Did you know that paper (as we know it) was first invented in 105 A.D. by a Chinese person? There were precursors, such as papyrus and amate, which existed in the Mediterranean world and pre-Columbian Americas, respectively, but they weren’t considered to be truly paper. It’s invention is, instead, credited to an Imperial court eunuch, named Cai Lun (also known as Ts’ai Lun).
Cai Lun was not the first to make real paper. However, by using the materials he did – often mulberry and other bast fibres along with fishing nets, old rags, and hemp waste – production costs were reduced. In addition, his technique was reliable for quickly manufacturing small sheets of paper for the masses. Larger sheets were rarely made, but when they were made, the Chinese royalty and nobility used them. Though I saw nothing in my research to state as much, I would reckon this was due to the cost and guess the larger pieces held a level of prestige for one’s wealth and status.
Due to the importance paper has had throughout history, Cai Lun was listed as the seventh most influential person of all time in the novel, The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History, written by Michael H. Hart. One of the greatest things I read about the impact of paper came from Timothy Hugh Barrett, who said that a “strong reading culture seems to have developed [in China] quickly after its introduction, despite political fragmentation.” Who doesn’t love something that helps develop books and reading, right?