The old paper and its evolution
Paper has a rich history that has traveled through different countries and their cultures, in addition to having an essential and unquestionable importance in the development of society. To trace its evolution, it is necessary to have a comprehensive view of the tireless efforts and human creativity, responsible for the production of various types of ancient papers to the creation of the paper we know today.
Thanks to the wonderful creation of paper, many memories and history of other times were stored so that it is possible to have information about how societies were in past times. Paper has been used for many purposes, not just literature, but war planning, the creation of banknotes, and of course, to enable writing in physical form for hundreds of years. Whether you are printing a file online or simply writing a love letter, paper is vital for personal organization, modern business and the economy, as well as for entertainment purposes such as magazines and newspapers.
Origins in Antiquity: Egypt, 3000 BC
When we think about the origins of paper, our minds could go back over 5000 years to the Nile river valley in Egypt, where the famous papyrus was created, a kind of predecessor of paper. It was there that the aquatic plant called Cyperous Papyrus flourished and the Egyptians cut thin strips from the stem of the plant and softened it in the muddy waters of the Nile River. These strips were then dipped in such a way that they formed a kind of mat.
The size varied between 12.5 x 12.5 cm and 22.5 x 37.5 cm. The “leaves” were joined together, forming rolls of 6 to 9 meters, although rolls over 40 meters long have been found. This “rug” was then beaten onto a flat surface and left in the sun to dry. The results of the process created an ideal material to write about. Because it was light and portable, it became the writing medium of choice for the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans for recording purposes, spiritual texts, and works of art.
Although papyrus sheets are similar to paper in terms of function, their final texture and shape were not exactly like the paper we know today. Similar processes have been developed elsewhere in the world. In Central America during the second century AD, the Maya produced a similar product made from the inner bark of a fig tree (Ficus), called Kopo in Maya and today commonly known as amate paper. In the Pacific Islands, a type of paper was created by beating thin bark over trunks in a special way and the final product was used to make clothing and ritual objects. However, none of these sheets would qualify as true paper today.
The True Role's Father: T'sai Lun
Paper in the form we know it today comes from another place: China. In 105 AD, the eunuch T'sai Lun (also known as Cai Lun) experimented with a wide variety of materials and refined the process of macerating fiber from mulberry bark, pieces of bamboo, ramie, fishing nets, cloth and lime to help defiber the plants.
The individual fibers and materials were mixed with water in a large vat and then the screen was submerged in the vat, making it possible to catch the fibers that floated after some time. When dried, this thin layer of interwoven fibers became what we now call paper. The thin but flexible and strong paper invented by T'sai Lun was known as T'sai Ko-Shi, which means: "Distinguished Paper of T'sai" and ensured the Chinese eunuch his recognition as the father of papermaking. .
The progressive spread of paper
It was from the 3rd century onwards that the secret art of papermaking began to cross the borders of China, first to Vietnam and then to Tibet. It was introduced to Korea in the 4th century and spread to Japan in the 6th century. Knowledge spread quickly there and before reaching India and spreading to the West in the 8th century.
Papermaking slowly spread to India and thus took over the West. He made his real westward push in 751 AD when the Tang dynasty was at war with the Islamic world. During a battle on the banks of the Tarus River, Islamic warriors captured a Chinese caravan that included several papermakers. They were taken to Samarkand (one of the oldest cities in Asia, located in present-day Uzbekistan), which soon became a major center of paper production.
Gradually, papermaking made its way west through the Muslim world to Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo. Finally, when the Moors from North Africa invaded Spain and Portugal, they took the technology with them, and thus Europe began papermaking in the 12th century as well.
The ancient paper in Europe
In Europe, the use of papyrus had been abandoned in the ninth century. The preferred medium for artists and literati at the time was smooth, glossy parchment. However, parchment - made from animal skin - was extremely expensive. It is estimated that the manual production of a single bible written on parchment required the skins of about 300 sheep.
The notion of paper and its use as we know it today as a practical everyday item did not occur until the 15th century. When Johann Gutenberg perfected movable type and printed his famous bible in 1456, he not only spread the word of Christianity, but also sparked a revolution in mass communication. The birth of the modern paper and printing industry is commonly marked from this date.
Printing technology quickly evolved and created a growing demand for paper. The first European newspapers were made from recycled cotton and linen - and a huge trade quickly developed around the trading of old rags. However, this source soon became insufficient and some curious attempts were made to source new material. Others experimented with fibers like straw, cabbage, wasp nests, and finally wood, resulting in low-cost—and replaceable—materials for papermaking. Today, soft long fibers have become the most suitable source of cellulose for mass production.
Nowadays, a mass production
The demand for paper has also created a need for greater efficiency in production. At the end of the 13th century, the work of Nicholas Luis Robert resulted in the creation of a machine capable of producing a continuous length of paper on an endless wire mesh, with pressure rollers at one end. Perfected and marketed by the Fourdrinier brothers, the new paper machines soon replaced the traditional hand-made loose sheets.
