Enzymatic Pretreatment during 15th to 18th Century Papermaking in Europe

Timothy Barrett


Enzymatic pretreatment of cellulose is generally considered to be a new area of research, but in fact it was a standard step in European pre-industrial papermaking between 1300 and 1800. Specialized handmade papers are routinely prepared in our Center for use in the care and conservation of rare books and manuscripts. Our attempts to replicate some of the early papers have led us to an investigation of retting (or fermentation) of hemp and cotton fiber as a pre-beating step. Results of twenty-two production runs show that increased fermentation time gives increased Canadian Standard Freeness and improved formation quality while permitting a decrease in beating time.


Pre-industrial; Hemp; Cotton; Handmade paper; Fermentation; Freeness; Formation quality

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