The most marvelous things are the ones we take for granted. Consider a sheet of paper. A plain white leaf. You may cover it with a print-out of this article, handwritten grocery lists, a sketch of the view outside your window or profound observations on life. One page contains much history–from the Han Dynasty China (the earliest piece of paper discovered dates to 179-41 BC) via the Muslim polymaths traveling the Silk Road to the glittering cities of Uzbekistan, and from there to the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. In France, the first papermill was established in the 12th century AD. Nuremberg set up the production of paper in 1390. Sweden held out till 1612. So paper is of relatively recent vintage in the western world.
In high school we once had a papermaking class, an experience our art teacher insisted was essential for our understanding of the world. It turned my rather practical interest in paper into passion, because once you see the intricate process of creation, nothing is ever the same. The technique we used was remarkably similar to how the first sheets of paper were made in the Chinese Imperial court.