How has type printing changed over time and what impact it?

Printing can be tracked back as early as 3000 BC and even earlier, it's important to ascertain what sort of printing is talked about. However, it was not implemented nor used until the early 15th century. Where printing started to thrive, starting from China and moving across the continents, block printing being one of the most basic way of print at the time. The essay will establish the link and the change that has occurred between the recent 15th centuries to the current day printing methods and how they benefit us and the possible impact it had caused.

As we never consider how the type print has come about when reading through books or any sort of physical type based, design work ranging from posters, fliers, magazines or newspapers.

Type characters cast from metal (bronze) are developed in China, Japan and Korea. The oldest known book printed using metal type dates to the year 1377. It is a Korean Buddhist document, called Selected Teachings of Buddhist Sages and Seon Masters.

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As with every new way of printing type, the first book that would be printed, is the Bible as it is most detailed and recognised books, it also shows if the printing type would be able to withstand such amount of print work and would be suitable for further use. Then followed the woodcutting pressed which was extremely tedious and labour costing as each block has to be changed and printed with new inks and were not as efficient producing only 40 pages a day.

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It was not long before a genius inventor Johann Gutenberg in the early 15th century introduced a punch and mould press system. It takes him 4 years to finish his wooden press which uses movable metal type. Among his first publications that get printed on the new device are bibles.

Since then it has completely revolutionized the printing and established the ever so growing printing industry. It allowed to bring books out of the church and monasteries where they were kept and reprinted, allowing for an easy access to be then given out to schools and Universities. In the 16th century, the woodcutting press was well established throughout the Europe and many continents, many books were reprinted, and many started to write new ones, some being great art books. In 1525 the famous painter, wood carver and copper engraver Albrecht Durer publishes "Unterweysung der Messung" (A Course on the Art of Measurement), a book on the geometry of letters.

The printing pressed played a large role in politics and caused large battle in history going as far as killing and burning people alive for selling ideas and ideologies. Before long, materials were produced that promoted alternative Christian teachings or questioned the church. One of the many ways print has changed the world was its role in this religious revolution, and many others since it. Although, the printing press has not yet completely taken off until the English Civil War in the mid-17th century. Because that was when publications of law and different reforms were printed to advocate and defend the order of countries. At that point letter type and print was highly valued treasures. As it became easier to produce books and pamphlets, information started to spread. It was at that point the technological revelation has risen as education and knowledge was openly accessible and everyone were able to access the same amount of information, the mass audience began to be increasingly educated in the society. The first American paper mill is established in 1690.

Then in the 18th century colour to text was added to try and add more emphasis and spectrum to the readers. In 1710 the German painter and engraver Jakob Christof Le Blon produces the first engraving in several colours. He uses the mezzotint method to engrave three metal plates. Each plate is inked with a different colour, using red, yellow and blue. Later on, he adds a fourth plate, bearing black lines. This technique helped form the foundation for modern colour printing. Le Bon's work is based on Newton's theory, published in 1702, which states that all colours in the spectrum are composed of the three primary colours blue, yellow and red.

To give some perspective in their advances the American "Common Sense" which advocated the American independence in 1775-76 by Thomas Paine, pamphlet sold some 500,000 copies, powerfully influencing American opinion. This was all printed in just a year, yet in the past with older technology that would have taken around 16 years to print. It was then further used in centuries that followed, and printing press became one of the primary technologies in modern era and formed many advantageous fields in which it was then used to communicated or pass information through. The Illustrated London News is the world's first illustrated weekly newspaper. It costs five pence in 1842. A year later Sir Henry Cole commissions the English painter John Callcott Horsley to do the artwork of (arguably) the first commercial Christmas card. Around 1000 cards are printed and hand-coloured. Ten of these are still in existence today. The printing industry started to thrive on different ideas and designs, they started to experiment and evolve their way of print, where they started to even understand and further enhance printing techniques. In the 19th century they introduced the first rotary printing press was created by the American inventor Richard March, this in term allowed for faster printing as it would print both sides of the page. At those times many newspaper companies started to become established publishers and newspapers became a large source of information with well recognised brands featuring them. From there they revolutionised the print by introducing offset printing in 1875, it's a technique that allowed a quick and fast reproduction of type and artworks at a lower cost and it continued from 1800s to 1900s evolving down the line. Many professional printers offer this printing technique today, and it is one of the most commonly requested techniques when images are involved.

It wasn't until early 20th century where type would go through large innovations and changes. Because of such wide communication and reading became such an important source of information and the Renaissance movement had flourished and began to increase. It was very easy to then own any kind of book, brochure or bible than in the previous centuries. In these years we saw introductions of different developments and ways of printings such as the introduction of multicolour printing and chromolithography. Chromolithography was used to print advertisements; they could take months to produce but changed the printing industry massively.

From then on technology and modern-day computers started to shine the light into a new way of producing print. Because from 1940s we saw implementation of the first inkjet printers which shortly after were followed by large growth of technology and ever so popular internet growth. As we approach the 1970s you could find HP, Canon and Epson inkjet printers reproducing digital images made by computers.

After which it leads to the current day century, where print is so widely available at any corner of the world. Type print can now be seen everywhere, from advertisement to books, occupying our most basic things in life. The print press has played a huge and critical job in moulding the Renaissance, which has intriguing connections to the present days of Information Age. Now type is widespread and has a large economical and serious impact on planet, without type, people would not be ale to communicate and no essay or blog can ever be written to store that data. Many has even gone as far as abandoning printing and going to more electronic versions instead but for some it will still be a forever important medium of information and piece of history. To think that this has all steamed from Gutenberg's invention which drastically impacted the future and the print we see today. Printed texts became a new way to spread information to vast audiences quickly and cheaply. Academics benefited from this dissemination of scholarly ideas and even politicians found that they could garner the public's interest through printed pamphlets.

An important side effect was that people could read and increase their knowledge more easily now, whereas in the past it was common for people to be quite uneducated. This increased the discussion and development of new ideas. Furthermore, modern press made it extremely available and cheap for anyone to be able to print their own publications or work and now books and news can travel across Europe and continents faster and easier than ever, allowing for an easy exchange of knowledge available everywhere. Now more than ever education has risen highly because of such wide access to books and knowledge that people seek. Available at any library or internet store, books are purchased and demand for new layout designers and artists grows exponentially to further enhance the interest of books as and type for the further generations.


In conclusion the clear link and full history shows a full impact and extent that type had gone through, the amount of battles and innovations from so many people and generations went into perfecting print work that we take so much for granted in current age. It certainly became much easier to be able to type and letter print typography onto paper and create books with most homes owning an inkjet or a laser printer. Type press effects most of current day lives as mass corporate press printing are always at work and designers are always on demand for publishing and writing. Without type press and today, people would go into panic without suitable guidance and thirst for knowledge and since then printing has been extending its technologies to try and find new and better ways of print and further enhance its efficiency.

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

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How has type printing changed over time and what impact it?. (2019, Dec 04). Retrieved from

How has type printing changed over time and what impact it? essay
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