Paper - a short history

It is generally believed that paper was invented in China around 200AD but it wasn't until around 1100 that the first paper was made in Europe. At that time all paper was hand-made using cotton and linen rags. The rags were soaked, boiled and then beaten to a liquid pulp. Into this pulp was dipped a framework constructed of horizontal and vertical wires. The vertical wires are spaced about an inch apart and known as 'chain lines', the horzontal wires are spaced much closer together and known as 'laid lines'. The framework was removed from the pulp with a layer of the mixture held by the wire network. This was drained, turned out and pressed and dried between felt blankets after which the paper was sealed with a starch or gelatine size in order to render it less absorbent. This type of paper is known as 'Laid' and if held up to the light the pattern of chain and laid lines can be clearly seen. This was the principal method of paper making up until 1755 when 'Wove' paper was developed. The method is essentially the same except that the wire framework took the form of a very fine, tightly woven mesh. This resulted in a much smoother paper surface wirh no visible wire pattern. By 1790 this method was in widespread use.Watermarks : When held up to the light paper will commonly display a 'watermark', that is, a small pattern also made of wire incorporated into the framework which is a manufacturer's identification mark. This can help to determine the age and origin of the paper but NOT of the printed image.In 1798 the paper making machine was invented which increased the rate of production but led to a shortage of raw materials meaning that alternatives to cloth rags had to be found. Wood pulp was discovered to be a cheaper and more abundant alternative to rag though the impurities in wood pulp resulted in a more brittle paper with a tendency to stain and discolour.