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{{About|the process of reproducing text and images|the handwriting method|block letters|other uses|Print (disambiguation)}}{{Use mdy dates|date=April 2012}}File:Collage of printing.png|upright=1.5|thumb|From top to bottom, left to right: cylinder seal of a scene, block used for woodblock printing, movable type, printing press, lithograph press, offset press used for modern lithographic printing, linotype machine for hot metal typesetting, digital printer, 3D printer in action.]]{{History of printing}}{{Marketing}}Printing is a process for reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest non-paper products involving printing include cylinder seals and objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus. The earliest known form of printing as applied to paper was woodblock printing, which appeared in China before 220 AD.Shelagh Vainker in Anne Farrer (ed), "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas", 1990, British Museum publications, {{ISBN|0-7141-1447-2}} Later developments in printing technology include the movable type invented by Bi Sheng around 1040 ADWEB,weblink Great Chinese Inventions,, July 29, 2010, dead,weblink" title="">weblink December 3, 2010, mdy-all, and the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. The technology of printing played a key role in the development of the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.Rees, Fran. Johannes Gutenberg: Inventor of the Printing Press


Woodblock printing

Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns that was used widely throughout East Asia. It originated in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later on paper. As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220 A.D.

In East Asia

File:Jingangjing.jpg|thumb|left|The intricate frontispiece of the Diamond Sutra from Tang-dynasty China, 868 AD (British LibraryBritish LibraryThe earliest surviving woodblock printed fragments are from China. They are of silk printed with flowers in three colours from the Han Dynasty (before 220 A.D.). They are the earliest example of woodblock printing on paper and appeared in the mid-seventh century in China.By the ninth century, printing on paper had taken off, and the first extant complete printed book containing its date is the Diamond Sutra (British Library) of 868.WEB,weblink Oneline Gallery: Sacred Texts, British Library, March 10, 2012, dead,weblink" title="">weblink November 10, 2013, By the tenth century, 400,000 copies of some sutras and pictures were printed, and the Confucian classics were in print. A skilled printer could print up to 2,000 double-page sheets per day.BOOK, Tsuen-Hsuin, Tsien, Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin, Needham, Joseph, Joseph Needham, Paper and Printing, Science and Civilisation in China, 5 part 1, Cambridge University Press, 158, 201, 1985, Printing spread early to Korea and Japan, which also used Chinese logograms, but the technique was also used in Turpan and Vietnam using a number of other scripts. This technique then spread to Persia and Russia.Thomas Franklin Carter, The Invention of Printing in China and its Spread Westward, The Ronald Press, NY 2nd ed. 1955, pp. 176–78 This technique was transmitted to Europe via the Islamic world, and by around 1400 was being used on paper for old master prints and playing cards.BOOK, Mayor, A Hyatt, Prints and People, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton, 5-18, 978-0-691-00326-9, 1980, However, Arabs never used this to print the Quran because of the limits imposed by Islamic doctrine.{{elaboration needed|date=May 2019}}

In the Near East

Block printing, called tarsh in Arabic, developed in Arabic Egypt during the ninth and tenth centuries, mostly for prayers and amulets. There is some evidence to suggest that these print blocks made from non-wood materials, possibly tin, lead, or clay. The techniques employed are uncertain, however, and they appear to have had very little influence outside of the Muslim world. Though Europe adopted woodblock printing from the Muslim world, initially for fabric, the technique of metal block printing remained unknown in Europe. Block printing later went out of use in Islamic Central Asia after movable type printing was introduced from China.Richard W. Bulliet (1987), "Medieval Arabic Tarsh: A Forgotten Chapter in the History of Printing". Journal of the American Oriental Society 107 (3), pp. 427–38.

