparatus largely tested where people exactly know in advance how fruitful an investment is, what risks they run, how much they will pay labour, how much the paper produced costs and what prices it can be sold at.


Ali that means in the early 1300 paper manufacturers at Fabriano perfectly know the yield of trading and fìnancial capitals invested and work rationalization according to trade customs, where the protagonists are ‘skilled’ workers recruited with locatio operis legalized by notary deeds.  The Fabrianese manufacture lives so a season which other Italian towns had already known in other manufacturing industries such as wool, silk, iron working, and so on. In connection with such a process Fabriano has an increase in gualchiere, specialized workers, capitals invested, collection of raw material, etc, aspects that the municipal organization, locai economy and society have to consider.  It is not by chance that in 1326 a representative of cartariorum art was elected as a prior.  Neither by chance are Bartolo da Sassoferrato’s words previous to the half of the fifteenth century and his reference to the edificia multa ad hoc located at Fabriano and the signum which is applied in each paper sheet to attest which edificio it comes from.


It is easy to suppose everything evidenced in Matteo di Mercatuccio’s deeds in 1320-1321 does not exist only from the previous year.  It is the same trading success of the Fabrianese product to suggest it.  And it is in this very period, since when 1200 is turning into 1300 and then during 1300 the exodus cases appear, cases of emigration of magister chartarum bombicinarum to Bologna already from the end of the thirteenth century.  Later, in 1340, Pace from Fabriano moves to Padua and Treviso, after that others seem to reach Lucchesia, and then again at the beginning of the fifteenth century there is the case of Grazioso who settles at Genoa.  These should not be the only cases, but we have memory of the above mentioned even since, on the place, their history was not short.  On one hand a prestigious manufacturing and trading system well tested, on the other the migration of skilled workers to other centres where, gemmating, set up again something that already existed at Fabriano.  Scholars are particularly interested in these separations from the original nucleus, since more than further documents they help us to focus and show it.  With Pace and Grazioso even methods and words, Fabrianese more, used at the very moment, leave Fabriano.  The emigration of skilled workers becomes a privileged observatory on homeland.


Grazioso from Fabriano

Grazioso from Fabriano – Briquet knew this source by then – was already in Genoa for some years, when in 1424 he asked the local Seigniory for a decree of five-year life prohibiting rag exportation. [3]  He needed rags – held Grazioso who in the petition qualified himself as a magister costruendi papirum – for activities he carried out in Voltri, a village with the seat of Podestà and located about twelve kilometres to the west of Genoa.  To render his petition more convincing, Grazioso pointed out that before he, himself, had settled at Voltri fuit aliquis construens papirum nisi ipse.  In a few words he said he had been the first to start papermaking there, at least, 18 years before, i.e. in 1406 he had begun his business at Sampierdarena under the jurisdition of the Podestà of Polcevera on the outskirts of the town. 


On recognizing concernere publicam utilitatem quod ars conficiendi papirum in districtu Janua propagetur the Seigniory permitted Grazioso to carry stracias out of the town but at the condition they were only for his own use, pro elaborando dictam artem suam, and only for the next five years.  In short, this is a confirmation of what Grazioso had already said in his petition, i.e. he was the only one to do that kind of work in the Genoese district.  Consequently, thanks to the Seigniory’s favours, things had taken a good turn for Grazioso and few years after, in 1431, he leased for 15 years onwards quodam aquaricium edificii pro faciendo papirum, an aquaricium located on the Leira, a stream which flows into the sea at Voltri where Grazioso had taken up his residence. [4]  A rent for the next 15 years: a long-term engaging investment, a mark of Grazioso’s fortune and even of his sound worth.


