Paper seems so banal in this day and age of computers and the internet. Paper is so little, so easily destroyed, and so easily replaced. Or do we simply take it for granted? Have we become accustomed to discarding heaps of paper items into the recycling bin and losing sight of their genuine value or potential? There’s more to paper than the usual white 8 1/2 x 11 inch copier grade sheet in every workplace across the world. It’s more than just a few thin grey pages of paper with the most up-to-date financial and meteorological information. Paper is the outcome of an old recycling process that has evolved into a versatile and artistic medium. Let’s have a look at what we’ve got.
Papermaking, along with the compass, gunpowder, and printing, is one of Ancient China’s Four Great Inventions, first appearing in the 2nd century BCE. It wasn’t utilised for writing until the next century, when it was instead employed to wrap silk for export. Paper didn’t start being used in hygiene until the 6th century BCE. China was the first nation to produce paper printed currency in the 9th century CE. During the 13th century CE, paper was ultimately introduced to the Middle East and Europe, resulting in the development of water-powered paper mills.
Officials from the Han Dynasty’s Imperial court began manufacturing paper with a mixture of mulberry fibres, fishnets, old rags, and hemp waste. Paper was an art form at the time, and the production process was extremely labour demanding. Other industries had already developed technologies that could be easily adapted to papermaking by the time paper arrived in the Islamic world of the time. Soon after, widespread manufacture of finer paper turned the art form into a commodity. However, it would take another thousand years to find a process for pulping wood fibres to manufacture paper. In 1844, two innovators (one Canadian and one German) working separately discovered a similar procedure for pulping wood to manufacture paper.
For the industrial manufacturing of paper today, there are multiple sophisticated procedures, none of which are especially interesting. The seven types of paper and how they are measured are rather intriguing. Paper, for example, is classed according to the weight of each 500-sheet ream (in North America). Despite the fact that a conventional ream of 20 pound, 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper weights five pounds, it is nevertheless referred to as 20 pound. The most common weights of printing paper are 20, 24, and 32 pounds. Card stock has a weight of 110 pounds or more, whereas cover stock has a weight of 68 pounds. The following are the seven types of paper: printing, wrapping, writing, blotting, drawing, handcrafted, and speciality.
Printing paper is what we use in printers, copiers, and fax machines. Wrapping materials include wax paper for baking and kraft paper for crafting and shipping, in addition to those used for birthday and Christmas gifts. Writing paper is the most diversified, since it encompasses all types of stationary, as well as ledger books, banking papers, bond paper, and fine carbon copying paper. Blotting sheets are very thin and are frequently offered without a size designation. The most fascinating are drawing papers, which are made with texture and depth for usage by artists and designers. Because each medium of usage necessitates its own composition, grain comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
Handmade papers are largely ornamental, and their absence of grain makes them clearly identifiable. Handmade paper incorporates organic fibres such as leaves, crushed flowers, and silk threads. Specialty papers are those whose design necessitates a specific function. Cigarettes and rolling papers, for example, are engineered to burn at a specific rate and in a specific direction. Toilet paper, as well as industrial papers like sand paper, litmus paper, and electrical insulation paper, fall under the specialist category.
Increased environmentalist sentiments inside business have shone a critical light on the papermaking sector. There has been demand to employ recycled resources in the production of paper, which is paradoxical given the origins of paper. There is currently a strong drive to find new raw materials to use in the production of paper. Paperfoam is the most recent formulation to emerge from the environmental movement. It’s designed to take the place of paper as a packaging material, and it’s created in a similar way. It’s also biodegradable and recyclable, just like ordinary wood-based paper. Corn protein is being investigated as a viable covering for food-related packaging material. Even synthetic materials like Tyvek have been tried as a replacement for mass printing applications like newspapers and books. It is far more durable than wood-based paper, as evidenced by its usage in building construction as a vapour barrier.
Consider the 2000 years of substance and ingenuity that went into the creation of a piece of paper the next time you crumple it up and dump it in the recycle bin. Paper isn’t uninteresting; it’s the primary medium through which we’ve chronicled the world’s history. It’s where we let our creativity, intellect, and soul run wild.