2017/12/08

The Printing Press, A Brief History


The power of print has been around for a long time and is easily found in many ancient cultures.  Items such as the Phaistos Disc from Crete which dates back to the 17th century BC, was devised by pressing symbols into clay, very much like we now use moveable type.

When paper was invented then printing really took off.  Conceived in China prior to 105 AD, the process of creating it was accurately documented by the court of the Han Emperor Wu Di, using a mixture of bark and rags.

Carved seal stones were originally used to make impression on the paper.  This would later lead to the development of wood-block printing, used during the Sui or Tang Dynasty.  Early Buddhist writings have been found and discovered to be made by monks.  An early surviving print is the Diamond Sutra of 868 AD, created in Dunhuang.

The ability to make paper eventually made its way into Europe by the 15th century, as more people were able to read.  The task of making copies of texts by hand was very slow and arduous.  A quicker more reliable method to replicate writing was required.  During the 15th and 16th centuries wood block printing was established.  By 1455 AD Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, using metal type.

After this printing was evolving quite rapidly with the development of standardised types and fonts.  There were many changes in language and writing styles when printers started printing for the general public.  The power of the printed word meant that many people could read the same piece of writing at the same time.

Printing Innovations

Aldus Manutius a leading printer of the Venetian High Renaissance introduced a number of innovations to the world of publishing.  He produced high quality volumes of Greek literature and philosophy, with new forms of Greek and Latin cursive type for printing.  He produced new printing techniques using italics as well as smaller octavo editions of texts.

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