Baghdad Paper

Object: Baghdad Paper

Materials: paper

Place: Baghdad

Date of Creation: 802-809 AD

Museum of Writing, London, UK

EMu user since 2010

Baghdad PaperThis is one of the earliest surviving examples of paper that was not made in China. The art of papermaking was a secret kept within China since its invention in 105AD. After the battle of Talas in 751 AD, knowledgeable Chinese prisoners of war were ordered to produce paper in Samarkand, which opened up this knowledge for the first time to what became the Muslim world. By 793 the first of five factories, set up by Haroun-el-Raschid, was operational in Baghdad.Baghdad Paper

The document shown here is on paper that was made in one of Haroun-el-Raschid’s mills and dates to between 802 and 809 AD. It was originally a contract that was cut into eight pieces immediately upon its signing; the reverse bears one of the signatures. Each part of the document was then written on with a religious phrase and sold as an amulet. The phrase on this document states: “There is only one God”. The total price of the whole sheet was around £2,300 in today’s money, which is evidence of the value of the new paper at the  time.

Acknowledgements: Museum of Writing and Alan Cole

Photograph: Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London