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Philosopher-statesman Francis Bacon (1561-1621) identified paper as one of inventions that separated the modern world from the traditional world: the others were the magnetic compass, gunpowder, and printing. He never realized that every one of them originated in China.

Chinese craftsmen first discovered the secret of making paper when they washed rags and left them out to dry on a screen. This new, flexible material could be used to wrap things, and indeed the first use of paper, in the 2nd century B.C.E., was as a packaging material for medicine. Within a century, paper had begun to displace bamboo strips as China's main writing material, ...

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