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The History of Paper

The story of paper begins in China with T'sai Lun, an Imperial Court official who patented the first paper making process in 105 AD.

Before then, men had written and drawn on stone and clay tablets, papyrus and even silk.

T'sai Lun had the inspired idea of beating old fishing nets and ropes in running water. He spread the pulp on a screen of fine bamboo strips, dried it in the sun and then peeled off the world's first paper sheets of paper.

More refind results were achieved using boiled plant fibres, and within 50 years the Chinese were pulping rags to produce fine quality papers. The Chinese were quick to see the enormous possibilities for paper in art, calligraphy, decoration, and mass education and T'sai Lun was soon revered as a god for his invention.

When paper arrived in Europe, via East Asia and the Spanish Moors in the 13th century, it was not received quite so enthusiastically.

The first paper mill in Brittan is dated since 1490. The paper at this time was by no means perfect. Surfaces were not always smooth and uniformly non - absorbent, but could be greatly improved by applying a white or coloured coat.

By the late 18th century paper production was in full swing. Artists now had an impressive range of different paper sizes and qualities to choose from.

Paper was now produced in continuous reels for the first time which in conjunction with the new rotary presses made newspaper "runs" possible.

In 1815 "The Times" was Britain's most successful newspaper with a readership of 2000 copies. By 1850 circulation had leapt to 50,000 copies. After that period printing on paper was confirmed on the world's single most influential medium for communication. With the rise in demand for paper it come the need for mechanisation.

Yet, even today the microchip age of satellite communication and cable TV, for the designer and artist little has changed. Paper remains a perpetual challenge. It is a medium with endless possibilities. The only limit is your imagination.

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