Printing press

A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink. It marked a dramatic improvement on earlier printing methods in which the cloth, paper or other medium was brushed or rubbed repeatedly to achieve the transfer of ink, and accelerated the process. Typically used for texts, the invention and global spread of the printing press was one of the most influential events in the second millennium.[1][2]

Johannes Gutenberg, a goldsmith by profession, developed, circa 1439, a printing system by adapting existing technologies to printing purposes, as well as making inventions of his own. Printing in East Asia had been prevalent since the Tang dynasty,[3][4] and in Europe, woodblock printing based on existing screw presses was common by the 14th century. Gutenberg's most important innovation was the development of hand-molded metal printing matrices, thus producing a movable type-based printing press system. His newly devised hand mould made possible the precise and rapid creation of metal movable type in large quantities. Movable type had been hitherto unknown in Europe. In Europe, the two inventions, the hand mould and the printing press, together drastically reduced the cost of printing books and other documents, particularly in short print runs.

The printing press spread within several decades to over two hundred cities in a dozen European countries.[5] By 1500, printing presses in operation throughout Western Europe had already produced more than twenty million volumes.[5] In the 16th century, with presses spreading further afield, their output rose tenfold to an estimated 150 to 200 million copies.[5] The operation of a press became synonymous with the enterprise of printing, and lent its name to a new medium of expression and communication, "the press".[6]

In Renaissance Europe, the arrival of mechanical movable type printing introduced the era of mass communication, which permanently altered the structure of society. The relatively unrestricted circulation of information and (revolutionary) ideas transcended borders, captured the masses in the Reformation and threatened the power of political and religious authorities. The sharp increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning and bolstered the emerging middle class. Across Europe, the increasing cultural self-awareness of its peoples led to the rise of proto-nationalism, and accelerated by the development of European vernacular languages, to the detriment of Latin's status as lingua franca.[7] In the 19th century, the replacement of the hand-operated Gutenberg-style press by steam-powered rotary presses allowed printing on an industrial scale.[8]

PrintMus 038
Recreated Gutenberg press at the International Printing Museum, Carson, California


Economic conditions and intellectual climate

Laurentius de Voltolina 001
Medieval university class (1350s)

The rapid economic and socio-cultural development of late medieval society in Europe created favorable intellectual and technological conditions for Gutenberg's improved version of the printing press: the entrepreneurial spirit of emerging capitalism increasingly made its impact on medieval modes of production, fostering economic thinking and improving the efficiency of traditional work-processes. The sharp rise of medieval learning and literacy amongst the middle class led to an increased demand for books which the time-consuming hand-copying method fell far short of accommodating.[9]

Technological factors

Technologies preceding the press that led to the press's invention included: manufacturing of paper, development of ink, woodblock printing, and distribution of eyeglasses.[10] At the same time, a number of medieval products and technological processes had reached a level of maturity which allowed their potential use for printing purposes. Gutenberg took up these far-flung strands, combined them into one complete and functioning system, and perfected the printing process through all its stages by adding a number of inventions and innovations of his own:

Holzspindelkelter von 1702
Early modern wine press. Such screw presses were applied in Europe to a wide range of uses and provided Gutenberg with the model for his printing press.

The screw press which allowed direct pressure to be applied on flat-plane was already of great antiquity in Gutenberg's time and was used for a wide range of tasks.[11] Introduced in the 1st century AD by the Romans, it was commonly employed in agricultural production for pressing wine grapes and (olive) oil fruit, both of which formed an integral part of the mediterranean and medieval diet.[12] The device was also used from very early on in urban contexts as a cloth press for printing patterns.[13] Gutenberg may have also been inspired by the paper presses which had spread through the German lands since the late 14th century and which worked on the same mechanical principles.[14]

Gutenberg adopted the basic design, thereby mechanizing the printing process.[15] Printing, however, put a demand on the machine quite different from pressing. Gutenberg adapted the construction so that the pressing power exerted by the platen on the paper was now applied both evenly and with the required sudden elasticity. To speed up the printing process, he introduced a movable undertable with a plane surface on which the sheets could be swiftly changed.[16]

Metal movable type
Movable type sorted in a letter case and loaded in a composing stick on top

The concept of movable type was not new in the 15th century; movable type printing had been invented in China during the Song dynasty, and was later used in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty, where metal movable-type printing technology was developed in 1234.[3][4] In Europe, sporadic evidence that the typographical principle, the idea of creating a text by reusing individual characters, was well understood and employed in pre-Gutenberg Europe had been cropping up since the 12th century and possibly before. The known examples range from Germany (Prüfening inscription) to England (letter tiles) to Italy.[17] However, the various techniques employed (imprinting, punching and assembling individual letters) did not have the refinement and efficiency needed to become widely accepted.

