UK schoolchildren used to be taught that printing was invented in London around 1476 by William Caxton. OK, a few foreigners were involved along the way, but they weren’t important. In fact Johannes Gutenberg pioneered the movable type printing press in Mainz, Germany in 1439. And long before that, printing with wood blocks and then with movable type had been going strong in China, India, Korea and the Islamic world for centuries. Caxton just adopted the latest technology and brought it across the North Sea.
Driven by technology
When printing took off in Europe, it had as much to do with other Gutenberg innovations as the press itself. He developed durable oil-based inks and a new alloy that made it quick and easy to produce metal type as needed. The fact that industrial paper making had spread from the East via the Islamic world to Europe in the Middle Ages also prepared the way for the new printing era. Advances in printing have always been driven by the technology of the time.
Printed books were nothing new (there was a street with 100 bookshops in Marrakech in the eleventh century). But suddenly books could be printed affordably in large numbers, and people were ready to read them. Result: an explosion of knowledge and creativity. The spread of cheap bibles in vernacular languages (i.e. not Latin) paved the way for the Reformation, and later led to Shakespeare, Dickens, Darwin and 50 Shades of Grey. Now that’s progress.
Now in colour
At first printed matter was like Henry Ford’s cars: you could have any colour as long as it was black. But people love colour and the search began for ways to get it onto the printed page. In 1507 the great artist Lucas Cranach invented the chiaroscuro woodcut, making colour prints possible using two or more woodblocks. In 1710 another German Jacob Christof Le Bion developed mezzotints using multiple engraved plates to produce colour prints. In 1796 Alois Senefelder from Bavaria invented lithography, using chemical processes to create colour prints. Lithography is the basis of colour printing to this day.
We’ll fast forward through the development of photocopying (Chester Carlson in 1938) and digital printing in 1993, which both made instant printing on demand possible, and here we are in Macclesfield in 2018. Click here to see the amazing variety of state-of-the art printing services offered by Banner Printing Android.