Early Printing Technology

Printing has been the traditional method of reproducing copies of texts, images, and other written forms since the earliest times. Printing is also referred to as “copy printing” or ” lithography”. In printing, typically, ink is applied on a physical surface and passed through a nozzle in order to produce a certain amount of colorization process. In the past, printing comprised a physical process using a plate (a type of material used in early printing) in which the ink was applied to a backing material which, in turn, covered the ink in succession by forming a solid sheet. However, printing is now a digital process which involves the application of ink on a computer-printed surface through the use of a computer printer. This article briefly covers the history of printing.


Printing has been a necessary and important component of business printing for centuries. The first printed materials were created during the Middle Ages when small printing presses were used by printing shops in order to reproduce church records and legal documents. Although print shops eventually developed in different regions throughout Europe, main centers of book printing continued to be in London, which was the center of copyright legislation at the time. Throughout the Industrial Revolution, with the development of new printing equipment, print shops throughout the United Kingdom began to produce more durable copies of printed materials, such as legal documents, pamphlets, and other printed documents.

Print shops in China began copying printed matter from England in the eighteenth century. The most common copy that was made during this period were woodblock printed books. Woodblock printing, unlike other forms of printing, utilized a rubber-based medium to transfer the print from a negative (ignored) to a positive (clear) surface. In most cases, woodblock printing included a method called “engraving”, whereby the engravings of engraved images on the top side of a page would become blended together when viewed on a negative. This method was used extensively in England, but soon moved across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States where it quickly replaced engraving.

In the late nineteenth century, with the development of improved printing press technologies, it became much easier to reproduce texts from various sources. Commercial printing press manufacturers in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan all made attempts to produce photographic reproductions, often done by using an improved type of printing press. These types of reproductions included engraved images (usually of animals or plants), as well as photographic reproductions. A typical early twenty-first century printing press could scan items that could be printed by a variety of methods, including carbon copies, thermal printing, and direct printing. A great advantage to the printing process was that many images could be produced simultaneously.

With the development of technology that utilizes a variety of new processes and materials, printing has taken on a new role in the business world. Many people are aware that printing is an important aspect in the production of most book titles. For example, book printing (also sometimes referred to as letterpress printing) utilizes presses that produce both paper and ink for a variety of purposes, including printing a standard length newspaper article. The main article is simply published on a canvas that is then placed into a binder. The binder seals the edges of the main article, preventing the ink from bubbling out during printing.

A different type of printing used presses that utilize a movable metal type technology. This printing method is most commonly associated with early press-making processes. Movable metal type printing first developed around the fourteenth century, and began to gain popularity among printers who used this new tool to create handmade decorative pieces. The first known movable metal type printing press was created around the fifteenth century.