Long before custom stock sheets and heavyweight paper, the Ancient Chinese developed a paper method of their own. Although paper substitutes, like papyrus, bone, and even silk were used to write and transport information, paper was used to wrap and protect items for thousands of years. The court official Cai Lun is credited with inventing modern day paper around the year 8 A.D. He is said to have taken his ideas from bees. Weaving mulberry and other plants and fibers together he created a writable product.
During the 8th century, the first paper mills opened in Baghdad after Chinese secrets spread to the west. Christian Europe, however, was reticent in accepting this new technology, viewing it as a Muslim attempt to control foreign lands. After Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, paper spread in popularity, but it was still a scarce resource. Most paper fibers were hemp and linen rags.
Until the 19th century paper was not readily available. When the steam driven paper mill appeared, it became the standard for paper production, but it was not until the latter part of the century that wood pulp began to be favored over rags.
Today printable paper is usually bleached white, while heavyweight paper is colored using dyes and other techniques. Although a lot has changed over the years, it’s pretty clear that the development paper has contributed to the advancement of human technology.