At the time the buyers of the papers produced by Grazioso were the cartai, stationers at Genoa dealing in carta bombacina and parchment and also book-binders who made registers used in the municipal offices or by merchants and families.  Among them there was the cartaio Asinella who, in 1428, purchased some bales of papero (paper) from Grazioso – magister faciendi apapirenses –.  And it is the stationer Asinella, himself, who, together with others, takes the initiative to widen his role of purchaser to that of supplier with raw material for Grazioso.  In 1450, in fact, with the plan to link more and more his fortune with Grazioso’s, he asks the Seigniory the revision of the articles of the Arts ratified in 1446.  These items which permitted the art of the Pexari – in town dealers in pitch, rags and items mostly used by caulkers to calk boats – the exclusive right to purchase and sell old sails and shrouds – velia et sartias vetera – in the town.  Asinella asked the Seigniory for himself and stationers in general to share with the pexari the right to buy old sails and shrouds and send them out of the town, inside the same district, to sell them to fabricatores apariri.  Such request was accepted by the Seigniory after a short investigation but provided that: in districtu Januae old sails and shrouds could be sold only to fabricatoribus appapirri (paper makers) or used in fabricatione appapirri. [5]


The paper traders' request and Seigniory’s grant let us highlight some details.  The first is that at the half of 1400, at Genoa, raw-material market useful to paper manufacturing is still in the making.  The second is that, at the time, trading interlocutors of paper manufacturers, as Grazioso, are paper traders living in town.  In fact paper traders purchase manufacturers’ products and to freely supply them with rags take the pexari the exclusiveness of rag trading away.  At last paper traders, themselves, plan a certain control of paper manufacturing where skilled workers do not seem to have trading and political worth to gain ground up to the moment.  These are signs that, at the time, paper manufacturing at Genoa was still at a take-off stage.  It has not yet shown what will happen in short: its transfer to the hands of a sound mercantile group and the consequent success on European manufacturing scene at the time.


Changes occur towards the end of the fifteenth century.  From the middle of 1400, at Genoa, Grazioso and his descendants are not the only people to make paper.  Other people start the same craft.  Among them there is also a man from Verona whose traces are early lost.  The Fabiano family, Grazioso’s descendants, go on instead. Some of them leave Genoa for other places, as Talamo da Fabian who works at Barcelona, where a document of 1523 testifying his place of origin, defines him papererius ianuensis, of the villa de Botri, which is a misspelling of Voltri where the Fabiano family were deep rooted.  As it is proved by sources of 1544 which say of a Giovanni da Fabiano, one of Grazioso’s descendants, who owns at Voltri with his brother Domenico – as an owner no more as a leaseholder – a mill where they make paper and the fifty per cent of another similar building.  Giovanni with his brother is involved in a quarrel with other paper-mill owners, like him, as he opposed to constitute an association to purchase and distribute rags.  Through the documents concerning the fact we can verify at the time, in 1544, in the district of Voltri there are 29 paper mills working that correspond to 21 owners.  These are not expert in papermaking art but belong to the mercantile world, they trade in any kind of handmade articles and raw materials and also act in other manufacturing industries – silk spinning and weaving, or in the production of semi-worked iron items, etc. – where they make agreements with their skilled workers, I will speak later of, like the ones drawn up in papermaking industry. [6]


Though the Fabiano are in the group they have little in common with them.  They are owners, they employ labour in their paper mills, they have small trades but, notwithstanding their standing position as beginners, play a minor part. It is easier for them to cut a strategic rent position, and so economically remunerative, for themselves and their descendants in the local manufacturing scene.  Up to over the half of 1600 they have in their hands the exclusiveness of the local production of ‘copper moulds’ and trincarelle (wires) with which they supply, next to the Genoese district, even other states, except ‘Rome, France, Florence and Venice’.  Of the 29 buildings for papermaking in 1544 we know everything or almost.  We must state they are very much alike and we know how they are made, how much they cost, the necessary sorts of professional labour needed and time spent to set them up.  We know even the owners’ position, the agreements which link them with people living in the paper mill who physically make paper, payments for rag supplies, their yield, quantity and quality of paper produced each year.  All these details were minutely described by Gian Domenico Peri in 1651, such as: structures, population and social relations. [7]  But we have no doubt that the edificium apapiri Peri refers to, in 1651 has already been working for a century: notary deeds confirm the fact.  It is the same building with skilled workers and their own techniques which, at least from the mid-sixteenth century, the Genoese have been exporting to France, Spain and other Italian regions. [8]


