History of the Letterpress
The History of the letterpress is credited to Johannes Gutenberg with the development in the western hemisphere, in about 1440, of modern movable type printing from individually cast, reusable letters set together in a form (frame or chase). Movable type was first invented in China using ceramic type in 1040 AD and the Koreans developed movable metal type in 1100 AD. Gutenberg also invented a wooden printing press, based on the extant wine press, where the type surface was inked with leather covered ink balls and paper laid carefully on top by hand, then slid under a padded surface and pressure applied from above by a large threaded screw. It was Gutenburg’s “screw press” or hand press that was used to print 180 copies of the Bible. At 1,282 pages, it took him and his staff of 20 almost 3 years to complete. 48 copies remain intact today. This form of presswork gradually replaced the hand copied manuscripts of scribes and illuminators as the most prevalent form of printing. Printers’ workshops, previously unknown in Europe before the mid-1400’s, were found in every important metropolis by 1500. Later metal presses used a knuckle and lever arrangement instead of the screw, but the principle was the same. Ink rollers made of composition made inking faster and paved the way for further automation.