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The History Of Printing - The Beginnings


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Printing is the process of imprinting paper with ink to create images of letters, graphics, and pictures.
The basic principle of ‘pressing’ the ink onto paper hasn’t changed since the first wooden blocks were
carved so duplications could be made. The first printing presses were invented in China in the 10th
century by which time they were already printing currency.

For the next few centuries, movable type presses were created in China and Korea using a variety of
materials from wood, clay, and finally metal.  By 1392 foundries in Korea were casting type in bronze.
When Marco Polo returned to his home in Venice, Italy in 1295, he brought with him the knowledge of
woodblock printing. Italians began to produce books using the hand-carved block technique of cutting
away the background of the wooden block, leaving raised letters. The process was time consuming and
not permanent. Since wood weathers and cracks if it's dry and warps if it is wet, giving the blocks used
to print pages had a limited lifespan.

In 1436, a German man named Johannes Gutenberg altered an olive press to create a printing press
machine. Gutenberg developed metal type for each of the 26 characters in the Roman alphabet
(easier to manage than the Chinese 5000), and designed a way to move the characters around on a
printing plate. This system became known as the movable type printing press and made it possible to
print multiple copies. With its invention, it was possible to print more copies in a few weeks than could
have been produced in years using the hand-carved block method.

Before the printing press was created, only the church and royalty were wealthy enough to have books
printed. In the first major even in information technology, access to books increased and ended the
Middle Ages and started the Renaissance.