Printing Press at a Glimpse

by Andrew Veazey

The printing press was invented in 1440 in Germany by the goldsmith Johann Gutenberg but woodblock printing and movable type printing technologies were already developed in ancient China and later Korea in East Asia a few hundred years prior, printing methods based on Gutenberg’s printing press spread quickly throughout first Europeand then the rest of the world. A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a media, thereby transferring an image.

Printing press eventually replaced most versions of block printing, making it the most used format of modern movable type printing. But this method was depended for some of its elements upon a diffusion of technologies from East Asia paper, woodblock printing, and possibly Bi Sheng’s movable type printing technology in addition to a growing demand by the general European public for the lower cost paper books, instead of the exorbitantly expensive parchment books.

While woodblock printing had arrived in Europe at approximately the same time paper did, this method was not as suitable for literary communication as it was in the east. Block printing is well-suited to the written Chinese because character alignment is not critical and the existence of over 5,000 basic characters made the Chinese movable type technology somewhat incompetent and economically unreasonable, in terms of profits for the ancient Chinese book publishers. With the Latin alphabet, however, the need for exact alignment and a much simpler character set positioned movable type as a great advance for the west.

The use of a press was a key technological difference provided European inventors with advantages over their Chinese counterparts the screw-based presses used in wine and olive oil production. Attaining mechanical complexity in approximately the year 1000 CE, devices for applying pressure on a flat-plane were common in Europe.


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