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A Note on Paper:
(This article consists of two Parts )
Part 1 of 2: Paper History
The purpose of this document is to introduce Forensic Document Examiners to the historical overview on paper:
To be able to make a proper mark on paper was not the first thought in history as knives, sticks, chisels and other sharp objects were used to inscribe on solid surfaces before paper.
With the invention of the brush, made from animal hair around 250 B.C., was the first-time humans had a means to commit ink to paper in an orderly fashion and became the writing instrument of choice over and above stamps. Stamps were not for writing but were made from wooden blocks carved out to make an impression on surfaces which is known as xylograghy and was also the first form of printing on surfaces.
But why paper? Paper has many advantages: It’s light, very absorbent, widely available, easily transported, in addition it has the possibility of being folded, coated, waterproofed and even being used as a container for boiling various contents, like tea.
Paper plays a very important role and forms part of every aspect of our lives namely to record history, laws, draft & sign contracts, love-letters, decorations and prove identity. It is also used for documenting designs, print our currencies on, write music and poetry. It’s the silent medium that speaks volumes and works tremendously hard, unnoticed.
In history, paper was also used for taking flight, making use of several layers of paper to line the inner layer of hot air balloons, used as a means of warfare. Paper also allow for a paper trail to exist which investigators can follow to establish various facts. An example of this would be the forged memorandum, a document relating to the Dreyfuss affair during the period 1890’s to the early 1900’s known as the “bordereau”.
The British Association of Paper Historians noted that paper is used in over twenty thousand commercial uses in the world today. Gratfelter Inc. a company in Pennsylvania, has over 1000 products using paper. The uses of paper are extremely wide and to know some fundamentals of paper would assist any Forensic Examiner in finding more factual evidence regarding a document under examination and increase the confidence of the expert opinion.
Various phrases also exist that either directly or indirectly involves paper such as:
“Not worth the paper it’s printed on”, “It never plays out the way it is on paper, does it”, “On paper, we have that kind of team”, to “map out”, beating someone to a “pulp” and “paper thin”. All these phrases have a connection to the history of paper or some activity relating to paper. With all this said, without paper, the printing industry would not have been where it is today, although more companies are moving toward digital markets these days. The absence of paper would have slowed the development of the digital age down tremendously.
Papyrus from Egypt were widely accepted as the first paper from history and a lot of archeological findings strongly suggest that papermaking was performed centuries before the time. An official report by the Chinese man, named Cai Lun, were the first to officially announce inventions in a formal report on how to manufacture paper. It included instructions outlining the process in the year 105 A.D. in the Imperial Court of the Emperor Ho Ti.
The first Chinese word for paper was “chih” which translates to “ a mat of refuse fibers ” in an early branch of the Chinese knowledge and language. This is a great description but also not such a great one. This is because not all fibers being used are discarded rags, though some manufacturers have used rags in papermaking. In its simplest form, paper is a mat made up of fibers but also contains H2O (water). The fundamentals of paper stayed the same throughout time, although many improvements took place up to date. To make paper, we need clear water (hence papermaking in Japan takes place in the hills close to natural springs away from pollution), cellulose fibers and a screen mold.
Many Chemists’ definition for paper is: “sheet-like material that is formed from individualized fibers by the removal of water.”
Some experts to follow (if you fancy paper) in the field are:
Anna-Grethe Rischel, a professional in the field of paper analysis. Her research is based on her years of travelling between papermakers in the East, especially in Japan where papermaking is still very active and under the protection of the government as a scarce skill. It’s still practiced for Japan’s traditions’ sake and as artistry. Her research could assist examiners to authenticate documents based on paper analysis.
Another professional regarding papermaking is Timothy D. Barret which had been researching Japanese craft of papermaking over the past 30 years and wrote two books on it. The books’ names are Nagashizuki: The Japanese Craft of Hand Papermaking (Bird & Bull Press, 1979) and Japanese Papermaking: Traditions, Tools and Techniques (John Weatherhill, 1983). In 2001, Timothy and his team were given the responsibility in the United States to make paper for rehousing the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and The Constitution in Washington, which is on display at the National Archives, Headquarters, visited by millions yearly. He also wrote other books on the topic of paper.
More experts on paper would include Jonathan M. Bloom which has written a book called “Paper before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World” in 2001 by Yale University Press. This book would come in handy when examining paper from the Arabian countries. He also said that it is curious that only one word from the Arabian countries were adopted by the West namely “Ream”. A ream of paper is basically five hundred sheets of paper which comes from the Arab word “risma”, French “reyme” and Spanish “resma”. Risma in Arabian means bundle.