Gutenberg greatly improved the process by treating typesetting and printing as two separate work steps. A goldsmith by profession, he created his type pieces from a lead-based alloy which suited printing purposes so well that it is still used today.[18] The mass production of metal letters was achieved by his key invention of a special hand mould, the matrix.[19] The Latin alphabet proved to be an enormous advantage in the process because, in contrast to logographic writing systems, it allowed the type-setter to represent any text with a theoretical minimum of only around two dozen different letters.[20]

Another factor conducive to printing arose from the book existing in the format of the codex, which had originated in the Roman period.[21] Considered the most important advance in the history of the book prior to printing itself, the codex had completely replaced the ancient scroll at the onset of the Middle Ages (500 AD).[22] The codex holds considerable practical advantages over the scroll format; it is more convenient to read (by turning pages), is more compact, less costly, and, in particular, unlike the scroll, both recto and verso could be used for writing − and printing.[23]

Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009. Pic 01
A paper codex of the acclaimed 42-line Bible, Gutenberg's major work

A fourth development was the early success of medieval papermakers at mechanizing paper manufacture. The introduction of water-powered paper mills, the first certain evidence of which dates to 1282,[24] allowed for a massive expansion of production and replaced the laborious handcraft characteristic of both Chinese[25] and Muslim papermaking.[26] Papermaking centres began to multiply in the late 13th century in Italy, reducing the price of paper to one sixth of parchment and then falling further; papermaking centers reached Germany a century later.[27]

Despite this it appears that the final breakthrough of paper depended just as much on the rapid spread of movable-type printing.[28] It is notable that codices of parchment, which in terms of quality is superior to any other writing material,[29] still had a substantial share in Gutenberg's edition of the 42-line Bible.[30] After much experimentation, Gutenberg managed to overcome the difficulties which traditional water-based inks caused by soaking the paper, and found the formula for an oil-based ink suitable for high-quality printing with metal type.[31]

Function and approach

Press skeen 1872 with description
Early Press, etching from Early Typography by William Skeen
Printer in 1568-ce
This woodcut from 1568 shows the left printer removing a page from the press while the one at right inks the text-blocks. Such a duo could reach 14,000 hand movements per working day, printing around 3,600 pages in the process.[32]

A printing press, in its classical form, is a standing mechanism, ranging from 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 m) long, 3 feet (0.91 m) wide, and 7 feet (2.1 m) tall. The small individual metal letters known as type would be set up by a compositor into the desired lines of text. Several lines of text would be arranged at once and were placed in a wooden frame known as a galley. Once the correct number of pages were composed, the galleys would be laid face up in a frame, also known as a forme.[33], which itself is placed onto a flat stone, 'bed,' or 'coffin.' The text is inked using two balls, pads mounted on handles. The balls were made of dog skin leather, because it has no pores,[34] and stuffed with sheep's wool and were inked. This ink was then applied to the text evenly. One damp piece of paper was then taken from a heap of paper and placed on the tympan. The paper was damp as this lets the type 'bite' into the paper better. Small pins hold the paper in place. The paper is now held between a frisket and tympan (two frames covered with paper or parchment).

These are folded down, so that the paper lies on the surface of the inked type. The bed is rolled under the platen, using a windlass mechanism. A small rotating handle is used called the 'rounce' to do this, and the impression is made with a screw that transmits pressure through the platen. To turn the screw the long handle attached to it is turned. This is known as the bar or 'Devil's Tail.' In a well-set-up press, the springiness of the paper, frisket, and tympan caused the bar to spring back and raise the platen, the windlass turned again to move the bed back to its original position, the tympan and frisket raised and opened, and the printed sheet removed. Such presses were always worked by hand. After around 1800, iron presses were developed, some of which could be operated by steam power.

The function of the press in the image on the left was described by William Skeen in 1872,

this sketch represents a press in its completed form, with tympans attached to the end of the carriage, and with the frisket above the tympans. The tympans, inner and outer, are thin iron frames, one fitting into the other, on each of which is stretched a skin of parchment or a breadth of fine cloth. A woollen blanket or two with a few sheets of paper are placed between these, the whole thus forming a thin elastic pad, on which the sheet to be printed is laid. The frisket is a slender frame-work, covered with coarse paper, on which an impression is first taken; the whole of the printed part is then cut out, leaving apertures exactly corresponding with the pages of type on the carriage of the press. The frisket when folded on to the tympans, and both turned down over the forme of types and run in under the platten, preserves the sheet from contact with any thing but the inked surface of the types, when the pull, which brings down the screw and forces the platten to produce the impression, is made by the pressman who works the lever,—to whom is facetiously given the title of “the practitioner at the bar.”.[35]

Gutenberg's press

Johannes Gutenberg's work on the printing press began in approximately 1436 when he partnered with Andreas Dritzehn—a man who had previously instructed in gem-cutting—and Andreas Heilmann, owner of a paper mill.[36] However, it was not until a 1439 lawsuit against Gutenberg that an official record existed; witnesses' testimony discussed Gutenberg's types, an inventory of metals (including lead), and his type molds.[36]

Having previously worked as a professional goldsmith, Gutenberg made skillful use of the knowledge of metals he had learned as a craftsman. He was the first to make type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, which was critical for producing durable type that produced high-quality printed books and proved to be much better suited for printing than all other known materials. To create these lead types, Gutenberg used what is considered one of his most ingenious inventions,[36] a special matrix enabling the quick and precise molding of new type blocks from a uniform template. His type case is estimated to have contained around 290 separate letter boxes, most of which were required for special characters, ligatures, punctuation marks, and so forth.[37]

Gutenberg is also credited with the introduction of an oil-based ink which was more durable than the previously used water-based inks. As printing material he used both paper and vellum (high-quality parchment). In the Gutenberg Bible, Gutenberg made a trial of coloured printing for a few of the page headings, present only in some copies.[38] A later work, the Mainz Psalter of 1453, presumably designed by Gutenberg but published under the imprint of his successors Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer, had elaborate red and blue printed initials.[39]

The Printing Revolution

The Printing Revolution occurred when the spread of the printing press facilitated the wide circulation of information and ideas, acting as an "agent of change" through the societies that it reached. (Eisenstein (1980))

Mass production and spread of printed books

Printing towns incunabula
Spread of printing in the 15th century from Mainz, Germany
European Output of Printed Books ca. 1450–1800
The European book output rose from a few million to around one billion copies within a span of less than four centuries.[40]

