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History of Printing

General Knowledge | 7-14 yrs | Reading Pod

What is Printing?

Printing is the process of reproducing copies of an original image or writing with ink.

Printing History and Facts

First Printing

In the 2nd century, the Chinese started using wooden blocks to print images of flowers on silk. The Chinese began printing on paper in the 7th century, and the first ever complete printed book, Diamond Sutra, was created in 868 AD.

In the woodblock printing process, images and text were carved into wood, rolled into dyes or ink, and then stamped on cloth or paper. Block printing technique required a new wooden block to be carved for every page in a book.

Movable Metal Type

The art of printing soon spread to other countries like Korea, Japan and Europe where people came up with many modifications that further improved the existing technique. By mid-15th century, a number of print masters in Europe were getting closer to perfecting the movable metal type printing technique.

In 1454, Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith, who was also into the printing business, devised an innovative method of carving just the mirror images of individual letters on a small block instead of carving entire words and phrases. This brought down the human effort involved and lowered down the cost as well. The letters could be moved easily and arranged to form new words.

Printing Press Impact

Gutenberg’s press could print thousands of pages per day which was a huge improvement, when compared to the meager 40-50 pages that could be printed with the old method. This device came to be known as the printing press and it revolutionized the printing industry.

Before Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, there were only about 30,000 books throughout the whole of Europe, and nearly all of them were Bibles or other Christian scriptures. Prior to the invention of the printing press, education was reserved only for the wealthy upper classes. With the movable type printing press, however, textbooks became accessible to the common man as well.

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