spread in sheets


Senior Member

In the early Middle Ages, Europe imported an industrial process from China, which turned almost any kind of fibrous material into pulp that was then spread in sheets. This was known as cloth parchment.

(This reading comprehension comes from TOEFL Practice Online about Movable Type.)

1. Does "spread" mean "be put onto a surface", as in "to spread butter on pieces of toast"?
2. What does "in sheets" mean?

Thanks in advance!
  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    They took the pulp (slurry of water and fiberous materials) and poured it out over a large flat surface and allowed it to dry. That dried slurry became "parchment". It is not very different from how paper is produced today. Only that the fibers today are primarily wood products and not cloth or bits of leather.

    In the image below the paper maker has created a slurry of fiberous material (in the wooden barrel). He then dips a frame with a fine mesh screen into the slurry and lifts it out with the slurry in it. That is the equivalent to the "sheet". He allows the water to drain and then leaves it in the sun to dry. The dried sheet is an example of handmade paper. This is very similar to what is being described in your quote.



    Senior Member
    USA, English
    No. A sheet is like a bed sheet or a sheet of paper. It is very thin and flat and. We have "sheet metal", "cotton sheets", "paper sheets", "cardboard sheets", etc.

    From Collins Dictionary:



    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The wet pulp was spread into the shape of rectangles. When it dried, the dried pieces could be described as sheets. They weren't sheets until the water left.