Our ancestors developed a varity of techniques for reproducing many copies of a graphic message. Printing is the term that describes these techniques.
In its earliest form, printing was done from hand-carved wooden blocks. The complete message was cut in reverse into the block. Then the block was inked and pressed against the material to be printed. This is called relief printing.
Amajor limitation of wood block printing is that each new message requires carving a new block of wood, and carving is a slow and tedious process. This limitation was overcome with the invention of movable type.
Movable type consists of individual letters of the alphabet that can be assembled to produce a printed message, disassembled and then asembled again to form a new message.
Movable type characters made from hardened clay were used in China as early as 1041 A.D. By the middle of the thirteenth centure, Koreans were casting type in bronze.
In 1439 Johann Gutenberg became the first European to print from movable type. It is not known whether he invented the process on his own or if he was aware of the developments that had occurred in the Orient. Not only did Gutenberg print from movable type, but, even more important, he developed a practical means of casting type. The famous Gutenberg Bible is one of the earliest books printed from movable type in the west.
Early printing was done on hand-operated wooden presses. The printing of 250 sheets of paper in Gutenberg’s timewas considered a full day’s work. By the middle of the seventeent centure, 2000 sheets a day could be printed. Today high-speed presses can pint more than ten thousands of sheets in single hour.
The first printing press in America was set up in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. Steven Daye, the first American printer, operated this press. His first book, The Whole Book of Psalmes was printed in 1640. Typesetting, Printing, and binding of the 1700 copies of this 300-page book took almost a full year to complete.
The most famous American printer was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin established his own printing business in Philadelphia in 1728. His most notable publications included the Pennsylvania Gazeete, a leading colonial newspaper, and Poor Richard’s Almanack, issued in 1732. Developments in the last 100 years have revolutionized the printing industry. Printing has changed from an art to a science, from a craft to a technology. But the development of printing is not over yet. New materials, machines, and methods are constantly being invented in order to satisfy man’s need to communicated.