(Reprinted from the Oct. 12, 2001 Suburban News)

Even in this age of computers, we can’t get along without paper. It’s used in our day-to-day life.

Paper gets its name from papyrus, a plant that grows in the swamps of the Upper Nile. The ancient Egyptians would split its long stems and take out the pith.

The pith was laid close together with the second layer at right angles then beat and pressed so the adhesive juice it contained would hold it together. These parchments like sheets were pasted together into rolls. One of these rolls still in existence dates back to 310 BC.

In 105 AD the Chinese discovered that the fibers of the mulberry bark could be matted into a thin sheet. Because the mulberry was raised as a crop for the benefit of silk worms; it was abundant.

Soon after the Chinese developed a way to make paper from cotton and linen rags. Linen is made from the stems of the flax plant.

Paper making spread along the trade route to North Africa. The Moors carried paper making to Europe through Spain. Even today some of our finest writing papers are made from rag pulp.

A big change in paper making came in 1840 when a German discovered how to grind wood into a pulp which could be pressed into paper cheaply. Not long after that the paper industry found that sulfuric acid would speed up the process of separating the fibers of wood.

The world, being lucky by having wood as a renewable resource; paper making will go on and on. Paper has made possible millions of great books of which I have been a collector for over seventy years. Those books are filled with the knowledge of great minds of the ages.

The daily papers, magazines, wrapping paper, greeting cards, etc. all rely on paper.

I think I will even miss the smell of the pulp making that normally reached me on stormy morning in the winter on a southern wind.


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