WESTZAAN, the Netherlands
The mill De Schoolmeester (the schoolmaster), located on the Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands, is currently the only paper windmill in the world still producing paper commercially. The durable, sturdy paperboard it churns out was famous worldwide in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was used for the first 200 copies of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The Zaansche paper will also form the cover of Timeline II, a 10-foot-long accordion-fold book produced in 2009. This 500-year history of the worldwide community of Mennonites was crafted by father and daughter Jacob and Nelleke Schiere, inspired by the first timeline created in 1985, also by a father-daughter duo, Robert and Ruth Kreider of Kansas.
The supple paper makes it an appropriate cover for a Mennonite history. The Zaan region was not only a growing industrial centre in the mid-16th century, with windmills sprouting to perform tasks from sawing wood to grinding seeds to making paper, it was also a haven for Frisian and Flemish Mennonites who were less welcome in their home regions. De Schoolmeester, built in 1692, has been in Mennonite hands until its current miller, Arie Butterman, took ownership.
Zaanse paper is made from fibres of rags worked into a thick mass then pressed flat by the powerful cogs of the wind-powered mill. The miller handles each sheet at least 10 times. Where 13 employees used to do the work, Butterman now toils by himself or with the help of volunteers. On the wall of the small shop in the windmill hangs a piece of Zaansche cardboard, inscribed with the text: “only the wind is free.”
Timeline II is available in English, German, and Spanish, and can be ordered through Herald Press.