Print: How it all began

It is generally considered, that bookprinting began in the 15th century with the invention by the German man named Johannes Gensfleisch alias Gutenberg. He had many direct and indirect predecessors, both in Europe, and particularly in Asia, where already many years earlier, old master printers had been engraving drawings into wooden or stone boards and using colours, they made imprints.

Gutenberg's contribution lies mainly in connection of some of the techniques and their perfection: this way he created a very functional technology that was relatively easy to use. In comparison with his predecessors that had to tediously prepare whole print boards (repeatedly for every printing), he offered a solution that lied in a relatively fast assembly of individual symbols into a printing form, and the symbols could have been removed after printing and re-used. That made the whole printing process considerably more effective and faster.

Using this principle, Gutenberg unknowingly followed up the document printing with moving metal letters that first appeared in the 11th century in Korea. On this account, we say that Gutenberg invented book printing "for Europe".

Hand in hand with the book printing boom, perfection of colour spreading onto elevated points of the printing form was going on, and also pressure that is used to transfer colour from form to paper was put to better use. At the start, the colour would be spread onto the boards using sponges and only later using rollers. In the beginning, the pressure was replaced by brush tapping onto the paper, only later printing presses were used, which significantly sped up and simplified transfer of materials from the printing board to paper.

Gutenberg originally wanted to be a diamond cutter and a goldsmith. It was probably his experience with assay stamps that led him to the idea of casting letters made of metal. To this end, he engraved signs into casting form's metal signs for individual letters and using these, he casted them in steel that is more easily fusible.

There are many disputations regarding the earliest prints, since they often survive only as fragments and their dating is very difficult. The oldest dated print by Johannes Gutenberg is the one-paged calendar "Almanach auf das Jahr 1448". Gutenberg's invention enabled to print plenty of complete books in marked series (earlier, only parts of the books had been printed). Invention of print using movable types caused information explosion in Europe.

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