The invention of mechanical movable type printing led to a huge increase of printing activities across Europe within only a few decades. From a single print shop in Mainz, Germany, printing had spread to no less than around 270 cities in Central, Western and Eastern Europe by the end of the 15th century.[41] As early as 1480, there were printers active in 110 different places in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, England, Bohemia and Poland.[5] From that time on, it is assumed that "the printed book was in universal use in Europe".[5]

In Italy, a center of early printing, print shops had been established in 77 cities and towns by 1500. At the end of the following century, 151 locations in Italy had seen at one time printing activities, with a total of nearly three thousand printers known to be active. Despite this proliferation, printing centres soon emerged; thus, one third of the Italian printers published in Venice.[42]

By 1500, the printing presses in operation throughout Western Europe had already produced more than twenty million copies.[5] In the following century, their output rose tenfold to an estimated 150 to 200 million copies.[5]

European printing presses of around 1600 were capable of producing about 1,500 impressions per workday.[43] By comparison, book printing in East Asia did not use presses and was solely done by block printing.[44]

Of Erasmus's work, at least 750,000 copies were sold during his lifetime alone (1469–1536).[45] In the early days of the Reformation, the revolutionary potential of bulk printing took princes and papacy alike by surprise. In the period from 1518 to 1524, the publication of books in Germany alone skyrocketed sevenfold; between 1518 and 1520, Luther's tracts were distributed in 300,000 printed copies.[46]

The rapidity of typographical text production, as well as the sharp fall in unit costs, led to the issuing of the first newspapers (see Relation) which opened up an entirely new field for conveying up-to-date information to the public.[47]

Incunable are surviving pre-16th century print works which are collected by many of the libraries in Europe and North America.[48]

Circulation of information and ideas

Printing3 Walk of Ideas Berlin
"Modern Book Printing" sculpture, commemorating Gutenberg's invention on the occasion of the 2006 World Cup in Germany

The printing press was also a factor in the establishment of a community of scientists who could easily communicate their discoveries through the establishment of widely disseminated scholarly journals, helping to bring on the scientific revolution. Because of the printing press, authorship became more meaningful and profitable. It was suddenly important who had said or written what, and what the precise formulation and time of composition was. This allowed the exact citing of references, producing the rule, "One Author, one work (title), one piece of information" (Giesecke, 1989; 325). Before, the author was less important, since a copy of Aristotle made in Paris would not be exactly identical to one made in Bologna. For many works prior to the printing press, the name of the author has been entirely lost.

Because the printing process ensured that the same information fell on the same pages, page numbering, tables of contents, and indices became common, though they previously had not been unknown. The process of reading also changed, gradually moving over several centuries from oral readings to silent, private reading. Over the next 200 years, the wider availability of printed materials led to a dramatic rise in the adult literacy rate throughout Europe.[49]

The printing press was an important step towards the democratization of knowledge.[50][51] Within 50 or 60 years of the invention of the printing press, the entire classical canon had been reprinted and widely promulgated throughout Europe (Eisenstein, 1969; 52). More people had access to knowledge both new and old, more people could discuss these works. Book production became more commercialised, and the first copyright laws were passed.[52] On the other hand, the printing press was criticized for allowing the dissemination of information which may have been incorrect.[53][54]

A second outgrowth of this popularization of knowledge was the decline of Latin as the language of most published works, to be replaced by the vernacular language of each area, increasing the variety of published works. The printed word also helped to unify and standardize the spelling and syntax of these vernaculars, in effect 'decreasing' their variability. This rise in importance of national languages as opposed to pan-European Latin is cited as one of the causes of the rise of nationalism in Europe.

A third consequence of popularization of printing was on the economy. The printing press was associated with higher levels of city growth.[55] The publication of trade related manuals and books teaching techniques like double-entry bookkeeping increased the reliability of trade and led to the decline of merchant guilds and the rise of individual traders.[56]

Industrial printing presses

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the mechanics of the hand-operated Gutenberg-style press were still essentially unchanged, although new materials in its construction, amongst other innovations, had gradually improved its printing efficiency. By 1800, Lord Stanhope had built a press completely from cast iron which reduced the force required by 90%, while doubling the size of the printed area.[57] With a capacity of 480 pages per hour, the Stanhope press doubled the output of the old style press.[58] Nonetheless, the limitations inherent to the traditional method of printing became obvious.

Koenig's steam press - 1814
Koenig's 1814 steam-powered printing press

Two ideas altered the design of the printing press radically: First, the use of steam power for running the machinery, and second the replacement of the printing flatbed with the rotary motion of cylinders. Both elements were for the first time successfully implemented by the German printer Friedrich Koenig in a series of press designs devised between 1802 and 1818.[59] Having moved to London in 1804, Koenig soon met Thomas Bensley and secured financial support for his project in 1807.[57] Patented in 1810, Koenig had designed a steam press "much like a hand press connected to a steam engine."[57] The first production trial of this model occurred in April 1811. He produced his machine with assistance from German engineer Andreas Friedrich Bauer.

Koenig and Bauer sold two of their first models to The Times in London in 1814, capable of 1,100 impressions per hour. The first edition so printed was on 28 November 1814. They went on to perfect the early model so that it could print on both sides of a sheet at once. This began the long process of making newspapers available to a mass audience (which in turn helped spread literacy), and from the 1820s changed the nature of book production, forcing a greater standardization in titles and other metadata. Their company Koenig & Bauer AG is still one of the world's largest manufacturers of printing presses today.

