Paper is used for writing, printing and wrapping and is made from vegetable matter. Nowadays paper is made from the wood of fast-growing trees such as fir, pine and spruce. The wood is cut into very fine pieces, mixed with water and other chemicals and heated. This soft mixture, called wood pulp, is then cleaned and whitened and pressed out into the sheets of paper we know. Waste paper, with the link or dye removed, can be used to make recycled paper.
The first paper known to history was made in around 3500 BC by the ancient Egyptians who used strips from the papyrus reeds which they dampened, made into a criss-cross pattern and pressed into sheets. Our very word paper comes from "papyrus".
However, paper closer to our modern type was invented in China in about AD 705 by a scholar called Ts'ai Lun. Legend has it that, one day, hewatched a wasp making its nest by chewing up pieces of bamboo, mixing them with its own saliva and working the resultant ball into a flat sheet with its feet and using the sheet to build a wall in its nest. He copied the wasp, making a paste of bamboo and water and spreading the flat sheet to dry in the sun. Knowledge of his work spread slowly - to the Arabs in the 8th century and into Europe only in the late 14th century.