~ Short History of Papyrus ~
What is Papyrus ?
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Papyrus is the forerunner of our present day paper. The English word papyrus derives, via Latin, from Greek papyros. Greek has a second word for papyrus, byblos (said to derive from the name of the Phoenician city of Byblos ). The Greek writer Theophrastus, who flourished during the 4th century BC, uses papuros when referring to the plant used as a foodstuff and bublos for the same plant when used for non-food products, such as cordage, basketry, or a writing surface. This latter usage finds its way into English in such words as bibliography, bibliophile, and bible. Papyrus is also the etymon of "paper", a similar substance. The plural of papyrus is papyri. It is often claimed that Egyptians referred to papyrus as pa-per-aa (lit., "that which is of Pharaoh"), apparently denoting that the Egyptian crown owned a monopoly on papyrus production. However no actual ancient text using this term is known. Although the word paper is derived directly from Papyrus, Papyrus is not Paper !!!

The difference is that papyrus is a laminated material made from thinly cut strips from the stalk of Cyprus Papyrus plant, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt. Papyrus usually grows 2-3 meters (5-9 feet) tall, although some have reached as high as 5 meters (15 feet). Papyrus is first known to have been used in ancient Egypt (at least as far back as the First dynasty), but it was also widely used throughout the Mediterranean region, as well as inland parts of Europe and south-west Asia . However common paper is made from the completely separated fibers of any number of materials soaked and then sieved to produce thin sheets of matted fibers.

It is believed that papyrus was first used about 4000BC, and became one of Egypt's major exports.

Egyptian rulers realizing the importance of Papyrus, made its production a state monopoly, and guarded the secret of Papyrus jealously. There was no real competitor to Papyrus until, in AD 105 in China Ts'ai Lun, a court official, invented paper . With the introduction of paper making into Egypt, the production of Papyrus rapidly declined, and stopped.

The latest certain dates for the use of papyrus are 1057 for a papal decree (typically conservative, all papal "bulls" were on papyrus until 1022) and 1087 for an Arabic document. Papyrus was used as late as the 1100s in the Byzantine Empire , but there are no known surviving examples. Although its uses had transferred to parchment, papyrus therefore just overlapped with the use of paper in Europe , which began in the 11th century. There have been sporadic attempts to revive the manufacture of papyrus during the past 250 years. The Scottish explorer James Bruce experimented in the late eighteenth century with papyrus plants from the Sudan , for papyrus had become extinct in Egypt . Also in the eighteenth century, a Sicilian named Saverio Landolina manufactured papyrus at Syracuse , where papyrus plants had continued to grow in the wild. The modern technique of papyrus production used in Egypt for the tourist trade was developed in 1962 by the Egyptian engineer Hassan Ragab using plants that had been reintroduced into Egypt in 1872 from France . Both Sicily and Egypt continue to have centres of limited papyrus production. Papyrus is still much used by communities living in the vicinity of swamps for other reasons, to the extent that rural householders derive up to 75% of their income from swamp goods and are most important for the poorer sectors of society (Maclean et al. 2003b;c).

It is not until 1965 where an Egyptian scientist discovered the old lost secret of Papyrus hand-making. Papyrus sheets hand-making once again became an important Egyptian craft, and the Egyptian artists found in it a perfect material on which to record the marvelous paintings of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs.