Fabriano, a town of about 30,000 inhabitants on the slopes of the Apennines, 55 kim from the Adriatic coast at Ancona, has long been associated with the manufacture of paper. Its guild (or corporation) of papermakers was formally established in 1326. The industry was developed by Pietro Miliani (1744-1817), who introduced new technology, and developed high quality papers suitable for engraving, maps and music. Papermaking survived the severe damage inflicted on Fabriano during the Second World War, as well as earthquakes. The Cartiere Miliani Fabricano company bears the name of the 18th century entrepreneur.
The museum shows how paper making technologies developed in the late middle ages from those used in the making of woollen cloth, which then flourished in the region. Rags were pulped by hammers similar to those used for fulling cloth, and watermarks which enabled the makers of paper to be identified were similar in some respects to the identification marks put on pieces of cloth. The full range of machines and equipment used in the making of paper by hand is displayed. The large machines are still operated by water-power. There is a section showing how rags, brought to Fabriano from Florence, Perugia and other cities, were sorted to make particular grades of paper. Another section shows how paper is made from other materials, soft- or hard-woods, grasses, and annual plants such as hemp, esparto and cotton.