Rotary press

The steam powered rotary printing press, invented in 1843 in the United States by Richard M. Hoe,[60] allowed millions of copies of a page in a single day. Mass production of printed works flourished after the transition to rolled paper, as continuous feed allowed the presses to run at a much faster pace.

By the late 1930s or early 1940s, rotary presses had increased substantially in efficiency: a model by Platen Printing Press was capable of performing 2,500 to 3,000 impressions per hour.

Also, in the middle of the 19th century, there was a separate development of jobbing presses, small presses capable of printing small-format pieces such as billheads, letterheads, business cards, and envelopes. Jobbing presses were capable of quick set-up (average setup time for a small job was under 15 minutes) and quick production (even on treadle-powered jobbing presses it was considered normal to get 1,000 impressions per hour [iph] with one pressman, with speeds of 1,500 iph often attained on simple envelope work). Job printing emerged as a reasonably cost-effective duplicating solution for commerce at this time.


Model of The Printing Press.

Model of the Common Press, used from 1650 to 1850

Handtiegelpresse von 1811

Printing press from 1811


Stanhope press from 1842


Imprenta Press V John Sherwin from 1860

See also

Printing presses
Other inventions


  1. ^ For example, in 1999, the A&E Network ranked Gutenberg no. 1 on their "People of the Millennium" countdown. In 1997, Time–Life magazine picked Gutenberg's invention as the most important of the second millennium Archived 10 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine; the same did four prominent US journalists in their 1998 resume 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking The Men and Women Who Shaped The Millennium. The Johann Gutenberg entry of the Catholic Encyclopedia describes his invention as having made a practically unparalleled cultural impact in the Christian era.
  2. ^ McLuhan 1962; Eisenstein 1980; Febvre & Martin 1997; Man 2002
  3. ^ a b Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin; Joseph Needham (1985). Paper and Printing. Science and Civilisation in China. 5 part 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 158,201.
  4. ^ a b Briggs, Asa and Burke, Peter (2002) A Social History of the Media: from Gutenberg to the Internet, Polity, Cambridge, pp.15–23, 61–73.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Febvre, Lucien; Martin, Henri-Jean (1976): "The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450–1800", London: New Left Books, quoted in: Anderson, Benedict: "Comunidades Imaginadas. Reflexiones sobre el origen y la difusión del nacionalismo", Fondo de cultura económica, Mexico 1993, ISBN 978-968-16-3867-2, pp. 58f.
  6. ^ Weber 2006, p. 387:

    At the same time, then, as the printing press in the physical, technological sense was invented, 'the press' in the extended sense of the word also entered the historical stage. The phenomenon of publishing was born.

  7. ^ Anderson, Benedict: "Comunidades Imaginadas. Reflexiones sobre el origen y la difusión del nacionalismo", Fondo de cultura económica, Mexico 1993, ISBN 978-968-16-3867-2, pp.63–76
  8. ^ Gerhardt 1978, p. 217
  9. ^ Eisenstein 1980; Febvre & Martin 1997; Man 2002
  10. ^ Jones, Colin (20 October 1994). The Cambridge Illustrated History of France (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-521-43294-8.
  11. ^ Wolf 1974, pp. 21–35
  12. ^ Onken 2009; White 1984, pp. 31f.; Schneider 2007, pp. 156–159
  13. ^ Schneider 2007, p. 158
  14. ^ Schulte 1939, p. 56
  15. ^ Wolf 1974, pp. 39f.
  16. ^ Wolf 1974, pp. 39–46
  17. ^ Germany: Brekle 1995, pp. 23–26; Brekle 1997, p. 62; Brekle 2005, p. 25; England: Lehmann-Haupt 1940, pp. 93–97; Brekle 1997, p. 62; Italy: Lipinsky 1986, pp. 75–80; Koch 1994, p. 213. Lipinsky surmises that this typographical technique was known in Constantinople from the 10th to 12th century and that the Venetians received it from there (p. 78).
  18. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 2006: "Printing", retrieved 27 November 2006
  19. ^ Childress 2008, pp. 51–55
  20. ^ Childress 2008, pp. 51–55; Hellinga 2007, p. 208:

    Gutenberg's invention took full advantage of the degree of abstraction in representing language forms that was offered by the alphabet and by the Western forms of script that were current in the fifteenth century.

  21. ^ Roberts & Skeat 1983, pp. 24–30
  22. ^ Roberts & Skeat 1983, pp. 1, 38–67, 75:

    The most momentous development in the history of the book until the invention of printing was the replacement of the roll by the codex; this we may define as a collection of sheets of any material, folded double and fastened together at the back or spine, and usually protected by covers. (p. 1)

  23. ^ Roberts & Skeat 1983, pp. 45–53. Technically speaking, a scroll could be written on its back side, too, but the very few ancient specimen found indicate that this was never considered a viable option. (p. 46)
  24. ^ Burns 1996, p. 418
  25. ^ Thompson 1978, p. 169; Tsien 1985, p. 68−73; Lucas 2005, p. 28, fn. 70
  26. ^ Thompson 1978, p. 169; Burns 1996, pp. 414–417
  27. ^ Burns 1996, p. 417
  28. ^ Febvre & Martin 1997, pp. 41–44; Burns 1996, p. 419:

    In the West, the only inhibiting expense in the production of writings for an increasingly literate market was the manual labor of the scribe himself. With his mechanization by movable-type printing in the 1440s, the manufacture of paper, until then relatively confined, began to spread very widely. The Paper Revolution of the thirteenth century thus entered a new era.