In Europe

File:Saint Christopher 001.jpg|thumb|right|upright=0.9|The earliest known woodcut, 1423, BuxheimBuxheimBlock printing first came to Europe as a method for printing on cloth, where it was common by 1300. Images printed on cloth for religious purposes could be quite large and elaborate. When paper became relatively easily available, around 1400, the technique transferred very quickly to small woodcut religious images and playing cards printed on paper. These prints produced in very large numbers from about 1425 onward.Around the mid-fifteenth-century, block-books, woodcut books with both text and images, usually carved in the same block, emerged as a cheaper alternative to manuscripts and books printed with movable type. These were all short heavily illustrated works, the bestsellers of the day, repeated in many different block-book versions: the Ars moriendi and the Biblia pauperum were the most common. There is still some controversy among scholars as to whether their introduction preceded or, the majority view, followed the introduction of movable type, with the range of estimated dates being between about 1440 and 1460.Master E.S., Alan Shestack, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1967

Movable-type printing

File:五贯宝卷.jpg|thumb|left|upright=0.9|Copperplate of 1215–1216 5000 cash paper money with ten bronze movable types]]File:SelectedTeachingsofBuddhistSagesandSonMasters1377.jpg|thumb|Jikji, "Selected Teachings of Buddhist Sages and Son Masters" from Korea, the earliest known book printed with movable metal type, 1377. Bibliothèque Nationale de FranceBibliothèque Nationale de France{{See also|History of Western typography}}Movable type is the system of printing and typography using movable pieces of metal type, made by casting from matrices struck by letterpunches. Movable type allowed for much more flexible processes than hand copying or block printing.Around 1040, the first known movable type system was created in China by Bi Sheng out of porcelain. Bi Sheng used clay type, which broke easily, but Wang Zhen by 1298 had carved a more durable type from wood. He also developed a complex system of revolving tables and number-association with written Chinese characters that made typesetting and printing more efficient. Still, the main method in use there remained woodblock printing (xylography), which "proved to be cheaper and more efficient for printing Chinese, with its thousands of characters".Beckwith, Christopher I., Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, Princeton University Press, 2009, {{ISBN|978-0-691-15034-5}}Copper movable type printing originated in China at the beginning of the 12th century. It was used in large-scale printing of paper moneyissued by the Northern Song dynasty. Movable type spread to Korea during the Goryeo dynasty.Around 1230, Koreans invented a metal type movable printing using bronze. The Jikji, published in 1377, is the earliest known metal printed book. Type-casting was used, adapted from the method of casting coins. The character was cut in beech wood, which was then pressed into a soft clay to form a mould, and bronze poured into the mould, and finally the type was polished.{{harvnb|Tsien|1985|p=330}} The Korean form of metal movable type was described by the French scholar Henri-Jean Martin as "extremely similar to Gutenberg's".Briggs, Asa and Burke, Peter (2002) A Social History of the Media: from Gutenberg to the Internet, Polity, Cambridge, pp. 15–23, 61–73. Eastern metal movable type was spread to Europe between the late 14th century and the early 15th century.BOOK, Polenz, Peter von., Deutsche Sprachgeschichte vom Spätmittelalter bis zur Gegenwart: I. Einführung, Grundbegriffe, Deutsch in der frühbürgerlichen Zeit., New York/Berlin: Gruyter, Walter de GmbH, 1991, German, WEB, Christensen, Thomas,weblink Did East Asian Printing Traditions Influence the European Renaissance?, 2006-10-18, 2007, Arts of Asia Magazine (to appear), BOOK, Mendoza, Juan González de, Juan González de Mendoza, Historia de las cosas más notables, ritos y costumbres del gran reyno de la China,weblink 1585, Spanish, BOOK, Stavrianos, L.S., L. S. Stavrianos, A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century, 7th, 1998, 1970, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 978-0-13-923897-0, (File:Metal movable type.jpg|right|thumb|A case of cast metal type pieces and typeset matter in a composing stick)

