Although the word 'paper' is derived from the word 'papyrus', paper and papyrus have nothing whatever to do with one another. Papyrus, which existed in Egypt as early as the third millennium Bc, is made from the inner bark of the papyrus plant (Cyperus papyrus). Apart from the fact that it gives a sheet on which one can write, it is completely and totally different from paper. The Chinese invented paper, by the second century Bc at the latest.
Paper in the modern world is mostly made of woodpulp. But, just to confuse the issue even more, paper in ancient times was never made of woodpulp. So, what then is paper? Paper is the sheet of sediment which results from the settling of a layer of disintegrated fibers from a watery solution on to a flat mold, the water being drained away, and the deposited layer removed and dried. The fibers can be of any material whatever, though plant fibers are by far the most commonly used ones, and as remarked above, fibers from trees are the mainstay of the paper industries today.
|On the right, the mesh screen mold is being lifted from the vat with its watery solution of disintegrated fibres. Although most paper in the modern world is made from wood pulp, the Chinese never used it, preferring the stronger fibres of linen and a variety of other plant materials, most of which would be too expensive for mass manufacture today.|
|On the left: The layer of sediment accumulated on the mold from the vat has dried and is being delicately peeled off - a sheet of paper.|