A brief history of Printing: How it started and its future

Stated by the Times magazine as the most important invention of the millennium, printing hails a great importance in the whole world. The process is of reproduction of images and text through a template or master form. The significance of printing could be understood by looking around us; from the books to the advertorial pamphlet, from the paper to write your memo to the shopping bills, printing is omnipresent.  Printing has promoted knowledge and literacy all over the globe.

East Asia

The belief is that Printing started in East Asia where the usage of woodblock printing technique for patterns, images and text was on rise. This technique started sprouting in China, for printing on textiles rather than paper. 220 A.D., this is how old the earliest prints on cloth was found. 4th century was the dawn of Roman Egypt woodblock printing, in contrast to the former. Around the early 9th century, China had incepted techniques to print on paper; the first ever completed extant printed book was printed in 868 A.D., known as Diamond Sutra. 400,000 plus copies of Pictures and Sutra copies had been successfully printed by 10th century and it was during the time when Confucius was also in distribution among people. Those roots of China spread themselves to Japan and Korea, there were Chinese logograms used in these countries.

Middle East

Amulets and prayers were the first ever projects for which block printing was developed in Arabic Egypt sometime between 9th and 10th centuries. Wood, clay, lead and tin were the surfaces on which these prayers were printed.


The first printing technology to enter Europe was Block Printing in around 14th century, which was used for printing motifs and clothes. Woodcut books got introduced in middle of 15th century along with block books which had both images and text; carved on a single block. These were the most economical alternatives to those books which were printed on a movable printing method.

Movable Printing

Movable printing is a method for typography and printing.  The usage of movable pieces, made by matrices casting, is for letter punches that strike against the paper or printing material. Rise of Movable Printing entailed flexibility along with it; it was way more flexible than block printing or hand copying. In 1040, the first movable printing type was invented from porcelain by Bi Sheng in China. Porcelain was brittle and broke easily and thus in 1298, C.E. Wang Zheng carved out a more durable type of movable printer.

Korean Jikji was printed in 1377 using a movable type machine invented in Korea in which all the movable parts were made form bronze. The machine was invented in 1230.

Printing Press

Johannes Gutenberg was the man behind the modern movable printing type; he invented it by 1450 in Europe. There were some crucial types of casting innovations on hand mould and matrix by Gutenberg. The type pieces in Gutenberg’s type were created from a unique alloy of antimony, lead and tin, which comes in use even today. Successfully printing the Gutenberg Bible in 1455 at low or economical cost established the superiority of Printing Press and movable type printing by extension. Gradually, this machine got famous all over the globe from Europe. It is because of Gutenberg that we derive all the moving printing types.

Modern Printing developments

The modern time has come up with the most efficient ways to print, modern printing developments worth noting are Xerography, which was developed in 1938, Inkjet printing in 1951, Laser Printing 1969, 3D Printing1984 and Digital Press in 1993. These are affordable at short-runs too.

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