Culture and Recreation

Invention of Paper

How was paper invented?

The oldest writing surfaces in existence include Babylonian clay tablets and Indian palm leaves. Around 3000 B.C. the Egyptians developed a writing material using papyrus, the plant for which paper is named. Early in the Holy Roman Empire, the long manuscript scrolls that were made of fragile papyrus and used by Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were replaced by the codex, separate pages bound together at one side and having a cover (like the modern book). Eventually, papyrus was replaced by vellum (made of a fine-grain lambskin, kidskin, or calfskin) and parchment (made of sheepskin or goatskin), both of which provided superior surfaces for painting.

The wood-derived paper we know today was developed in A.D. 105 by the Chinese, who devised a way to make tree bark, hemp, rags, and fishnets into paper. The process used then contained the basic elements that are still found in paper mills today. The Moors introduced papermaking to Europe (Spain) in about 1150; by the 1400s paper was being made throughout Europe. But it was not until the late 1700s that paper was produced in continuous rolls. In 1798 a French paper mill clerk invented a machine that could produce a continuous sheet of paper in any desired size from wood pulp. The machine was improved and patented by English papermakers Henry (1766–1854) and Sealy Fourdrinier (d. 1847) in 1807. The invention spurred the development of newspapers.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App