  29. ^ Roberts & Skeat 1983, pp. 7f.:

    Despite all that has been said above, even the strongest supporters of papyrus would not deny that parchment of good quality is the finest writing material ever devised by man. It is immensely strong, remains flexible indefinitely under normal conditions, does not deteriorate with age, and possesses a smooth, even surface which is both pleasant to the eye and provides unlimited scope for the finest writing and illumination.

  30. ^ The ratio between paper and parchment copies is estimated at around 150 to 30 (Hanebutt-Benz 2000, pp. 158–189).
  31. ^ Childress 2008, p. 60
  32. ^ Wolf 1974, pp. 67f.:

    From old price tables it can be deduced that the capacity of a printing press around 1600, assuming a fifteen-hour workday, was between 3,200 and 3,600 impressions per day.

  33. ^ Lyons 2011, p. 59
  34. ^ [1] RIND Survey (The Press Institute of India- Research Institute for Newspaper Development) June 2015, p14
  35. ^ Skeen, William (1872). Early Typography. Ceylon: Government Printer, Colombo. p. 122.
  36. ^ a b c Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998. (pp 58–69) ISBN 0-471-29198-6
  37. ^ Mahnke 2009, p. 290
  38. ^ Kapr 1996, p. 172
  39. ^ Kapr 1996, p. 203
  40. ^ Buringh & van Zanden 2009, p. 417, table 2
  41. ^ "Incunabula Short Title Catalogue". British Library. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  42. ^ Borsa 1976, p. 314; Borsa 1977, p. 166−169
  43. ^ Pollak, Michael (1972). "The performance of the wooden printing press". The Library Quarterly. 42 (2): 218–264. JSTOR 4306163.
  44. ^ Needham 1965, p. 211:

    The outstanding difference between the two ends of the Old World was the absence of screw-presses from China, but this is only another manifestation of the fact that this basic mechanism was foreign to that culture.

    Widmann 1974, p. 34, fn. 14:

    In East Asia, both woodblock and movable type printing were manual reproduction techniques, that is hand printing.

    Duchesne 2006, p. 83; Man 2002, pp. 112–115:

    Chinese paper was suitable only for calligraphy or block-printing; there were no screw-based presses in the east, because they were not wine-drinkers, didn’t have olives, and used other means to dry their paper.

  45. ^ Issawi 1980, pp. 492
  46. ^ Duchesne 2006, p. 83
  47. ^ Weber 2006, pp. 387f.
  48. ^ The British Library Incunabula Short Title Catalogue gives 29,777 separate editions (not copies) as of 8 January 2008, which however includes some print items from the 16th century (retrieved 11 March 2010). According to Bettina Wagner: "Das Second-Life der Wiegendrucke. Die Inkunabelsammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek", in: Griebel, Rolf; Ceynowa, Klaus (eds.): "Information, Innovation, Inspiration. 450 Jahre Bayerische Staatsbibliothek", K G Saur, München 2008, ISBN 978-3-598-11772-5, pp. 207–224 (207f.), the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue lists 28,107 editions published before 1501.
  49. ^ Peck, Josh. “The State of Publishing: Literacy Rates.” McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. McSweeney, 5 July 2011. Web. 28 August 2014.
  50. ^ Malte Herwig, "Google's Total Library", Spiegel Online International, Mar. 28, 2007.
  51. ^ Howard Rheingold, "Moblogs Seen as a Crystal Ball for a New Era in Online Journalism", Online Journalism Review, Jul. 9, 2009.
  52. ^ Eshgh, Amy. "Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States | Association of Research Libraries® | ARL®". Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  53. ^ Julia C. Crick; Alexandra Walsham (2004). The uses of script and print, 1300–1700. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-521-81063-0. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  54. ^ Nick Bilton (14 September 2010). I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-307-59111-1. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
  55. ^ Jeremiah Dittmar. "Information technology and economic change: The impact of the printing press". VoxEU. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  56. ^ Prateek Raj. "How the Postal System and the Printing Press Transformed European Markets". Evonomics. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  57. ^ a b c Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998. (pp 130–133) ISBN 0-471-29198-6
  58. ^ Bolza 1967, p. 80
  59. ^ Bolza 1967, p. 88
  60. ^ Meggs, Philip B. (1998). A History of Graphic Design (Third ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-471-29198-5.


On the effects of the printing press

  • Boruchoff, David A. (2012), "The Three Greatest Inventions of Modern Times: An Idea and Its Public", in Klaus Hock; Gesa Mackenthun (eds.), Entangled Knowledge: Scientific Discourses and Cultural Difference, Münster: Waxmann, pp. 133–163, ISBN 978-3-8309-2729-7
  • Buringh, Eltjo; van Zanden, Jan Luiten (2009), "Charting the "Rise of the West": Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries", The Journal of Economic History, 69 (2): 409–445, doi:10.1017/s0022050709000837
  • Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. (1980), The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-29955-8
  • Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. (2005), The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (2nd, rev. ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-60774-2 [More recent, abridged version]
  • Febvre, Lucien; Martin, Henri-Jean (1997), The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450–1800, London: Verso, ISBN 978-1-85984-108-2
  • Man, John (2002), The Gutenberg Revolution: The Story of a Genius and an Invention that Changed the World, London: Headline Review, ISBN 978-0-7472-4504-9
  • McLuhan, Marshall (1962), The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1st ed.), University of Toronto Press, ISBN 978-0-8020-6041-9

Technology of printing

  • Bechtel, G. (1992), Gutenberg et l'invention de l'imprimerie, Paris: Fayard, ISBN 978-2-213-02865-1
  • Bolza, Hans (1967), "Friedrich Koenig und die Erfindung der Druckmaschine", Technikgeschichte, 34 (1): 79–89
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External links

Alphabetum grandonico-malabaricum sive samscrudonicum

Alphabetum grandonico-malabaricum sive samscrudonicum is a book on the grammar of the South Indian Malayalam language, published in 1772 at the printing press of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in Rome. It is believed to be the first book on Malayalam printed in Europe. The Alphabetum grandonico-malabaricum focuses on the pronunciation of the Malayalam alphabet with many examples in Malayalam characters and includes some remarks on general characteristics of the grammar. At the end, there are also some short Malayalam sentences of a religious nature such as the ten commandments.