The printing press

File:De uitvinding van de boekdrukkunst, anoniem, Museum Plantin-Moretus, PK OPB 0186 005.jpg|thumb|450px|The invention of printing, anonymous, design by Stradanus, collection Plantin-Moretus_MuseumPlantin-Moretus_MuseumAround 1450, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the first movable type printing system in Europe. He advanced innovations in casting type based on a matrix and hand mould, adaptations to the screw-press, the use of an oil-based ink, and the creation of a softer and more absorbent paper.BOOK, Steinberg, S. H., S. H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing, 3rd, 1974, Penguin Books, Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 978-0-14-020343-1, Gutenberg was the first to create his type pieces from an alloy of lead, tin, antimony, copper and bismuth – the same components still used today.Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 27, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite DVD – entry "printing" Johannes Gutenberg started work on his printing press around 1436, in partnership with Andreas Dritzehen – whom he had previously instructed in gem-cutting – and Andreas Heilmann, the owner of a paper mill.Compared to woodblock printing, movable type page setting and printing using a press was faster and more durable. Also, the metal type pieces were sturdier and the lettering more uniform, leading to typography and fonts. The high quality and relatively low price of the Gutenberg Bible (1455) established the superiority of movable type for Western languages. The printing press rapidly spread across Europe, leading up to the Renaissance, and later all around the world.(File:Miklós Andor in the page-setting room of Athenaeum Printing House - cca. 1920 (1).tiff|thumb|Page-setting room – c. 1920)Gutenberg's innovations in movable type printing have been called the most important invention of the second millennium.In 1997, Time–Life magazine picked Gutenberg's invention to be the most important of the second millennium. In 1999, the A&E Network voted Johannes Gutenberg "Man of the Millennium". See also 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking The Men and Women Who Shaped The Millennium {{webarchive|url= |date=October 12, 2007 }} which was composed by four prominent US journalists in 1998.

Rotary printing press

The rotary printing press was invented by Richard March Hoe in 1843. It uses impressions curved around a cylinder to print on long continuous rolls of paper or other substrates. Rotary drum printing was later significantly improved by William Bullock.

Printing capacity

The table lists the maximum number of pages which various press designs could print per hour.{| class="wikitable" style="margin:1px; border:1px solid #cccccc; "---- align="left" valign="top" bgcolor="cccccc"
|! colspan="2" | Hand-operated presses! colspan="4" | Steam-powered presses
! width="10%" |! width="10%" | Gutenberg-style c. 1600! width="10%" | Stanhope press c. 1800! width="10%" | Koenig press 1812! width="10%" | Koenig press 1813! width="10%" | Koenig press 1814! width="10%" | Koenig press 1818
|Impressions per hour
TITLE=THE PERFORMANCE OF THE WOODEN PRINTING PRESSDATE=1972ISSUE=2JSTOR=4306163, 480 {{harvnb1967Bolzap=83}} 1,100 {{harvnb1967Bolzap=88}} 2,400

Conventional printing technology

All printing process are concerned with two kinds of areas on the final output:
  1. Image Area (printing areas)
  2. Non-image Area (non-printing areas)
After the information has been prepared for production (the prepress step), each printing process has definitive means of separating the image from the non-image areas.Conventional printing has four types of process:
  1. Planographics, in which the printing and non-printing areas are on the same plane surface and the difference between them is maintained chemically or by physical properties, the examples are: offset lithography, collotype, and screenless printing.
  2. Relief, in which the printing areas are on a plane surface and the non printing areas are below the surface, examples: flexography and letterpress.
  3. Intaglio, in which the non-printing areas are on a plane surface and the printing area are etched or engraved below the surface, examples: steel die engraving, gravure
  4. Porous, in which the printing areas are on fine mesh screens through which ink can penetrate, and the non-printing areas are a stencil over the screen to block the flow of ink in those areas, examples: screen printing, stencil duplicator.


File:Commercial. Le Samedi BAnQ P48S1P03551.jpg|thumb|Miehle press printing Le Samedi journal. MontrealMontrealLetterpress printing is a technique of relief printing. A worker composes and locks movable type into the bed of a press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer the ink from the type which creates an impression on the paper.Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century, when offset printing was developed. More recently, letterpress printing has seen a revival in an artisanal form.


Offset printing is a widely used printing technique. Offset printing is where the inked image is transferred (or "offset") from a plate to a rubber blanket. An offset transfer moves the image to the printing surface. When used in combination with the lithographic process, a process based on the repulsion of oil and water; the offset technique employs a flat (planographic) image carrier. So, the image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free.Currently, most books and newspapers are printed using the technique of offset lithography.


Gravure printing is an intaglio printing technique, where the image being printed is made up of small depressions in the surface of the printing plate. The cells are filled with ink, and the excess is scraped off the surface with a doctor blade. Then a rubber-covered roller presses paper onto the surface of the plate and into contact with the ink in the cells. The printing cylinders are usually made from copper plated steel, which is subsequently chromed, and may be produced by diamond engraving; etching, or laser ablation.Gravure printing is used for long, high-quality print runs such as magazines, mail-order catalogues, packaging and printing onto fabric and wallpaper. It is also used for printing postage stamps and decorative plastic laminates, such as kitchen worktops.