And John Bidwell, a librarian and historian on book culture which has spent over 30 years studying papermaking. He mainly focuses on the industrialization period of the paper trade between 1790 and 1860 of papermaking.
The East & West use papermaking traditions which are similar except that the initial preparation has fundamental differences and variations. They are similar as both form layers of cellulose fibers on a porous flat surface able to rid of water for drying. One difference is that Europe stacks in alternate layers whereas Japan stack sheets on top of each other to make paper. Pressing in Europe is executed rather quickly while in Japan pressing is done slow and timeously.
If you’re suspecting calligraphy, relief printers, woodblock carvers or artists in an investigation and whether the choice of paper is authentic then Echizen “hosho” is preferred by these professionals as a starting point for the investigation, for good or bad, as it is of extreme quality and takes intensive labor to be made. The paper known as “hosho” doesn’t tear easily, shrink, isn’t fleecy, is absorbent with a cream white texture and has excellent strength. These properties make precise registration of images easy and reliable.
Color pigments used to color paper could be indigo, clay, pine soot (ashes of pine) or persimmon plants obviously these are only a handful of choices. Some paper also has a watermark, which is an added complication, being introduced in Italy in the thirteenth century and could assist Forensic Examiners to identify manufacturers of old paper. As for Old Chinese and Arabian questioned paper documents, no watermarks were used, making determination of origin difficult before the introduction of the watermark. In such cases, a paper expert would be beneficial to assert the examiners findings.
Papermaking moved through the world starting in China and moving in two directions. East from China to Korea and Japan. West towards Damascus over the Mediterranean into Europe. From this point onward, paper movement were documented and is very specific, where these trails of paper movement and dates can easily be established.
Specific dates when a country started using paper (Not an exhaustive list):
# EASTERN COUNTRIES # WESTERN COUNTRIES # WESTERN COUNTRIES # WESTERN COUNTRIES
3 Japan 1 Samarkand 9 Austria-1356 17 Russia-1576
2 Baghdad 10 Germany-1391 18 Holland-1586
3 Damascus 11 Switzerland-1411 19 Scotland-1591
4 Cairo 12 Flanders-1405 20 Denmark-1565
5 Fez 13 Poland-1495 21 Norway & North America-1690
6 Spain-1056 14 England-1494 22 Australia-1818
7 Italy-1235 even earlier 15 Bohemia-1499
8 France-1348 16 Hungary-1546
Some important dates also to consider when dating a document is October 1862 until November 1863 because of the scarcity of paper for printing. The Weekly Telegraph used brown, orange, pink, yellow, blue, various shades of green and even the black sides of wallpaper to print news on. Around 1850, esparto which is tall grass from the northwest of Africa was used for printing and good quality papermaking was possible in England. The same grass could not be used in America as the cost of transportation from Africa made it very expensive and impossible to be profitable.
If wood pulp was used to make the paper under investigation, it should be after 1719 when it was recognized as an option and even only after 1845 which is when Friedrich Gottlob Keller patented a process for using wood pulp. A sign that wood pulp was used to make a document, would be the brown-colored chemical known as Lignin (meaning wood in Latin). The disadvantages would include yellowing in color, burns easily (high energy outputs) and becomes brittle when exposed to sunlight and air. For these reasons printing with this type of paper was only used for newspapers and inexpensive books. The strength was also very low and was therefore often mixed with rag fibers to strengthen the paper. The first wood-grinding plant was established in 1867 in Massachusetts by Albrecht & Rudolph Pagenstecher and by 1882 almost all paper was made from wood pulp according to a historian of American Forestry named David C. Smith.
As from the late 1800’s period, chemical processes were also changing but had trade-offs to consider. The advantage of the chemical processes; was that Lignin could be degraded to molecules and removed from the cellulose through washing. This means that the paper could last longer. The soda process became the first process to be used, using caustic soda, which is good for printing on both sides of paper, but it lacked strength. At this point, no effective bleaching systems existed and produced low brightness.
Another process was the sulfite pulping which was not the best option as it was a pollutant discharged into the waterways. The next process was the sulfate also known as the Kraft chemical process developed by Carl F. Dahl, a German chemist and introduced in Sweden.
The paper using the Kraft process was much stronger, as it broke down the bonds linking the lignin to the cellulose because of sodium sulfide which was added. There were other processes which we did not cover in this article.
Paper is one of a Forensic Investigators best allies and should be examined to assert an opinion for dating documents. Just as a matter of fact. The average person in America used 340 pounds of paper a year which was seven times more than reported in 1921. As we move forward and paper usage has declined because of digital technologies, there’s still too many applications and legal needs for paper than just to eliminate its use once and for all.
