|How papyrus paper is made, where papyrus comes from, what it was used for and the different types of papyrus available. Papyrus - the world's first paper!|
How is Papyrus Paper Made?
After harvesting the Cyperus papyrus plant, the outer fibers are peeled away and the core of the stalk and sliced into very thin strips that are as broad as possible. The best of these strips, from the perspective of quality, comes from the center. Progressively, the quality of the papyrus strips decline as the strips are taken further from the center of the yellowish-white pith.
These papyrus strips are next soaked in water for around three days, removing the sugar content and making the fibres become flexible and transparent.
When the papyrus is removed from the water it is very soft and quite spongy. It is rolled flat and left to dry a little before the strips are cut to the desired length.Next, the papyrus strips are pounded and the excess water drained away, after which they are placed side by side, overlapping slightly. A second set of papyrus strips are placed at right angles to the first, again overlapping slightly.
Next, this raw papyrus sheet is pounded once again, and left under a heavy weight (usually a stone slab) to dry for approximately six days. The remaining sugar within the papyrus seals the strips together. Finally, after drying, the surface of the papyrus sheet is polished to a smooth finish by rubbing it with, for example, a shell or a piece of smooth ivory.
The finished papyrus paper is then ready for use.
For practical purposes, the papyrus was limited to a standard size running 47 cm in length at the most (29-33 cm on the average), and 22 cm in width, though by no means was this always so, particularly over Egypt's long history. For longer documents, these pages were joined to create a papyrus roll (scroll). In fact, papyrus sheets were usually not sold individually, but in rolls (of about 20 sheets), with the fibers running in the same direction, except for the end sheets, which were reversed in order to add stringth. However, in later periods, we also find papyrus books, called codex, which finally triumphed over the papyrus roll.
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