Document destruction, a historical perspective – paper

Red quill pen and inkwell on a sheet of papyrus

Copyright: Marco Ossino/123rf

Paper, paper, paper everywhere. We’re surrounded by it in our everyday lives and it’s a necessary tool in nearly anyone’s professional life in some way, shape or form. But did you know that paper has not always been a readily available commodity? It wasn’t until the early 1800’s that paper started to become as prevalent a commodity as it is today. Keep reading for some other facts you may not know about our favorite writing medium.

A good reed

Papyrus sheets, the closest resemblance to paper, were used for writing and recording information as early as 3000 BCE in Ancient Egypt. Papyrus was used primarily for religious and government documents due to the complicated processes of harvesting and developing the plant into its useable form. It wouldn’t be until many years later that a more traditional paper would be developed in China.

Pulp, but not fiction

Traditional paper was first invented in China in 150 BCE. It was developed by a man named Cai Lun, an official in the court of Emperor Hedi. Cai Lun created paper sheets from various fibers and pulps of tree bark, bamboo, rope, cotton rags and fishing nets, bound them together with a gluing agent and left them out to dry.

Print not a pressing concern

The process of paper printing was further modernized by the invention of the printing press in 1439 by a man named Johannes Gutenberg. The printing press made it easier to print on material due to its moveable type. However, the paper invented in China much earlier wasn’t the preferred material of choice for Europe. Europeans used other mediums like vellum and parchment made from animal skins and hide instead of regular paper until about the 16thcentury. Literacy rates rose with the invention of the printing press but materials, like books, were still costly to produce.

It’s interesting to think about how far the development of paper has come from papyrus and the first hemp-paper in China. If you’re not as enthused by the amount of paper in your life as you are about these historical facts, give us a call and set up a shredding service with us – and look forward to our next historical blog entry!