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In the 1790s members of the industry in both Paris and London were working on inventions to try to mechanise paper-making. In England John Dickenson produced the cylinder machine that was operational by 1809. Although useful for smaller enterprises, this lacked the large scale potential of the machine resulting from the invention of Nicholas-Louis Robert in Paris, which had a more complicated incubation period. The last of the early improvements to this machine were financed by the Fourdrinier brothers in London, and it was after these brothers that the machine was named. The Fourdrinier could produce paper of virtually any size for the very first time, limited only by the width of the continuous wire mesh upon which the paper was made.…show more content…
However, the problem of a shortage of paper-making materials remained pressing. The 18th century saw much experimentation with plant materials, both in Britain and on the Continent.(16) Even a few unlikely non-plant substances such as asbestos were tried. Observations of wasps’ nests also raised some early interest in the possibility of wood as a potential paper-making material. By about 1716 jute(17) was beginning to be used, mainly in the form of the coarse textile sacking that was commonly made from this Asian plant. Cotton(18) rags - previously few and far between, so very seldom used - became common after the 1790s. This came about as a result of the invention of the cotton-gin in America which speeded up production, and of the spinning-jenny that made Britain a producer rather than an importer of cotton fabric. Cotton waste from the mills also became a major new source. Straw,(19) the leaves and stems of cereal grasses such as rye, barley, wheat or rice, which had always been used in small quantities, became much more extensively utilised from the 1840s. The use of recycled paper also became, like straw, used much more widely. The 1840s saw the introduction of esparto,(20) or alfa grass, (imported from southern Spain and North Africa), and manila hemp.(21) Manila is a plaintain type of plant related to the banana the strong fibres of which

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