In the 15th Century the goldsmith Johann Gutenberg first came up with the idea of printing. He invented a mechanical device which involved applying pressure to an inked surface resting on paper which then transfers the image onto it. This spread quickly to the rest of the world and became the most commonly used type of printing, remaining the most popular method for the next 300 years.
The Gutenberg Press was taken forward by Friedrich Koenig, who was the first to design a high-speed, non-manpowered machine using steam. In 1814, Koenig and his friend Andreas Friedrich Bauer sold their first model to The Times, and the first issue of the paper was then printed. Their printing press meant that newspapers were available to a mass audience, which helped spread literacy. The 1820s saw the nature of book production change dramatically due to faster printing.
Lithography is the next stage in the development of the printing press, as invented by Alois Senefelder in 1796. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. It works on the principal that oil and water repel each other naturally, and this is then used to print all types of media. Using a flat stone or plate, oily gum arabic was applied to the stone to form the background, then the ink (which would repel the gum arabic) was applied into the gaps, in order to make a complete picture. Clever eh?
This type of printing still takes place today to produce posters, maps, books, newspapers, and packaging – any smooth, mass-produced item with print on it. Most things with a high amount of text are now printed using offset lithography. It just has to have a smooth surface!
In the 1990s, developments in digital technology have meant that publishers now have other options. It doesn’t need a flat plate or stone for one! While it does draw on many of the ideas of lithography, it can allow each print to be completely different (much like a book!) and can reproduce these quickly. Furthering this, digital printing also led to the rise of the eBook, which allows books to be read on computers or other hand-held devices.
The latest step in the evolution of publishing has been in developing digital printing which makes printing just one copy at a time a viable option. Print-on-demand has been great for reprinting out-of-print books if you forgot to buy it first time round. It has been great news for fresh, new books: writers don’t have to invest in a print run of hundreds to bring the price per copy down to a viable rate.
So, printing has come a long way from printing one page at a time. Now when you finish a book or a newspaper, just think how long that would have taken old Johann Gutenberg to print (years, probably).
CompletelyNovel uses the latest print-on-demand technology to enable easy, affordable and professional self-publishing for anyone online. We link to print-on-demand printers such as Lightning Source and Antony Rowe.