Chinese papermaking spread slowly but steadily all over the world, from Asia into Africa and Europe. Soon just about everyone knew how to make paper. Still, there wasn’t a lot of paper around, since making it gobbled up a lot of paper-making material.

Early paper was made of rags, and rags were hard to come by. Ironically, when the disease called the Plague or Black Death killed millions of people in Europe, tons of clothing and rags became available – at just about the time the printing press was invented.

Suddenly, more books were printed, people became better educated, and these better-educated people scratched their heads, trying to figure out a substance that might provide even more paper-making material.