Between the time when Grazioso arrived at Genoa and this kind of building, called edificium apapiri, which will be transferred to other places in the world, less than a century and a half has passed.  These are years when a social and technical change takes place in paper manufacturing. Grazioso, who is early called magister faciendi apapiros (1428) or magister fabricandi papirum (1430) in deeds, later enters the circle of the fabricatores or those qui fabricari faciunt as the early merchants are called.  They are people not like paperai (papermakers), as from the second half of 1400 are named those who work in the manufacturing process, who live in the paper mill and, though being people with a clear craft position, are not allowed to join an art.  It means they are not permitted to market the product they make with their own hands.  With the paperai, the fabricatores like Grazioso, fix locazio operis regulated through compositio laborerii or pacta.  The latter are important documents since on listing obligations of paperaio they refer to his skills and give us pieces of information on his performance.


During the second half of the fifteenth century the sort of business relationship which linked Grazioso with the paper-trader Asinella becomes quickly outdated.  A kind of relation in which Grazioso, though being a skilled worker, was not excluded from market opportunities so he could buy rags and sell paper. In the second half of the century, when paper becomes a particularly-successful business for merchants, the social relations ruling paper manufacturing radically change.  The cartai, i.e. paper-traders or stationers, are ousted from their mercantile plan and are compelled to limit their aims at trading paper in town.  On the contrary the merchants, qui fabricari faciunt, who own paper mills or have new ones built, supply paperaio with raw material – rags – in their different varieties and quantities and the paperaio will supply the merchant with bales of paper which the latter will sell all over the world.  The paperaio is responsible for the yield, the quality and quantity of the product he has to turn out, the maintenance of equipments and their replacement when damaged.  He is also responsible for labour collaboration in the different roles within the same paper mill; and it is he who pays for the working days of his collaborators weighing on his budget.


Skilled workers and merchants

Let’s go back now to the beginning of this story, to Grazioso who arrives at Genoa in 1406, as some years before Pace from Fabriano went to Padua and Treviso.  Probably as for other Fabrianese people in that period, his travels, though coinciding with the lucky season of Fabriano paper, are to be equally explained. First of all, who is Grazioso?  Of course, he is a man who knows his job and meets skilled people like him, who is sound worth or someone has put his capital at his disposai.  Grazioso is not like the ones who in the deeds drawn up by notary Matteo di Mercatuccio at Fabriano between 1320 and 1321 locant or aposturant se, generally for a year length, ad operandum et studendum artem chartarum bombicinarum, in change for a small sum of money and often for their keeping. In fact, these are people with a modest economic position and, in any case, their work depends on others who having capitals at their disposal – and sometimes owning plants or renting them – recruit them for a term production.  Actually, Grazioso – it is a deduction based on the role he will get at Genoa – is like the latter people that the Fabrianese sources define with the name of chartarius that, in the same sources, has a different position from the merchant, who acts in the same field sometimes overlapping to the role of the previous one. In fact he owns paper mills, he employs labour, etc. and he is different, of course, from the skilled worker who is employed through the locatio operis.  Aurelio Zonghi – and later others agreeing with him – has defined them ‘paper makers’ or ‘representatives of paper-makers’ who ‘employed workers ad operandum et exercendum artem cartarum’.  In the Fabriano territory they are the ones who control specialized workers, the pratici.


At Genoa Grazioso, when he arrived, said he was a magister costruendi papirum.  His descendants, instead, are those qui fabricari faciunt–on their turn, different from the stationers (locally called cartai).  Later, during the sixteenth century, only the paperai are sometimes called ‘masters’, but they remain simple pratici, ‘skilled workers’ who cannot organize themselves in an art.  At this very moment, is it so important to try to define Grazioso’s social status and financial standing?  It is important to answer the questions asked in this meeting on professional emigrations and in particular on the Fabrianese ones.  As far as we know at present about professional emigrations and of the skilled workers during the late Middle Ages and then in the society of the Ancien Regime – excluding facts linked with religious or judiciary persecution – we are able to state that the participants to the emigrations are always of a high social and financial standing, or when it is not the case, only being skilled workers, they always move backed or summoned by rich intermediaries in trade, financial, political or technical fields.


