The Beginning of the Paper Industry
Paper, originally, was brought by the Muslims from China.
It followed the battle of Tallas (751) fought between Chinese and Muslims, when the Chinese prisoners revealed the secret of paper making to the Muslims. From an art, the Muslims developed it into a major industry.
The Muslims employed linen as a substitute to the bark of the mulberry, which the Chinese used. Linen rags were disintegrated, saturated with water, and made to ferment.
The boiled rags were then cleared of alkaline residue and much of the dirt, and then , the rags were beaten to a pulp by a trip hammer was put to use; an improved method of maceration invented by the Muslims.
In Baghdad were built many paper mills, and from there, the industry spread to various parts of the world. The paper mills constructed in Damascus were the major sources of supply to Europe, which as production increased, became cheaper and more available, and better quality.
Paper mills which first flourished in Iraq, Syria and Palestine, made their way West. Africa saw its first paper mill built in Egypt around 850. A paper mill was built in Morocco, from there, of course, it was to reach Spain in 950. The centre of fabrication was Xatiba. From Spain and Sicily paper making spread to the Christians in Spain and Italy. The first written reference to paper in the Christian West seems to be in the pseudonymous Theophilus Presbyter's "The Art of the Painter" (first half of the 12th century). In 1293 was set up the first paper mill in Bologna. In 1309 was the first use of paper in England. Then Germany in the late stages of the 14th; though down the close of the Middle Ages the most important paper making centres were in North Italy.
Of course, paper seems so ordinary today, but its use is fundamental to modern civilisation. By making use of this new material, paper, and manufacturing it on a large scale, devising new methods for its production, in the words of Pedersen: the Muslims: `accomplished a feat of crucial significance not only to the history of the Islamic book but also to the whole world of books.'
The decisive impact of Muslim manufacture of paper was, obviously, and directly to bring about a revolution in prepare the way for the invention of printing.
by: FSTC Limited, Fri 10 January, 2003