When we think about the modern conveniences of our everyday lives, we tend to think of recent inventions, such as indoor plumbing and reliable cars. However, paper is also one such recent invention. Keep reading to learn five amazing facts about the history paper, so you can better appreciate the paper products in your daily life.
Ancient Egyptians Used Papyrus Leaves as Paper
As we mentioned above, paper is a relatively recent invention. That means something had to predate paper as a way to record information. Ancient Egyptians often made small, cheap tiles and used them like paper, but doing so took a lot of time. Someone had to write on the tile while it was wet, then they had to wait for it to dry. Around 3,000 BC, they decided using papyrus leaves for quick communication was easier, making papyrus a paper prototype.
The Oldest Surviving Papyrus Document is 4,000 Years Old
Ancient Egyptians started using papyrus leaves like sheets of paper around roughly 3,000 BC. No papyrus documents still exist from those first few years, but we do still have a papyrus document from soon after in 2570 BC. The document is called the Diary of Merer and contains journal entries from a government official working on the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
China Invented Paper 2,000 Years Ago
While the oldest papyrus document is roughly 4,000 years old, paper as we know it wasn’t invented until about 2,000 years ago in China. Cai Lun, a court official for the Eastern Han dynasty, invented modern paper by mixing tree bark and hemp in 105 AD. Like the ancient Egyptians, Chinese people were previously using plant matter, such as bamboo slips. However, the newly-invented paper was easier and better to use.
Italians Invented Watermarks in the 1200s
As trade routes opened between continents, paper and the papermaking process spread. Europeans loved paper and used it in various ways. However, those various uses meant that some people wanted to note who made the paper or who was sending the paper product. This led to the invention of watermarks. The first known watermarks appeared in Italy in the 1200s.
Chinese Aristocracy Used Paper Business Cards
The invention of paper led to the creation of various paper products, including an early form of business cards in China. While the history and evolution of business cards is almost as long as the history of paper itself, business cards as we recognize them came from China in the 1400s. The Chinese aristocracy printed their personal information on cards, which servants carried ahead of the person during a visit. The servant would arrive with the card before the card owner, effectively announcing the owner.
The history of paper stretches from 3,000 BC to just a few hundred years ago and covers multiple continents. These five amazing facts about paper trace the timeline and physical journey of paper, so you can better appreciate the modern paper products in your life.