Without the invention of paper, civilization, as we know it, would not exist. The most important characteristics humans possess that separates us from other living beings is that we have the ability to communicate complex messages. Without a means to communicate beyond regular speech, society would not be able to advance technologically, record history, or enjoy one of life’s true luxuries, reading for pleasure. Beginning with the invention of paper, people began to realize the importance of recording the written word, thus gradually people began using paper as a means to educate, inform, and entertain.
The word paper is actually derived from papyrus which is the material ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used to produce the earliest form of paper in 3000BC. Despite the namesake, papyrus was not the only material used to produce a very crude form of paper. Ancient civilizations also used the inner bark from the mulberry, fig, and daphne trees. Any of this material used to create this form of paper is referred to under the generic term “tapa.”
Paper, as we know it was not invented until 105 AD. Ts’ai Lun, from China, claimed that he was the first to created paper from textile waste using rags. Gradually China began to develop the technique and by 610 AD it began to spread across Asia and into Europe. As the art of paper making made its way across the world, various cultures would use different techniques to enhance the quality of paper. These techniques included water power, a stamping mill, a paper press, and even drying the paper using ropes.
It was not until the 14th century that paper began production in Germany. A man named Ulman Stromer recognized the importance of paper, and began mass producing paper in a mill to join the rapid trade expansion during the middle ages. Over the next two hundred years, paper mills made their way across Europe and paper was being produced all over the world in large quantities, about 4500 sheets per day.
By the 18th century the industrial revolution changed the way paper was made forever. With the inventions of machinery it no longer required a 12 man crew to run a paper mill. Paper was not mass produced by machines, and many paper makers that could not afford these machines were forced out of business. At this point, paper production sky rocketed. It wasn’t until around 1980 when paper companies improved sheet-forming principles and the chemical pulp process that we have essentially have reached how paper is made currently.
The new millennium has arrived and it seems we are beginning to stray away from using paper in favor of electronic communication. However, I believe paper is here to stay with hard ware and soft ware malfunctions society must preserve history and information on paper. The days of relaxing while reading a book are far from over. Because of society’s need to communicate and desire to improve paper will always be an effective medium, just like it has for thousands of years.