Movable Type Printing

We’ve arrived at one of the most important stages in the history of printing: the advent of movable type. And once again, this invention came from China. In 1041, the printer Bi Sheng invented movable clay type. However, it had the drawback of breaking easily. In 1298, the inventor Wang Zhen began using much stronger wooden type and invented a complex system of revolving tables that improved the quality of printing.

Now fast forward to the 15th century and the introduction of movable type in Europe by Johannes Gutenberg. The centrepiece of his technique was the punch, a steel parallelepiped whose head was engraved in relief, and back to front, with a character: a number, letter or punctuation mark. The punch created the matrix in which type was cast, then placed on a tray, inked and pressed onto paper.

One of the first books printed with woodblocks was a copy of the Diamond Sutra (868 AD), a six-sheet scroll over five metres long. Recently, a Korean pagoda was discovered with an even older text dating to 750-751 AD.

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