The preface was written by Giovanni Cristofano Amaduzzi, an Italian philologist. The types for the Dravidian script were prepared by Clemente Peani. Amaduzzi supervised the publication of a series of grammars of Oriental languages at the printing press of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in Rome. In addition to the Alphabetum grandonico-malabaricum the series comprised, among others, grammars of Burmese, Hindustani, Armenian, Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, Ethiopic (both Ge'ez and Amharic), Bulgarian etc. Alphabetum grandonico-malabaricum sive samscrudonicum was reprinted several times.

Benjamin Bailey (missionary)

Benjamin Bailey (Dewsbury, November 1791 - 3 April 1871 in Sheinton, Shropshire, England) was a British Church Mission Society missionary in Kerala for 34 years. He was ordained 1815 and moved to Kerala in 1816 where he founded a mission station in Kottayam, and in 1821 he established a Malayalam printing press. He translated the Bible into Malayalam, in 1846 published the first English-Malayalam dictionary, and in 1849 published the first Malayalam-English dictionary.

Digest size

Digest size is a magazine size, smaller than a conventional or "journal size" magazine but larger than a standard paperback book, approximately 14 cm × 21 cm (5 1⁄2 by 8 1⁄4 inches), but can also be 13.65 cm × 21.27 cm (5 3⁄8 by 8 3⁄8 inches) and 14 cm × 19 cm (5 1⁄2 by 7 1⁄2 inches). These sizes have evolved from the printing press operation end. Some printing presses refer to digest-size as a "catalog size". The digest format was considered to be a convenient size for readers to tote around or to leave on the coffee table within easy reach.

Global spread of the printing press

The global spread of the printing press began with the invention of the printing press with movable type by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany c. 1439. Western printing technology was adopted in all world regions by the end of the 19th century, displacing the manuscript and block printing.

In the Western world, the operation of a press became synonymous with the enterprise of publishing and lent its name to a new branch of media, the "press" (see List of the oldest newspapers).

History of printing

The history of printing starts as early as 3500 BCE, when the Persian and Mesopotamian civilizations used cylinder seals to certify documents written in clay. Other early forms include block seals, pottery imprints and cloth printing. Woodblock printing on paper originated in China around 200 CE. It led to the development of movable type in the eleventh century and the spread of book production in East Asia. Woodblock printing was also used in Europe, but it was in the fifteenth century that European printers combined movable type and alphabetic scripts to create an economical book publishing industry. This industry enabled the communication of ideas and sharing of knowledge on an unprecedented scale. Alongside the development of text printing, new and lower-cost methods of image reproduction were developed, including lithography, screen printing and photocopying.

Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (; c. 1400 – February 3, 1468) was a German blacksmith, goldsmith, inventor, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press. His introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution and is regarded as a milestone of the second millennium, ushering in the modern period of human history. It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.Gutenberg in 1439 was the first European to use movable type. Among his many contributions to printing are: the invention of a process for mass-producing movable type; the use of oil-based ink for printing books; adjustable molds; mechanical movable type; and the use of a wooden printing press similar to the agricultural screw presses of the period. His truly epochal invention was the combination of these elements into a practical system that allowed the mass production of printed books and was economically viable for printers and readers alike. Gutenberg's method for making type is traditionally considered to have included a type metal alloy and a hand mould for casting type. The alloy was a mixture of lead, tin, and antimony that melted at a relatively low temperature for faster and more economical casting, cast well, and created a durable type.

In Renaissance Europe, the arrival of mechanical movable type printing introduced the era of mass communication which permanently altered the structure of society. The relatively unrestricted circulation of information—including revolutionary ideas—transcended borders, captured the masses in the Reformation and threatened the power of political and religious authorities; the sharp increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning and bolstered the emerging middle class. Across Europe, the increasing cultural self-awareness of its people led to the rise of proto-nationalism, accelerated by the flowering of the European vernacular languages to the detriment of Latin's status as lingua franca. In the 19th century, the replacement of the hand-operated Gutenberg-style press by steam-powered rotary presses allowed printing on an industrial scale, while Western-style printing was adopted all over the world, becoming practically the sole medium for modern bulk printing.

The use of movable type was a marked improvement on the handwritten manuscript, which was the existing method of book production in Europe, and upon woodblock printing, and revolutionized European book-making. Gutenberg's printing technology spread rapidly throughout Europe and later the world.

His major work, the Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible), was the first printed version of the Bible and has been acclaimed for its high aesthetic and technical quality.

Movable type

Movable type (US English; moveable type in British English) is the system and technology of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document (usually individual alphanumeric characters or punctuation marks) usually on the medium of paper.

The world's first movable type printing technology for printing paper books was made of porcelain materials and was invented around 1040 AD in China during the Northern Song Dynasty by the inventor Bi Sheng (990–1051). The oldest extant book printed with movable metal type, Jikji, was printed in Korea in 1377 during the Goryeo dynasty.

