A paper mill is a
factory A factory, manufacturing plant or a production plant is an industrial Industrial may also refer to: Industry * Industrial archaeology, the study of the history of the industry * Industrial engineering, engineering dealing with the optimization ...

devoted to making
paper Paper is a thin sheet material Material is a substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Jainism), a term in Jain ontology to denote the base or owner of attributes * Chemical substance, a material with a definite chemical composition ...

from vegetable fibres such as
wood pulp Pulp is a lignocellulosic fibrous material prepared by chemically or mechanically separating cellulose fiber Cellulose fibers () are fibers made with ethers or esters of cellulose, which can be obtained from the bark, wood or leaves of plants ...
, old rags, and other ingredients. Prior to the invention and adoption of the
Fourdrinier machine A paper machine (or paper-making machine) is an industrial machine which is used in the pulp and paper industry Image:InternationalPaper6413.jpg, frame, International Paper is the world's largest pulp and paper maker. The pulp and paper industry ...
and other types of
paper machine A paper machine (or paper-making machine) is an industrial machine which is used in the pulp and paper industry to create paper in large quantities at high speed. Modern paper-making machines are based on the principles of the Fourdrinier Machine ...
that use an endless belt, all paper in a paper mill was made by hand, one sheet at a time, by specialized laborers.


Historical investigations into the origin of the paper mill are complicated by differing definitions and loose terminology from modern authors: Many modern scholars use the term to refer indiscriminately to all kinds of
mills Mills is the plural form of mill (disambiguation), mill, but may also refer to: As a name *Mills (surname), a common family name of English or Gaelic origin *Mills (given name) *Mills, a fictional British secret agent in a trilogy by writer Manning ...
, whether powered by humans,
by animals By or BY may refer to: Places * By, Doubs, France, a commune * By, Norway, a village Codes * Belarus ISO country code ** .by, country-code top-level domain for Belarus * Burundi FIPS Pub 10-4 and obsolete NATO digram country code * TUI Airways ...
by water
by water
. Their propensity to refer to any ancient paper manufacturing centre as a "mill", without further specifying its exact power source, has increased the difficulty of identifying the particularly efficient and historically important water-powered type.

Human and animal-powered mills

The use of human and animal powered mills was known to Muslim and Chinese
papermakers Papermaking is the manufacture of paper and cardboard, which are used widely for printing, writing, and packaging, among many other purposes. Today almost all paper is Pulp and paper industry, made using industrial machinery, while handmade paper ...
. However, evidence for water-powered paper mills is elusive among both prior to the 11th century.: : The general absence of the use of water-powered paper mills in Muslim papermaking prior to the 11th century is suggested by the habit of Muslim authors at the time to call a production center not a "mill", but a "paper manufactory". Scholars have identified paper mills in
Abbasid The Abbasid Caliphate ( or ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلْعَبَّاسِيَّةُ, ') was the third caliphate A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islam Islam (;There ar ...
Baghdad Baghdad (; ar, بَغْدَاد ) is the capital of and one of the in the , and compared to its large population it has a small area at just 673 square kilometers (260 sq mi). Located along the , near the ruins of the city of and the anc ...

in 794–795. The evidence that waterpower was applied to papermaking at this time is a matter of scholarly debate. In the
city of
Fez Fez most often refers to: * Fez (hat) The fez (, ), also called tarboosh ( ar, طربوش, translit=ṭarbūš, derived from fa, سرپوش, translit=sarpuš, lit=cap), is a felt headdress in the shape of a short cylindrical peakless hat, usuall ...

Ibn Battuta Ibn Battuta (; 24 February 13041368/1369); fully: ; Arabic: was a Berber Berber or Berbers may refer to: Culture * Berbers Berbers or ''Imazighen'' ( ber, translit=Imaziɣen, ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏ; singular: , ) are an et ...
speaks of "400
mill stones
mill stones
for paper". Since Ibn Battuta does not mention the use of water-power and such a number of water-mills would be grotesquely high, the passage is generally taken to refer to human or animal force.

Water-powered mills

An exhaustive survey of milling in did not uncover water-powered paper mills, nor do the Spanish books of property distribution (''Repartimientos'') after the refer to any. Arabic texts never use the term mill in connection with papermaking, and the most thorough account of Muslim papermaking at the time, the one by the
Zirid The Zirid dynasty ( ar, الزيريون, translit=Al-Zīryūn), Banu Ziri ( ar, بنو زيري, translit=Banu Zīry), or the Zirid state ( ar, الدولة الزيرية, translit=Al-dawla al-Zīrya) was a Sanhaja Berbers, Berber dynasty from ...
Al-Muizz ibn Badis Al- Muʻizz ibn Bādīs (); 1008–1062) was the fourth ruler of the Zirids in Ifriqiya, reigning from 1016 to 1062. Political career Al-Muizz ascended the throne as a minor following the death of his father Badis ibn Mansur, with his aunt, Um ...
, describes the art purely in terms of a handcraft.
Donald Hill Donald Routledge Hill (6 August 1922 – 30 May 1994)D. A. King, “In Memoriam: Donald Routledge Hill (1922-1994)”, ''Arabic Sciences and Philosophy,'' Volume 5 / Issue 02 / September 1995, pp 297-302 was a British engineer Engineers, as prac ...
has identified a possible reference to a water-powered paper mill in
Samarkand fa, سمرقند , native_name_lang = , settlement_type = City , image_skyline = , image_alt = , image_caption = Clockwise from the top: The , ...

