The history of the printing press: first steps, Gutenberg's printing press and its evolution to online printing

The history of the printing press: first steps, Gutenberg's printing press and its evolution to online printing

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¿What is the history of the printing press? Does it only exist since Gutenberg or was there something before?

The printing press is one of the great cultural revolutions of humanity. In this brief history of printing we will see that there were some printing methods before 1500 in different parts of the world, especially in Asia, but It is with Gutenberg that the printing press evolves and it becomes massive, causing a great cultural and social change, which would occur again with the arrival of steam printers in the 19th century and, finally, with the online printing.

The printing press before Gutenberg

First impressions in Greece

The first movable type prints date back to ancient times, more specifically, to the earliest punches that were used to make coins from the 5th century BC.

First impressions of the Minoan civilization

The Minoan civilization used the print style for many of his objects, such as the famous Phaistos disk, which was made with hieroglyphic stamps that is recognized as one of the first documents of movable type printing, as it meets all the criteria of the letterpress printing.

First impressions in Rome

Perhaps, rather than talking about printing, we should do it about "Print”, And here we find that the Romans printed different sheets with inscriptions on clay objects around 440 B.C.

The printing press in China: the oldest printed book in the world

The printing press in China has a long history, initially employing wooden blocks. In fact, there it is the oldest book in existence, the Diamond Sutra, dated May 11, 868.

However, we must also know that between the years 1041 and 1048, Bi Sheng invented the first movable type printing system which was made of complex porcelain pieces with carved Chinese characters, which were marked with ink and applied on rice paper.

Printing in Korea

At year 1234 In Korea, craftsmen who knew Chinese movable type during the Koryo dynasty made a metal mobile set, very similar to those that Gutenberg would create, but which were used very rarely.

Gutenberg's printing press

Around the year 1439, history would change radically when the goldsmith Johannes gutenberg created a printing system by adapting the technology of the time for printing purposes, including papermaking, ink development, or woodblock printing.

On the one hand, developed the mechanical method where he could reproduce texts and images on paper, cloth or other materials, applying ink on metal molds that was transferred to paper through printing, adapting the famous screw press.

The screw press It allowed the application of direct pressure on the plane, being used since the 1st century by the Romans, who used it to press grapes and olives, to obtain wine and oil.

Gutenberg was inspired by them to create his mechanical press, adapting its construction so that the power of pressure exerted by the plate on the paper is applied uniformly and with the necessary elasticity at all times. To speed up the process, he introduced a movable table at the bottom, in which the sheets could be quickly changed.

The development of mobile printing: the new metal dies

For another, the most important innovation was the development of hand-molded metal printing dies, which allowed the development of movable type printing throughout Europe, being the first practical means of making inexpensive copies of punches in very large quantities, allowing complete books to be printed with greater ease.

These movable types were unknown in Europe, but not so in Asia, as we discussed at the beginning of this story.

The mechanical method and the hand mold, on the whole, drastically reduced the cost of printing books and other documents especially in short runs, which caused a true cultural revolution at that very moment.

The expansion of the printing press

In a few years, the printing press spread to more than 200 cities in Europe; Y by 1500, all the printers working on the continent produced more than 20 million volumes various.

By the 16th century and thanks to the evolution of the presses, production increased tenfold to an estimate of between 150 and 200 million copies throughout Europe.

In the Renaissance Europe, the advent of mechanical printing introduced a new concept: the era of mass communication, which permanently altered the structure of society by facilitating the free flow of (relatively) information and ideas, transcending borders, reaching and moving the masses, and threatening the power of religious and political authorities.

An example of the above is reform, started with the publication of the Luther's 95 thesis, one of the great events in history by mobilizing a large mass of population and putting the authorities of the moment in check, in which the printing press played a fundamental role. In just two years, 300,000 copies of this brochure were printed.

But, in addition to the (relative) freedom of communication, substantially enhanced the literacy of society, breaking with the monopoly of the educated elite and strengthening the emerging middle class.

In turn, the revolution encompassed all of Europe in other cultural features such as the rapid growth of knowledge of the culture of the peoples, originating proto-nationalism, which in turn was accelerated by the development of European vernacular languages ​​to the detriment of the status that until then had Latin as the main language.

19th century: printing on an industrial scale

By the nineteenth century, the replacement of Gutenberg's manual press by the rotary steam machines allowed printing on an industrial scale, which has reached our days, perfected.

¿Who was the inventor of the high speed printing press? The high-speed printing press, which allowed printing on an industrial scale, was invented by Friedrich Koening (1774-1833), together with the mechanic and mathematician Andreas Bauer (1783-1860).

In the year 1810, got in London the patent for his steam press, which put into operation in April 1812 for a number of potential clients including John Walter of The Times newspaper.

The tests that day were a real success, which led that newspaper to acquire them and that On November 29, 1814, the first issue of The Times was published with the new steam presses.

The printing press in the 20th and 21st centuries

Starting in the 20th century, development of new types of printing occurs at high speed, emerging new types such as screen printing, matrix printer or xerography, and new types of printers such as inkjet, sublimation, laser or thermal.

All this evolution allowed us get prints in minutes, massifying its scope and facilitating access to information through a multitude of printed media (press, books, documents, etc.).

But, also thinking of a world so interconnected and in which the labor paradigm is changing with new freelance and independent jobs, the evolution of the printing press and especially the online printing press gives us the possibility of being able to have different accessories in our hands from the comfort of our home such as catalogs, brochures, business cards or office supplies.

Here we leave you a table with a summary of the history of printing and printing:

Wood Print (Woodcut)200
Chinese removable characters printing press1040
Gutemberg Printing Officedo. 1440
Etchingdo. 1515
Mezzotinto engraving (halftone)1642
Aquatint etching1772
Koening steam printing press1837
Rotary press1843
Offset printing1875
Mimeograph or polygraph1886
Alcohol duplicator1923
Dot matrix printer1925
Injection printer1967
Sublimation printer1957
Laser printing1969
Thermal printingdo. 1972
Thermal wax printer1986

After studying History at the University and after many previous tests, Red Historia was born, a project that emerged as a means of dissemination where you can find the most important news about archeology, history and humanities, as well as articles of interest, curiosities and much more. In short, a meeting point for everyone where they can share information and continue learning.

Video: The Gutenberg Printing Press Sasha