The diffusion of both movable-type systems was, to some degree, limited to primarily East Asia. The development of the printing press in Europe may have been influenced by various sporadic reports of movable type technology brought back to Europe by returning business people and missionaries to China. Some of these medieval European accounts are still preserved in the library archives of the Vatican and Oxford University among many others. However, none of these early European accounts before Gutenberg discuss printing.

Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the metal movable-type printing press in Europe, along with innovations in casting the type based on a matrix and hand mould. The small number of alphabetic characters needed for European languages was an important factor. Gutenberg was the first to create his type pieces from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony—and these materials remained standard for 550 years.For alphabetic scripts, movable-type page setting was quicker than woodblock printing. The metal type pieces were more durable and the lettering was more uniform, leading to typography and fonts. The high quality and relatively low price of the Gutenberg Bible (1455) established the superiority of movable type in Europe and the use of printing presses spread rapidly. The printing press may be regarded as one of the key factors fostering the Renaissance and due to its effectiveness, its use spread around the globe.

The 19th-century invention of hot metal typesetting and its successors caused movable type to decline in the 20th century.

Offset printing

Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred (or "offset") from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. When used in combination with the lithographic process, which is based on the repulsion of oil and water, the offset technique employs a flat (planographic) image carrier on which the image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a water-based film (called "fountain solution"), keeping the non-printing areas ink-free. The modern "web" process feeds a large reel of paper through a large press machine in several parts, typically for several metres, which then prints continuously as the paper is fed through.

Development of the offset press came in two versions: in 1875 by Robert Barclay of England for printing on tin, and in 1904 by Ira Washington Rubel of the United States for printing on paper.

Print culture

Print culture embodies all forms of printed text and other printed forms of visual communication. One prominent scholar in the field is Elizabeth Eisenstein, who contrasted print culture, which appeared in Europe in the centuries after the advent of the Western printing-press (and much earlier in China where woodblock printing was used from 594 AD), to scribal culture. Walter Ong, by contrast, has contrasted written culture, including scribal, to oral culture. Ong is generally considered one of the first scholars to define print culture in contrast to oral culture. These views are related as the printing press brought a vast rise in literacy, so that one of its effects was simply the great expansion of written culture at the expense of oral culture. The development of printing, like the development of writing itself, had profound effects on human societies and knowledge. "Print culture" refers to the cultural products of the printing transformation.

In terms of image-based communication, a similar transformation came in Europe from the fifteenth century on with the introduction of the old master print and, slightly later, popular prints, both of which were actually much quicker in reaching the mass of the population than printed text.

Print culture is the conglomeration of effects on human society that is created by making printed forms of communication. Print culture encompasses many stages as it has evolved in response to technological advances. Print culture can first be studied from the period of time involving the gradual movement from oration to script as it is the basis for print culture. As the printing became commonplace, script became insufficient and printed documents were mass-produced. The era of physical print has had a lasting effect on human culture, but with the advent of digital text, some scholars believe the printed word is becoming obsolete.

The electronic media, including the World Wide Web, can be seen as an outgrowth of print culture.

Printer's Park

Printer's Park (spelled Printers Park by some sources) is small park on Hoe Avenue between Aldus Street and Westchester Avenue, in The Bronx, New York City, United States. The park is run by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.The park's name (and the street it lies on, Hoe Avenue) honors Richard March Hoe, who invented the Rotary printing press. The land the park occupies was once part of Hoe's family estate. The cross-street, Aldus Street, is named after Aldus Manutius, a 15th-century printer.

The Parks Department acquired the site in 1997. The northern portion of the park was renovated in 2001; the name was changed to Printer's Park at that time. In 2009, the southern portion of the park was reconstructed at a cost of $1 million, with the park being officially reopened on July 29, 2010. The renovation included play structures reminiscent of the printing press heritage.

Printer (publishing)

In publishing, printers are both companies providing printing services and individuals who directly operate printing presses.Printers include:

Newspaper printers, often owned by newspaper publishers

Magazine printers, usually independent of magazine publishers

Book printers, often not directly connected with book publishers

Stationery printers

Packaging printers

Trade printers, who offer wholesale rates within the printing industryAn artist who operates a printing press to execute their own works of printing press such as, hand in limited runs. That is usually distinguished from other printers by the term printmaker.


Printing is a process for reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest non-paper products involving printing include cylinder seals and objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus. The earliest known form of printing as applied to paper was woodblock printing, which appeared in China before 220 AD. Later developments in printing technology include the movable type invented by Bi Sheng around 1040 AD and the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. The technology of printing played a key role in the development of the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

Propaganda during the Reformation

Propaganda during the Reformation, helped by the spread of the printing press throughout Europe and in particular within Germany, caused new ideas, thoughts, and doctrine to be made available to the public in ways that had never been seen before the sixteenth century. The printing press was invented in approximately 1450 and quickly spread to other major cities around Europe; by the time the Reformation was underway in 1517 there were printing centers in over 200 of the major European cities. These centers became the primary producers of Reformation works by the Protestants, and in some cases Counter-Reformation works put forth by the Roman Catholics.

Rockwell International

Rockwell International was a major American manufacturing conglomerate in the latter half of the 20th century, involved in aircraft, the space industry, both defense-oriented and commercial electronics, automotive and truck components, printing presses, power tools, valves and meters, and industrial automation. Rockwell ultimately became a group of companies founded by Colonel Willard Rockwell. At its peak in the 1990s, Rockwell International was No. 27 on the Fortune 500 list, with assets of over $8 billion, sales of $27 billion and 115,000 employees.

