The History of Paper

The History of Paper
Aug 29

How Much Do You Really Know About Notebook Paper?

The History of Paper

Notebook paper is a staple in global communications. Despite the proliferation of technology and digital messaging platforms, our society, we predict, will always have a need for traditional pen and paper. You can no doubt imagine living in a word without the modern convenience of paper, but have you ever wondered what ancient civilization we have to thank for this valuable invention? Have you ever considered who first decided to bind sheets of paper together, add lines, and call it a notebook? For paper lovers everywhere, we have compiled a list of fascinating facts about the history of paper.


Did you know…

  • The word "paper" comes from the Ancient Greek word “papyros,” which described the Cyperus papyrus plant that was first used by the ancient Egyptians for writing.
  • While historical evidence of man-made paper dates back to the times of the Ancient Egyptians and to earlier Chinese dynasties, it is believed that a perfected process of papermaking was established by Cain Lun during China’s Han Dynasty, which occurred from 202 B.C.-A.D. 220. Lun was inspired by the behaviors of wasps and bees.
  • China’s Song dynasty is believed to have produced the world’s first paper currency during their 960–1279 A.D. reign.
  • Using paper for writing became widespread by the 3rd century A.D.
  • Archaeological evidence suggests that the Mayans of North American had created a bark-paper material by the fifth century A.D.
  • The process of papermaking spread to the Middle East after the defeat of the Chinese in the Battle of Talas in 751.
  • The oldest known European paper document is the Mozarab Missal of Silos which is believed to have been created during the 11th century.
  • France had created an established paper mill by 1190, as did Fabriano, Italy by 1276. Check out our blog on the history of Fabriano notebooks for more on the history of Fabriano.
  • European papermaking was adopted in the United States in the city of Philadelphia in 1690.
  • In 1799 France’s Nicholas Louis Robert was granted a patent for a revolutionary continuous paper making machine.
  • In the 1830s and 1840s Friedrich Gottlob Keller and Charles Fenerty both began to experiment with a process that would create paper from the pulp of wood, rather than from the pulp of rags, as it was being done at the time.
  • By 1844 Gottlob Keller and Fenerty had invented a machine that would extract wood fibers to be used for making paper.
  • Fenerty also bleached the pulp to create white paper, establishing a new standard in paper creation.
  • Many believe that American Thomas Holley of Massachusetts invented the first legal pad around 1888. Holley had the idea to stich single sheets of paper together and sell them for profit.
  • In the 19th century, the development of steam-driven paper making machines improved the papermaking process and made the process more affordable.
  • By around the year 1900 the modern day legal pad was created when a judge requested that a single horizontal line by drawn on the left side of notebook pages. Thus, the first known margin was created.
  • While there are a variety of modern day notebook production companies across the globe, three manufacturers stand out to us as the best in class: Fabriano, Leuchtturm, and Rhodia. Click the links to read more about what sets each apart.

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