The pulp papermaking process is said to have been developed in China during the early 2nd century CE, possibly as early as the year 105 CE, by the Han court eunuch Cai Lun, although the earliest archaeological fragments of paper derive from the 2nd century BCE in China. The modern pulp and paper industry is global, with China leading its production and the United States right behind it.
The oldest known archaeological fragments of the immediate precursor to modern paper date to the 2nd century BCE in China. The pulp paper-making process is ascribed to Cai Lun, a 2nd-century CE Han court eunuch.
In the 13th century, the knowledge and uses of paper spread from China through the Middle East to medieval Europe, where the first water powered paper mills were built. Because paper was introduced to the West through the city of Baghdad, it was first called bagdatikos. In the 19th century, industrialization greatly reduced the cost of manufacturing paper. In 1844, the Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty and the German F. G. Keller independently developed processes for pulping wood fibres.
Before the industrialisation of paper production the most common fibre source was recycled fibres from used textiles, called rags. The rags were from hemp, linen and cotton. A process for removing printing inks from recycled paper was invented by German jurist Justus Claproth in 1774. Today this method is called deinking. It was not until the introduction of wood pulp in 1843 that paper production was not dependent on recycled materials from ragpickers.
The word "paper" is etymologically derived from Latin papyrus, which comes from the Greek πάπυρος (papuros), the word for the Cyperus papyrus plant. Papyrus is a thick, paper-like material produced from the pith of the Cyperus papyrus plant, which was used in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean cultures for writing before the introduction of paper into the Middle East and Europe. Although the word paper is etymologically derived from papyrus, the two are produced very differently and the development of the first is distinct from the development of the second. Papyrus is a lamination of natural plant fibres, while paper is manufactured from fibres whose properties have been changed by maceration.