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The History Of Print: From The Phaistos Disc To The Gutenberg Press

Jun 6, 2008
The printing industry has a long history dating back to around 1850 BC. Since that time, we have developed new ways of printing onto a variety of mediums. Printing has progressed from the early techniques used in ancient times, such as the Phaistos Disc and woodblock printing, to the innovative inkjet and laser printers that are commonplace in todays society.

The first known example of printing was found on the Greek Island of Crete in 1908 by a group of archaelologists. The Phaistos Disc, dated between 1850 and 1400 BC, is a circular clay tablet about 15cm in diameter with imprinted symbols on both sides. Rather than being engraved, the inscription was said to be made by pressing printing stamps into the soft clay in a clockwise manner. It was then fired at high temperature. Most scientists believe that it was used as one of the earliest forms of a printing press and is sometimes classified as an early document of movable type printing.

Woodblock printing is a technique of printing text, images or patterns. It originated in China around 200AD and was used widely throughout East Asia to print onto cloth. Wooden blocks were carved out to produce a relief image or text and were used to print onto textiles and later onto paper. The earliest known printed book was printed using the woodblock technique. Woodblock printing was introduced in Europe around 400 AD and is still used today in Asia to print designs onto wallpaper.

The Intaglio technique was invented in Germany in the 1430s and was commonly used by artists between 1450 and 1550. The process of intaglio uses the opposite principle of relief printing. The design is etched onto either a copper or zinc plate and filled with ink. The surface is then carefully wiped clean so the ink remains only in the incised design. Paper is positioned on the ink-filled plate and pressed with a roller to force the paper into contact with the ink, producing the desired image or text onto paper. This style of printing was favoured over the earlier technique of woodblock printing due to the durability of metal. It is also still used today to print items such as currency and passports.

Soon after the invention of the Intaglio plate, a German craftsman and inventor named Johann Gutenberg developed an innovative printing press machine that used movable type. Metal moulds were used as dies to produce separate letters that could be arranged and rearranged. Ink was rolled over the raised surfaces of the hand-set letters held in a wooden frame, and then pressed against paper leaving a sharp impression. The Gutenberg press was considered to be one of the greatest inventions in the last 1000 years as it revolutionised the printing industry into what it has become today.
About the Author
John Mce writes on behalf of Sauven Marking. Find class leading industrial inkjet printing, inkjet coding and marking technology from internationally renowned manufacturer, http://www.sauven-marking.co.uk
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