, in the 11th-century work of the Persian scholar
Abu Rayhan Biruni Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973 – after 1050) was an Iranian peoples, Iranian in scholar and polymath during the Islamic Golden Age. He has been variously called as the "founder of Indology", "Father of Comparative religion, Comparative Religion ...
, but concludes that the passage is "too brief to enable us to say with certainty" that it refers to a water-powered paper mill. This is seen by Leor Halevi as evidence of Samarkand first harnessing waterpower in the production of paper, but notes that it is not known if waterpower was applied to papermaking elsewhere across the Islamic world at the time. Robert I. Burns remains sceptical, given the isolated occurrence of the reference and the prevalence of manual labour in Islamic papermaking elsewhere prior to the 13th century. Hill notes that paper mills appear in early Christian
Catalan Catalan may refer to: Catalonia From, or related to Catalonia: * Catalan language, a Romance language * Catalans, an ethnic group formed by the people from, or with origins in, Catalonia * Països Catalans, territories where Catalan is spoken * C ...

documentation from the 1150s, which may imply Islamic origins, but that hard evidence is lacking. Burns, however, has dismissed the case for early Catalan water-powered paper mills, after re-examination of the evidence. The identification of early hydraulic stamping mills in medieval documents from
Fabriano Fabriano is a town and ''comune'' of Province of Ancona, Ancona province in the Italy, Italian region of the Marche, at Above mean sea level, above sea level. It lies in the Esino valley upstream and southwest of Jesi; and east-northeast of Fossa ...

, Italy, is also completely without substance. Clear evidence of a water-powered paper mill dates to 1282 in the Spanish
Kingdom of Aragon The Kingdom of Aragon ( an, Reino d'Aragón, ca, Regne d'Aragó, la, Regnum Aragoniae, es, Reino de Aragón) was a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study ...
. A decree by the Christian king addresses the establishment of a royal " molendinum", a proper hydraulic mill, in the paper manufacturing centre of
Xàtiva Xàtiva (, es, Játiva ) is a town in eastern Spain , * gl, Reino de España, * oc, Reiaume d'Espanha, , , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_ ...

. This early hydraulic paper mill was operated by Muslims in the
Moorish '' of Alfonso X, c. 1285 The term Moor is an Endonym and exonym, exonym first used by Christian Europeans to designate the Muslims, Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors in ...
quarter of Xàtiva, though it appears to have been resented by sections of the local Muslim papermakering community; the document guarantees them the right to continue the way of traditional papermaking by beating the pulp manually and grants them the right to be exempted from work in the new mill. The first permanent paper mill north of the Alps was established in
Nuremberg Nuremberg ( ; german: link=no, Nürnberg ; in the local dialect: ''Nämberch'' ) is the second-largest city of the of after its capital , and its 518,370 (2019) inhabitants make it the in Germany. On the (from its with the in onwards: ...

by Ulman Stromer in 1390; it is later depicted in the lavishly illustrated ''
Nuremberg Chronicle The ''Nuremberg Chronicle'' is an illustrated encyclopedia consisting of world historical accounts, as well as accounts told through biblical paraphrase. Subjects include human history in relation to the bible, illustrated mythological creatures, a ...
''. From the mid-14th century onwards, European paper milling underwent a rapid improvement of many work processes. The size of a paper mill prior to the use of industrial machines was described by counting the number of vats it had. Thus, a "one vat" paper mill had only one vatman, one coucher, and other laborers.

15th century

The first reference to a paper mill in England was in a book printed by Wynken de Worde c. 1495; the mill, near Hertford, belonged to John Tate.

19th century

An early attempt at a machine to mechanise the process was patented in 1799 by the Frenchman Nicholas Louis Robert; it was not deemed a success. In 1801, however, the drawings were brought to England by John Gamble and passed on to brothers Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, who financed the engineer Bryan Donkin to construct the machine. Their first successful machine was installed at Frogmore, Hertfordshire, in 1803. In 1809 in the Apsley Mill, right next to Frogmore Mill, John Dickinson patented and installed another kind of paper machine. Rather than pouring a dilute pulp suspension onto an endlessly revolving flat wire, this machine used a cylinder covered in wire as the mould. A cylindrical mould is partially submerged in the vat containing a pulp suspension and then as the mould rotates, and the water is sucked through the wire leaving a thin layer of fibres deposited on the cylinder. These cylinder-mould machines, as they are named, were strong competition for Fourdrinier machine makers. They were the type of machine first used by the North American paper industry. It is estimated that by 1850 UK paper production had reached 100,000 tons. Later developments increased the size and capacity of machines as well as seeking high volume alternative pulp sources from which paper could be reliably produced. Many of the earlier mills were small and had been located in rural areas. The movement was to larger mills in, or near, urban areas closer to their suppliers of the raw materials. They were often situated near a port where the raw material was brought in by ship and the paper markets. By the end of the century there were less than 300 UK paper mills employing 35,000 people and producing 650,000 tons of paper per year.

