The History of Linen Fabric
W.F. Leggett , after very intensive research into the history of linen, has written in The Story of Linen
“It is truly impossible to learn which of the many natural fibres were first used for textile purposes, or even to be sure how that particular fibre came to be used, but of the four chief textile fibres, wool, cotton, silk and flax, the last is unquestionably the most ancient. Some anthropologist even declare that it is possible that linen had its origin not long after the advent of man.
It is known that linen cloth was produced in Egypt long enough ago to be a well-developed art by 3400 B.C. This fact is attested to by the linen cloth in a number of varieties and textures found in the tombs of the dynasties which ended about that time. Although handmade, some of the cloth was very fine and sheer – some of it was even called “woven air” – having more than 500 threads per inch, a weaving feat which is not duplicated even by modern machines. A robe of this fabric, it is said, could be drawn through s small finger ring. On the other hand, coarse linen cloth comparable to the canvas of today was also produced.
The rank of the wearer is believed to have been designated by the type of linen burial cloth, the nobles and priests being wrapped in as many as a thousand yards of fine, smooth linen and slaves being wrapped in a few yards of coarse canvas like linen. All, however, were wrapped in linen for burial, for this fibre alone was believed to be “pure” and thus had religious significance. From ancient Egypt, with the rise of the sea travel and trade, the use of line spread all around the Mediterranean, Thence on to the other inland territories, and with the Roman conquest of England, to that country: at least fairly sophisticated manufacture of linen began in England at that time. Linen is frequently mentioned in the Bible as clothing and as partitioning and furnishing the temple of the Exodus in various ways."