Paper is a thin, flat material produced by the compression of fibers.
The fibers are usually derived from pulp made from pulpwood trees (such as spruce), but they may also be prepared from such sources as cotton, hemp, linen, and rice.
As a means of communicating and storing ideas, knowledge, art, and culture, paper is one of the most important and consequential artifacts of human civilization.
It has played an enormous role in the rise of literacy, the expansion of artistic expression, and the development of science and technology.
It is valuable for governmental, business, and legal transactions and record-keeping.
Documents printed on appropriate paper can be made to last hundreds of years.
The word “paper” is etymologically derived from papyrus, Ancient Greek for the Cyperus papyrus plant. Papyrus is a thick, paper-like material produced from the pith of the Cyperus papyrus plant which was used in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean societies.
The history of paper dates back almost 2,000 years to when inventors in China first crafted cloth sheets to record their drawings and writings.
Before then, people communicated through pictures and symbols etched on stone, bones, cave walls, or clay tablets.
The first papermaking process was documented during the Eastern Han period (25–220 AD) traditionally attributed to the court official Ts’ai Lun. In all likelihood, Ts’ai mixed mulberry bark, hemp and rags with water, mashed it into pulp, pressed out the liquid, and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun.
It has been said that knowledge of papermaking was passed to the Islamic world after the Battle of Talas in 751 AD when two Chinese papermakers were captured as prisoners. Although the veracity of this story is uncertain, paper started to be made in Samarkand soon after.
By early 11th century, Crusades disrupted main centers of paper production in the Holy Land, shifting that production to other areas and pushing it closer toward Europe.
Spain and Sicily were the first countries that started using paper produced by Muslim paper mills in 11th and 12th centuries, and slowly as decades went paper mills started springing up all across Europe.
England began making large supplies of paper in the late 15th century and supplied the colonies with paper for many years.
In the 19th century, industrialization greatly reduced the cost of manufacturing paper.
In 1844, the Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty and the German F. G. Keller independently developed processes for pulping wood fibres.
Although paper was originally made in single sheets by hand, almost all is now made on large machines—some making reels 10 metres wide, running at 2,000 metres per minute and up to 600,000 tonnes a year.
The thickness of paper is often measured by caliper, which is typically given in thousandths of an inch in the United States and in micrometres (µm) in the rest of the world.
Paper is often characterized by weight. In the United States, the weight is the weight of a ream (bundle of 500 sheets) of varying “basic sizes” before the paper is cut into the size it is sold to end customers.
Origami is the art of paper folding, which is often associated with Japanese culture. In modern usage, the word “origami” is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of their culture of origin. The goal is to transform a flat square sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques. Modern origami practitioners generally discourage the use of cuts, glue, or markings on the paper.
A paper plane is a toy aircraft, usually a glider made out of single folded sheet of paper or paperboard. A simple nose-heavy paper plane, thrown like a dart, is also known as a paper dart. The origin of folded paper gliders is generally considered to be of Ancient China, although there is equal evidence that the refinement and development of folded gliders took place in equal measure in Japan.
Paper clothing, in the form of women’s dresses and other clothes made from paper, was a short-lived fashion novelty item in the United States in the 1960s.
The largest building constructed entirely of paper had a base measuring 15.2 m x 17.9 m (49.8 ft x 58.7 ft), and was 6.4 m tall. The construction, which was unveiled at the APEC Investment Mart Thailand in Bangkok in October 2003, took the form of a traditional Thai house and was commissioned by the Thai Printing Association, the Thai Packaging Association, the Thai Printing Club and the Thai Corrugated Box and Paper Board Manufacturers Association.
The largest paper ball weighs 193.23 kg (426 lbs), and was achieved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (USA), as measured on 5 August 2014.