What is printing?

We explain what the printing press is and what it is for. What was its origin, and why is it so important. Types of printers.

  1. What is printing?

The printing press refers to a mechanism capable of reproducing texts and images on a paper, cloth or other material support , in order to produce them on a large scale.

Initially it operated on the basis of two metal plates between which the material to be printed was introduced, and in which the typographic molds (letters) had been distributed and inked in the correct order of the text . Then the plates were pressed and the text was marked on the surface.

The printing press was invented in the fifteenth century and perfected over the centuries , but since then it allows the serial reproduction of books, magazines, brochures , clothing and other articles endowed with texts and images, through various methods of pressure and inking.

  1. Types of printers

The newspaper is printed in a rotary press.

Very later, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and new technologies , more sophisticated forms of printing emerged. Today there are different types of printing, such as:

  • Off-set . The “traditional” printing press, although far removed from the one invented in the Middle Ages, is the result of centuries of process improvement , thanks to technological advances. It operates based on typographic plates with four different inks (based on their colors , or CMYK).
  • Digital . Taking advantage of the computer revolution, the printing press was renewed to incorporate virtual technology and fast data transmission . Homemade and portable printers of an ordinary PC are a good example, which operate on the basis of other principles such as laser or inkjet.
  • Rotativa . The presses in which the newspaper is made, equipped with large mobile rollers between which the paper is pressed, to quickly produce hundreds of newspaper sheets or other formats.
  1. Origin of the printing press

The printing press had numerous antecedents, in the different stamps and inscriptions invented by ancient cultures to manage their bureaucracy or reproduce ceremonial illustrations. The Chinese, for example, who had made rice paper , invented in the eleventh century a porcelain system that allowed their characters to be reproduced from porcelain molds. But the modern printing press as such emerged in about 1450 from the hand of Johannes Gutemberg.

Although the young German was the first to organize a typography and proceed to serial printing, many others had previously tried, so that Mentelin de Strasbourg (1410-1478), Italian Castaldi , his compatriot Aldo Manuencio, and the Dutch Lorenzo de Coster (1370-1430).

  1. What is the printing press for?

Printing is fast, efficient and economical.

The printing press is used to produce books, magazines, pamphlets, brochures, fabrics, clothing and many other objects endowed with texts and images in a massive way: fast, efficient and economical. This thanks to a system of mobile plates that, pressed, could reproduce the same page multiple times, then the next and then the next, until obtaining several games that, combined, made up several copies of an entire book. The first book to be manufactured in this way was the Bible.

Today, technology has changed the printing press but the principle remains the same: rotary printing presses, for example, in which the newspaper is printed , have large mobile rollers through which hundreds of sheets of paper pass through which are inked and then dried, folded and distributed. None of this would have been possible without the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century.

  1. Characteristics of the printing press

The printing press initially had the following characteristics:

  • He copied the model of the rubber stamps of antiquity, pressing the paper between metal plates.
  • This pressure came from a screwing system that prevented the paper from moving and generated enough force to print.
  • The letters were movable types, that is, metal molds that had to be ordered in the correct sequence to reproduce the text.
  • Initially it incorporated the woodcut and other traditional techniques due to limitations in the typographic mold.
  • The printing press was perfected in the 19th century, thanks to the invention of linotype by Ottmar Mergenthaler.
  1. Importance of the printing press

At the times of his invention, books were copied manually as single copies , which took a tremendous amount of time and effort per copy, making them rare and expensive objects. The appearance and subsequent improvement and popularization of the printing press meant a real revolution, which made the book more economical, popular and massive.

This, in turn, impacted access to the letter and education , laying the foundations for a more literate European society . It is possibly one of the most revolutionary inventions in history and that forever changed the order of the world’s knowledge.

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