The manufacture of the first paper is attributed to the Chinese in the 1st century AD. Initially, paper is said to have been made from the fibrous phloem that underlies the bark of the mulberry tree. The idea seems to have evolved from the manufacture of felt. Just as felt was made by compacting animal fibres onto a sheet, so paper was made by compacting plant fibres. Mulberry fibres were mixed with water to form a mash which was then shaken into an even layer on the surface of a fine sieve. After it had drained for a while, the sheet so formed was carefully picked up by the corners, smoothed out and left to dry.
Papermaking secrets were jealously guarded by the Chinese, until the 7th century AD, when Chinese papermakers were among the prisoners of war captured in a battle with an Arab army. The secret was uncovered and papermaking techniques started to spread across the world.