Rotary printing press

A rotary printing press is a printing press in which the images to be printed are curved around a cylinder. Printing can be done on a large number of substrates, including paper, cardboard, and plastic. Substrates can be sheet feed or unwound on a continuous roll through the press to be printed and further modified if required (e.g. die cut, overprint varnished, embossed). Printing presses that use continuous rolls are sometimes referred to as "web presses".

Stuttgart Database of Scientific Illustrators 1450–1950

The Stuttgart Database of Scientific Illustrators 1450-1950 (abbreviated DSI) is an online repository of bibliographic data about people who illustrated published scientific works from the time of the invention of the printing press, around 1450, until 1950; the latter cut-off chosen with the intention of excluding currently-active illustrators. The database includes those who worked in a variety of fields, including astronomical, botanical, zoological and medical illustration.The database is hosted by the University of Stuttgart. Content is displayed in English, and is free to access. As of January 2019, the site's homepage states that the database includes over 12,460 illustrators. The site is searchable by 20 fields.Suggestions for additional entries, or amendments, may be submitted by members of the public, but are subject to editorial review before inclusion.

The Ceylon Herald

The Ceylon Herald was an English-language newspaper in Ceylon. After The Ceylon Chronicle closed down on 3 September 1837 Mackenzie Ross bought the printing press and started The Ceylon Herald on 7 September 1838. The newspaper opposed the government bitterly. Governor Stewart-Mackenzie sued Mackenzie Ross for libel after The Ceylon Herald published an article alleging that the governor had gone to the Veddah country to purchase large amounts of land at nominal prices. Mackenzie Ross was acquitted after a trial before Chief Justice Anthony Oliphant.The Ceylon Herald was sold to James Laing, the Deputy Postmaster in Kandy, on 29 November 1842. Under Laing's editorship the newspaper supported the government. Laing later sold the newspaper to another man who died in January 1845 after which the newspaper passed to his official administrator the Secretary of the District Court. The newspaper was edited by Knighton, Master of the Normal Seminary in Colombo, for a while before the printing press was sold to J. W. Schokman on 8 September 1845 for ₤1,178. Schokman however failed to settle the amounts due and on 1 July 1846 the printing press was sold to the owners of The Ceylon Times for ₤450. The last edition of The Ceylon Herald had been published on 30 June 1846.The Ceylon Herald's sister newspaper, The Overland Herald, was published monthly from 24 June 1843 to 30 June 1846.

Whanganui Chronicle

The Whanganui Chronicle is New Zealand's oldest newspaper. Based in Whanganui, it celebrated 160 years of publishing in September 2016.

Local resident Henry Stokes first proposed the paper for Petre, as the town was then called, but initial publication was held back by lack of equipment. As no printing press was available, Stokes approached the technical master at Wanganui Collegiate School, Rev. Charles Nicholls, and together they constructed a maire wood and iron makeshift printing press, on which, with the help of the staff and pupils of the school, the first edition of the Wanganui Chronicle (as it was then spelled) was printed on 18 September 1856.

The motto of the paper, printed at the top of the editorial column, was "Verite Sans Peur," French for "Truth without Fear."

Initially the paper was sold fortnightly, at a price of six pence. In 1866 the Chronicle went tri-weekly, and in 1871 began publishing daily and has done so since. The paper was owned and edited by Gilbert Carson from 1875 onwards. In the 1880s Carson's sister Margaret Bullock worked as a reporter and assistant editor for the paper, and, along with Laura Jane Suisted, was one of the first female parliamentary correspondents in New Zealand. The woman editor for a time in the 1920s using her birth name Iris Wilkinson, later published poetry and novels as Robin Hyde, and is now "acknowledged as a major figure in New Zealand twentieth-century culture".The Chronicle's rival from 1867 onward was The Evening Herald (later The Wanganui Herald), founded by John Ballance. The ownership of the two daily papers merged in the 1970s, and in 1986 the Herald became a free weekly, later renamed the Wanganui Midweek. The Chronicle is currently Whanganui's only daily newspaper.

On Monday, 10 September 2018, the paper officially changed its name to the Whanganui Chronicle, to correspond with the corrected Māori spelling of Whanganui district that was made official in December 2015.

William Caxton

William Caxton (c. 1422 – c. 1491) was an English merchant, diplomat, and writer. He is thought to be the first person to introduce a printing press into England, in 1476, and as a printer was the first English retailer of printed books.

Neither his parentage nor date of birth is known for certain, but he may have been born between 1415 and 1424, perhaps in the Weald or wood land of Kent, perhaps in Hadlow or Tenterden. In 1438 he was apprenticed to Robert Large, a wealthy London silk mercer.

Shortly after Large's death, Caxton moved to Bruges, Belgium, a wealthy cultured city, where he was settled by 1450. Successful in business, he became governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London; on his business travels, he observed the new printing industry in Cologne, which led him to start a printing press in Bruges in collaboration with Colard Mansion. When Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV, married the Duke of Burgundy, they moved to Bruges and befriended Caxton. It was the Duchess who encouraged Caxton to complete his translation of the Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, a collection of stories associated with Homer's Iliad, which he did in 1471.

On his return to England, heavy demand for his translation prompted Caxton to set up a press at Westminster in 1476, although the first book he is known to have produced was an edition of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales; he went on to publish chivalric romances, classical works, and English and Roman histories, and to edit many others. He was the first to translate Aesop's Fables in 1484. Caxton was not an adequate translator, and under pressure to publish as much as possible as quickly as possible, he sometimes simply transferred French words into English; but because of the success of his translations, he is credited with helping to promote the Chancery English he used to the status of standard dialect throughout England.

In 2002, Caxton was named among the 100 Greatest Britons in a BBC poll.

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