Paper is a thin, flat material produced by the compression of fibres. The fibers used are usually natural and based upon cellulose. The most common material is wood pulp from pulpwood (largely softwood) trees such as spruces, but other vegetable fiber materials including cotton, linen, and hemp may be used.
The word paper comes from ancient Egyptian writing material called papyrus. It was produced as early as 3000 BC Egypt, and then in ancient Greece and Rome. Further north, parchment or vellum, made of processed sheepskin or calfskin, replaced papyrus. In China, documents were ordinarily written on bamboo, making them very heavy and awkward to transport. Silk was sometimes used, but was usually too expensive to consider. Most of the above materials were rare and costly.
The Chinese court official Ts'ai Lun described the modern method of papermaking in AD 105; he was the first person who mentioned the method to make paper out of cotton rags. Other sources date back the invention of papermaking in China to 150 BC. It spread slowly outside of China; other East Asian cultures, even after seeing paper, could not figure out how to make it themselves; instruction in the manufacturing process was required, and the Chinese were reluctant to share their secrets. The technology was first exported to Japan in 610. After commercial trades, the invention spread to the Middle East, where it was adopted by the Indians and subsequently by the Italians in about the 13th century. They used hemp and linen rags.