compiled by Catherine Nash

Communication through the Ages  Cave Drawings through hieroglyphics to written characters to the printed word.  Surfaces used for writing upon shifted as the communication process evolved.


Papyrus  Laminated slices of the grass stalks (from end to end) originally found in abundance along the Nile, almost extinct today.  Second layer laid across first layer with wheat paste and pressed or hammered together.  Discovered between 1200 & 100 BC, used mostly between 4th c. BC through the 4th c. AD, with occasional use until the 9th c. AD.

“Rice Paper”  not a true paper!  Also known as “Kung-shu” or “Hollow Plant”.  Cut spirally from the inner pith of Fatsia Papyrifera in the northern hills of Formosa, Taiwan.  **Mistake made in the 1600’s in some European journals and research.  Calling Oriental paper “rice paper” is a misnomer dating from that time.  However there were papers made in China from the rice chaff (straw) called ts’ao from 1334-1521 AD.  Today there is an edible rice paper made in China that is used to wrap certain foods.

Amate  Mayan/Aztec sources in Mexico.  Still produced by the Otomi Indians of southern Mexico today.  Fibrous inner bark is removed in long strips, boiled in wood ash and then overlapping strips are laid down and subsequently smoothed with a stone.

Tapa  Tonga and Hawaii - Pacific Islands.  Similar process to amate but the inner bark is not cooked.  Paper mulberry : Broussonetia Papyrifera.  Used for clothing and architecture, not for writing.

Parchment and Vellum  Developed in 200 BC in Europe.  Fleshy side of split sheep skin (leather is from wool side)  scraped and stretched.  Vellum is calf or lamb skin.

PAPER IS DISCOVERED!  (Paper is macerated plant fiber drained on a screen.)

**China, Tibet, Korea, Japan  First documented papermaking in China 105 AD by a Chinese man named Ts’ai Lun. Historians believe it was invented many years before that: theorized discovery probably from macerated fiber...the lint from laundering cloth First paper from cloth, later plant fibers : mulberry bark, hemp, China Grass, bamboo, Gampi (wild fiber from Japan), Mitsumata and Daphne.

First printing 770 AD in Japan.  Empress Shotoku ordered one million dharani : the earliest printing used for inscribing sayings of Confucious or other deeply religious writing.

Europe  Paper from macerated rags, hemp or flax, created unyielding, hard paper surfaces which necessitated the development of printing presses.  Papermaking came to Europe from China via North Africa in 1151 AD  By 1500 AD most countries in Europe had mills.  Advent of moveable type in printing process by mid 1400’s. 

America  Linen and cotton rags fermented and stamped to seperate fibers until 1780. The Hollander Beater developed in Europe in the late 1600’s, arrived in America late 1700’s.  Paper machine developed at the beginning of the 19th c.

...for more information/research on history refer to Dard Hunter’s seminal work, History of Papermaking.

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