The Importance of Paper and Books
In this ever changing world that we live in Papers are still very relevant today. It is popular even if the students are surrounded by new technologies, papers are still a fundamental part in our society. In this society, individuals’ lives revolve around papers. In a world full of technology, people can still find a written document such as marriage contracts, students’ diplomas or certificates and especially books that are well cherished, appreciated and are taken seriously when received by many
Who Created Paper
Historical sources credit the invention of paper to Cai Lun, a dignitary serving the imperial Chinese court who, in AD 105, began producing sheets of paper from scraps of old rags, tree bark and fishing nets. The Chinese guarded the secret of paper making jealously for many centuries until, in the 6th century, their invention was brought to Japan by Buddhist monk Dam Jing. The Japanese immediately learned papermaking techniques and began using pulp derived from mulberry bark to produce this precious material themselves
Reaching the Arab world
The Arab world discovered the secrets of papermaking in AD 751, when the governor-general of the Caliphate of Bagdad captured two Chinese papermakers in Samarkand and, with their help, founded a paper mill in the Uzbek city. From here, aided by an abundance of hemp and linen, two high-quality raw materials perfect for making paper, production spread to other cities in Asia, particularly Baghdad and Damascus.
The process for making paper employed by the Arabs involved garneting and macerating rags in water to obtain a homogenous pulp, which was then sifted to separate the macerated fibers from the water. The sheets thus obtained were subsequently pressed, dried and finally covered with a layer of rice starch to make them more receptive to ink. In the same period, people in Egypt and North Africa also started to make paper using the same techniques employed in the Arab world.
Paper reaches Europe
It wasn’t until the 11th century that paper arrived in Europe, with the Arab conquest of Sicily and Spain. However, paper was quickly considered an inferior-quality material compared to parchment, so much so that, in 1221, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II prohibited its use for public documents. Rice starch, in fact, was an attractive food source for insects, which meant sheets of paper did not last long.
The history of paper owes much to the paper makers of Fabriano, a small town in the Marche region of Italy, who started producing paper using linen and hemp in the 12th century. By using new equipment and production techniques, these papermakers introduced important innovations:
- They mechanized rag grinding by using hydraulic hammer mills, significantly reducing the time it took to produce pulp.
- They started gluing sheets with gelatin, an additive that insects didn’t like.
- They created different paper types and formats.
- They invented watermarking. Watermarking involved using metal wires to add decorations to paper which became visible when the sheet was held up to the light, allowing hallmarks, signatures, ecclesiastical emblems and other symbols to be inserted.
The environmental impact of paper and environmental choices
- Paper manufacturing uses significant amounts of natural resources: between 2 and 2.5 tones of timber and 30-40 cubic meters of water are required to make one tone of paper. What’s more, electricity and methane gas are needed to power the industrial machines used in the various production phases and, depending on the type of paper, a host of polluting chemical additives. That’s why, whenever possible, Irish Diaries chooses sustainable or recycled paper to reduce the environmental impact of paper production.
- Sustainable paper is made out of wood cellulose originating from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forests, where strict environmental, social and economic standards apply. Recycled paper, on the other hand, is made out of recovered paper. However, the chlorine used to bleach it, as well as other chemical additives used, mean that recycled paper is often not as environmentally friendly as commonly thought. To be sure that you are choosing a genuinely eco-friendly product, opt for paper with the Ecolabel certification, the European ecological quality label awarded to environmentally sustainable products.
Our story on the history of paper finishes here, but we’re sure that, thanks to continued technical innovation, many more surprises lie ahead! The history of paper is far from over, and this fascinating and useful material will remain with us for years to come.