In closing, many things regarding paper could be examined. The forensic examiner should establish which factors would best serve the purpose of authenticating or determining forgery of a document.
Some factors to examine would include:
- Fiber analysis (Does it match the period’s processes and technology available during that time?).
- Ink analysis (Ink on the document and whether it existed during the period claimed and type of writing
- Paper physical properties like size, dimensions and weight (Was this a norm for that period?).
- Bleaching analysis (How was paper bleached if it was at all?).
- Year of manufacture (Does the claim match the technology?).
- Watermarks (Before or after Italy’s watermark inventions?).
- Color pigments used (Which colors were a normal choice and how was the pigments obtained?).
- Ageing processes used if applicable (Where forgery is suspected).
Many more questions exist to be asked but would be determined by the situation and the questions need answering.
A Note on Paper:
(This article consists of two Parts)
Part 2 of 2: Currency Paper & Features
The purpose of this document is to introduce Forensic Document Examiners to paper and extend their overview on special paper:
As seen from part 1, paper played an important and essential role throughout our human history even though it was never the center of attention itself. We will now continue through the journey of paper and have a look at more extraordinary facts about paper.
As thin and as simple as paper can be, it can also serve very dangerous purposes. For starters it is one of an arsonist’s favorite mediums to use to soak in a flammable liquid for ignition and/or to hide methods and techniques applied to an incendiary device before being destroyed by the fire it creates. It was also used as a weapon’s paper cartridge during the seventeenth century for the loading of weapons and reduced the number of steps needed by a musket to reload a gun. Thereby firing more shots making the supply of loading necessities less expensive and soldiers efficient and light.
Paper was also used to make surgical dressing which made an impression around 1917 and was also used by the Red Cross to care for the United States Army in place of cotton bandages. It was used as the inserts for gas masks and the paper filters were of a thinner version. The use of toilet paper has also reduced terrible pandemics as it serves as a barrier between the hand and fecal excretions preventing typhoid, cholera and dysentery in times when these were common (infectious diseases) health issues. An interesting fact by Proctor & Gamble: American Companies produce seven billion toilet paper rolls per year which is twenty-two comma three rolls per person and fifty-seven sheets of toilet paper a day per consumer.
On a less serious note not being instantly killed but rather over time. People in the nineteenth century used either the bowl of a pipe, tobacco wrapped in leaves, in a reed in a cylindrical form, snuffing through the nostrils or chewing the tobacco plant in order to take it in for its chemical properties. Paper became the preferred choice first among sailors as a cheap alternative for making cigarettes rolled in paper, believed to have started in Spain by wanderers in Seville, using half-smoked cigar butts to roll their own tobacco rolls. These cigarettes were known as “papeletes” and “cigaritos”.
Lastly paper was used to make disposable collars for men in the fashion industry around 1873 and it also became the first choice for architects and engineers in 1903 when tracing paper was made available by Crane and Company. The same company was and is still involved today in other uses of paper.
A son of the founder of Crane & Company, Zenas Marshall Crane, also introduced a process in 1844 whereby parallel silk strands were inserted into the “wet end” during the formation stage of a papermaking process and these strands served to recognize fake paper money. This process is still being used along with many other processes, methods and techniques to reduce the number of counterfeit bills being manufactured and accepted by banks and businesses. During that time, Zenas inserted one strand for a dollar bill, two strands for two-dollar bills, and three strands for three- dollar bills. This was known as security papers and many banks got involved to reduce the circulation of counterfeit paper money. Crane & Company also supplied paper for the US currency. This opened a door with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. They manufacture roughly 60% of the worlds production of paper money for banks including countries like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Tanzania, Thailand, Canada, Egypt, India and Mexico as from 2002. The amount of thirty-five million bills are printed every day, with its face value being around six hundred and thirty-five million dollars a day. The US dollar is also one of the toughest paper-money made and will be circulated for forty-one months before it reaches its end of life according to the Federal Reserve and can be folded eight thousand times, four thousand times back and forth, before tearing.
