Historical Magic of Printing - Putting out someone’s thoughts forever for anyone to read


The text and images in the pages of history has a beginning. Otherwise, how would we have known all that existed in the past to what is present now and the intervening times? From oral dissemination of knowledge down the generations to important inscriptions on the stones and metals to printing text on paper, the human race has developed and improvised various tools for the preservation and understanding of study resource material. If printing hadn’t been invented, many of us wouldn’t have come to know the historic events, scientific discoveries, world news, literature, technological developments, and what not.

Let’s go through this absorbing story of printing that spans over fifteen centuries.

· Woodblock Printing: The Tang Dynasty of China is credited with the invention of printing using wooden matrices that were engraved, inked and pressed onto paper. The first book printed in this manner was the Diamond Sutra (868AD), a six-sheet scroll over five metres long, printed in Chinese with woodblocks.

· Movable Type Printing: In the 15th century, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the first movable type printing using a punch- a steel parallelepiped whose head was engraved in relief with a character: a letter, a number or a punctuation mark. The punch was then placed on a tray, inked and pressed onto paper. In 1455, he published the first Gutenberg Bible with a print run of 180 copies.

· The Rotary Press: Fast forward to 1843 in the US when Richard March Hoe invented the first rotary press which was hand-fed with single sheets. In 1863, William Bullock introduced a press that was fed by a paper roll: the images or text to be printed were curved around rotating cylinders. It was suitable for large print runs.

· The Offset Printing: In 1875, Robert Barclay invented the offset press for printing on metal which was later adapted for printing on paper. Its working was based on the chemical phenomena of repulsion between oil and water.

· The Linotype Machine: In 1885, Ottmar developed the linotype, the type setting machine. It worked the same way as a typewriter. The lines were mechanised that sped up printing. It was used to print the “New York Tribune” for the first time in 1886.

· The Laser Printer: The Xerox Corporation developed laser technology in 1971. In a laser printer, the content to be printed is generated by electronic processes and printed directly onto a sheet of paper. It was truly record breaking as one could print 20,000 lines a minute.

Over the last few decades, laser printers have become compact, affordable and efficient along with dot matrix, inkjet and dye sublimation printers to choose from.

· Digital Printing: The latest in line is the digital print, done from digital files along with graphics software applications on your computer, that too from the comforts of your home.

· 3D printing is the marvel one should be excited about. It uses computer-aided-designs to create objects layer by layer. It is the new future of the technical advancements to look out for.

Is printing just a part of technological breakthrough or does it have any other connotation?

Each one of us is printing thoughts on the annals of time. Let’s be aware and careful that we imprint good ones on others’ hearts.

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