Paper, Papyrus, Parchment

How fast can you say paperpapyrusparchment?

Papyrus: The Mother of Paper

Papyrus (plural papyri) was first produced around 3000 BCE as the standard writing material for the Ancient Egyptians. It was so popular it spread to many places throughout the world including Greece, Rome, and Syria.

How is a papyrus scroll made? Papyrus actually comes from the papyrus sedge plant that is native to Africa. In ancient Egypt, it was largely cultivated in the Nile Delta. The stems of the plant are thinly cut and then pasted to each other until they become sheets almost like paper. It would normally be sold in rolls that would stretch out up to 30 meters in length. These were used for long texts such as legal documents and literature. If it needed to be shorter, it would have to be cut into smaller scrolls.


Library Rivalry

Around 200 BC, the King of Egypt felt that his library at Alexandria was threatened by the Ancient Greek library located in the city of Pergamum. Thus he ordered an embargo of exporting papyrus to Pergamum. As a response, the King of Pergamum told his people to develop a replacement to papyrus that would also be more durable and lasting than tanned leather. This is how parchment was developed.

Parchment Processing

Parchment is created from animal skin, such as from cows or sheep and is not to be confused with tanned leather. Parchment is a form of leather but with more elaborate processing.

The skin needs to be washed, scraped, soaked in lime, stretched out, then scraped again. This lengthy process was repeated until everything was cleansed, leaving only the skin. After that, it was wetted, coated with chalk, and smoothed with pumice on both sides. Whereas tanned leather only allowed for one side to be written on along with poor ink adhesion, the rigorous parchment making process provided the ability to write on both sides with high durability and flexibility. These properties allowed for the creation of books and codices, giving easier access to information compared to a papyrus scroll that had to be unrolled then rolled back up. It was popularly used from the 4th to 15th centuries as the standard for European scribes, and it is also what you see in the illuminated manuscripts in many monasteries and museums.


The word paper is actually a derivative from papyrus. Paper is credited as being developed by Ts’ai Lun in 105 AD, who was a Chinese official in the royal court. Before paper was invented, bamboo and silk were the main writing materials in China. However, silk and bamboo were too expensive and rare, so it wasn’t practical to use for mass writing. With the growth and development of Chinese literature, he wanted to figure out a way to create a more readily accessible writing material.

The most important thing to remember is that paper is fibrous, meaning it comes from the combination of fibres such as from wood, cotton, and linen. The first sheets of paper were created from the pulp of mulberry tree bark, old rags and fishing nets, and hemp. These were pounded and macerated by hand until they were thin enough. Afterwards, they were laid out to dry, which then became paper. However, it was not until around the 12th century that it became a very popular writing material throughout the world. Now, paper is so popular that we have over 30 different types of in stock here at CatPrint due to customer demand! Check out our stock here:

So what’s the gist of it?

Papyrus – shredded papyrus sedge stems

Parchment – animal skin

Paperpulps of fibers beaten into thin sheets