History of Paper for Kids
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Kidipede is a history and science encyclopedia for kids, with more than 2000 pages of expert answers to your questions.


History of Paper

Early Chinese Paper
Early Chinese Paper

Since the invention of writing, people had been trying to come up with something easier to write on than papyrus or parchment, and also something easier and cheaper to make. But it took 3000 years to come up with paper! Paper seems to have been invented around 100 BC in China. In 105 AD, under the Han Dynasty emperor Ho-Ti, a government official in China named Ts'ai Lun was the first to start a paper-making industry. Ts'ai Lun seems to have made his paper by mixing finely chopped mulberry bark and hemp rags with water, mashing it flat, and then pressing out the water and letting it dry in the sun. He may have based his idea on bark cloth, which was very common in China and also made from mulberry bark. Ts'ai Lun's paper was a big success, and began to be used all over China.


Here's a video of a woman in Japan making paper:


Even after people in China began to use paper, it took another thousand years before people were using paper all over Eurasia. By the 400s AD, people in India were also making paper.

After a little more than 500 years, people in the Abbasid Caliphate began to use paper. There was a big battle in 751 AD in Samarkand, where the Chinese and the Arabs were fighting for control. The Arabs captured some Chinese men. Some of these Chinese men knew how to make paper, and they explained it to the Arabs as the price of their freedom.

People all over the Islamic world soon began using paper, from India to Spain. But Christian people in Europe were still using parchment.

Starting in the 1200s, though, the Christians conquered Islamic Spain, and as they took over Spain they also learned how to make paper. By 1250 AD, the Italians had learned to make good paper and sold it all over Europe. In 1338, French monks began to make their own paper. By 1411 - nearly a millennium and a half after it was invented - people in Germany began to produce their own rag paper. Once they had learned to make paper, they became more interested in also learning about Chinese printing, and a man called Gutenberg produced the first printed Bible in 1453.

(This rag paper was still much more expensive than modern paper, which is made from wood with chemicals added).

By this time, people in the country of the Aztecs (modern Mexico) had also, independently, invented paper. Their paper was made out of agarve plant fibers, and people used it to make books.

Meanwhile, in China people were using paper in more and more different ways. They were using it for kites, and even for toilet paper!


Papyrus
Parchment
Printing
Main literature page




Copyright 2012-2014 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated 2014. Powered by Dewahost.

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