The Four Treasures: Paper, ii

The old expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” can be modified for modern times to “a video is worth 10,o00 words”!

In an earlier post, I embedded a video about the process of making paper by hand, as done by Japanese artisans.  This next video, while long, provides a very nice history of paper making in China.  From China, the process moved to other Asian countries.

The process of making paper developed in various areas throughout the world.  While technically not paper, papyrus, in Egypt, was the first plant-based writing surface widely produced and used in the west.  The pith of the plant was used, and long scrolls could be created.  The dry climate of Egypt prevented the growth of mold, which in more damp areas would attack and destroy the papyrus.

In Asia, paper making developed in China around 105 AD during the Han Dynasty.  A court official, Cai Lun, created paper using a variety of plant fibers, rags, and fishnets.  This paper was thinner and more transparent than western paper.  As time passed, the making of paper moved west, and in the Middle East, the world’s first paper mill began production in Baghdad, with a paper factory being developed there by 800 AD.

In the Americas, prior to Columbus, the Mayans by 500 AD had created a parchment called “amatl” from the inner bark of trees. Europe and Africa never developed an abundant plant-based material for writing.  Instead, vellum and parchment were used.  In 1221 AD, a decree from Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II declared all official documents written on paper to be invalid, but once the Gutenberg’s press came into use, paper was needed as it was cheaper to create, and more abundant than vellum or parchment.  In Europe, the first paper mill was built in Italy by Muslim engineers.  Even with this, paper continued to be an expensive commodity until its mechanization in the 19th century.

Today, paper is everywhere, at least in the world I know.  Paper towels, toilet paper, printer and copier paper, wrapping paper, paper bags, waxed paper, watercolor paper, newspaper, books and magazines.

I love paper!

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