A Brief Snapshot on the History of Print
The printing technology we have today comes from a long history of innovation across the continents. Way back in 3500 BCE, Persian and Mesopotamian civilizations used cylinder seals to certify documents written in clay. Early forms of print also include block seals, pottery imprints and cloth printing.
However, the first form of print on paper was in 6th century China during the Tang Dynasty.
One of the many inventions that emerged from the Tang dynasty was woodblock printing — known as xylography today. Wooden blocks were engraved, inked and pressed onto a sheet of paper. One of the first books printed with woodblocks was the Diamond Sutra: a Mahayana sutra from the ‘Perfection of Wisdom’ genre.
In 1041, Bi Sheng invented a movable clay type printer. However, it’s one major flaw is that it broke easily. This led to Wang Zhen using a stronger wooden type movable printing technique; while it was more durable and improved the printing quality, the process was rather complicated.
Printing in Europe
The movable type printing was introduced in Europe by Johanes Gutenberg. It used an oil-based ink (linseed oil and soot) instead of the water-based ink used in the Chinese version of this printing technique. It was very robust as it was made from an alloy of lead, tin and antimony. Gutenberg also invented the first printing press which was inspired by the grape press.
Richard March Hoe was credited with the invention of the first rotary press. Initially the rotary press had to be hand-fed with single sheets of paper. But in 1863, William Bullock introduced press that was fed by a paper roll increasing efficiency of printing.
The first lithograph offset press was invented by Englishman Robert Barclay. It produced sharp, clean images even on paper that wasn’t very smooth. Major technological breakthrough came from Ira Rubel, who discovered that the image produced by the rubber impression cylinder (as opposed to the stone plate used by lithographic printers) produced a much clearer image.
Then in 1971, Xerox Corporation developed laser technology. Printed content is generated by digital process and printed directly onto the paper. However, it wasn’t till the 1990s that laser printing became more accessible to household and the laypeople.
Print technology is always changing and evolving as seen throughout its history. At Citywide print, we embrace printing technology in all its glory. We offer smart, innovation solutions for all your printing needs in honor of those that came before us. To find out what the future of printing looks like for you and your business, give us a call today!
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