THE MASTER PAPERMAKERS OF TIVOLI
quod si has ut vellem possem quoque promere laudes,
tota licet tenuis mihi tiburtina papirus
cartha foret, quantumque bibi rapido ex aniene,
quem secus haec nuper cudebam carmina tantum
atramenti esser, nec pagina, nec liquor ater
sufficeret tamen ille mihil;
The Libri Dohanae (customs registers) record the arrival in Rome of scores of cargoes of "carta de Tiboli" (Tivoli paper).
- The correspondent in Rome of Francesco Datini purchased "two reams of Tivoli paper" in the city.
- An analysis of the tax registers of Rome shows that, in the 15th century, the value of paper imported each year from Tivoli fluctuated between 700 and 750 lire.
- After 1475, the imports considerably declined in value, dropping to 536 lire in 1480 and 433 lire in 1484.
Paper production in Tivoli covered, alone, a substantial share of the Roman market.
- In 1453, "reams of paper from Tivoli" were equivalent in value to 26.4% of paper imports.
- In terms of quantity, moreover, the share of the market held by Tivoli paper production was even higher, since paper from Tivoli was one of those sold at the lowest price, probably due to the fact that transport costs were lower than those of paper from Fabriano.
- The manufacture of the paper was an activity controlled by a very few entrepreneurs, in spite of the fact that the quantities of paper exported were very high.
- Indeed, for decades the Roman customs registers attest almost exclusively the exports of a certain "master Cecco", no doubt a member of the Tivoli family of papermakers .
- Magister Cecchus Cartari, father of the doctor of law Angelo, was an expert in law who towards the end of the century tried to divest himself of a surname that revealed his low origins, styling himself Dominus Angelus magistri Cecchi de Pauperinis.
The same Angelo possessed a fullery for the manufacture of paper in the area of the temple of Vesta.
- Expanding from the ars cartaria Cecco, in the 1470s, the manufacture of paper seems to have been practised by a growing number of persons, mentioned both in the documentation in Tivoli and in the customs registers of Rome, though these do not indicate the surname of the importer.
In the poem in honour of Sixtus IV, the term "papyrus" was used by an anonymous writer, with poetic licence, to indicate paper in general. This attests to the fact that "soft" paper of excellent quality was already being produced in Tivoli in the 15th century.
A close examination of the fifteenth century sources reveals various testimonies indicating the presence of extensive paper production in Tivoli.
"Valche ad fare cartha" (Vats for making paper) are mentioned by the Codice Diplomatico of Antonio Petrarca.
- Paper manufacture seems to have given industrial production in Tivoli its particular character.
Humanists, literati, musicians and painters were regular visitors to Tivoli, guests at the Villa of Cardinal Ippolito II and his nephew Luigi, who continued his uncle's lavish patronage. They accustomed the town of Tivoli to a truly extraordinary cultural splendour, with frequent visits and long periods of residence by popes, including Paul IV (1557) and Gregory XIII (1576).
It may be deduced that, in this efflorescence of study, poetry and musical composition, in the most splendid period of the long history of the Villa D'Este and of Tivoli itself, the need for paper must have been felt.
Preserved in the library of the Villa d'Este were folios and incunables printed on paper which came not from Fabriano, nor from Foligno or any other well-known pontifical papermaking centre, but in all probability from the paper factories that had prospered in Tivoli since the 15th century.