Duszniki Zdrój - Paper Mill, Duszniki-Zdrój
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Widespread technological advances in the manufacture of paper - a material drastically cheaper than vellum - and the refinement of printing techniques by Gutenberg in the 1440s propelled Renaissance Europe on the road to rapid civilizational progress. The opportunity to easily exchange ideas formulated in books circulated among the continent’s cities opened new horizons for scholars, artists, patricians and the nobility. The barrier posed for centuries by the production capacity of monastic scriptoria had finally been broken.

The skill of papermaking came to Europe from China, most probably in the 11th century, via the Arab world. At the beginning of the 12th century the earliest European paper workshops appeared in Italy. The 13th century saw the first use of paper moulds made of wire, and the processing of raw materials (linen rags and hemp) into paper pulp using a stamping mill powered by water (hence the term ‘paper mill’ for a paper manufactory); it was also at this time that watermarks were introduced. The first paper mill in Poland was built in 1491 in Prądnik Czerwony near Cracow. By 1490 Silesia, which remained under Czech rule until the late medieval period, already had an operational paper mill in Wrocław. In the 19th century most of the Lower Silesian paper mills were closed down, with a small number being converted into paper factories, installing industrial papermaking machinery.

One of the best Silesian paper mills was built in Duszniki. The exact time of its construction and the name of its builder are unknown; however, it was already being mentioned in archival documents prior to 1562. The first known papermaker from Duszniki was Ambrosius Tepper, who sold his share of the paper production plant to a newcomer from Saxony, Nicolaus Kretschmer; however, the plant was destroyed by a flood in 1601. Having been rebuilt in 1605 and extant to this day, the paper mill at Duszniki is a unique example of technical heritage on a pan-European scale. It owes its exceptional qualities and beauty to representatives of the Kretschmer, Heller and Wieher families, who ran the mill for over 300 years. In the mid-18th century the Hellers were the first in Silesia to adopt the technique of breaking down raw materials into paper pulp, which significantly improved the already high quality of the paper (known as ‘everlasting’) made at Duszniki. This high quality paper formed the basis of the fortunes amassed by the owners of Duszniki’s paper mill, and the mill building itself, which had already been recognized for its beauty in the early 17th century, became a reflection of their wealth. Its scrolled western gable, skilfully decorated elevations and its ornamental entrance pavilion in the form of a tower, demonstrated to all those travelling along the route from Wrocław to Prague how refined and wealthy Duszniki’s papermakers were. The building’s interiors were embellished with wall paintings (a highly unusual feature at industrial facilities), depicting plant motifs and narrative scenes, dating from the 17th-19th centuries. Extant items of the paper mill’s machinery include several 19th-century moulds for handmade paper, 18th-century wooden hangers for drying paper, metal clasp-fitted hangers of the19th-20th century for drying cardboard, and a cart for transporting paper inside the drying loft. A particularly valuable historic feature are the original ventilation holes in the roofs of both the paper mill and the drying loft. Sadly, the mill’s residential furnishings do not survive.

During the interwar period the Wieher family attempted to create a museum, though their plans were not brought to fruition until 1968, when the historic paper mill became the venue of the Museum of Papermaking, presenting the history of this craft and conducting demonstrations of traditional paper production. The paper mill building is one of the most fascinating historic monuments in Lower Silesia, and regarded as one of the most characteristic examples of the region’s heritage - the last paper mill in Poland commemorating the magnitude of this traditional trade. The sheets of paper produced here for nigh on four centuries aided the progress of civilization and the development of art and culture. Suffice to say that it was paper made at Duszniki which Frederic Chopin used when writing letters and recording his compositions.

General information

  • Type: technical monument
  • Chronology: pocz. XVII - XVIII w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Kłodzka 42, Duszniki-Zdrój
  • Location: Voivodeship dolnośląskie, district kłodzki, commune Duszniki-Zdrój
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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