The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Printing is an industrial process for reproducing copies of texts and images, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is an essential part of publishing.

Books are usually printed today using the technique of offset printing, and occasionally relief print, (which is principally used for newspapers and catalogues).


History of printing

Printing was first discovered and developed in China. Primitive Woodblock printing was already in use by the 6th century BC. The oldest surviving book printed using the more sophisticated block printing dates from 868 AD (The Diamond Sutra of AD 868, a Buddhist scripture). The movable type printer was invented by Pi Sheng in 1040. The movable type metal printing press was invented in Korea in 1403. By the 12th and 13th century many Arabic and Chinese libraries contained tens of thousands of printed books.

There is little direct evidence, but it is highly probable that Chinese printing technology diffused into Europe through trade links that went through India and on through the Arabic world. Johann Gutenberg, of the German city of Mainz, developed European printing technology in 1440. Basing the design of his machine on a wine press, Gutenberg developed the use of raised and movable type and from the start used oil based inks.

This development of the printing press revolutionized the spread of knowledge: a printing press was built in Venice in 1469, and the city had 417 printers by 1500. In 1476, a printing press was developed in England by William Caxton; in 1539, the Italian Juan Pablos set up an imported press in Mexico City, Mexico. Stephen Day built the first printing press in North America at Massachusetts Bay in 1628, and helped establish the Cambridge Press.

Computer printing

A document can also be printed by a laser printer, inkjet, or other computer printer. In recent years, computer printing and industrial printing processes have converged, leading to the development of digital printing and on-demand printing.

The artistic process of printmaking is also known as printing, as is photographic printing.

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