Papermaking The Story of
Paper-Making
an account of paper-making from its earliest
known record down to the present time by
J.W. Butler Paper Company 1901
Articles Early Used for Purposes Now Supplied by Paper Part 4
In the early efforts of men to find a means of preserving in lasting
and convenient form the records of their lives and achievements,
some queer materials were pressed into service. Plates of metal
were used, even the precious gold and silver being employed for
the. purpose. Skins of animals, tanned to a sort of leather, found
favor among many peoples, while their bones, and even their
intestines, were by no means disdained. The Jorks works of
Homer, preserved in one of the great 'TIer Egyptian libraries in
the days of the Ptolemies, were written in letters of gold on the
skins of serpents. Ivory was used, also wood and the bark of
trees. In the early days of Rome, the reports of notable events
were engraved on wooden tablets, which were then exposed to
view in public places, and citizens of all classes, mingling freely,
according to custom, in the great Forum that was the center of
the city's life, were easily and quickly informed of the important
happenings of the day. The greatest defect in this method was
remedied when, later on, wax was used to form a surface upon
the wood, thus admitting of corrections and erasures, and
making it possible to use the same table indefinitely, simply by
scraping off the coating after it had served its purpose, and supplying other coatings as they were needed. But the
first real advance toward modern writing materials came in the use of the leaves of olive, palm, poplar, OJ and other
trees, which were prepared by being cut in strips, soaked in boiling water, and then rubbed over wood to make them
soft and pliable.   
It will be readily understood, however, that these crude materials and primitive methods could not long keep pace
with the steady march of progress. The peoples of the earth were increasing rapidly; they were advancing in the arts
and sciences, and in the experiences that inspire thought, poetry, and philosophy; they had a heritage of knowledge
to which they were constantly adding, while business transactions, together with other deeds worthy of record, had
greatly multiplied. It was but natural that the materials which had once been entirely adequate should now be
discarded as cumbersome and unfitted to the new conditions. The sands in the hour-glass were beginning to run
golden; time was taking on a value unknown before. A deed of land written in clay and put away to bake might
answer the purpose when real estate transfers were infrequent and attended with much ceremony. A clay tablet
might serve in a marriage proposal by a king who had the power to meet and vanquish all rivals, but terra-cotta was
not suited either for the record of numerous and rapid business transactions or for the writing of books. The
biography of one man, or a single treatise in philosophy, would have required a whole building, while a library of
modern dimensions, as to the number of books, would probably have left little room in a city for the dwellings of its
inhabitants.
What was to take the place of the old and cumbersome materials? Even at a very early date men were asking this
question, and it was the good fortune of Egypt to be able to give answer. Along 1 the marshy banks of the Nile grew
a graceful water-plant, now almost extinct, which was peculiarly fitted to meet the new demands, as we shall see in
the succeeding chapter. The discovery of its value led to an extensive industry, through which the land of the'
Pharaohs was enabled to take high rank in letters and learning, and to maintain a position of wealth, dignity, power,
and influence that otherwise would have been impossible, even in those remote days when printing was still many
centuries beyond the thoughts or dreams of men.
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