20th century

By the early 20th century, paper mills sprang up around
New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as the American Northeast, the Northeast, and the East Coast) is a geographical region In geography ...

New England
and the rest of the world, due to the high demand for paper. The United States with its infrastructure and
mill town A mill town, also known as factory town or mill village, is typically a settlement that developed around one or more mills Mills is the plural form of mill (disambiguation), mill, but may also refer to: As a name *Mills (surname), a common fami ...
s was the largest producer in the world. Chief among these in paper production was
Holyoke, Massachusetts Holyoke is a city in Hampden County, Massachusetts, Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States, that lies between the western bank of the Connecticut River and the Mount Tom Range. As of the 2020 United States Census, 2020 census, the city ha ...
, which was the largest producer of paper in the world by 1885, and home to engineers D. H. & A. B. Tower who oversaw the largest firm of paper millwrights in the US during that decade, designing mills on five continents. However, as 20th century progressed this diaspora moved further north and west in the United States, with access to greater pulp supplies and labor. At this time, there were many world leaders of the production of paper; one such was the
Brown Company The Brown Company, known as the Brown Corporation in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to ...

Brown Company
Berlin, New Hampshire Berlin ( ) is a city along the Androscoggin River The Androscoggin River is a river in the U.S. states of Maine Maine () is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the United States, bordered by New Hampshire to the west; the A ...

Berlin, New Hampshire
run by William Wentworth Brown. During the year 1907, the Brown Company cut between 30 and 40 million acres of woodlands on their property, which extended from
La Tuque La Tuque (; ) is a city located in north-central Quebec, Canada, on the Saint-Maurice River, between Trois-Rivières and Chambord, Quebec, Chambord. The population was 11,227 at the Canada 2011 Census, most of which live within the Population ce ...
Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=July 1, 1867 , AdmittanceOrder=1st, with New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , ...
, Canada to West Palm,
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

. In the 1920s represented large paper manufacturing companies, like Hammermill Paper Company, Honolulu Paper Company and Appleton Coated Paper Company to promote sales to the distributors of paper products. It was (said to be) the only business of its kind in the world and was started in 1931 by Tompkins and prospered in spite of the business depression. “ Log drives” were conducted on local rivers to send the logs to the mills. By the late 20th and early 21st-century, paper mills began to close and the log drives became a dying craft. Due to the addition of new machinery, many millworkers were laid off and many of the historic paper mills closed.


Paper mills can be fully integrated mills or nonintegrated mills. Integrated mills consist of a pulp mill and a paper mill on the same site. Such mills receive logs or wood chips and produce paper. The modern paper mill uses large amounts of
energy In physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regula ...

water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the fluids of all known li ...

, and
wood pulp Pulp is a lignocellulosic fibrous material prepared by chemically or mechanically separating cellulose fiber Cellulose fibers () are fibers made with ethers or esters of cellulose, which can be obtained from the bark, wood or leaves of plants ...
in an efficient and complex series of processes, and control
technology Technology ("science of craft", from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. I ...

to produce a sheet of paper that can be used in diverse ways. Modern paper machines can be in length, produce a sheet wide, and operate at speeds of more than . The two main suppliers of paper machines are
Metso Metso Oyj was a Finnish industrial machinery The following outline Outline or outlining may refer to: * Outline (list), a document summary, in hierarchical list format * Code folding, a method of hiding or collapsing code or text to see cont ...
Voith The Voith Group is a manufacturer of machines for the pulp and paper industry, technical equipment for hydropower plants and drive and braking systems. The family-owned company, which operates worldwide and has its headquarters in Heidenheim an ...


See also

Paper pollution The environmental impact of paper Paper is a thin sheet material produced by mechanically and/or chemically processing cellulose fibres derived from wood, Textile, rags, poaceae, grasses or other vegetable sources in water, draining the water ...
* Cutting stock problem * List of paper mills



* * * * * * * * * Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin: "Science and Civilisation in China", Chemistry and Chemical Technology (Vol. 5), Paper and Printing (Part 1), Cambridge University Press, 1985

External links

List of International graphic paper millsPaperweb.biz - Paper world directory and search engine for the pulp and paper world
*List of paper mills on paper and print monthl

{{Authority control Pulp and paper mills, Pulp and paper industry Papermaking Industrial buildings Arab inventions fr:Papeterie