A Brief History of Printing


Printing is a fascinating business that goes back to 175AD. Incredible really. Here’s a brief guide to the history of printing and its significant moments:

Way Back When.

In 175 AD a very simple form of printing was practiced in China and Korea on things such as wood. These were inked, before paper was placed over the image and gently rubbed with a bamboo stick.

That’s An Idea.

In 1440 Johann Guttenberg of Mainz, Germany, invented a way to cast separate type pieces in an alloy of mainly lead. They were hand set into pages of text for printing. They did this for 500 years

Making an Impression.

Guttenberg next made a “Letterpress”. On this the typeface was inked, the paper was then put over the type and the handle of the press pulled to make the impression.

Printing Evolution.

It took until about 1800 for printing to really evolve. A man called Earl Stanhope made the first iron press. It was the same method of printing as that of wooden presses, but they used a larger sheet could be printed due to the rigidity of the iron.

The Need For Speed.

Things had to speed up throughout the history of printing. A Columbian Iron press invented by George Clymer began to be reproduced. But all of these printing presses were hand inked and very slow. Earlier platens were treadled and hand fed, but they were quicker because the rollers automatically applied the ink. And then later platens had auto feeders driven by motors. The Heidelberg had an impressive top speed of 5,500 impressions per hour.

Laser Printers.

The laser printer, based on a modified xerographic copier, was invented at Xerox in 1969 by researcher Gary Starkweather.

Digital Revolution.

These days design and typesetting is all originated on computers but most printing is done Offset Litho from single sheet fed presses, printing from one to ten colours, or Web Offset colour presses (reel fed). It’s the reproduction of digital images on a physical surface, such as paper, film, cloth, plastic or vinyl.