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Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój

Date of Submission: 24/10/2019
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Poland to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Dolnośląskie province, Kłodzko district, town of Duszniki-Zdrój
Coordinates: N50 24 16.19 E16 23 44.69
Ref.: 6439
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Paper is a material which remains inextricably linked to the human civilization. Despite being gradually superseded by other information carriers, it is still considered to be the basic medium which allows the preservation and transmission of the memory of various events, literary works, administrative decisions as well as myriad forms of mass communication.

It is assumed that the paper manufacturing technique which involved draining a special suspension of fibres through a mesh screen was invented in China in the early 2nd century. This papermaking technique has subsequently spread all across Asia and, later on, the Middle East. In Europe, the manufacture of handmade paper began in the 12th century. The Chinese technique, subsequently adopted by the Arabs, saw its first use in the Iberian Peninsula. Although we know that paper mills had existed in both Toledo and Valencia back in the 12th century, none of these facilities have managed to survive to the present day. The old Arabic papermaking technique was subsequently heavily modified, perfected and modernised by the Europeans. The practice of using wire mesh screens saw first use in Fabriano, Italy, in the 13th century; another practice which involved the use of filigree markings applied to individual sheets of paper originated from the same region. The pulp for making paper was produced using stamping hammers powered by a water wheel, which required these mills to be erected alongside rivers or dedicated mill-races. As a result, a consistent technological model was formed, consisting of several distinct stages during which the necessary raw materials were collected and processed, followed by the distribution of the resulting product in the form of handmade paper sheets. This new Italian method of paper manufacture quickly became popular all across Europe. Handmade paper was relatively affordable and convenient, facilitating the development of communication using the written word. Following the invention of the moveable type in the mid-15th century, handmade paper remained the primary information carrier right until the mid-19th century, making an indirect contribution towards social and economic change. Paper was also used for different purposes in various crafts, thus becoming a material whose application was universal. Following the introduction of a new paper pulp manufacturing device known as the Hollander beater somewhere around the year 1670, the entire process was made significantly faster, resulting in an increase in the quality of the paper itself. The increased efficiency of the paper manufacturing process in the 17th and the 18th century increased the availability of paper and expedited developments in the field of education, art and science. The constantly rising demand for paper gradually ushered in further changes, ultimately resulting in the complete remodelling of the original 13th-century technology. In 1798, the paper producing machine was invented, with its enhanced variants facilitating the commencement of industrial paper production on a mass scale, using methods which departed from the traditional techniques hitherto used. The spread of mechanised paper production has resulted in the near-total extinction of the traditional papermaking craft before the year 1850. The industrial revolution has completely reshaped the way in which paper was produced. Today, out of the thousands paper mills established in Europe between the 13th and the 19th century, only about a dozen remains, with very few of them still used for the purposes of manufacturing paper in the traditional way.

