Long lasting paper

I want a kind of paper that will last a thousand years, bugs won’t eat it, and it has a nice look to it. Any suggestions?


Cotton paper is a good choice for this. Wood based papers usually contain residual lignin which will gradually decompose and produce organic acid that hydrolyzes the cellulose fibers. The left over lignin also yellows over a period of time. Cotton paper is used for US currency, and has a nice feel and look.

They make alkaline based papers, in which alkaline coatings and additives neutralize the acids as they are generated. These alkaline agents are consumed in the process, but can extend the life of paper for hundreds of years if enough is added.

Alkaline produced and cotton paper are still possibly bug-food though. If it was 50 years ago, you could get asbestos paper. For a special 1000 year project, maybe you can get something similar of another mineral fiber.

How about that plastic stuff they make backpacker maps with?

I say go synthetic and get Tyvek. I’ve been using a Mighty Wallet for more than a year and it’s still in one piece. Are you writing on it or printing on it?

I think cotton paper doesn’t contain starch, that’s how those counterfeit detection pens work - they use iodine.

The paper and foamcore I use in my art is acid-free (alkaline), and I also laminate the paper. I don’t know about the laminate’s longevity.

I guess we should know what this paper is required to do besides last 1,000 years. Do you have to print on it? Will it be handled, or can it be sealed in an inert atmosphere? If it can be preserved in a dry argon environment almost any paper will do. If it has to be pawed over by the hoi polloi with their grubby mitts you’re going to need something special. Even titanium foil would be damaged by 1,000 years of old sweat and skin oils.

I was thinking very long lasting books. The Tyvek and equivalent looks the best so far.

tanned leather, silver or gold sheets, baked clay.

Back in the day wasn’t there a “paper” made of mylar? I remember seeing the stuff when wandering the drafting/graphics section of larger arts supplies and university bookstores.

It was like thin but very tough finely frosted plastic. You could write on it with a pencil or pen but you could rub off (or at least well smear) the writing. If you wanted something more permanent you used an ink that had acid? in it so it etched and stained the material making the marking permanent.

That stuff looked pretty bug and water proof to me.

I guess looking at what survived, you could also try papyrus or linen. But thick Tyvek should be more bug proof, plus it looks exactly like paper (if you find out where to get some, let me know - I can’t find it anywhere)

Try Amazon.com; I found one company selling it. Not cheap though; fifty sheets for about $33.

Vellum seems a good choice

It’s not cheap though - try $35 per 8’ x 10’ sheet.


Back in my exploration days, surveyors would plot their master traverses on “rug paper.” It’s a thick white carboard-like sheet backed with a thin fabric. The paper is so thick one can erase even ink marks and it comes out clean and white again.

How about that John Wayne TP you find in public restrooms??

Start with the thinnest paper you can, like the stuff they used to use for bibles, then laminate the pages with a thin plastic film. That way, the ink will not be exposed to air or contact with the reader’s fingers, a potential problem with plain tyvek. Since the laminate itself will provide a clear handling margin, the page surface could be printed to nearly a “full bleed”.

Now, as to employing a language that will be comprehensible a thousand years from now, that could be a bigger challenge.

If you do that, what will happen to the plastic laminate over time? Will it yellow? Will it crack and peel?