Ancient Order of Writing & Paper Making
The ancient order of writing was from the right to the left, which over time developed a new method of writing their lines alternatively , right to left and then from left to right. This style was termed as boustrophedon, which means writing as the oxen would plough a field. In this way we continued until such time as the writing from left to right was found to be more natural and was adopted throughout the countries of Europe .
Originally writing was engraved upon pillars and stone. Later engravings were made upon softer metals, such as lead. As the new writing for communication grew , a new portable method had to be made. Leaves and bark were used in some countries, and in others, wood coated with a thin layer of wax was used and impressions were made using a pen of iron.
Time passed, and the hides of animals prepared and made into parchment became the most common material. The present method of writing upon paper, was not developed in the European countries until the fourteenth century, and was manufactured in water driven mills.
The raw materials used for the papermaking were pure water and rags. The paper used for books, the best white paper was manufactured by using white linen rags, other courser rags were used for the manufacturing of brown paper used for packaging and such like.
The rags and other materials were cut, sorted and washed ,then fermented after which they were poured into a trough ,mixed with water and pounded to a pulp. It is this pounding that breaks down the fibres and enables the vital hydrogen bonding to form between the fibres to give the paper most of its strength. The pulp was then poured into a vat, where, whilst being kept lukewarm, was agitated with a pole.
To create the sheets of paper to the required size, a wire-meshed mould would be inserted into the pulp, upon removal the mesh would be given a series of shakes so as to draw of the excess water and to also interlock the fibres. The sheets were then carefully removed from the mould and stacked in a quire of 144, each sheet separated from another by a layer of woollen felt. The stack would then be placed in a press where the water was then squeezed right out of it. Each sheet was then separated and hung on lines to dry.
Manufacturing paper in this way, although relatively simple, must have been rather unpleasant for the women and children employed to do the sorting , washing and fermenting of the rags and other used materials. The men would have worked at the vats with all the heat and smell , along with the repetitive motions required to stir the stuff.
In the early 1600's many of these mills were closed down, as it was thought that the dirty rags were contributing to the spread of the plague.
The process of papermaking remains today , much the same as it was in the early days. However, paper in todays world is wholly machine made, although there are a few mills that are still “hand-making” paper as a luxury item. Also where high grade paper is required , the rags are still cut by hand, though most mills use rag cutting machinery.
Paper making has been an art of great importance to society as a whole. It has facilitated the spread of knowledge and education throughout the world.
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