10 Interesting Facts on the History of Printing

The printing technology has played a significant role in the history of man.  It goes all the way back to 3500 BC when a man known as Johannes Gutenberg, a German citizen, invented a printing press. However, print technology had existed long before Gutenberg invented the printing machine, which saw a rise in mass book publishing. As a result, there was a rapid spread of knowledge throughout Europe.

Today, printing is defined by a range of printing technologies, some more efficient than others. Here are ten interesting facts about the history of printing.

1. Printing Played a Big Role in the Scientific Revolution

Where the history of printing began has European roots. As printing presses gained popularity in Europe, science books rolled off the press as quickly as readers gobbled them up. Printing allowed scientists working on similar issues to record their findings and share them amongst themselves, no matter how far they were from each other.

The good thing about using print to share findings is that there is a lower chance of the information being altered. Without printing technology, some of the advancements we have seen in science would not exist.

2. Printing Dates Back to 3500 BCE

The history of printing may have dated as long ago as 3500 BCE. It is believed that the Mesopotamian and Persian civilizations were first to make use of the printing technology. They utilized cylinder seals to certify documents were written on clay. Other forms of printing included pottery imprints, cloth printing, and block seals.

3. The Renaissance Wouldn’t Have Occurred without the Printing Press

The printing technology allowed people to print ideas, books and pamphlets about the new humanist philosophy. This gave philosophers an ideal platform for sharing their ideology with a broader audience.

4. Woodblock Printing on Paper Started in China

This advancement in printing occurred around 200 CE. It resulted in the invention of movable type printers during the 11th century and an increase in the popularity of book production in East Asia. This was the first type of printing to be applied to paper.

During the fifteenth century, the Europeans combined the movable type with alphabetic scripts, a move that saw the birth of book publishing for the masses. The printing industry allowed people to share their knowledge and ideas on a broader scale. As text printing developed, so did image reproduction. Some examples of low-cost printing methods include screen printing, lithography and photocopying.

5. Mahayana Buddhism Greatly Influenced Printing

Buddhists were using the printing technology (woodblock to be specific) to make apotropaic documents as early as the 7th century. According to the Mahayana people, religious texts hold intrinsic value since they carry Buddha’s word. They are also believed to contain sacred powers that can ward off evil spirits. The Buddhist texts were not produced for commercial purposes; they were mainly printed as ritual items. These texts were so sacred that they were buried in sanctified grounds for safe keeping.

6. The Movable Type Was Developed in 1041

This method of printing started in the era of the song dynasty in China. It was invented by a Chinese citizen known as Bi Sheng. The first movable type printer was made from ceramic.

7. Shen Kuo Is Not the Inventor of the Movable Type Printer

In the year 1193, people believed Shen Kuo invented the movable type printer because a southern song chief counsellor, known as Zhou Bida, misinformed the citizens, but that was not the case. Shen Kuo corrected this mistake by crediting the invention to Bi Sheng in one of his dream pool essays.

8. The Printing Press Was Invented around 1439

Johannes Gutenberg is credited with the invention of the printing press. He was from Mainz, Germany, and is responsible for the development of European movable type printers. Ten years after his invention, the European printing age was fully on course.

9. Johannes Gutenberg Invented Oil-Based Inks

During the fifteenth century, Gutenberg decided to develop a new form of ink for the printing press. According to “A Living History,” Gutenberg’s ink was made from oil products and could not be erased once applied. The ink was created by mixing soot from lamps with egg white and varnish. Before the invention of oil-based inks, the Roman and Greek writing inks were mostly used. These were made using glue, soot and water.

The problem with these inks was that they could not stick to a printing surface without creating blurs.  Finally, an ideal printing press ink was made using turpentine, soot and walnut oil. Nowadays, the history of printing has evolved so that there are different types of inks, printers, and various printing equipment ranging from office printers to flexographic printers in industrial settings.

10. The First Newspaper Came from the Roman Empire

The first newspaper was printed in 130 BC It was known as the “Acta Diurna,” which is Latin for “daily acts.” This newspaper would be carved onto stone from where scribes would make copies for distribution to all provinces in the empire.

Since Gutenberg invented the first printing machine around 1439, printing has come a long way. Without a doubt, the future will see more advancements in printing technology as the printing industry becomes increasingly sophisticated.

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