One of the reasons why Crane uses cellulose fibers for paper is because only cellulose fibers in nature are self-adhering. The difference between cellulose fibers and protein fibers are that protein fibers need to be mechanically twisted and intertwined and entangled unlike Cellulose Fibers which is all natural when removing the hydrogen bond sites on the cellulose chains, they bond. So, these papers are very strong as is but can unfortunately not be used for paper-money especially because money can get wet and fall apart. For paper-money, wet-strength materials are used or added in case paper gets wet so that it maintains its bonds and can wet and dry many times. This type of paper is known as special security paper which is mainly used for currency. Another way how these security papers outsmart counterfeit paper makers; is to use engraved images that change colour based on light angles and features such as eyes seeming to follow the user in a room as they move, while looking at the paper-money. This security device is known as motion. When motion is used, there’s threads woven into the banknote and as the banknote moves, so do these threads. Images will be printed on these threads, so that the images will seem like their moving. Tilting the thread back and forth, will slide the images left and right and when tilting the threads left and right, so will the images move up and down. These features make it extremely difficult to copy currency paper and needs specialized machinery to produce it.
These machines use filaments which is basically a strip of plastic that’s weaved into and along the surface of the paper. These filaments have different colours and is different for each face value of currency notes. These films are produced in web-like forms, inserted during the papermaking process and can be found in security threads and in the paper sheets. Other security features that also can be found is combined microprinting techniques, tiny lenses (up to a million) and several watermarks. All these features might be found on a single bill depending on complexity and the degree of security needed by Governments.
One technique counterfeit paper makers use, is to remove the ink from the paper substrate (the underlying substance layer) of a low value bill and reprint on top of the substrate to increase the value for instance from a 1-dollar bill to a 100-dollar bill. These bills have been found in circulation with the proper balance of ingredients namely 75% cotton and 25% flax with watermarks and security features. This is a case with considerable consequences as an individual would not be able to produce such extreme counterfeit money but rather a syndicate of some sorts or a Government. The only way these notes were recognized as counterfeit was by the way the paper felt between the fingers and initiated an investigation. In 1860 when the United States did not have a national currency. There were over ten thousand variations of paper-money and counterfeit money took over.
Another case where massive abuse took place was in Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. Jewish prisoners bribed Nazi captors to avoid the gas chambers by making their own money. The counterfeit money used, were the British Pounds, being deposited by German Agents into Swiss Banks and authenticated by the Bank of England Examiners. It passed all authentication tests! After laboratory analysis it was found that Turkish linen and nettle named Ramie from Asia were used to make the paper. The ramie plant was obtained from Hungary and the flax was locally available in Germany. Locally, in Germany, as the experts were based there and were experts in graphic production. They also used paper with the correct feel to the touch, look and crinkles to be found in the British currency. They also went so far as to obtaining a Dutch machine and modified it to include watermarks. A special water matching a company making currency paper since 1725 in England was also copied as to recreate the correct colours visible under a quartz lamp. For the watermark, more than a hundred trials were run before the image met the paper-money standards on each bill. It only ended in 1945 and the Bank of England even removed all notes from circulation while introducing new notes with a different and varied design, formation and construction.
A subject being debated is whether we will ever be completely paperless and rather how long it would take to become 100% paperless, if ever. More paper is being used every year and the number of uses does not seem to stop every year but rather grow. The advantage with paper is that you do not need batteries or any electronic means of display, notes are easily written down, people tend to learn faster and remember more when writing on paper and these factors will keep challenging the digital age. You can also read anywhere, anytime, in a blink of an eye without turning on the power button.
Another point to make is that the number of transactions taking place in the world are increasing and this causes the currency percentage to decline. Still, the truth remains that even when currency percentage is declining, currency is still growing on a yearly basis which sort of balances digital & paper usage. Let’s look at the US Dollar as an example here. The number of notes circulating the world are increasing and 60% can be found outside the United States. That’s 60% of 25 Billion American Currency notes are not in the United States. Twenty Percent of people in America does not have a bank account and the huge population of immigrants does not use bank accounts for various reasons. In Africa money is hidden in mattresses, fridges and other appliances. Currency is a means to store value and is widely used where inflation issues exist as well as in currencies where the local currency value is too weak.
In the process of making currency is divided into two major processes. One is the half-stock and two is the papermaking process. When making currency paper, cotton is picked and includes three parts: the seed, cotton for spinning and the waste (Also called “motes”). We then need the bundles of flax rolled up into bales which is often recycled materials from other industries like the textile industry. The flax is then left to ret outside in a field for some time. Retting would cause the outer shell of organics not needed to break down. If the retting is done correctly, then the fiber would be of a better standard. The roots are cut off, the combing process is actioned, and the stalk ends up looking like a light brown hair after the process has finished.
