Printing Press and a Changing World
The Development of Print Technology
In the mid-15th century Johannes Gutenberg invented a mechanical way of making books. This was the first example of mass book production. In his workshop, he brings together the technologies of paper (brought from China to Italy in the 12th), oil-based ink (these had been around since the 10th century) and the wine-press (screw-type press that had been in use for hundreds of years, throughout Europe and Asia) to print books. The printing press is not a single invention. He brings together the technologies known for centuries before Gutenberg, but have not jet been used simultaneously. This invention was (as some say) developed in Prague and Holland, before Gutenberg. Before the arrival of the printing press, books were made of vellum (calf or lamb skin) because of its durability. Vellum is extremely durable, but it costs a lot. For books that took more than a year to produce, paper was inappropriate, because it wasn't long lasting. In the Far East, movable type and printing presses were known but did not replace printing from individually carved wooden blocks or movable clay type. The use of movable type in printing was invented in 1041 AD by Bi Sheng in China. But because the Chinese language has thousands of characters, the benefit of the technique is not as obvious as in European languages. Besides that they were printing texts that weren't reprinted many times, which cost a lot of money if they were printed by the printing press. That's why they still used wood block printing..
Picture 1: Wood-block printed paper
It is not clear whether Gutenberg knew of these existing techniques or invented them independently, but because of the differences in technology we can conclude he didn't know. Gutenberg began experimenting with metal typography (letterpress printing) after he had moved from his native town of Mainz to Strassburg around 1430. Knowing that wood-block type took a lot...
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