3 (Old) Trivia about Printing


If you’re about to enter the printing industry or have your own printing business, then it’s a must to know its history. Keep in mind that knowledge makes a competent employee/employer. 

You wonder if such knowledge is beneficial, but if you pause for a moment, then you’ll notice that the industry has gone a long way. Technology changed the (printing) landscape, such that most equipment require little supervision. The presence of technicians trained in printing maintenance is still needed, though, as that’s the only thing that the industry then and the industry now have in common. 


You don’t need to know everything there is to know about the industry’s history. You don’t have to visit some museums to see some antiquated equipment either. Out of curiosity, it’s nice to know what’s printing back then, but to make us the best in the industry, it’s great to find out how printing evolved. So here are three that changed the course (of printing):

  • Woodblock. This technique orginated from China, with the earliest example dating back to 200 A.D. If you travel to East Asia, you might stumble upon some locals still using this old method. Old it is, but it’s still a popular choice in that part of the world. A block is carefully prepared as a matrix, the areas to show (in white) are cut with a knife. The block is cut along the grain of the wood. It’s necessary to ink the block and bring into contact with a paper in able to achieve an acceptable print.
  • Movable. This system of printing was first introduced around 1040 A.D., during the Song Dynasty. Bi Sheng invented it, paving the way to movable type technology. If not for Shen Kuo, a scholar during that era, Bi Sheng’s achievement wouldn’t be known nowadays. In his book, “Writings Beside the Meng Creek”, Shen gave details on that technology that would changed the printing world back then. Here’s an interesting part:

“He took sticky clay and cut in it characters as thin as the edge of a coin. Each character formed, as it were, a single type. He baked them in the fire to make them hard. He had previously prepared an iron plate and he had covered his plate with a mixture of pine resin, wax, and paper ashes. When he wished to print, he took an iron frame and set it on the iron plate. In this he placed the types, set close together. When the frame was full, the whole made one solid block of type.”

Anyone in the (printing) industry would knew the rest. 

  • Printing Press. This technique uses applied pressure to an inked surface resting upon a paper or cloth, thus transfering the ink. In some ways, this revolutionizes the industry, and credit goes to Johannes Gutenberg. A goldsmith by profession, the German introduced the first printing press in 1440. It will be nice if that equipment is still around, but it’s not. However, some materials similar to what Gutenberg used are currently on exhibit. These will remind everyond of printing’s humble beginnings – and the long road. 

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