iPhoneOgraphy – 20 May 2016 (Day 141/366)
Paper is a thin material produced by pressing together moist fibres of cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets. It is a versatile material with many uses, including writing, printing, packaging, cleaning, and a number of industrial and construction processes.
The pulp papermaking process is said to have been developed in China during the early 2nd century AD, possibly as early as the year 105 A.D., by the Han court eunuch Cai Lun, although the earliest archaeological fragments of paper derive from the 2nd century BC in China. The modern pulp and paper industry is global, with China leading its production and the United States right behind it.
The word “paper” is etymologically derived from Latin papyrus, which comes from the Greek papuros, the word for the Cyperus papyrus plant. Papyrus is a thick, paper-like material produced from the pith of the Cyperus papyrus plant, which was used in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean cultures for writing before the introduction of paper into the Middle East and Europe.
Although the word paper is etymologically derived from papyrus, the two are produced very differently and the development of the first is distinct from the development of the second. Papyrus is a lamination of natural plant fibres, while paper is manufactured from fibres whose properties have been changed by maceration.
The oldest known archaeological fragments of the immediate precursor to modern paper, date to the 2nd century BC in China. The pulp papermaking process is ascribed to Cai Lun, a 2nd-century AD Han court eunuch. With paper as an effective substitute for silk in many applications, China could export silk in greater quantity, contributing to a Golden Age.
Its knowledge and uses spread from China through the Middle East to medieval Europe in the 13th century, where the first water powered paper mills were built. Because of paper’s introduction to the West through the city of Baghdad, it was first called bagdatikos. In the 19th century, industrial manufacture greatly lowered its cost, enabling mass exchange of information and contributing to significant cultural shifts. In 1844, the Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty and the German F. G. Keller independently developed processes for pulping wood fibres.