The History of Paper

The paper invention was an event that happened a long time ago and its manufacturing processes are being worked over the centuries.


Several people, in different regions of the world and with different methods and raw materials, created the “precursors” of paper. Papyrus is the most well known.
At the Himalayas and the Southeast Asian countries, through the cooking of ”libre” fibers (inner shell) of certain trees and bushes. These fibres were extended with wood hammers until they formed a thin coat. Then water was mixed to form a pulp and finally the pulp was uniformly spread on a cloth by hand and left to dry. After it dried, it was turned into a sheet that parted from the fabric and didn’t need any other treatments until it was used.


There are records in China that paper was also made from textile waste (rags) during the first years of the Christian Age. These paper making techniques that have been improved from the Chinese, quickly moved to Korea and then were introduced in Japan by the year 610 A.C.


The knowledge of how to make paper quickly spread in to Central Asia, Tibet and then, India. The Arabians, in their expansion through the East, had contact with this new material and installed paper factories in Bagdad, Damascus, Cairo and later, in Morocco, Spain and Sicily, using almost exclusively rags.


After the first productions in Italy and Germany, the paper making technology was spreading and its techniques were being improved. The technological evolution continued in Europe, where the paper making was developed during and after the 16th Century, by influence of the Reform and the print of mobile characters, led to a serious shortage of the raw material and the regulation of the rag.


The introduction of the first truly efficient paper machines in 1825 worsened this situation. The systematic demand of substitutes for the rag during and after the17th century was not very successful. Straw was one option but was not successful due to the low quality of the produced paper. Only the invention of wood mechanic pulp by the German Keller and the chemical pulp (first patents in 1854: Melliar Watt) solved this problem.


It can be said that, after 1840, the first steps were taken for the definitive exchange of the rags and for a more efficient and improved method of producing paper. After 1860, with the introduction of electricity in the industry it was possible to improve the machines and produce mechanical and chemical pulps from cellulose, and different kinds of paper and cardboard.


In 1950 there were deep changes in the products diversification and in the organization of companies as well as in the international trade of paper and cardboard environmental responsibility as well as an improvement of their performance.


In Portugal, the paper production began in the end of the 14th century, although the first factories only appeared in the beginning of the 18th century. It was the first country to produce chemical pulps of eucalypt: sulfite 1923; sulfate: 1957.