We can moderate the abstraction of this formula giving some examples, intentionally keeping out the branch of church and cathedral builders which is the best known and confirms what just said.  In iron industry, in particular in cast-iron processing, the participants from the end of 1200 are the skilled workers from the valleys of the Brescia and Bergamo districts.  Starting from 1300 and then on a large scale during 1400 and the following century the emigration of these skilled workers towards a lot of Italian regions and Western France is continuous.  They are called to build furnaces to make cast iron and them work, to recruit labour and so on.  Emigrations sometimes recurrent, linked with term productions, sometimes permanent that form local dynasties.  Preceded by contracts, accompanied by representatives, notary deeds and market researches, the presence of iron skilled workers is not fortuitous as it happens in building yards and shipyards or also in the same Genoese paper manufacturing.  Before the half of 1500 and for all the decades following any emigration episode of artisti, skilled artisans, builders of paper mills, of water-power wheels necessary to make them work, of paperai employed in processing has at its source the support or call of a wealthy and, often, also politically important organization.  It is another of the reasons why, against these transfers of people, anti-emigration measures can do little or nothing.  The idea a skilled worker sets out on a journey without points of reference is really unlikely.  Besides information on the arrival places, on the political and trade conditions to face, he needed means of subsistence, not to say those for investments, which were to be at his disposal either when he left or where he arrived.  It is only imagination to think a skilled worker, at night, steals his village away with a purse full of money and moves to another place where he sets up another paper mill with his own money or found on the place, he purchases rags and starts manufacturing, at least imposing his new customers his rules in the yield of raw material, in the prices of his product and so on. [9]


No, things did not go on this way.  Behind the emigration of skilled workers there are individual reasons, but it takes place in a context where mercantile roles are prominent, people who are in business, who know business well and have the right relations.  This is the reason why it is really possible a skilled worker transfers with his family, with his tools and even the production relations achieved in the region he comes from.  I will speak later of this reason to analyse and compare them.  The cases of Grazioso, as well as of Pace and others like them, are not different from those that, towards the end of the Middle Ages, feed the exchange of skilled workers and know-how.  These cases induce to see a clue to European history in that period, when the spread, the exchange of techniques and total enrichment of the economic fabric become massive: prolegomena of the exceptional season that will open in 1400 and 1500.  But it is also true the cases of Grazioso, Pace and others – easier to analyse when we are aware of the general context where they take their right place – maintain their nature of peculiar cases and they must be investigated as they are.  Other questions are waiting for answers; I will mention some without following any preference order.


Emigration and economical trend

What is the connection between the professional emigration of the various Pace and Grazioso and the local economical trend at Fabriano?  In this town, as a lot of scholars have noticed, two groups act partially mixed during 1300 and the first half of 1400.  One, to be clear, is that the mythical Ambrogio di Bonaventura and his son Ludovico belong to, they are merchants who market, together with other items, papers produced in their own paper mills and other papers made by the Fabrianese chartai.  The other group consist of paper-makers who employ labour, who own fulling mills and, as the previous group, supply them with rags.  Paper-makers are joined in an art at least from 1326 and, from a financial point of view, they roughly seem as an intermediate group between the skilled workers on one hand and merchants on the other, but with the merchants they do not share the variety of the goods and market spaces.  Paper-makers trade only locally, and owing to this it is up to them to control skilled labour.  It is not by chance they ask for anti-emigration measures and oppose the spread of the art secrets with ordinances issued in 1436 and later in 1470.


