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Papermaking is the process of making paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

, a substance which is used universally today for writing and packaging.

In papermaking a dilute suspension of fibres in water is drained through a screen, so that a mat of randomly interwoven fibres is laid down. Water is removed from this mat of fibres by pressing and drying to make paper. Most paper is made from wood pulp
Wood pulp
Pulp is a lignocellulosic fibrous material prepared by chemically or mechanically separating cellulose fibres from wood, fibre crops or waste paper. Wood pulp is the most common raw material in papermaking.-History:...

, but other fibre sources such as cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 and textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s may be used.


Papermaking is known to have been traced back to China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 about 105 CE, when Cai Lun
Cai Lun
Cai Lun , courtesy name Jingzhong , was a Chinese eunuch. He is traditionally regarded as the inventor of paper and the papermaking process, in forms recognizable in modern times as paper...

, an official attached to the Imperial court during the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 (202 BCE-220 CE), created a sheet of paper using mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

 and other bast fibre
Bast fibre
Bast fibre or skin fibre is plant fibre collected from the phloem or bast surrounding the stem of certain, mainly dicotyledonous, plants. They support the conductive cells of the phloem and provide strength to the stem...

s along with fishnets, old rags, and hemp
Hemp is mostly used as a name for low tetrahydrocannabinol strains of the plant Cannabis sativa, of fiber and/or oilseed varieties. In modern times, hemp has been used for industrial purposes including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel with modest...

 waste. However a recent archaeological discovery has been reported from Gansu
' is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China.It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east...

 province of paper with legible Chinese writings on it dating from 8 BCE, while paper had been used in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 for wrapping and padding since the 2nd century BCE. Paper used as a writing medium became widespread by the 3rd century, and by the 6th century toilet paper
Toilet paper
Toilet paper is a soft paper product used to maintain personal hygiene after human defecation or urination. However, it can also be used for other purposes such as blowing one's nose when one has a cold or absorbing common spills around the house, although paper towels are more used for the latter...

 was starting to be used in China as well. During the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 (618-907 CE) paper was folded and sewn into square bags
Tea bag
A tea bag is a small, porous sealed bag containing tea leaves and used for brewing tea. Tea bags are commonly made of paper, silk or plastic. The bag contains the tea leaves while the tea is brewed, making it easier to dispose of the leaves, and performs the same function as a tea infuser...

 to preserve the flavor of tea, while the later Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 (960-1279 CE) was the first government on Earth to issue paper-printed money.

In the 8th century, paper spread to the Islamic world
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

, where the rudimentary and laborious process of papermaking was refined and machinery was designed for bulk manufacturing of paper. Production began in Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 under the supervision of the Grand Vizier
Grand Vizier
Grand Vizier, in Turkish Vezir-i Azam or Sadr-ı Azam , deriving from the Arabic word vizier , was the greatest minister of the Sultan, with absolute power of attorney and, in principle, dismissable only by the Sultan himself...

 Ja'far ibn Yahya
Ja'far ibn Yahya
Ja'far bin Yahya Barmaki, Jafar al-Barmaki was the son of a Persian Vizier of the Arab Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, from whom he inherited that position. He was a member of the influential Barmakids family...

, they invented a method to make a thicker sheet of paper. This helped transform papermaking from an art into a major industry. The earliest use of water-powered mills
A watermill is a structure that uses a water wheel or turbine to drive a mechanical process such as flour, lumber or textile production, or metal shaping .- History :...

 in paper production, specifically the use of pulp mill
Pulp mill
A pulp mill is a manufacturing facility that converts wood chips or other plant fibre source into a thick fibre board which can be shipped to a paper mill for further processing. Pulp can be manufactured using mechanical, semi-chemical or fully chemical methods...

s for preparing the pulp for papermaking, dates back to Samarkand
Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest . In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks.At the start of the 8th century Samarkand came...

 in the 8th century. The earliest references to paper mill
Paper mill
A paper mill is a factory devoted to making paper from vegetable fibres such as wood pulp, old rags and other ingredients using a Fourdrinier machine or other type of paper machine.- History :...

s also come from the medieval Islamic world, where they were first noted in the 9th century by Arabic geographers in Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. Papermaking was diffused across the Islamic world, from where it was diffused further west into Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...


