From the first images sketched in caves by early man to the accessibility of digital printing techniques using personal computers and laser printers, the history of printing is long and distinguished. Although there have been images depicted in various formats for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the development of the moveable printing press in approximately 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg that the process of recreating an image of text by the printing process was more widely recognised.
Although there had been some printing undertaken by the use of wooden blocks, Gutenberg’s printing press allowed for numerous copies of texts to be created in a short space of time and revolutionised the development of the written word throughout the world. For several hundred years, Gutenberg’s press was unchallenged in the publishing field (though there were some advancements such as the iron-framed press and large press houses which accommodated huge printing machines) and it was not until the twentieth century that any real adjustments and improvements were made to the original design.
The expansion of the industrial revolution spread to the printing press and hand-set type and pressing was soon replaced by steam power. This innovation made the printing process much quicker and efficient and allowed for the creation of hundreds of books and papers at any one time.
Later in the twenty first century, electric printing presses and other electric equipment were developed, forging the way for later digital printing processes. Along with items such as electric typewriters and photocopiers, electronic equipment also paved the way for the creation of the modern office.
The first laser printers were developed in the late 1960s and the dot matrix printer not long after this and these gave rise to the opportunities to undertake large-scale printing commissions by using technology which was faster and cheaper than traditional printing methods.
In 1993 the first digital printing processes were developed. With the wide availability of computers at this time, digital printing was an advancement in the printing world which allowed for accessibility and convenience. Digital printing negates the need for printing plates and type-set and allows even home-based operations to design and develop their own printed documents. These modern printing systems involve the development of documents on a computer using a variety of software packages and digital files. These texts or articles can then be electronically forwarded to a printer (either a laserjet or inkjet variety) where it can be printed quickly and as a high resolution product; digital printing can create good quality items with sharp edging and superior colour attributes. Digital printing methods also permit even those with limited printing knowledge to create unique and eye-catching marketing materials, training manuals or other business information.
Printing technique developments have ensured that the levels of worldwide literacy have increased and developed throughout history. From the first bibles to be published to popular newspapers, the printing press has allowed the printed word to be used to spread ideas and influence the English language as we know it.