Both the groups, merchants and papermakers, have partially different reasons and live different economical trends.  Both of them are increasing for a long period, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but in a different way: the mercantile trend has to face situations – markets, places, goods – far from the local perception.  On the contrary in paper-makers’ world, their observation post seems limited to the local situation.  At this very point the answer to the question looks easy on who and how, at Fabriano, can better realize that far from his own country there are favourable conditions which enable him to set up or build again a part of the productive fabric already existing in the place he comes from.  At the time there are merchants who are citizens of the world and so have a worldwide culture.  For a long time Genoa has been a well-known market; a lot of paper is sold there for local consumption and to merchants who sell it on their turn.  At Talamone, a real junction of the Fabrianese trade, a famous Genoese forwarding agent operates, and on the Genoese market a very strong Fiorentine company act in the second half of 1300.


When, in 1406, Grazioso arrives at Genoa he has got a lot of information at his disposal on the place where he has decided to work.  The first place chosen where to start his production is Sampierdarena, a neighbourhood near the town with a lot of industries and a tradition to exploit water power which is at great disposal.  Few years later, when he moves to Voltri, he will choose the manufacturing centre for excellence, with the largest number of mills and water sources in the Genoese district.  Grazioso arrives also with enough money to live on, to lease, to make the necessary work to adapt plants used for other industries.  Grazioso comes with his family or, anyway, with people trained in the activity he wants to start and – we know it from later documents – he has the right competence to make the most original equipments and tools he will use.  All these are reasons to identify him more as a Fabrianese chartaio, than a merchant coming from the same town.  His arrival at Genoa depends on his financial resources which imply family or group strategies.  It would be impossible the contrary.


Ideas, experiences, tools that emigrate

Here a question is called for: what, what experience, what knowledge and, at any rate, what tools does Grazioso transfer with him?  Why, when we speak of transfer of techniques, of skilled workers’ emigration etc. do we refer to anything that, at least in this case, we still have to discover?  The answer is that Pace, Grazioso and the others transfer with them, ideas, experiences of the manufacturing process, of its organization and, perhaps, also tools linked to a method to make things that is exactly the one in use on the places where they come from at the time when they leave.  This is a working method which must be specified, analysed and dated.  It is what the scholars of handicraft practices like to call ‘technical system’ that – it is evident – is not a system that starts perfect or after developing for years at a certain moment definitely freezes.  A technical system, instead, consists of knowledges, know-how, skilled workers, production relations which on their turn become words, also technical words that are the medium to communicate inside and outside the paper mill; a system continuously in progress in the single parts and consequently in its whole.


Just to make an example, the technical system of the Genoese paper mill that, from the half of 1500, travels together with the paperai who – with the necessary mercantile support – emigrate to Spain and other regions, consists of a certain building where a certain number of people operate, in spaces divided following a definite strategy, where living needs, the daily-night work organization, the inflow of raw material and the output of the product are considered; a building with plants (wheels, vats, stampers, mortars, presses and so on) with precise dimensions, destined to precise functions; a building and working method that corresponds to a precise yield of the raw material in conformity with its quality and daily-production system and so on. [10]  It must have been the same for the paper mill Grazioso brings to Genoa.


What kind of plant was it?  In the agreement stipulated in 1410 by Lodovico di Ambrogio with Tomaso di Nassimbene – published by Zonghi – there is an essential description of it, but enough to say that the construction or adaptation of a previous building, as well as the rest of the structures required expert workers.  The fulling mill had to have somewhere its drying room, its stock-house and the rest as: basins in different types, vats and furnaces with sizing rooms for sizing, then water-power wheels with a reduced diameter to move stampers.  But what dimension and how were they organized?  Grazioso is the symbol of a dated technical system of which he is a part.  He is so conscious of that at the point when in his first petition to the Seigniory he declares he was the first to make paper in the Genoese district, but he probably wants to say he had been the first to make paper using that new method people are speaking of all over the world; that is Fabriano’s method.  This method is different, though the words used referring to it are almost the same as those used in the Genoese area in a previous age, already at the half of 1200. [11]  Grazioso’s method is different, but to define it, it does not suffice to look at watermarks in his sheets, sizing with animal glue, hammers no more made of wood as in the past.  We should know something more, since it is possible that know-how in paper manufacturing exported from Fabriano may have had changes or contaminations after its transfer due to the contact with other local traditions.


