The earliest evidence of writing on flat material is of documents made and written in Egypt some 5000 years ago. Paintings on cave walls in various parts of the World do not count ~ it is generally accepted that paper is a thin and fairly flexible substance. The Egyptian papers were made from the fibres of the stems of papyrus plants. The parchment was fairly brittle, and so long documents were rolled rather than folded.

Fragments of paper have been found in China and dated to around 4000 years ago. They used finer fibred materials ~ wood ~ grass ~ which, as in modern methods of papermaking, were pulped and dried after being laid out in flat and thin sheets.

As the importance of written records became appreciated so new materials came into use. These were principally animal skins such as parchment ~ mainly from sheep ~ goat ~ and cow skins. Smaller animals ~ lamb ~ young calf ~ gave better quality material ~ vellum. These carefully prepared skins were smoother than papyrus, and could be folded. Hence the concept of the codex came into being, whereby a folded sheet could be attached to others in a book-form.

Modern methods of making parchment are similar to the original techniques, requiring the skin to be cured ~ laboriously thinned by scraping-away unwanted tissue ~ stretched and dried. Parchment is extremely durable as numerous thousand-year old documents attest ~ The Lindisfarne Gospels (715) ~ The Book of Kells ( 800) ~ St Cuthbert's Gospel (of St John) [117143] ~ important UK parliamentary documents are, to this day, written on parchment before archiving. Occasional moves towards economy in this area have not been fruitful.

The method of making paper from fibres involve ~ choosing suitable fibres ~ softening them by boiling and bashing ~ washing waste materials away ~ mixing to a mush (the furnish) ~ spreading this sloppy paste-like material our into thin sheets ~ pressing them ~ drying them.

This process, essentially that of rearranging the plant's cellulose fibres, is carried out to this day by artisan papermakers. Heavy rollers ~ sometimes powered by a water wheel as in a flour mill ~ crush the fibres. After this most of the work is done by the hands and arms of experienced workers. We describe this art in more detail [116110]

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Here is a link for more information on machine made paper [1xxxxx]


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