The Paper Mill in Duszniki had been erected  prior to 1562 and its first recorded owner was Ambrosius Tepper. During the flood in 1601 the paper mill suffered partial destruction. The contemporary owner, Gregor Kretschmer, reconstructed the plant and resumed the production of paper. On this basis, one may assume that the existing paper mill is one of the oldest preserved and operational structures of its kind in Europe. For the Kretschmer family, paper manufacture became a source of immense wealth and elevated social status, as confirmed in the year 1607 by Emperor Rudolph II Habsburg, who allowed Gregor and Georg Kretschmer to use their own coat of arms, which was followed shortly afterwards by their inclusion among the country’s nobility. The paper mill was subsequently purchased by the Heller family in 1706 along with the associated privilege to produce handmade paper. In the year 1750, Anton Benedikt Heller received the title of royal papermaker. From 1772 onwards, the mill remained in the hands of the Ossendorf family until its acquisition by the Wiehr family in 1822. It was only in 1939 that the family chose to part with their property, which was acquired by the municipal authorities of the town of Duszniki-Zdrój. The authorities intended to convert the building into a museum; this plan would only reach fruition in 1968, however, when the Papermaking Museum was officially opened to the public. The manufacture of handmade paper was interrupted in 1905, although the production process was later reinstated in 1971, forming a vital part of the museum display. The facility also accepts special orders for this type of paper. The paper mill is situated on the Bystrzyca Dusznicka river bank. The structure consists of three interconnected buildings. The paper mill building itself features a brick ground-floor level section above which rises the upper portion of the building, parts of which feature a wattle-and-daub structure. The entire design is crowned by wooden gables adorned with massive volutes. The eastern side of the building is adjoined by the post-and-beam drying house, its walls clad with weatherboards. Both buildings are covered with tall gable roofs featuring a distinctive multi-stepped design, their surfaces clad with wood shingles. The slatted vents positioned at several levels of the roofs are a distinguishing feature of all paper mills of the period. In the mid-18th century, an octagonal entrance pavilion was added on the northern side of the compound, linked to the paper mill building by a wooden covered walkway which spans the river canal beneath. In the late 18th and early 19th century, the paper mill was redesigned, receiving a highly decorative façade which sets the complex in Duszniki-Zdrój apart from similar structures surviving in Europe today. The third-storey rooms of the paper mill building are of a highly representational character. Both the walls and the ceiling of this part of the edifice are adorned with painted decorations which were first discovered in 1969 and then subjected to conservation works in the years 1986-87. These wall paintings were executed back in the third quarter of the 18th century at the request of the royal papermaker Johann Joseph Ossendorf and were designed as a trompe l’œil decoration combining various features of architectural, landscape and figurative painting. One of the paintings portrays an Old Testament scene, with Potiphar’s wife unsuccessfully attempting to seduce Joseph. This scene is an obvious reference to the man who commissioned the painted decorations as well as to his elevated social status. The use of decorations of this kind inside what was still, in the essence, a manufacturing facility harking back to the era when the industrial revolution was still a long way off is truly unique and has no counterparts anywhere else in Europe.

The Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój is one of the dozen surviving paper mills in Western Europe which still engage in the production of traditional, handmade paper. The unique age-old technique, still in constant use at the paper mill, involves the manual draining of fibre solution to form individual sheets of paper. The distinguishing features of typical paper mill compounds, such as the paper mill proper and the drying house, are both still extant and feature a highly distinctive spatial layout. Remnants of the mill-race, which used to provide the energy necessary to propel the equipment inside the paper mill, have also survived to this day.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (iii): However, the end of the 20th century brought the development of electronic technologies of recording and transferring information. As a result, in the last three decades paper has been gradually losing its traditional significance. The Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój is a testimony to the former prosperity of papermaking in Europe and the world. The sheets of paper handcrafted there were used both for making documents, correspondence, educational purposes and for artistic creations. Many of them have been preserved in libraries and archives in numerous countries. The Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój continues the tradition of papermaking according to the unique historical techniques. The paper sheets are still used for making documents and correspondence, as well as souvenirs. The process of papermakingis performed as a presentation (it is an element of the museum display), which allows the visitors to acquaint themselves with the traditional form of making laid paper.

Sheets of paper handcrafted since the 13th century were marked with watermarks in order to identify the paper mill they originated from, and even to determine the time of their creation. This custom began to disappear when the machine papermaking was introduced.Currently, it is rarely used (e.g. by bank note producers). Already in the 16th century, the sheets made in Duszniki-Zdrój bore a watermark depicting the figure of Saint Peter – the patron of the town. The collection of the Museum of Papermaking holds about 70 different examples of watermarks made in the Paper Mill in Duszniki. The unique practice of watermarked paper sheets is still cultivated in the Paper Mill in Duszniki. Almost all the paper sheets handcrafted here bear watermarks, among them the Saint Peter’s watermark modelled on the 16th- century watermarks.

Criterion (iv):The paper mill is an outstanding example of a unique, still functioning manufacturing object from pre-industrial revolution period. Built in the 16th century, and extended over the span of 200 years, it bears traces of the changes occurring in the manual papermaking. The increase in the efficiency and capacity of the paper mill in the 17th and 18th centuries enhanced the availability of paper and facilitated the development of education, science and art, which resulted in the Age of Enlightenment. The mill bear a testimony to this stage of development of human civilization, as shown from a local perspective.

The paper mill has features typical for many similar facilities which are no longer in existence, and for those few that have been preserved until today. The ground floor houses the papermaking room where sheets of laid paper were formed. The multi-storey lofts served the purpose of paper drying rooms, with their roofs fitted with ventilation openings used for adjusting the pace of the drying process. The clearly defined external architectural form of the roofs places the paper mill in Duszniki-Zdrój in the top referential group of historical paper mills.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The mill continues to reside in its original location inside a river meander, with the river originally serving as the source of power for the equipment installed inside the building.