Flexography is a type of relief printing.The relief plates are typically made from photopolymers.The process is used for flexible packaging, labels, newspapers.In this market it competes with gravure printing by holding 80% of the market in USA, 50% in Europe but only 20% in Asia.BOOK, Joanna Izdebska, Sabu Thomas, Printing on Polymers: Fundamentals and Applications,weblink 24 September 2015, Elsevier Science, 978-0-323-37500-9, 199,

Other printing techniques

The other significant printing techniques include:
  • Dye-sublimation printer
  • Inkjet, used typically to print a small number of books or packaging, and also to print a variety of materials: from high quality papers simulating offset printing, to floor tiles. Inkjet is also used to apply mailing addresses to direct mail pieces
  • Laser printing (toner printing) mainly used in offices and for transactional printing (bills, bank documents). Laser printing is commonly used by direct mail companies to create variable data letters or coupons.
  • Pad printing, popular for its ability to print on complex three-dimensional surfaces
  • Relief print, mainly used for catalogues
  • Screen-printing for a variety of applications ranging from T-shirts to floor tiles, and on uneven surfaces
  • Intaglio, used mainly for high value documents such as currencies.
  • Thermal printing, popular in the 1990s for fax printing. Used today for printing labels such as airline baggage tags and individual price labels in supermarket deli counters.

Impact of German movable type printing press

Quantitative aspects

(File:European Output of Printed Books ca. 1450–1800.png|thumb|European output of books printed by movable type from ca. 1450 to 1800)It is estimated that following the innovation of Gutenberg's printing press, the European book output rose from a few million to around one billion copies within a span of less than four centuries.Buringh, Eltjo; van Zanden, Jan Luiten: "Charting the 'Rise of the West': Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries", The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 69, No. 2 (2009), pp. 409–45 (417, table 2)

Religious impact

Samuel Hartlib, who was exiled in Britain and enthusiastic about social and cultural reforms, wrote in 1641 that "the art of printing will so spread knowledge that the common people, knowing their own rights and liberties, will not be governed by way of oppression".Ref: Briggs, Asa and Burke, Peter (2002) A Social History of the Media: from Gutenberg to the Internet, Polity, Cambridge, pp. 15–23, 61–73.File:PrintMus 038.jpg|thumb|right|Replica of the Gutenberg press at the International Printing MuseumInternational Printing MuseumIn the Muslim world, printing, especially in Arabic scripts, was strongly opposed throughout the early modern period, though sometimes printing in Hebrew or Armenian script was permitted. Thus the first movable type printing in the Ottoman Empire was in Hebrew in 1493.or soon after; Naim A. Güleryüz, Bizans'tan 20. Yüzyıla – Türk Yahudileri, Gözlem Gazetecilik Basın ve Yayın A.Ş., İstanbul, January 2012, p. 90 {{ISBN|978-9944-994-54-5}} According to an imperial ambassador to Istanbul in the middle of the sixteenth century, it was a sin for the Turks to print religious books. In 1515, Sultan Selim I issued a decree under which the practice of printing would be punishable by death. At the end of the sixteenth century, Sultan Murad III permitted the sale of non-religious printed books in Arabic characters, yet the majority were imported from Italy. Ibrahim Muteferrika established the first press for printing in Arabic in the Ottoman Empire, against opposition from the calligraphers and parts of the Ulama. It operated until 1742, producing altogether seventeen works, all of which were concerned with non-religious, utilitarian matters. Printing did not become common in the Islamic world until the 19th century.Watson, William J., "İbrāhīm Müteferriḳa and Turkish Incunabula", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1968, volume 88, issue 3, p. 436Jews were banned from German printing guilds; as a result Hebrew printing sprang up in Italy, beginning in 1470 in Rome, then spreading to other cities including Bari, Pisa, Livorno, and Mantua. Local rulers had the authority to grant or revoke licenses to publish Hebrew books,"A Lifetime's Collection of Texts in Hebrew, at Sotheby's", Edward Rothstein, New York Times, February 11, 2009 and many of those printed during this period carry the words 'con licenza de superiori' (indicating their printing having been licensed by the censor) on their title pages.It was thought that the introduction of printing 'would strengthen religion and enhance the power of monarchs.'Meyrowitz: "Mediating Communication: What Happens?" in "Questioning the Media", p. 41. The majority of books were of a religious nature, with the church and crown regulating the content. The consequences of printing 'wrong' material were extreme. Meyrowitz used the example of William Carter who in 1584 printed a pro-Catholic pamphlet in Protestant-dominated England. The consequence of his action was hanging.

