“Light tomorrow with today.” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
By: Proserpina , 6:31 PM GMT on July 06, 2012
Paper Part 3
Can you imagine a world without paper?
How many pounds of paper per year does each person in the USA use? How many books are read per year? How about newspapers? Look around your house and see how many things are made from paper. Yes, from your toilet paper to your paper money, paper is a necessity. You say that computers are creating a non-paper society, really? In actuality, we now generate more paper than ever before because of computers!
Paper is considered one of the most important inventions of all times. It allowed countries to develop and advance their civilization. For example, an important cultural advancement was the Renaissance Era which would not have occurred without the introduction of paper and the printing press. Also the lower cost of printing books on paper and their availability, stimulated the foundation of new schools and universities. Education which had been restricted to the nobility and upper classes, was now possible for other classes.
Where and when was paper invented?
Paper as we know it has its roots in China. Although recent findings put the invention of paper long before 105 AD, this is the date recognized for the invention of paper. Chinese records name Ts’ai –Lun, from Lei-yang in China, as the inventor of the modern method of making paper. He used rags and other plant fibers, fixed a recipe for paper-making, and refined and popularized paper as a material for writing.
Sample of early paper in China
Stamp showing paper-making in ancient China
The knowledge of paper-making stayed within China for several hundred years before it reached Korea and Japan around 6oo A.D. The manufacture of paper was kept a closely guarded secret until 750 when it reached Samarkand via the silk and trade routes. It is believed that Chinese paper-makers were taken in battle and were forced to share their craft with their captors. From this point the craft spread throughout the Arab regions, to Baghdad in 793, Damascus and Egypt in the 10th century, and Morocco by 1100.
Paper making reached Europe with the coming of the Arabs. Manufacturing of paper began in the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily. Around the year 1151 the first paper mill in Europe was built in the city of Xativa (in Valencia), Spain. From there, paper-making spread to Italy where the Fabriano paper mills were established in the 13th century (not controlled by Arabs). France, Germany, and other countries followed in the establishment of paper mills. The first paper mill set up in England was in 1490 by John Tate, near Stevenage in Hertfordshire. The first known successful mill in England was set up in Dartford in Kent, in 1588.
The oldest known paper document in the West is the Mozarab Missal of Silos, from the 11th century. Probably it used paper made in the Arab part of the Iberian Peninsula.
The earliest extant European document on paper manufactured in Europe is an order written in Greek and Arabic issued by Adelasia del Vasto in 1109 (Do you remember my Adelasia blog?). The order, which is preserved in the State Archives at Palermo, concerns a salt mine near Castrogiovanni (today Enna). This document was written on paper and not parchment because it wasn’t an ‘important’ document! Microscopic analysis shows that the paper is made from linen cellulose.
Earliest extant European document, order by Alelasia
What’s paper made of? Trees or wood you say? Yes, but not until mid-1800s.
As mentioned, Ts’ai-Lun made his paper from rags and plant fibers. He produced paper sheets from bark of mulberry trees, hemp waste, old rags, and fishnets. The Chinese method of producing paper was adopted and improved by other cultures, but the basic materials to make paper remained the recycled fibers from used textiles, called rags.
The improvement of the difficult process of making paper was completed in the early Middle Ages in the town of Fabriano (province of Ancona), Italy. Rudiments of the early buildings and inscriptions still exist.
Fabriano made high quality paper on an industrial scale and even today has a reputation for fine watermarked paper. Oh yes, Fabriano still produces paper! I often use their fine watercolor paper for my paintings.
The three major innovations that made Fabriano the cradle of modern paper-making are:
“1) Use of animal gelatin to surface size the paper,
2) Invention of a hydraulic press to work the pulp, to replace what were effectively manual pestle and mortars.
3) Watermark technique, a brass wire motif is stitched onto the sieve plate of the cylinder press. The fibres are less dense at this point so more light can pass through the paper. Each paper has its own unique watermark.”
Existing remnants of original Fabriano paper mill.
For a virtual tour of the Fabriano museum including a video making paper in the old fashioned way please go to: http://www.viamar.org/mdcf/start.html
Gutenberg and his printing press
In 1448 Johannes Gutenberg was credited with inventing the printing press (it is believed that moveable type was invented hundreds of years earlier in Asia). Gutenberg used paper instead of parchment to do the first printing in Europe!
When Gutenberg produced his first Bible around 1456, Europe was still using parchment and so he printed a few Bibles on parchment. For each Bible on parchment he needed 300 sheep! Certainly mass production of books on parchment was not advisable but paper made from linen rags was a solution.
Documents and books could now be reproduced quickly and in large quantities. It was around this time that Gutenberg began his Bible project, the printing of 200 copies of the Gutenberg Bibles. They were all sold at the 1455 Frankfurt Fair. About 50 of these Bibles survive today.
One of the Gutenberg Bibles
Booksellers in the Middle Ages rarely had ready-made books in their shop. Usually a book would be ordered, after the order the book would be copied by hand, to be picked up by the buyer several months later. By using paper Gutenberg was able to easily print many copies of the same book, the first mass production of books in history was on its way.
Imagine the disbelief and confusion when someone offered for sale many copies of the same book! There is a story about Gutenberg’s partner that when he offered 20 identical copies of the Bible to a bookseller in Paris, he was forced to quickly flee for his life! People were certain that the only explanation for this occurrence was that the man was in league with the devil!
Within decades there were many printing shops set up in many cities in Central, Western, and Eastern Europe. Italy, a center of early printing, established print shops in 77 cities by 1500. Many printing centers emerged in Italy with Venice as a major printing center. One major early Venetian printer of classic books was Aldus Manutius.
A few notes of interest:
1.Increased demand for rags created a huge shortage and as a result there actually were “rag wars” during the 1700s! Nations passed laws forbidding rags to be taken out of the country! As expected rag smuggling became a lucrative business! To save cotton and linen rags, England even decreed that the dead could be buried only in wool. Of course the wool industry was probably also protecting its weakening industry.
2.China was not the only culture that developed paper as we know it today, there were other cultures who had invented similar papers. The Mayan culture was one of those cultures that had invented paper. In fact there were many books in existence at the time of the Spanish conquest of Yucatan, in the 16th century. Unfortunately in the effort to spread the Christian religion, in 1562 Bishop Diego de Landa ordered that the books be destroyed.
The Maya codices are folding books stemming from the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, written in Maya hieroglyphic script on Mesoamerican bark cloth. A few of the Myan books were saved from destruction and were brought to Europe.
Today there are three codices whose authenticity is beyond doubt. The codices are named after the City where they are located. They are:
The Madrid Codex (112 pages)
The Dresden Codex (74 pages) T
The Paris Codex (22 pages).
A page from the Dresden Codex
Do you know which city is called The Paper City? The answer will be found in the 4th and hopefully last section of the paper blog!
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