In Europe and America, the mass production of paper has become a thriving industry providing large volumes of paper for the production of newspapers, books, magazines, paper bags, toilet paper, cash and a huge variety of other purposes. Today, the growing volume of paper consumption has become a complex environmental issue - and the need for new materials increasingly urgent. While recycling has done some good, a lot of paper is still wasted.
Nowadays, even though the internet and the electronic medium are gaining more and more space in people's lives, paper is still essential for many purposes. The most commonly used types of paper today are newsprint, which the name itself says what it is used for, offset paper, widely used for printing books, photographic paper, which has a polyethylene coating to give quality to the photos. , coated paper, used in high-quality prints, and magazine paper, which is highly resistant and allows fast, large-scale printing.
However, many cultures and countries still treat old paper as a cultural asset and still use it for various purposes. One example is laid paper, an ancient type of paper with a texture that features ribbing imparted by its manufacturing process. In the pre-mechanical period of European papermaking, it was the predominant type of paper produced. Its use, however, waned in the 19th century, when it was largely supplanted by smoother paper.
Currently, its slightly rough texture still makes this type of old paper ideal for graphite or colored pencil drawings. Laid paper is also used by artists for charcoal drawings and for making wedding invitations.
The restoration of old paper
When it comes to restoration, the American Institute for Conservation is one of the most recognized institutes in the field. There, there is a specific group to deal with the restoration of paper and books, the Book and Paper Group. The purpose of the group is the exchange of information through meetings and publications on the conservation of books and paper materials. Its members represent a wide variety of backgrounds and specialties, but share a common interest in the preservation and conservation of artifacts and collections of paper-based materials. Several discussion groups focus on specific knowledge areas, such as paper art, books, archives, and libraries.
The restoration of old paper is now widely used to restore documents and certifications. The restoration process is quite careful and complex, and the processes applied vary from paper to paper. The beginning of the process usually involves sanitizing the material, passing a brush lightly over the surface in a meticulous way. To give a better appearance, a specific rubber powder is also used that is applied to the paper.
Restoration is even more complicated when there are sticky tapes on the paper. It is necessary to carry out some tests to find out which solvent can be used so as not to dissolve the ink on the paper, erasing its content. As old papers are usually crumpled, there is also a long process of flattening the sheets with weights and glasses or even with a thermal spatula.
Books are also paper objects that are much restored these days. There are several techniques for restoring a book and each case must be analyzed separately according to the condition of the work and subsequent use. Magazines, newspapers and comic books can also be restored. If the book is of great value and will be kept for many years, the treatment must be complete. In addition to the work going through a dry cleaning page by page, it is unsewn and taken to the “bath”. At this stage, the book is immersed in deionized water for a period that varies according to the condition of the pages, but takes around 10 minutes, a process repeated 8 to 10 times. The “bath” is intended to regularize the pH of the leaf, which tends to become more acidic over time. With an acidic pH, the pages become more yellow and brittle and the regulation serves to prolong the life of the book.
Growing paper recycling
Nowadays, paper recycling is extremely important, as well as its manufacture. Even with increasingly strict reforestation policies for paper manufacturers and greater awareness of society in general, raw material is increasingly scarce. Contrary to popular belief, paper consumption in the last two decades of the 20th century was a record even with the use of computers.
In the manufacture of a ton of paper from waste paper, water consumption is many times less and energy consumption is about half. 2.5 barrels of oil, 98,000 liters of water and 2,500 kw/h of electricity are saved with one ton of recycled paper. In Brazil, recycling has been growing and, in 2011, 45.5% of all paper that circulated in the country was sent for recycling.
Recycling begins with the domestic separation of used packaging. Paper fibers can be recycled up to five times. Paper collected for recycling is classified into several different categories and transformed into a pulp, which is subjected to a refining process to remove contaminating materials. In screening, particles larger than fibers are removed. Then comes the purification, which separates the heavy and light particles. Finally, the result of the process is subjected to a drying operation.
Recycled paper does not have the same appearance as manufactured paper, but it can be used in cardboard boxes, bags, egg cartons, toilet paper, notebooks and books, office supplies, envelopes, printing paper, among other uses.
The future of paper?
Due to humanity's incessant imagination, writing no longer needs paper to proliferate, after all, computers have fully embraced this function. As new technologies develop, what will the future of paper production look like?
It definitely won't end! The production of magazines or newspapers may decrease over time, but how is it possible to imagine a world without paper? Toilet paper, cardboard, coffee filters, bills, cigarette paper, napkins... these are just a few examples.
There is also the use of paper as art. From origami to paper sculptures, various types of material are widely used to produce art. Using special techniques like molding and papier mache, it is possible to make almost anything - vases, trays, jewelry, furniture and utilitarian products such as cardboard boxes and packaging. Indeed, paper is such a versatile medium that its use is only limited to the imagination.This article is offered by the Glórias collection, specialist in rare autograph documents . We evaluate, buy and sell letters, manuscripts, books with dedications or drawings of great historical personalities. Click here to learn more