Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/104

This page has been validated.


"IN the name of Christ, amen. Anno Domini 1390, I, Ulman Stromer, started at making paper on St. John's day at the Solstice, and began to set up a wheel in the Gleissmühle, and Clos Obsser was the first who came to work."

So said Ulman Stromer, undoubtedly the first German paper-maker, in his notes which are still preserved. Five hundred years have passed since then, and the art of paper-making can look back on as long a period of earnest effort and profitable work. When Ulman Stromer so long ago established paper-making in Germany he had no foresight of the important position paper was destined to assume in the civilization of man. In book-printing, and outside of it, it is the most efficient agent in the advancement of the race, and has become a supreme necessity. It is the foundation of the book and newspaper arts, the indispensable aid of science and instruction, as well as of commercial and social intercourse. In short, it so governs our whole age that hardly anything could be thought of without paper in its present shape.

It was different in Ulman Stromer's time. Paper was then a rare material, little used, and only to be found in the offices of the learned, of scribes, and of officers. The supply of Germany and of all northern Europe was brought from Italy and Spain, most of it from the factories of Fabriano in Italy, where paper-mills existed in the twelfth century, while a lively paper industry flourished in Spain, with its principal seat at San Felipe in Valencia, as early as 1150. The paper-making art was introduced into both of these lands by the Arabs, who learned it in Samarcand and spread it through Europe. It was introduced into Samarcand in 751 by Chinese prisoners from their country, where it had been carried on from extremely ancient times. It is believed that the Chinese were making paper at the beginning of the Christian era, while the civilized lands of the West had still no other writing material than the Egyptian papyrus, which was not equal to the Chinese paper in quality and serviceableness, and parchment prepared from skins, the high price of which prohibited its general and free use.

The mercantile houses of Germany had trade relations with Italy at an early date. German merchants made trading journeys there, and sent their sons to Italian universities, or to Venice and other marts to learn business. We must therefore suppose that the paper-maker's art was not wholly unknown to the Germans, and that individual dealers had had opportunities to visit