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History Of Paper

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



It is generally conceded that the Egyptians were the first manufactures of paper, which they made from papyrus, a species of reed. In former times this plant grew in abundance on the banks of the Nile, but it is now said to have disappeared from Egypt. It was called by the Egyptians "papu" ; by the Greeks "papyrus" ; our word paper is a later derivative. Herodotus named it "byblus," whence came the Greek "biblion" (book) and our word Bible. The ancient Mexicans used a kind of paper prepared from the maguey plant that grows on tablelands and closely resembles the Egyptian papyrus. This paper took ink and color well, as is attested by specimens which have been preserved. The credit of being first to form from fiber the web which constitutes modern paper belongs to the Chinese, and the art was known to them as early as the commencement of the Christian era. In the seventh century the Arabians learned the art of making it from cotton from the Chinese, and the first manufactory was established at Samarcand, about A. D. 706. From thence it was taken into Spain, where under the Moors paper was made, it is thought, of hemp and flax as well as cotton. Just when linen rags were first used in the composition of paper is uncertain ; but the best evidence is offered by the Arabian physician Abdollatiph, who writes, in an account of his visit to Egypt in the year 1200, "that the cloth found in the catacombs and used to envelop mummies was made into garments or sold to the scribes to make paper for shopkeepers"; and as there is no doubt that these mummy cloths were linen, it proves the use of this material to be of considerable antiquity. Of the use of linen rags in Europe the earliest proof is the celebrated document found by Ichwandner in the monastery of Goss in Upper Syria, which purports to be a man-date of Frederick II, Emperor of the Romans, and is dated 1242. It is written on paper which has been proved to have been made of linen. The practice of making a distinctive watermark on paper was also of very early date, as manuscripts as old as the thirteenth century bear it. There is, however, no really satisfactory information respecting the exact time or place of the introduction of paper making into Europe. By some it is supposed that Spain was the first to receive the art, and that hence it spread to France and Holland, and subsequently to England; but it is quite certain that England was a long time behind the other countries. As proof of this we find that the first patent for paper making was taken out in 1665, by one Charles Hildeyerd, but it was for "the way and art of making blew paper used by sugar-bakers and others." Ten years later, 1675, a patent was taken out by Eustace Barneby for "the art and skill of making all sorts of white paper for the use of writing and printing, being a new manufacture, and never practiced in any way in any of our kingdome or dominions." Paper is now made out of cotton and linen rags, waste paper, straw, esparto grass, wood, cane, jute, and manilla.



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