A Historical Breakdown Of The Printing Press


The printing press has been around for a few hundred years now. We don’t know a world without the benefits that the printing press brings to us. Because of the printing press we have books, magazines and more… all of which we have come to rely on for entertainment, education, and communication.

English philosopher Francis Bacon listed printing, gunpowder, and the compass as the three things that have had the greatest power and influence on human affairs. The printing press has been an extremely important part of our societal evolution. Even though the printing press has been around for hundreds of years, it is still interesting to look back to where it all began. Let’s take a minute and take a look at the history of the printing press.

Here is a historical breakdown of the printing press:

Invention of the Printing Press

A printing press is a device used to print ink onto paper (or cloth). There is a piece of movable type covered with ink. The printing press applies pressure to the ink-covered movable type plate, which transfers the ink onto the paper. The first occurrence of movable type was found in China around 1040 A.D. But the printing press wasn’t invented until over 400 years later. The first printing press was invented around 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith.

Gutenberg combined traditional components of existing movable type with his own innovations. His was the first invention to make it possible to use movable type on more of a mass level. With Gutenberg’s printing press, this was the first time that prints could be created in such large amounts. Before 1450, only 40 printed pages could be produced on one workday. Gutenberg’s printing press made it possible to produce 3,600 pages in one workday.

Growth of the Printing Press

After its invention, Gutenberg’s printing press completely revolutionized how information was made available to the public. Starting around 1480, printed books were being manufactured all over Europe. There were printing presses being used in most countries in Europe. By 1500, seventy-seven cities just in Italy had active printing shops. Because of the abilities that the printing press created, the first newspaper was introduced in 1605.

The Industrial Revolution

When the Industrial Revolution came, this brought on a whole new set of innovations to the printing press. Gutenberg’s printing presses were hand operated. They were still much more efficient than any other printing model used before. But with the industrial revolution, industrial-grade presses were introduced. Lord Stanhope, a British scientist, created a printing press around 1800 that was made out of cast iron. Lord Stanhope’s industrial printing press could print double the amount than the Gutenberg-style printing press.

More Innovations with the Printing Press

Friedrich Koenig, a German printer, was responsible for the next innovations with the printing press. He worked to revolutionize the printing press during the early 1800’s. He created a printing press that was run by a steam engine. This new steam-powered printing press had an output of 1,100 impressions per hour. This was also the first printing press that could print on both sides of the sheet of paper at one time.

In 1843 Richard M. Hoe of the United States invented the first rotary printing press. All previous printing presses utilized flat printing plates. Hoe’s rotary printing press had an output of millions of copies in one day.

Modern Day

The modern day printing press is very similar in material and function to those that were used in previous centuries. There are the obvious differences of paper and ink types, as well as the introduction of electricity. But many of the machine and printing plate materials remain the same.

Nicole writes articles for Graphic Innovators. They specialize in the sale of new remanufactured and quality used web offset presses and auxiliary equipment. You can find a printing press at their site.

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