ISBN: 978-960-7872-69-2
pages: 224
size: 17 x 24 cm.
103 original b/w photographs, prints and diagrams, 2 maps
price: €22.00   € 19.80 (incl. VAT)
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History of Paper
A historical and cultural passage of two millenniums


... Paper is a Chinese invention that dates back about two thousand years. Papermaking slowly spread westward and reached Europe during the late Middle Ages, two centuries prior to the invention of printing. Five key dates mark the principle milestones in the history of pre-industrial paper:
105 A.D.: Official, though not exact, date that Cai Lun invented paper in China.
751: Battle between the Chinese and Arabs on the banks of the river Talas marking the beginning of papermaking in the Islamic world.
1276: Papermaking begins in the Christian world (Fabriano, Italy).
1455: Printing invented in Germany followed by a boom in paper production and use in Europe.
1799: First, incomplete model of the paper machine devised by Louis Nicolas Robert heralds the beginning of the industrial period for paper (see Map 1, p. 200).

The significant role that paper has played for various cultures in its long course through history frequently remains unrecognized. Until recently, researchers in Europe underestimated the role of paper in history, treating it as a part of the broader history of printing. Thus, the important papermaking traditions in cultures without printing remained unstudied until recently. However, both in Asia and the West, the dissemination of printing follows the existence of paper whereas in the classical Arab world, the flourishing of a dynamic culture of the written word was based on paper alone, without the slightest support of even the most basic printing techniques. In yet another corner of the world, Central America, amatl (a type of proto-paper) considerably facilitated the production of numerous books by the Mayas, Aztecs and other civilizations taking the first steps in the development of writing.

Nowhere did printing alone support a culture of writing. The existence of paper has always been a precondition for printing. In this sense, in the course of its slow dissemination, paper led to the blossoming of letters and can thus be seen as a driving force of culture. The importance of paper as it appears through history and the myths inspired are to be dealt with in this introductory book dedicated to the history and art of paper and papermaking.

History of Paper - The exhibition of the authors' private collection at the 2010 Thessaloniki International Book Fair. Watch the video

Contents by chapter

Chapter One: A brief look at the unseen aspects of paper.
The chemical structure and different kinds of paper. Papermaking plants and hand-papermaking.

Chapter Two: Relatives of paper: Membranes out of bark.
A brief history of writing in Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean basin and China. The numerous writing surfaces used by different civilizations. Membrane from bark (cork) as the most similar medium to paper. Its use in the past and present. Amatl of Mesoamerican civilizations and its principle use as a surface for writing.  Codes of the Aztecs and Mayas and their fate after the Spanish conquest. Papyrus and its relation to paper.

Chapter Three: Han China and the dawn of papermaking.
The formation of the Empire and the socioeconomic factors leading to the establishment of paper. Cai Lun and his theory regarding the discovery of paper.

Chapter Four
: Paper spreads in East Asia.
Passage to neighbouring countries. The beginning of Japanese papermaking. The importance of the technique for East Asian civilization and the myths and stories that surround paper. Manual paper production techniques in East Asia.

Chapter Five: Paper travels to the West: Paper production in Islam.
The revolution of the Abbasids and battle between the Arabs and Chinese at the river Talas. The story of the hostage craftsmen and the real diagram of the dissemination of papermaking in Central Asia. Papermaking and manuscript books in the Arab and Persian worlds. The Indian particularity and Gandhi’s experiment. The paper of Hativa in Spain and passage to Christian Europe through the Iberian Peninsula.

Chapter Six: Fabriano: Early Italian developments in technique and quality.
The technological revolution of the late Middle Ages and new discoveries in mechanics which, among other things, facilitated papermaking. Italy on the forefront in the Thirteenth Century and innovations in papermaking. The invention of the watermark.

Chapter Seven: Paper and printing in Asia and the West.
Chinese scholars and the study of classical texts. Woodblock printing in China and Korean innovation in movable type. Paper and early European printing. Decks and playing cards of the Fourteenth Century. The discovery in Mainz and the printing of the Bible. New trends in book production during the Sixteenth Century. The significance of the inextricable pair paper and printing for the development of civilization and Europe takes the lead on all fronts.

Chapter Eight: Europe reaches its highpoint.
The large pre-industrial workshop as a precursor to modern day industry.  Workers, specialties and the social position of papermakers / paper producers. The scarcity of raw materials, research during the 18th Century and use of the first achievements of scientific chemistry. Presentation of the production process of pre-industrial European paper. Raw materials, page formation, drying and pressing, starching, marketing.

Chapter Nine: Paper machine: A revolutionary invention in turbulent times.
Robert’s invention in Paris and the construction of the paper machine in England. The limitations of manual papermaking conditions resulting from a speedy increase in demand. Robert designs the first paper machine in revolutionary Paris. The transfer and perfection of the device in England. The long coexistence of manual papermaking and industrial production of paper. Production machinery in Europe and the U.S. The introduction of wood pulp completes the transition of paper production to the industrial period.

Chapter Ten
: Identity and Emblem: The watermark past and present.
Theories regarding the initial function and the symbolism behind the watermark. Motifs and the factors motivating their choice. The watermark as an identifying factor for paper and advanced studies regarding watermarks in the West.

Epilogue: Paper’s 2000th year: The future.
Trends and prospects today. The paradox of the major increase in demand of paper and perspectives in the digital age.




Additional Sources



The book guides us through the compelling travel of paper throughout the centuries, and includes original photographs, illuminative sketches and maps regarding the popularisation of the paper-making industry.
AGGELIOFOROS, 16 April 2010

A lifetime's work for M.Vlessas and M.Malakou.
KATHIMERINI , 18 April 2010

[Both writers] love paper so much as to trace its history and uses to the edge of the world.
MAKEDONIA, 24 April 2010

The book comprises a fascinating/exciting journey in the world of paper and the civilisations it helped maintain for 2000 years.
TA NEA, 3 August 2010



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