Many types materials can be printed. Plastic, glass and fabric are just some. However, by far the most important printed material is paper. Paper is needed for letterheads, envelopes, invoices, checks, travel brochures, calendars, advertising pieces and catalogs. And, of course, paper is an essential ingredient in newspapers, books, and magazines.
Ts'ia Lun, a Chinese court official, is credited with the invention of paper. He did this nearly 1900 years ago in the year 105 A.D.
Prior to the invention of paper, writing was done a variety of materials. For example, animal skins called parchment and vellum were used by ancient Greeks. Papyrus, a writting surface made by pounding a woven mat of papyrus reed into a thin, hard sheet, was used by ancient Egyptians. In fact, the word paper is derived from the word papyrus.
Papermaking techniques were introduced to the western world in the tenth century A.D. These techniques were brought to Spain by the conquering Moors of Noth Africa who discovered the art while trading with the East.
Basically paper was prepared by dipping a screen into a vat containing water and rag fibers. Openings in the screen were large enough to allow the water to drain but small enough to keep the fibers from passing through. The screen was withdrawn, and the matted fibers that remained dried and formed paper. Making paper by hand was a slow and tedious process.
With the invention of movable type in the fifteenth century, the need for paper increased dramatically. However, the urgent demand for inexpensive paper could not be met until the middle of the nineteenth century, when papermaking machines were put into general use. Today, the average amount of paper used each year by every person in the world is still increasing.