The building – the fulling mill – that, when the Fabrianese more to make paper should have reached its maturity, may be the same Grazioso reproduces in the Genoese area, at least, in three occasions. For example in 1431 he rents quodam aquaricium edificii pro faciendo papiri which seems something right different from the edificium apapiri of 50 years before.  At Genoa the aquaricium is a system consisting of ponds and dams by which a basin can be supplied where it is possible to draw the necessary water to send to millraces and water-power wheels to work.  Very frequent in the areas chosen by Grazioso – Sanpierdarena and Voltri – the aquaricium is the first condition to set up a fulling mill.  I remember about it, in a meeting where I took part in Fabriano years ago, someone said traces had been found here and there during the different stages of the urban transformation of Fabriano but I do not know they were investigated from an archaeological point of view to return us some ideas on its division and plants inside it.  Yet the building where processing took place is certainly the clue in the Fabrianese experience and consequently in manufacturing export.  Years ago, this kind of information spread among people concerned – I remember a talk about it with Dr Nora Lipparoni – the hypothesis the manufacturing cycle of Fabriano paper, during the first half of 1300, did not dose in a single production unit, but in well separate units that only later – but when? – had been united in a single building.  Is it possible?


Divided into separate rooms or united in a single building, the hypothesis suggested by some traces come to us is that, between the end of 1200 and the early years of 1300 the Fabrianese consolidate a structure consisting of millraces, wheels, gearing systems, basins, vats, presses, mixers, drying rooms etc. and tools such as frames, wire gauzes which imply spinning and weaving with brass or copper wires, mould making, etc.  All these elements and some others else – the kind of sizing, rag sorting and their mixture in relation to the product required – form the peculiarity of the Fabrianese experience.  Thanks to that – it is certain – paper from Fabriano travels with success throughout the world at the time.


We agree: the watermark, materials used for production, sizing, the quality reached making the sheet are the point of arrival – of excellence, as we usually like to define it nowadays – that made Fabriano paper renowned and famous.  But it is not enough to recognize the originality both of the Fabrianese experience and its importance as regards the canonization of the methods to make paper, the products – definite quality, recognisability etc. – to explain its spread far from Fabriano.  At the time the Communes and Seigniories strenuously defended with


prohibiting laws the diffusion of practices and skilled workers’ emigration beyond their borders.  We know they were not enough to prevent flights and stealings but however suffice to understand that the diffusion of experiences in the medieval society and in general in ancient ones takes place neither for a kind of natural spill over effect, an excess of abundance, nor – only – for a universal recognition of its good or superior quality.  An original high-quality product is certainly better marketable and raises others like that in value.  But there is a big difference between selling paper and transferring a production centre.  The reason why people like Grazioso and Pace emigrated must be looked for in the history of every individual case and not in an economic theory.


Word migration

The words at last.  The technical system of paper manufacturing at Fabriano consists, as any technical system, even of words, lexicon employed to describe the skilled workers’ jobs, to draw up agreements with merchants and paper-makers, to make inventories of the structures and lists of tools necessary or connected to the kind of manufactory.  Words used to draw up any kind of deeds which accompany paper manufacturing: a field that is still to be analysed with success.  Thanks to the analyses of technical words and their comparison, it has been possible to rebuild the movements of the skilled workers in iron industry in Brescia and Bergamo areas and the importance of their experience compared to the emigration areas.


Words – those of technical glossary – which can be found in any sort of deeds and have their origin inside the factory: purchases, sales, companies with the most different forms of participation, locatio operis, agreements for low-cost work or on product.  Agreements mostly drawn up by a notary where the legal relations among parties are fixed: skilled workers and merchants, skilled workers and paper-makers, as historically shown.  Comparative historical studies into the subject should be very useful from this point of view, since the export of a manufacturing process has often become a single unit both with its language and social relations grown around it in the region where the artisans and skilled workers come from.  This is not the last, as it depends on these social relations that their jobs had been historically defined together with the yield of raw material.