Paper is recorded as being manufactured in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 by 1220 and Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 by 1400, just about the time when the woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable...

 technique was transferred from fabric to paper in the old master print
Old master print
An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition . A date of about 1830 is usually taken as marking the end of the period whose prints are covered by this term. The main techniques concerned are woodcut, engraving and etching, although there are...

 and popular prints. Modern papermaking began in the early 19th century in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 with the development of the Fourdrinier machine
Fourdrinier machine
This article contains a glossary section at the end.Most modern papermaking machines are based on the principles of the Fourdrinier Machine. It has been used in some variation since its inception...

, which produces a continuous roll of paper rather than individual sheets. These machines have become very large, up to 500 feet (~150 m) in length, producing a sheet 400 inches (~10 m) wide, and operating at speeds of over 60 mph (100 km/h). In 1844, both Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty
Charles Fenerty
Charles Fenerty , is a Canadian inventor who invented the wood pulp process for papermaking, which was first adapted into the production of newsprint. Fenerty was also a poet...

 and German inventor F.G. Keller had invented the machine and process for pulping wood for the use in papermaking. This would end the nearly 2000-year use of pulped rags and start a new era for the production of newsprint
Newsprint is a low-cost, non-archival paper most commonly used to print newspapers, and other publications and advertising material. It usually has an off-white cast and distinctive feel. It is designed for use in printing presses that employ a long web of paper rather than individual sheets of...

 and eventually almost all paper was made out of pulped wood.

Manual papermaking

Papermaking, regardless of the scale on which it is done, involves making a dilute suspension of fibres in water and allowing this suspension to drain through a screen so that a mat of randomly interwoven fibres is laid down. Water is removed from this mat of fibres by pressing and drying to make paper.
First the fibres are suspended in water to form a slurry in a large vat. The mold is a wire screen in a wooden frame (somewhat similar to an old window screen), which is used to scoop some of the slurry out of the vat. The slurry in the screen mold is sloshed around the mold until it forms a uniform thin coating. The fibres are allowed to settle and the water to drain. When the fibres have stabilized in place but are still damp, they are turned out onto a felt sheet which was generally made of an animal product such as wool or rabbit fur, and the screen mold immediately reused. Layers of paper and felt build up in a pile (called a 'post') then a weight is placed on top to press out excess water and keep the paper fibres flat and tight. The sheets are then removed from the post and hung or laid out to dry. A step-by-step procedure for making paper with readily available materials can be found online.

When the paper pages are dry, they are frequently run between rollers (calender
The calender is a series of hard pressure rollers used to form or smooth a sheet of material. In a principal application, the calender is located at the end of a papermaking process . Those that are used separate from the process are also called supercalenders...

ed) to produce a harder writing surface. Papers may be sized
Sizing or size is any one of numerous specific substances that is applied to or incorporated in other material, especially papers and textiles, to act as a protecting filler or glaze....

 with gelatin
Gelatin is a translucent, colorless, brittle , flavorless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals' skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetic manufacturing. Substances containing gelatin or functioning in a similar...

 or similar to bind the fibres into the sheet. Papers can be made with different surfaces depending on their intended purpose. Paper intended for printing or writing with ink is fairly hard, while paper to be used for water color, for instance, is heavily sized, and can be fairly soft.

The wooden frame is called a "deckle
In manual papermaking, a deckle is a removable wooden frame or "fence" placed into a mould to keep the paper slurry within bounds and to control the size of the sheet produced. After the mold is dipped into a vat of paper slurry, excess water is drained off and the deckle is removed and the mold...

". The deckle leaves the edges of the paper slightly irregular and wavy, called "deckle edges", one of the indications that the paper was made by hand. Deckle-edged paper is occasionally mechanically imitated today to create the impression of old-fashioned luxury. The impressions in paper caused by the wires in the screen that run sideways are called "laid lines" and the impressions made, usually from top to bottom, by the wires holding the sideways wires together are called "chain lines". Watermark
A watermark is a recognizable image or pattern in paper that appears as various shades of lightness/darkness when viewed by transmitted light , caused by thickness or density variations in the paper...

s are created by weaving a design into the wires in the mold. This is essentially true of Oriental molds made of other substances, such as bamboo. Hand-made paper generally folds and tears more evenly along the laid lines.

