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Paper was one of the most important medieval inventions.

In ancient times, the materials used for writing were very limited. Papyrus was available in quantity, and it was inexpensive, but it was not very strong and did not last well. The other option was vellum, which was a membrane from the inside of the hide of an animal, usually sheep, which was not available in quantity, and was very expensive, but had the advantage of lasting much better. Good books were made from vellum, and this represented a great part of their cost, though the cost of writing the content of the books was much higher.

It is possible that the invention of paper came about in Europe as an indirect result of the introduction of new spinning wheels and looms, which produced large amounts of linen fabric. The use of large quantities of linen resulted in large amounts of rags, and the people of the Middle Ages always tried to make use of the things they had, and so invented paper making as a way to use them. But one way or another, paper was introduced in the High Middle Ages, and this resulted in a slight reduction in the price of books.

But more to the point, there was an abundance of paper, which was stronger and much more durable than vellum, and not more expensive than papyrus. This led to its common use. And its common use led to another, very important historic invention.

Paper has some qualities that vellum and papyrus do not. Vellum is too uneven in thickness to be useful for printing with the printing press, and papyrus is so weak the press is likely to pull it apart. You can use the other materials for hand printing, such as rubbing by hand on a woodblock, but they do not work with a printing press, which requires precisely flat surfaces and pulls across whole page at once. Without the invention of paper, the printing press is not practical. And so, without the invention of paper, the invention of the printing press might have gone unnoticed.

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11y ago
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10y ago

There were several different kinds of paper used during the Middle Ages.

One was vellum, which was made from calf skin. Parchment was similar, and was made from the skin of different kinds of animals, mostly sheep. Both vellum and parchment were very expensive, and neither keep very well, so there are not a lot of documents left that were made of either during the Middle Ages.

During the Early Middle Ages, a lot of documents were made on papyrus, which is made from the pith of the papyrus plant. Papyrus has very poor keeping qualities, and its use on important documents required that the documents be recopied every few decades. Papyrus became mostly unavailable in Europe after the East Roman Empire lost Egypt during the Seventh Century.

Actual paper, made from wood, grasses, and so forth, was invented in China, and paper making spread to Europe by the 13th century. The widespread use of flax for clothing, which produced large amounts of rags to recycle, made paper inexpensive rather quickly. It could also be made from cotton. Medieval paper, made from either flax or cotton, had excellent lasting qualities and very often is in very good condition to this day. Scribes of the time regarded it as inferior to the older, and much more expensive, vellum and parchment. Nevertheless, the widespread availability of paper made printing presses practical for the first time, just as the Middle Ages were ending.

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The Chinese introduced it to the Arabs, who passed it on to the Europeans.

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10y ago

Paper wasn't really used in the middle ages, scribes worte using velum, which would be made from sheep skin.

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Q: Which of these describes how paper was introduced into medieval Europe?
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