Papermaking, a craft which had arrived in Europe earlier than printing, and had been passed down as trade secrets through apprenticeship for even longer, was later than printing in having a comprehensive manual published. The first comprehensive printing and typesetting manual had been published by printer Joseph Moxon roughly eighty years before de Lalande's, in 1683-84. By the mid-eighteenth century several other printing manuals— most notably that of Fertel— had been published. However, since literacy was not required for tasks in papermaking it is probable that many papermakers were illiterate, in contrast to printers, who had to be literate. Thus it may be appropriate that this first detailed treatise was written not by a professional papermaker but by a scientist and astronomer. Its publication in a handsomely and expensively printed scientific series would suggest that it was intended not necessarily for papermakers themselves, but for students of technology, or entrepeneurs who might enter the papermaking industry.
De Lalande's work comprised 150 folio pages illustrated with 14 large engravings, describing the process of papermaking. Fundamental elements of the process were (1) Selection of raw material, i.e. rags. High quality white paper depended on using high quality white rags. (2) Conversion of rags into pulp (or "stuff"). When de Lalande published this process was done by a washer/beater "engine" propelled by water power. (3) Sheet-making and consolidation. (4) Sizing. (5) Sorting, Finishing and Packing.
When de Lalande published, other than the conversion of rags into pulp, papermaking remained a manual process. It would begin to be mechanized roughly fifty years later, in the early nineteenth century. A very careful and accurate observer, de Lalande consulted with numerous professional papermakers in different regions of France in order to write his treatise. The work covers all aspects of the trade, including the design and construction of buildings, the design of machinery and equipment, and the economics of the business, plus a glossary of terms of the trade.
De LaLande's work was translated into German along with the rest of the Descriptions des arts et métiers series, from 1762-75. A Dutch translation of de Lalande's treatise appeared separately in 1792. The work was first translated into English by Richard MacIntrye Atkinson more than 200 years after its original publication, in a splendid full-size edition limited to 405 leatherbound copies in 1976. By this time the text was chiefly of interest to paper historians or hand-made papermakers. The English translation, published by The Ashling Press, Mountcashel Castle, Kilmurry, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, Ireland, included all the plates printed on blue hand-made paper made by Ashling Papermakers.
Hunter, The Literature of Papermaking 1390-1800 (1925) 33.