Paper was invented by the Chinese and they were the first to have wallpaper by gluing rice paper to the wall, as far back as 200 B.C. By 104 A.D., they had progressed to making paper from rags and other textile waste. This was the beginning of paper that we have today.The history of wallpaper, from invention to the current day. The Beginning.
Throughout the 8th century, the skills of paper making spread to the Arabs and the knowledge spread through the Middle East. A few hundred years passed and the Arabians began to create finer sheets of paper by replacing the linen fibre with bamboo and wood. This paper was much better quality and during the 12th century, the papermaking skill had spread to Europe.
In 1481, 50 rolls of blue paper with painted angels were ordered by King Louis XI of France. He requested this wallpaper to be portable so that he could move it from one castle to another. Other Europeans with wealth commissioned paper to be painted for their walls, but it wasn’t until the invention of the printing press that real wallpaper existed, although it was a long way from what we have in our homes or the modern office furniture also being sparce.
The earliest known European fragment of wallpaper still existing today was located in Christ’s College, Cambridge, on the beams of the Lodge. This dates from 1509.
In 1675, a French engraver starting making matching block designs in continuous patterns. This was the birth of wallpaper as we know it today.
The wallpaper produced in London in the 18th century became trendy. The fashion conscious Londoner would order hand painted expensive paper imitating materials such as stucco or marble, but it was not long before wallpaper became popular on its own merit. Flocked paper looking like velvet or borders resembling braid became very popular.
In 1739, wallpaper reached America, where the European fashions were copied. After the civil war, Americans built their own workshops and started producing their own designs. But it was back in France in 1785 that the first wallpaper printing machine was made.
By 1839, a four colour printing machine had been invented in England that had designs on cylinders that could produce 400 rolls a day. 1850 saw the introduction of eight colour printing and a machine capable of printing in twenty colours followed in 1874.
Fixing the wallpaper securely became the next challenge and the first wallpaper paste that was ready to use was invented in 1888. By the 20th century, wallpaper pasting machines had appeared.
By the 1920s, wallpaper had become extremely popular and during this time, over 400 million rolls were sold. The industry became revolutionised after World War II with stain resistant, washable plastic resin paper.
Wallpaper continued to drift in and out of fashion over the decades and today enjoys popularity once again.
Today’s technology has created wallcoverings that are long lasting, pre-pasted and washable. Wallpaper is no longer a luxury item only available to the wealthy and DIY stores have many ranges to suit all budgets and tastes. Renewing your home ddcor has never been cheaper.
Carl Pett is a furniture historian. His many articles online will enable the reader to know more on modern office furniture and home decor through the ages.
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