Multicopy Paper production

Papermaking – a brief, vast history

Humans’ urge to communicate has always been strong – and with the evolution of paper, the written form of communicating opened a whole new world of efficiency, suddenly dismantling geographical boundaries. Naturally, the history of papermaking is closely connected to societal, industrial, and cultural events.

Thousands of years of secrets

It all started by the Nile in Egypt in 3000 BC – that’s where and when the precursor of paper evolved. Papyrus, as it came to be called, was made of the inner tissue of a sort of reed, cut into millimetre-thin strips, layered, and pressed together into sheets to write on.

The Egyptians managed to keep this process a secret for thousands of years. The same kind of secrecy continued much later with a new technique closer to the paper-making process we know today – this time in the imperial Chinese court in AD 105.

The Chinese used hemp- and fiber mass, that they poured onto a silk cloth stretched around a wooden frame – where it was formed into sheets. This new method was both easier and cheaper than the Egyptians’ papyrus-making process.

People spreading, rumours spreading

Somehow, around AC 600, the up until then hidden Chinese recipes of papermaking were spread through Japan to the Arab world – and later to Europe, as an effect of the Crusades in the 12th century. With the entrance of the art of book printing in the middle of the 15th century, paper became more and more requested, and production really started taking off.

From hemp to lump to pulp

The very first Chinese papermaking process with hemp- and fiber mass was actually not picked up by the Europeans. In fact, they had another approach to it, pressing together damp and discarded textiles – a material called ”lump”.

Up until the middle of the 1800s paper-production was mainly handwork – but by the end of the same century, the industrial papermaking began growing in Europe. The first papermaking machines spread and speed up the processes, which also implied a need for a more accessible and reliable material.

That’s when wood came into the picture. Innovations for extracting fibers from trees were developed, including the so-called grinding chair with a rotating stone that ground logs under irrigation. That’s the method of mechanically producing pulp that is still the base of the paper-making process of today.

Interested in the details of today’s papermaking at Multicopy?
Check out these two articles:

1. How we turn wood into pulp

2. The papermaking process at Nymölla mill

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