7th October 1806. Scribe to Copier to Printer.

In the beginning was the scribe with his quill-pen, then copying clerks of the Dickensian Age, then Today in 1806 Ralph Wedgwood was granted a patent for his ‘Carbonated Paper’.

Ralph a member of the extremely talented pottery family was able to indulge his time in invention of the means of duplication, originally as an aid for the blind.

He saturated thin paper with printers’ ink, dried between sheets of blotting paper, then the blackened paper put between tissue paper and a blank sheet of writing paper: the ‘Stylographic Manifold Writer’.


It was soon realised that this ‘carbonated paper’, consisting of paper, coated with Carbon Black (soot), bound with wax, could be used for duplicating writing.

This was eventually replaced by paper coated on one side with a layer of dry-inked pigmented coating, then waxed which became standard when typewriters emerged.

Manufacture of  Carbon Paper was then the biggest consumer of Montan Wax, a lignite hard wax, obtained by solvent extraction of types of lignite or brown coal. In effect a fossil with a melting point of 82-95° c.

Development came with discovery of chemical polymers that could be applied with solvents to a plastic film instead of paper.

Technology never stands still, for then came photo-copiers, computers and printers.

Montan Wax is still used for car and shoe-polish, as it is scuff-resistant, water repellent and glossy. It is also  used in paints, phonographic records and lubricants for moulding paper and plastics. 

Most of these products, owing to their chemical make-up, have pleasant smells, one experienced as a child from crayons, plasticine and polishes.

This is due to that Waxes are Esters of an alcohol, (other than Glycerols), and have distinct aromas being used in perfumes, food additives, solvents and plasticizers.


Carboxylic acid (fatty acids) reacts with an Alcohol and results in Esters and water. Acid + alcohol > ester +water.




wired.com/carbon-paper/Pic of sheet.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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