History of Paper

Most people think of the Egyptians when the origin of paper is mentioned. A plant called cyperus papyrus grew in the marshes along the Nile River. The Egyptians cut thin strips of the plant, softened them in the water and left them to dry. Then they pounded them flat and laid the pieces at right angles to each other to form a mat. These sheets worked well for writing for the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The word paper comes from this word papyrus. Several other surfaces for writing were created by the Mayans and people in the Pacific Islands.

China was the source of what we call paper. Excavations have been made of the tombs of the Han Dynasty (207 B. C.-9 A. D.) Silk cloth with text written on them was found in the tombs. Beginning in 105 A.D., T'sai Lun was able to beat the fibers of plants until each fiber was separate. The fibers were placed in a vat of water and then scooped up in a screen. This layer of interwoven fibers resembled what we use as paper today. It was called T'sai Ko-shi, 'Distinguished T'sai's Paper'.

The art of paper making spread into Vietnam and Tibet about 150 years later, then to Korea in the 300's and Japan in the 500's A. D. Papermaking continues to be a fine art in Japan. The craft went west through the Muslim world until the Moors in North Africa invaded Spain and Portugal and introduced Europe to paper in the 1100's.

Writers in Europe at that time preferred to use parchment made from animal skin. Gutenberg invented moveable type and printed the Bible in 1456. From that point on, the paper industry grew. Early European paper was made from rags, old cotton and linen. This source was not sufficient for the need. People tried using cabbage, wasps' nests, and straw until realizing that wood was the correct product.

The demand for large quantities of paper brought about the invention of a machine in the late 1700's by Nicholas Luis Robert that could make a long roll of paper without a seam. The Fourdrinier brothers worked on the machine to produce it for widespread use. The industry creates paper for newspapers, magazines, books, paper bags, toilet paper, money and many other purposes.

New technology has brought about less need for paper. In the west, the art of making paper by hand has disappeared. In Thailand however, this art continues. The traditional paper is not really made from rice although it is called 'rice paper.' It is made from the mulberry tree. Papermaking in Thailand dates back 700 years. Usually, the paper has been used for Buddhist writings. Originally, the paper of Thailand was made from the koi tree, but early in the 1900's, the koi trees began to disappear.

The Thai people learned how to use the mulberry tree, called sa, just as the Japanese made their paper, kozo, from the same tree. These trees still grow all over Thailand and provide the raw material for the making of paper by hand. Demand for these specialty papers has increased all over the world.

The process is very simple. Shredding the organic material starts the process. Then it is soaked in water to loosen the fibers. These fibers are boiled, and then washed with fresh water to remove as much dirt as possible. Any remaining foreign material is picked off by hand. These fibers are beaten in a blender, and color can be added. The fibers are placed into water. A screen is carefully placed into that water and lifted up to place the fibers onto the screen. These fibers then can be dried.

Paper is a very versatile medium. It can be used for books, wrapping paper, drawing, greeting cards, wallpaper, blinds and lampshades. It can be used for boxes and packages.

A: England
B: Africa
C: Egypt
D: China

A: Egyptians
B: Moors
C: Greeks
D: French

A: Papyrus
B: Parchment
C: Koi
D: Snakeskin

A: Egypt
B: Thailand
C: India
D: Greece

A: Ash
B: Spruce
C: Mulberry
D: Oak

A: Rice paper is made from rice plants.
B: Paper in Thailand was made at first from the koi tree.
C: No one in the world makes paper by hand.
D: The paper in Thailand was used originally for writing love letters.

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