The contract that links the capitalist to the skilled worker is the fundamental aspect of a technical system.  It highlights the yields of raw material, both the daily production capability and on term and other aspects of the standard that marks the Fabrianese manufactory and makes it popular and superior to the others.  It is right possible that social relations made in professional circles have accompanied the transfer of productive structures, of the experts to build and service them and skilled workers called to operate them.  It happened so – though during 1500 – in the emigration of the Genoese paperai to regions far from their own town, but also for other manufacturing industries.  That’s why reserving a particular attention to the contract that at home links the skilled worker either to the merchant or the capitalist is not a secondary matter when we start investigation of the transfer of a manufacturing activity from a region to another.  If, on one hand, the departure of skilled workers implies the break of this contract, on the other it could be the premise for another development somewhere else. [12]  I apologize if my questions have been much more than answers, but, as Marc Bloch liked to say, ‘better a good question than an unfulfilled answer’.  I hope, among these I asked you, at least, there are some good questions.



1. Irigoin, J., Les origines de la fabrication du papier en Italie, in «Papiergeschicte» 13,1963, pp. 62-67.

2. Irigoin, J., L'introduction du papier italien en Espagne, in «Papiergeschicte» 10, 1960, pp. 29-32.

3. Archivio di Stato of Genoa (A.S.G.), Artium, 179, file ‘12th April 1424’.

4. Cabella, G. B., Pagine Voltresi, Genoa, 1908, pp. 62.

5. The factors are recorded in Artium, 179 cit.

6. Documents about it have been collected by Volpicella, L., Notizie su carte e cartai liguri, manuscript written at the end of the nineteenth century and preserved by the Società Ligure di Storia Patria, Genoa.

7. Peri, G. D., I frutti di Albaro, Genoa, Farroni, 1651, pp. 63-71.

8. Calegari, M. La manifattura genovese della carta, Genoa, 1986.

9. Calegari, M. Nel mondo dei "pratici": molte domande e qualche risposta, in «Saper fare, Studi di storia delle tecniche», Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Genoa, 2004.

10. It could be useful as, in a different historical context, architect Heinrich Schickhardt considered the Genoese paper mill existing between the sixteenth and eighteenth century – the same peculiarities of which were later pointed out by G. D. Peri in 1651, in Il negoziante – as the structural solution that was more consistent compared to others working in other Italian regions, so that it could show, according to him, a model to reproduce.  In the same years, from the Genoese to the neighbouring areas, emigrations of workers trained in papermaking take place.  Here is an example of a possible relation between the popularity of a structural solution, the building where production takes place, and the popularity of the skilled workers who make it.  Between the end of 1599 and the early months of 1600 G. B. Schickhardt had spent some weeks at Genoa during a long travel where he visited a lot of towns in North Italy.  Next to the noble palaces – as his drawings evidence – he was interested also in the outskirts of the town. Schickhardt who was born in 1558, at the time was little more than forty, was for long interested in the use of water-power for the most various purposes as wheels and gearing systems.  Also for this reason the Genoese paper mill looked as a rational structure with a convincing division and intended for production spaces as well as the inner communication systems.  Thanks to the sketches drawn on the field, Schickhardt could design later a complete plan (preserved in the State Archives in Stutgard) for a plant to be realized in France in the Besangon region.

11. Two documents respectively dated back to 1235 and 1255 indisputably evidence the existence of paper production in the Genoese area; Irigoin, J., Les origines de la fabrication du papier en Italie, cit.

12. Calegari, M., La manifattura genovese della carta, cit., pp. 21-28.



Pubblicato originariamente in L’impiego delle tecniche e dell’opera dei cartai fabrianesi in Italia e in Europa, a cura di Giancarlo Castagnari.  © Cartiere Miliani Fabriano – Fedrigoni Group, p. 81-94.