History of silk hand-made paper in Samarkand started right after the battle of Talas in 751 AD. Its production was initiated by Chinese captives brought to Samarkand by Arabs. By the 8th century, 400 paper mills flourished here. From Samarkand, paper production spread to Bagdad, Damascus, and Cairo.
By 900 AD bookshops and even public libraries existed in the Arab world. Paper entered Europe in the 12th century, after North African Moors conquered Spain and Portugal bringing the secrets of paper production with them.
Koni Ghil Silk Paper. Samarkand
Samarkand remained the center of paper production in Central Asia until the middle of 19-th century when the art of hand-made was almost lost due to technological advances.
Samarkand paper was made from mulberry tree, henna, and rose water, and was renowned for its bright colors and fragrances. The paper was revered and coveted by dignitaries and artisans alike for nearly a century.
Here at “Meros” 8 kilometers from Samarkand in the village of Koni Ghil the artisans have revived this ancient tradition of silk hand-made paper production and reintroduced Samarkand paper to the world.
With the help of UNESCO and JICA a water mill has been constructed.
Opportunity to watch the whole process of silk paper production attracts a lot of tourists to Koni Ghil every day. It is possible to take part in the production and make a paper of your own.
Koni Ghil Silk Paper
The process of production of Samarkand paper: The leafless branches are soaked and boiled to loosen the outer bark. The inner bark is scraped off with a knife, soaked some more, and then pounded into a creamy mass.
After adding water to form a loose slurry, an artisan deftly dips a fine screen on a frame, shakes it to spread the pulp, and lets the water drain. A press is used to apply intense pressure to squeeze out more water. After that the paper is smoothed onto a board or glass to dry in the air.
Paper is polished with shell or special stone in the end.
All of it takes time, patience and skill.