Social impact

Print gave a broader range of readers access to knowledge and enabled later generations to build directly on the intellectual achievements of earlier ones without the changes arising within verbal traditions. Print, according to Acton in his 1895 lecture On the Study of History, gave "assurance that the work of the Renaissance would last, that what was written would be accessible to all, that such an occultation of knowledge and ideas as had depressed the Middle Ages would never recur, that not an idea would be lost".(File:Press1520.png|thumb|upright|Bookprinting in the 16th century)Print was instrumental in changing the social nature of reading.Elizabeth Eisenstein identifies two long-term effects of the invention of printing. She claims that print created a sustained and uniform reference for knowledge and allowed comparisons of incompatible views.Eisenstein in Briggs and Burke, 2002: p. 21Asa Briggs and Peter Burke identify five kinds of reading that developed in relation to the introduction of print:
  1. Critical reading: Because texts finally became accessible to the general population, critical reading emerged as people were able to form their own opinions on texts.
  2. Dangerous reading: Reading was seen as a dangerous pursuit because it was considered rebellious and unsociable, especially in the case of women, because reading could stir up dangerous emotions such as love, and if women could read, they could read love notes.
  3. Creative reading: Printing allowed people to read texts and interpret them creatively, often in very different ways than the author intended.
  4. Extensive reading: Once print made a wide range of texts available, earlier habits of intensive reading of texts from start to finish began to change, and people began reading selected excerpts, allowing much more extensive reading on a wider range of topics.
  5. Private reading: Reading was linked to the rise of individualism because, before print, reading was often a group event in which one person would read to a group. With print, both literacy and the availability of texts increased, and solitary reading became the norm.
The invention of printing also changed the occupational structure of European cities. Printers emerged as a new group of artisans for whom literacy was essential, while the much more labour-intensive occupation of the scribe naturally declined. Proof-correcting arose as a new occupation, while a rise in the numbers of booksellers and librarians naturally followed the explosion in the numbers of books.

Educational Impact

Gutenberg's printing press had profound impacts on universities as well. Universities were influenced in their "language of scholarship, libraries, curriculum, [and] pedagogy" JOURNAL, Modie, G, 2014, Gutenberg's Effects on Universities, History of Education, 43, 4, 17,

The language of Scholarship

Before the invention of the printing press, most written material was in Latin. However, after the invention of printing the number of books printed expanded as well as the vernacular. Latin was not replaced completely, but remained an international language until the eighteenth century.

University Libraries

At this time, universities began establishing accompanying libraries. "Cambridge made the chaplain responsible for the library in the fifteenth century but this position was abolished in 1570 and in 1577 Cambridge established the new office of university librarian. Although, the University of Leuven did not see a need for a university library based on the idea that professor were the library. Libraries also began receiving so many books from gifts and purchases that they began to run out of room. This issue was solved, however, by a man named Merton (1589) who decided books should be stacked horizontally on shelves.


The printed press changed university libraries in many ways. Professors were finally able to compare the opinions of different authors rather than being forced to look at only one or two specific authors. Textbooks themselves were also being printed in different levels of difficulty, rather than just one introductory text being made available.

Comparison of printing methods

{| class="wikitable sortable"weblink 978-3-540-67326-2, ! Printing process! Transfer method! Pressure applied! Drop size! Dynamic viscosity! Ink thickness on substrate! class="unsortable" | Notes! Cost-effective run length
| Offset printing| rollers| 1 MPa|| 40–100 Pa·s| 0.5–1.5 Âµm| high print quality
30,000 (A3 trim size, web-fed)
| Rotogravure| rollers| 3 MPa|| 50–200 mPa·s| 0.8–8 Âµm
| Flexography| rollers| 0.3 MPa|| 50–500 mPa·s| 0.8–2.5 Âµm| high quality (now HD)|
| Letterpress printing| platen| 10 MPa|| 50–150 Pa·s| 0.5–1.5 Âµm| slow drying|
| Screen-printing| pressing ink through holes in screen||||

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