History of Papermaking – Chinese Paper

Paper is a thin material made by pressing of moist fibers and drying them into flexible sheets. It is most commonly made from cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses. It is used for various uses but usually for printing, writing and wrapping. Before invention of t paper people wrote on leather, stone, clay, papyrus, bone, bamboo and even silk.

Paper, as we know it today, is invented in China in 105 during the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD). Papermaking of that time made paper using mulberry and other bast fibers along with fishnets, old rags and hemp waste. Some more primitive methods of papermaking were used even before but Han Dynasty Chinese court official Cai Lun improved the method. Except for writing, paper was used for wrapping even then as well as for toilet paper, as bags for tea and for money.

Picture Of First Major Step In Chinese Papermaking Outlined By Cai Lun In Ad 105

Between the years 280 AD and 610 AD, paper arrived in Japan. When Chinese lost the Battle of Talas in 751, Middle East was introduced to the paper. The first paper mill in the Islamic world was founded in Samarkand. Documents tell that Pakistan made paper by the sixth century, Samarkand by 751 AD, Bagdad by 793, in Egypt by 900 and Morocco around 1100. Pulp material was made in pulp mills, and here is the place where trip hammers were introduced for the first time. Here are also introduced the advanced techniques of bookbinding.

Papermaking reached Europe in 1085 in Toledo. France had a paper mill by 1190, and Italy by 1276. Holland got its paper mills in 1340. Woodcut printmaking starts to transfer from fabric to paper.

Some primitive forms of protopaper appeared in America in 5th century and were made and used by Mayans. Papermaking akin to European technique spread to the American continent first in Mexico by 1575 and then came to Philadelphia by 1690.

With appearing of steam-driven paper making machines in the 19th century, paper becomes cheaper for production. A continuous paper making machine was designed in 1799 by Nicholas Louis Robert of Essonnes, France.

Paper production depended on recycled fibres from used textiles. A new idea appeared at this time: pulping wood instead of pulping rags and getting fibers from there. Matthias Koops tried this idea in 1800 but his book made from pure wood pulp was very costly, although done very well. In the 1830s and 1840s, Charles Fenerty and Friedrich Gottlob Keller independently tried again and succeeded to extract the fibers from wood and made paper from it. Charles Fenerty also succeeded in bleaching the pulp so that the paper was white. By the end of the 19th century, almost all printers in the western world were using wood instead of rags to make paper.

Picture Of Second Major Step In Chinese Papermaking

In combination with some other inventions of the time like steam driven rotary printing press, fountain pen and pencil, paper started changing the face of the world. Paper was cheaper so schoolbooks, fiction, non-fiction and newspapers were easily available to more people. Communication and education became easier.

Picture Of First Major Step In Chinese Papermaking Outlined By Cai Lun In Ad 105
Picture Of Second Major Step In Chinese Papermaking
Picture Of Third Major Step In Chinese Papermaking
Picture Of Fifth Major Step In Chinese Papermaking
Picture Of Fourth Major Step In Chinese Papermaking