Important moments in the history of print and paper
Paper is such an important element in our lives, that it seems it has been around forever. Well… and that’s about right!
The history of paper tells us the story of humanity. So, we’ve highlighted some important moments of this fundamental and lont-term relationship between men, paper and print!
35,000BC: The earliest examples of human expression are the cave paintings found in Sulawesi in Indonesia and in the Chauvet Caves of south-eastern France.
4,000BC: The Sumerians first developed early cuneiform writing in the form of pictographs on clay tablets.
2,400 BC: Painting and writing begins to move onto Papyrus in ancient Egypt . This material is made from a tall aquatic sedge which is native to central Africa and the Nile valley.
300BC: The library at Alexandria is founded during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter under the guidance of a huge collection of fallen Athenian senator Demetrius of Phaleron. The Roman stoic philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC – 65 AD) refers to 40,000 manuscripts – scrolls written on papyrus and velum – being burnt at Alexandria when Julius Cesar’s forces sacked the city.
200BC: The first “paper” is made in China from old fishing nets.
105AD: In Lei-Yang in China, Cai Lun, a Han dynasty (202BC-220AD) Chinese eunuch and official, began producing paper in the form we know it today. He standardised its production methods and composition and his improvements meant that, by the third century, paper was being widely used as a writing medium in China.
117AD: The Library of Celsus was inaugurated in 117AD. It was the third largest library in Classical Antiquity. Its striking architecture can still be enjoyed in Ephesus in Turkey, but the 12,000 velum and papyrus scrolls it contained were destroyed in 262 AD.
384AD: Understanding of Cai Lun’s papermaking techniques spread initially to Korea.
610AD: A Korean Monk then took the knowledge of papermaking with him to Japan – helping the skill to spread further.
751AD: During a war between Abbasid Caliphate’s Arab-Persian army and the Chinese army of the Tang Dynasty, at the battle of Talas , Arab forces captured Tang soldiers and papermaking workers; their skills then began to spread through the Arab world, first flourishing in Iraq, Syria and Palestine, before spreading west.
806AD: The first paper bank notes were introduced in China during the Tang dynasty.
850AD: The first paper mill in Africa was built in Egypt. Later, a paper mill built in Morocco would lead to the craft of papermaking reaching Spain.
950AD: The first paper mill in Europe was built in Spain, where centre of production was Xatiba.
1293AD: In Italy, the first recorded paper mill was built in Bologna. Northern Italy remains an important centre of paper-making production .
1390AD: The first paper mill north of the Alps was set up by Ulman Stormer on the river Pegnitz just outside of Nürnberg.
1455AD: With knowledge of papermaking techniques spreading across Europe, the time was right for another important innovation in the way manuscripts are produced. In Mainz, Germany, the printer Johann Gutenberg invented a revolutionary new way to print type using metal printing matrices that enabled a movable-type-based printing press. The first book to be printed by Gutenberg was the Bible.
1690AD: Papermaking was first introduced to America by William Rittenhouse of Pennsylvania . Paper and the printing press would later play an important role in the American revolution.
1790AD: Joseph Bramah invented the hydraulic press – helping to industrialise the papermaking process.
1820AD: Thomas Crompton invents the heated steam cylinder to allow paper to be dried on-machine. The speed of change – in terms of both production techniques and in the products being produced will continue to accelerate over the next two hundred years.
There’s still so much to be told and every day we build a little more of this story… and it’s a beautiful story isn’t?