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Comparison Between Egyptian and Chinese Papyrus and Paper

CriteriaEgyptian Papyrus Ancient Chinese paper
Images Egyptian Papyrus Chinese paper
History - The word "paper" derives from the word "papyrus"
- This first paper in history was invented in 3000 BC
- It's use in paintings and writing continued until the 11th century A.D.
- Chinese true paper was invented in 104 A.D.
- It is the immediate predecessor of modern paper
Material The papyrus plant:
  1. Grows wild in marshy areas around the Nile
  2. Specially cultivated papyrus, grown on plantations.
- Bamboo. bark of mulberry tree and water
Characteristics - In a dry climate like Egypt's papyrus is durable, but storage in humid conditions destroys the material.
- Thick and heavy
- Higher durability, particularly in moist climates
- Lightweight
- Thin and translucent - and thus only written on one side
Manufacture Complicated and time consuming process
  1. Harvest - the stalk of the plant is collected
  2. Striping - The outer rind is first stripped off, and the sticky fibrous inner pith was cut into thin strips
  3. Pressing - strips were then laid out in two layers (horizontal and vertical), and dried under pressure, forming smooth, thin sheets.
  4. Rolls - sheets were united together, with the fibers running in the same direction, forming long rolls which extended up to 10 meters in length
Easier and far less expensive manufacture
  1. The inner bark of mulberry and bamboo fibers are mixed together with water
  2. The mixture is poured onto a flat piece of coarsely woven cloth and the water drains through, leaving only the fibers on the cloth.
  3. Once dry, the paper is ready to use.
Variety of techniques manufacturing techniques remained unchanged for 4000 years. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and the Song Dynasty (960-1279) varieties of paper were invented including:
  1. hemp paper
  2. hide paper
  3. bamboo paper
  4. Xuan paper - used in paintings and calligraphy because of its smooth, durable, and white.
Spread - Clumsier writing material
- Expensive manufacturing
- Limited production
- Spread in Roman Empire for official purposes
- Cheap production in small workshops
Chinese paper making methods spread throughout the world
- Introduced to Korea, Vietnam and Japan in the 3rd century.
- By the 7th century, it reached India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
- By the 8th century in reached Europe.
- In 1150 A.D., Europe's first paper mill was built in Spain.
- By 1575, Mexico and Australia adopted the technique.
- Paper was affordable by the European urban working class and many peasants in the 1400s
Conservation - The majority of the 400,000 papyri preserved around the world are fragmentary.
- The task of papyrologists is to decipher, transcribe and reconstruct what is lost between fragments.
- Millions of documents are preserved around the world, forming our basic knowledge of human history

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By Ayman Fadl - Copyright © 2001-2014