Whatman, James

Whatman, James
SUBJECT AREA: Paper and printing
baptized 4 October 1702 Loose, near Maidstone, Kent, England
d. 29 June 1759 Loose, near Maidstone, Kent, England
English papermaker, inventor of wove paper.
The Whatman family had been established in Kent in the fifteenth century. At the time of his marriage in 1740, Whatman was described as a tanner. His wife was the widow of Richard Harris, papermaker, and, by the marriage settlement, he with his wife became joint tenants of Turkey Mill, near Maidstone. The mill had been used for fulling since the Middle Ages, but towards the end of the seventeenth century it had been converted to papermaking. Remarkably quickly, Whatman became one of the leading papermakers in England, doubtless helped by the shortage of imported paper that resulted from the Spanish Succession War of the 1740s. By the time of his death, his mill had the largest output in England, with a reputation for good-quality writing paper.
According to his son's account much later, Whatman introduced wove paper, made in a wove wire gauze mould, in 1756. It gave a smoother paper with a more even surface, and was probably made at the suggestion of the celebrated printer and type founder John Baskerville. Whatman printed a book in 1757 on paper with an even texture but with laid lines still discernible, indicating that at first the wire gauze was placed in a conventional wire mould. In a book printed by Baskerville two years later, these lines are no longer visible, so a wire gauze mould was in use by then.
After Whatman's death, Turkey Mill was managed by his widow for three years, until his son James (1741–98) was old enough to take charge. Under the management of the son, the mill maintained the scale and quality of its output, and in 1769 it was described as the largest paper mill in England where the best writing paper was made.
Further Reading
T.Balston, 1957, James Whatman, Father and Son, London: Methuen.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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