The structures have retained their original, archaic interior layout, with both the mill and the drying house being easily discernible and separate. The distinctive design of both of these buildings is complemented by the representational entrance pavilion. In the early 20th century, the water wheel was dismantled and replaced by a water turbine; however, in spite of these changes, the outline of the mill-race and the location of the original water wheel remain easily discernible. In the course of adaptation of the complex for museum purposes, the original interior layout and decorations have been meticulously preserved, as have the façade decorations and the distinctive ventilation slats which pierce the surface of the roofs. The handmade paper manufacturing facilities began functioning again in 1971 after a few decades on hiatus and were made available to the visitors of the museum. One of the rooms inside the drying house is still used for its original purpose of paper drying.

The Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój retains the full integrity arising from the functions which it performs. The building layout, interior divisions and original silhouette are all preserved intact. The building features original tall gable roofs clad with wood shingles and featuring a set of distinctive ventilation slats which provide the circulation of air necessary in the process of paper production. The relics of the original water system, including the easily discernible traces of the mill-race, are another important feature.

The change in the function of the complex, which went from being a manufacturing plant to a museum, have not resulted in any substantial alterations to the interior layout being made. The Papermaking Museum not only strives to ensure the preservation of the buildings themselves, but also of the traditional technique of handmade paper production. For the above reasons, it may be concluded that the integrity of both form and function of the paper mill have been preserved intact.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój remains an exceptional example of a rare surviving and functional manufacturing facility originating from the period preceding the European industrial revolution. Originally erected back in the middle of the 16th century and subsequently extended throughout the period of approximately 200 years, it bears traces of the changes which affected the handmade paper manufacturing technique. The paper mill remains an example of how the process of manufacture of what had, until very recently, been the main information carrier of the human civilization was being constantly enhanced and refined. The enterprise only lost the economic foundations of its activity when the mechanised paper production superseded the traditional techniques in the 19th century. Nevertheless, the process of paper manufacture was only discontinued in 1905 and was resumed after a few decades, allowing it to become an inseparable part of the newly established Papermaking Museum. What sets the Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój apart from its contemporaries is the unique decorative scheme which graces both the façades and the grand, representational interiors, bearing testimony to the elevated social status of the local papermakers.

The late-19th century groundwood and boarding mill in Verla, Finland, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List a few decades ago. It needs to be emphasized that this plant uses a completely different technology, which means that both of these compounds were utterly different in function, resulting in a rather dissimilar arrangement of buildings. The Finnish production plant would convert timber into groundwood, which would then be used to produce packaging cardboard; all of the processes involved at this facility were mechanised. Conversely, the 16th-century paper mills such as the one in Duszniki-Zdrój relied on the use of linen sheets; the paper made on the basis thereof was handmade and was used primarily for writing and printing. For the above reason, drawing comparisons between the mechanised cardboard production plant and a traditional paper manufacture facility where paper sheets would be formed by hand is not appropriate.

Out of the few thousand paper mills which existed in Europe from the 13th century onwards, only about a dozen are still extant. In most cases, however, all that remains are the buildings, with the handmade paper production processes having long been discontinued. The Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój is one of a few such facilities which are still to be found in their original location (associated with the presence of a river or mill-race) and which still feature their original spatial layout, the authentic form of the individual buildings and the initial function thereof – namely that of handmade paper production facilities. There are only a few similar paper mills in Europe today which can be said to possess both their original form and function; there are a number of paper mills cooperating with the paper mill in Duszniki-Zdrój in order to be enrolled in the UNESCO list of the most valuable paper mills of Europe, these include the Velke Losiny mill in the Czech Republic, inscribed on the tentative list in 2001, as well as the paper mill from Homburg in Triefenstein in Germany and Ambert in France. The question of their possible inclusion in the nomination will form the subject of further analyses intended to encompass the state of preservation of the attributes of their authenticity and integrity; such inclusion may only occur if the administrators of these sites as well as the authorised representatives of the countries in which they are located declare their intention to participate in the nomination process.