Hand-made paper is also prepared in laboratories to study papermaking and to check in paper mills the quality of the production process. The "handsheets" made according to TAPPI
TAPPI is a registered not-for-profit, international Non-Governmental Organization of about 14,000 member engineers, scientists, managers, academics and others involved in the areas of pulp, and paper...

 Standard T 205 are circular sheets 15.9 cm (6.25 in) in diameter and are tested on paper characteristics as paper brightness, strength, degree of sizing.

Industrial papermaking

A modern paper mill is divided into several sections, roughly corresponding to the processes involved in making hand-made paper. Pulp is refined and mixed in water with other additives to make a pulp slurry, the headbox of the papermachine (Fourdrinier machine) distributes the slurry onto a moving continuous screen, water drains from the slurry (by gravity or under vacuum), the wet paper sheet goes through presses and dries and is finally rolled into large rolls, often weighing several tons.

Another type of papermachine makes use of a cylinder mold that rotates while partially immersed in a vat of dilute pulp. The pulp is picked up by the wire and covers the mold as it rises out of the vat. A couch roller is pressed against the mold to smooth out the pulp, and picks the wet sheet off of the mold.


In the beginning of Western papermaking, paper size was fairly standard. A page of paper is referred to as a leaf. When a leaf was printed on without being folded, the size was referred to as folio (meaning leaf). It was roughly equal to the size of a small newspaper sheet. ("Folio" can also refer to other sizes - see paper sizes.)


A Folio folded once produces two leaves (or four pages), and the size of these leaves was referred to as quarto (4to) (about 230 x 280 mm).


If the original sheet was folded in half again, the result was eight pages, referred to as octavo (8vo), which is roughly the size of an average modern novel. An octavo folding produces four leaves; the first two and the second two will be joined at the top by the first fold. The top edge is usually trimmed to make it possible to look freely at each side of the leaf. Sometimes books are found that have not been trimmed on the top, and these pages are referred to as unopened.

An octavo book produces a printing puzzle. The paper is first printed before folding and thus pages 8 and 1 are printed right-side-up on the bottom of the sheet, and pages 4 and 5 are printed upside-down on the top of the same side of the paper. On the opposite side, pages 2 and 7 are printed right-side-up on the bottom of the sheet, and pages 6 and 3 are printed upside-down on the top of the sheet. When the paper is folded twice and the folds trimmed, the pages fall into proper order.


Smaller books are produced by folding the leaves again to produce 16 pages, known as a sixteen-mo (16mo) (originally sextodecimo). Other folding arrangements produce yet smaller books such as the thirty-two-mo (32mo) (duo et tricensimo).

Octavo bookbinding

When a standard-sized octavo book is produced by twice folding a large leaf, two leaves joined at the top will be contained in the resulting fold (which ends up in the gulley between the pages). This group of eight numberable pages is called a signature or a gathering.
Traditionally, printed signatures were stacked on top of each other in a sewing frame and each signature was sewn through the inner fold to the signature on top of it. The sewing ran around leather bands or fabric tapes along the backs of the signatures to stabilize the pile of signatures. The leather bands originally used in the West to stabilize the backs of sewn books appear as a number of ridges under the leather on the spine of leather books.
The ends of the leather strips or fabric bands were sewn or glued onto the cover boards and reinforced the hinging of the book in its covers.

