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The History of Paper

Mankind has always sought to improve ways of communicating and recording thoughts. Early attempts at achieving this involved the use of waxed boards, leaves, bronze, silk, and clay tablets. It wasn’t until the invention of paper that information could be recorded and passed on cheaply and in greater quantity.

4000 BC – 1009 A.D.

4,000 B.C. – Ancient Egyptians invented the first paper. Papyrus was a woven mat of reeds, pounded together into a hard, thin sheet. The word “paper” actually comes from the word “papyrus”. Later on in history, the Ancient Greeks used a kind of parchment made from animal skins for the same purpose.

105 A.D. – Paper as we know it was invented by Ts’ai Lun, a Chinese court official. It is believed that Ts’ai mixed mulberry bark, hemp, and rags with water, mashed it into a pulp, pressed out the liquid and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun. Paper was born and this humble mixture would set off one of mankind’s greatest communication revolutions. Literature and the arts flourished in China.

610 A.D. – Buddhist monks gradually spread the art to Japan. Papermaking became an essential part of Japanese culture and was used for writing material, fans, garments, dolls, and as an important component of houses. The Japanese were also the first to use the technique of block printing.

751 A.D. –  Chinese and Arab armies clash after decades of peaceful trading. The Chinese are defeated and many are taken prisoner. Among the prisoners are paper makers who attempt bargain for their freedom by teaching the Arabs the secrets of paper making.

1009 – It took about 400 years for paper to traverse the Arab world to Europe. The first paper mill in Europe was built by the Arabs in Xativa, Spain. Paper making continued here under Moorish rule until 1244 when European armies drove them out. Paper making then began to gradually spread across Christian Europe.

Next:  1250 –  1788

Courtesy of Paper Trading International, Inc.

In 2011, almost
67% of all paper consumed in the U.S. was recycled, nearly double the rate in 1990.
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