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History of Printing (1)
2015-06-08 16:05:05

The history of printing also sheds light on the development of human society, culture, commerce and technology. The revolution of technology comes after it can no longer meet people’s demands and the material foundation has been laid. The development of culture, just like a ship in this long “historical” river, has its own ups and downs, and even has suffered a lot for a long time. Although the direction was not that clear at first, people still have put thousands of efforts to bring printing to the world, which is a priceless treasure to our civilization and still plays an irreplaceable role in the world of today.

Origins in China:

The Chinese people had developed "rag" paper by A.D. 105, which made by tree bark, cloth-scrap and fishnet. The earliest form of printing may date back to A.D. 175, which was the year that significant texts of Confucianism being carved in stone. About 500 years later, as the Buddhism was spreading among people in eastern Asia, and to further enhance its influences, sutra on paper and its copies came out.

Woodblock printing in China:

The earliest complete survival printed book was found in China, in the end of the Tang Dynasty (868). It was a nearly five meters long and 0.3 meter high scroll, containing the text of the Diamond Sutra. It was the world's first printed illustration which revealed people's strong ability of design and represented a relatively high standard of woodblock printing technique at that time.


Movable type printing:

Movable type printing uses movable components to print texts while it offers more conveniences and durability in comparison with hand copying and block printing. The world's first known movable type system was created in China around 1040 AD by Bi Sheng, using ceramic materials. He also promoted the wooden movable type which was abandoned in favor of clay movable types. Due to the very complex ideograms of Chinese characters, these movable types of printing were not widely used in China. During the Goryeo Dynasty, movable type printing was spread to Korea and they developed a cast metal type printing in 1392 and this technique was extensively used.

Printing in Western world:

A goldsmith and businessman from Mainz in southern Germany called Johannes Gutenberg was the one who introduced printing to Europe. He was the first European to use movable type printing in around 1439. Gutenberg's skills with metal enabled him to deliver mass-production of movable type printing, to develop oil-based ink from China’s water-based ink, to combine many techniques together and to promote printing industry as well as accelerate the dissemination of culture and knowledge. His work, the Gutenberg Bible had a profound impact on the history of the printed book.

Printing in England:

In 1476, the English merchant, writer and printer, William Caxton set up England's first printing press. He was also the first English retailer of printed books. From the cultural aspect, he contributed a lot to the development of English language since he and his printings had made literary English more standardized and formalized. He was not only a qualified printer and publisher of printed books, but also an excellent editor and translator who had vigorously promoted the language in the 16th century and laid a solid foundation for English’s extensive using in the worldwide.

Works of artists:

Martin Schongauer was the first great German engraver and painter who had produced many fine engravings that enjoyed popularity in Europe. His works were mainly about religion and his comprehensive depicting volume skills had broken through the limitation of engraving at that era. Albrecht Dürer, who began engraving copper plates since he was still young, had notably developed the mastery of the technique and improved woodcuts printing on the basis of Schongauer as well as won his own reputation in Europe in the 16th century.

Mezzotint technique:

The mezzotint technique was invented by the German amateur artist Ludwig von Siegen. It is a branch of intaglio technique, which the image is incised into a surface. With this technique, the printers of the 17th and 18th centuries were capable of producing high level works with fine details, evenly attached inks and outstanding quality of tones.

Color prints:

The primitive adding color to subjects by hands was found in China, which was less precise and required experiences and skills at the same time. The colored woodcut was also invented by Chinese people, and the European colored woodcut prints were invented in Germany in 16th century. However, this technique hadn’t been widespread until it was developed in Japan in 18th century. With this development, Japan became the first country to provide color prints of a high quality and inserted great vitality into the printing industry. In the 19th century, color prints influenced countries in Europe a lot and many different methods were developed.


Took advantage of the fact that grease is not miscible with water, the German author and actor Alois Senefelder invented lithography in 1796, which means print on a smooth surface such as stone or a metal plate. Lithography is a printing process that uses chemical reactions to create an image. The images or marks are made on a stone surface in greasy crayon or oil, and after the stone is wetted, these inks will be applied. Finally, a paper sheet against the stone will pick up those inks and forms a printed page.

First iron printing press:

Before the early 19th century, people came to realize that the printing press made by woods had its limitations and the press made out of metal might be more rigid. Then, around the beginning of 19th century, a British statesman and scientist named Charles Stanhope invented the first printing press completely out of cast-iron. It improved the printing efficiency when comparing with the wood printing press and produced clear impressions. 

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