The Good News on Paper

13 amazing facts about a material used by millions to feed the soul. /

It takes more than good will to get Bibles into people’s hands. Even in the electronic age, people still prefer printed Bibles. And that means, among other things, making paper upon which to print Bibles. A few facts about this material on which the spiritual welfare of so many today depends:

1. Most historians believe papermaking was invented about a hundred years before the birth of Jesus, in China, by Cai Lun, an official of the imperial court in the Han Dynasty. He created a sheet of paper using mulberry, bast fibers, fishnets, rags, and hemp.

2. Paper seems to have been first used not for writing but for wrapping or padding delicate items and poisonous medicine.

3. Muslims living in today’s Portugal and Spain first made paper in Europe in the 10th century. It slowly spread to Italy, France, and, by the 1400s, Germany, where Gutenberg—using handmade paper imported from Italy—used it to print the first Bible.

4. Making paper has come a long way from using rags and mulberry bark. Once a tree is cut down, it is debarked and chipped into tiny fragments, which are cooked in a vat with water and several chemicals, including caustic soda and sodium sulfate, to make a gooey slurry known as pulp. The pulp is bleached to a white color using water and chlorine before being pressed into rolls and dried.

5. Crayons, shaving cream, ink, paint, varnish, and hair spray are some of the products made from the natural byproducts of papermaking (cellulose, oils, and resins).

6. How much paper is made from one tree is hard to determine, since trees, paper quality, and manufacturing techniques vary. One estimate: a 75-foot-tall pine tree 1 foot in diameter can produce 103,200 20lb 8.5 x 11 inch sheets, ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 17 / March 5, 2015
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  2. The Problem of Beauty

    It’s a clue that leads us to the most magnificent of places. /

  3. ‘Beauteous Duck’

    The emperor penguin is an animal from which myths are made. /

  4. O Sapientia

    ‘My Ground of Being, always grounding me.’ /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff /

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