Every bale is then cleaned, combed, spun and screened. All these phases remove dirt and unwanted organic substances. A black light is then also used to ensure no synthetic (man-made) contamination is present as anything synthetic would fluoresce. This is an essential step as currency paper should not fluoresce like normal or counterfeit paper does but rather, only all the security features under various lights. A blacklight would be the starting point to recognize counterfeit notes and is therefore common in banks, businesses and some shops all over the world. Next is a step using a digester boiler for cooking with a chemical known as lye (a liquid mixture of sodium hydroxide). Then a pulper tank and gyro-cleaner are used to carry out advanced refinement, washing and rinsing, where new water is added, and old water is drained. The fiber is then shortened and fibrillated (turning fibers into fibrils) until it meets standards. The bleaching process then follows to achieve a certain brightness and half of the water is removed from the fibers. The material is then cut to size which looks like thick rectangular paper sections. Up to this point it’s all part of the pre-process before becoming currency-paper. This is known as the “half-stock” and gives strength to the paper.
At this point more manipulation would take place to ensure the consistency of the paper is perfect. More fibrillation and shortening of the fibers would be applied until specific requirements are met namely: The length of the fiber, the color and the ease of movement to ensure the correct quality, formation process, strength, the ability to withstand pressure, wear and damage is maintained throughout the mixing process in the pulper & blend tanks. This mixture is then sent to the “wet-phase” process. In this process when the raw materials enter the “wet-phase”, ninety-nine comma four percent will be water and zero comma six percent will be fiber. From this point the process goes into the “wet-end” of which most water would have been diluted. In the “wet-end”, is where all the security features are added per bill and with the vast amounts of rollers and screens takes the pulp, turns it into currency-paper and is mostly a high security area where only certain employees would be allowed into. In America these areas are monitored by the Secret Service. The are some trade-offs when making currency paper. The choice would be to either have perfect watermarks or durability or a complex mix thereof which is extremely difficult. If the paper is very durable, then to make perfect watermarks are very difficult to make. If less durable, then watermarking becomes easier. The key to counterfeit money detection is in its feel and how money sounds when it crinkles and is not written down as a procedure but rather a guideline and is only achieved through experience. In short how money feels between the fingers and how it sounds to your ear is the biggest counterfeit detector, if experienced.
Other materials are also used to make paper besides cotton and could include bamboo and bagasse: a byproduct of sugarcane. Sugarcane waste, bagasse, has been a very good option as a fiber because sugarcane is easy to grow and harvested faster than wood, as wood is becoming expensive as time goes by and takes long to grow.
Paper has always been so easily discarded but at the same time people were so eager to hold onto it as well. Let me explain: When paper is used as a note pad to write short term notes, its easily discarded but if paper is in the form of a certificate to increase your job opportunity, a stock certificate as proof of ownership, money or a contract, paper is the medium with the highest face value than on any other medium on the planet. Paper itself isn’t valued but rather what’s been written, drafted, drawn, printed or displayed on it. On paper, a material with no value, is the only material that can carry intellectual content as paper does. Paper carries historical, personal, artistic, theological, biblical or monetary value and not only can its content be disputed but rather the paper itself on which the content was written. Authenticity can usually be determined by the make-up and composition of paper including dating the paper, ink and how the paper was made.
Forgers and counterfeit money makers must become specialists these days in various fields or even work together in teams to overcome all the security features. These processes include copying words, images and other security features, in order to deceive and get away with fraudulent documents. There will always be people looking for the challenge and Forensic Document Examiners will always be the opposition to these illegal activities.
Thank you for reading A Note on Paper. I really hope you’ve enjoyed the read and here are a few famous sayings to end your reading enthusiasm.
1) On a greenback, greenback dollar-bill,
Just a little piece of paper, coated with chlorophyll.
- Ray Charles, “Greenbacks” 1955
2) We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.
- Dr. Werner von Braun, space pioneer, 1958
3) Find a public plea for rags from “THE BOSTON NEWSLETTER” on March 6 and 23rd 1769 at a time
when rags were in short supply to be used for creating fibers for papermaking.
Rags are as beauties, which concealed lie,
But when in paper, how it charms the eye;
Pray save your rags, new beauties it discovers,
For paper truly, every one’s a lover:
By the pen and press such knowledge is displayed,
As wouldn’t exist if paper was not made.
Wisdom of things, mysterious, divine,
Illustriously doth on paper shine.
Thank you very much for reading this article.
Written by C. LABONTE
- Timothy Barrett. Japanese Papermaking: Traditions, tools & Techniques. Weatherhill, 1983.
- Anne Baldassari. Picasso: Working on Paper. London: Merrell Publishers Ltd., 2000.
- Jonathan M. Bloom. Paper before Print: The history and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. New
Haven. CT: Yale University Press, 2001.
- Nicolas A Basbanes. On Paper: The everything of its two-thousand-year history. Alfred A. Knopf
Publisher, New York, 2013.
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