Printing Story #AToZChallenge




YES!! It is printing. Printing is the one of the most world-shaking “P” invention of all centuries. Not just for the “P”‘s inventions but all other ones. Without printing, science and history would have been very difficult to move to next generations. There would be none of the technology we enjoy today.

Printing is not a modern invention as some may think. Long before Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press, there were ancient methods of printing. When we do a little research, we can find that it all leads us to China. 

The invention of the writing brush made from hair is attributed to General Meng Tien, in the third century BC. This allowed writing to be done on silk rather than with bamboo pens on strips of bamboo. Bamboo is heavy, bulky and awkward, but for all its virtues, silk is expensive. Paper, a cheaper writing material made from macerated mulberry bark, hemp, and old rags was invented by Ts”ai Lun, in 105 AD. 

Long before the Gutenberg press, Chinese innovations in ink, block printing and movable clay type all fed the technological push toward expanding the written word’s range of influence. Althought the European innovations came much later, European culture certainly felt the impact of print more dramatically than the Chinese did. Because their alphabet employs thousands of visually specific ideograms, the use of movable type was much more labor-intensive for the Chinese. Consequently, it did not change production efficiency as dramatically as it did for Europeans. Some historians will also assert that the sequential, linear and standardized character of the printed word especially suited Western impulses toward progress and conquest– a disposition that favors quick and intense change.

Block printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia both as a method of printing on textiles and later, under the influence of Buddhism, on paper. As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from China date to about 220. Ukiyo-e is the best known type of Japanese woodblock art print. Most European uses of the technique on paper are covered by the art term woodcut, except for the block-books produced mainly in the fifteenth century.

The earliest dated printed book known is the “Diamond Sutra”, printed in China in 868 CE. However, it is suspected that book printing may have occurred long before this date. 

Frontispiece of the Chinese Diamond Sūtra, the oldest known dated printed book in the world.

Now, moving from China to Europe, we can find that the first paper was produced in 1309. in 1423, Block printing gets to Europe from China. 1457, is an important date as it marks the first colored book ever which is Psalter. But before this date, came the invention that changed our world. The Gutenberg movable-type printing press circa 1450. 

Around 1040, the world’s first known movable type system was created in China by Bi Sheng out of porcelain. He also developed wooden movable type, but it was abandoned in favour of clay movable types due to the presence of wood grains and the unevenness of the wooden type after being soaked in ink. Neither movable type system was widely used, one reason being the enormous Chinese character set.Metal movable type began to be used in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty (around 1230).

The printing press, movable type, the type mold, and the invention of printing ink for use on metal are all attributed to Johannes Gutenberg (1394? 1406? -1468). The completed process appears in the form of the famous 42-line Bible of 1455 in Mainz, Germany. 

Gutenberg developed his press by combining features of existing technologies: textile, papermaking and


wine presses. Perhaps his most significant innovation, however, was the efficient molding and casting of movable metal type. Each letter was carved into the end of a steel punch which was then hammered into a copper blank. The copper impression was inserted into a mold and a molten alloy made of lead, antimony and bismuth was poured in. The alloy cooled quickly and the resulting reverse image of the letter attached to a lead base could be handled in minutes. The width of the lead base varied according to the letter’s size (for example, the base of an “i” would not be nearly as wide as the base of a “w”). This emphasized the visual impact of words and clusters of words rather than evenly spaced letters. This principle lent an aesthetic elegance and sophistication to what seemed to many to be the magically perfect regularity of a printed page. Gutenberg designed a Latin print Bible which became his signature work. He launched a run of some 300 two-volume Gutenberg Bibles which sold for 30 florins each, or about three years of a clerk’s wage. Despite the dramatic success of his invention, Gutenberg managed to default on a loan and lost his whole printing establishment. His techniques were made public and his creditor won the rights to the proceeds from the Gutenberg Bibles. 

And that invention was the spark that initiated lots of breakthroughs and advancements in the

printing industry until we reached the amazing 3D printing technology (a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model) which started sine the 1980s. While 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, it was not until the early 2010s that the printers became widely available commercially. The first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp.


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