Standardisation ISO sizes

While opinions and speculation abound on exact reasons for standardized paper sizes, the most revealing feature of popular sizes (such as Letter and ISO 216 sizes) is that they conform not to some arbitrary device dimension, but that the length of the paper is chosen to be the width of the page times the square root of two (≈1.414). This feature allowed for a large page to be cut in half and the resulting two pages to have the same aspect ratio as the original piece (just with half the size). Repeated cuts can be made to reduce the entire sheet to one size of pages without wasted paper. This format was formalized by ISO 216
ISO 216
ISO 216 specifies international standard paper sizes used in most countries in the world today. It defines the "A" and "B" series of paper sizes, including A4, the most commonly available size...

 however such logic dictated efficient paper sizes long before the ISO was created. For example, traditional 8.5"x11" Letter paper is within a few millimeters of A4 paper (ISO 216) dimensions. While paper sizes "may" have been chosen based on the size of original frames, the frames themselves were chosen to make page reduction efficient without distorting the aspect ratio of the pages regardless of final size chosen. That said, there are paper size
Paper size
Many paper size standards conventions have existed at different times and in different countries. Today there is one widespread international ISO standard and a localised standard used in North America . The paper sizes affect writing paper, stationery, cards, and some printed documents...

s that do not conform to this idea when specific applications are needed.

Vatmen paper

Vatmen Paper was a type of paper made in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 that was 17 inches (43.2 cm) wide and 44 inches (111.8 cm) long. 44 inches was (reputedly) chosen because that is how far the papermaker could stretch his arm.
A single vatman can generally handle a mold and deckle which produce up to a 25 inches (63.5 cm) wide sheet.

See also

  • Bleaching of wood pulp
    Bleaching of wood pulp
    Bleaching of wood pulp is the chemical processing carried out on various types of wood pulp to decrease the color of the pulp, so that it becomes whiter. The main use of wood pulp is to make paper where whiteness is an important characteristic...

  • Sizing
    Sizing or size is any one of numerous specific substances that is applied to or incorporated in other material, especially papers and textiles, to act as a protecting filler or glaze....

  • Stickies (papermaking)
    Stickies (papermaking)
    Stickies are tacky substances contained in the paper pulp and process water systems of paper machines. Stickies have a large tendency to make deposits on the processing equipment in certain stages of the papermaking process. Contaminations of paper that that are classified as tacky are also called...

  • Tree-free paper
    Tree-free paper
    Tree-free paper or tree-free newsprint describes an alternative to wood-pulp paper by its raw material composition. It is claimed to be more eco-friendly considering the product's entire life cycle.Sources of fibre for tree-free paper include:...

  • Environmental issues with paper
    Environmental issues with paper
    The environmental impact of paper is significant, which has led to changes in industry and behavior at both business and personal levels. With the use of modern technology such as the printing press and the highly mechanised harvesting of wood, paper has become a cheap commodity. This has led to a...

Further reading

  • Herbert Holik "Handbook of paper and board", Wiley-VCH, 2006, ISBN 3527309977, 9783527309979
  • Cookson, Lynda "How To Make Handmade Paper" ebook ISBN 0-9550272 0 9
  • Cropper, Mark (2004). The Leaves We Write On. London: Ellergreen Press
  • Westerlund, Leslie C "Science and Practice of Handmade Paper" ISBN 1876141-131: 2004; WES
  • Westerlund Leslie C. "How to Make a Papermaking Hydropulper" ISBN 1876141-441: 2007; WES
  • Westerlund Leslie C. "How to Make a Papermaking Press" ISBN 1876141-44X: 2007; WES
  • Westerlund Leslie C. "Dictionary of Papermaking" ISBN 1876141-247: 2005; WES
  • Westerlund Leslie. C."How to Make a Papermaking Mould and Deckle" ISBN 1876141-468; 2007; WES
  • Westerlund Leslie. C. "How to Make a Papermaking Couching L'Transfer Curve" ISBN 1876141-492;2007;WES
  • Westerlund Leslie. C. " How to Make Smooth Papermaking Technology" ISBN 1876141-557;Westerlund Eco Services; Rockingham; W.Australia. 2008.
  • Westerlund L.C., Ho G., Anda M., Wood D., Koshy K.C., (2008) Case Study of Technology Transfer to a Fiji Rural Village using an Improved ‘Sustainable Turnkey Approach’. Technologies and Strategic Management of Sustainable Biosystems; First International Conference. Murdoch University. W.Australia.6–9 July 2008.