Printing is the making of lots of copies of the same document using movable characters or letters. Before the idea of printing, everything published needed to be written by hand. Letters, newspapers, and even books had to be copied by hand. Most of the time this was done by monks. Soon, the monks, and everyone else, realized that handwriting everything took way too long. People needed a way to make printing faster and the printing press was invented.
The earliest printed books were produced using wooden blocks with the letters carved in them. The blocks would be dipped in ink and then pressed onto paper. The world’s earliest printed book made from woodblocks is from 868 A.D. It is a Chinese book called the Diamond Sutra. Printing was hard at first because everyone had to print things letter by letter, but it was an improvement from writing.
When printing books first started, books were still very rare. Usually, only five books were printed per year! Although five books a year is not very much, it is still more than one person could write by hand in a lifetime.
Johann Gutenberg invented the first printing press using movable type in 1450. Movable type is also called foundry type or hot type. In this kind of printing press, each piece of type or letter was made from a small piece of metal. Each piece of metal had a single letter, number, or other character raised up on it. Each piece of type was placed one at a time into its own compartment. The letters were selected one at a time and lined up on a composing stick. Metal pieces with no letters on them were used in between words to make spaces. Then these lines of type were placed into a larger box until you had many lines to make up a page. Not only did this save time, but it also made the text appear straighter.
The raised part of the metal that was inked for printing was called the face. This is where the term "typeface" comes from. Most of the early typefaces looked just like cursive handwriting instead of the way printing looks today. Only black ink was used.
The printing press really changed the world more than almost any invention. Before the printing press, books and reading were only for church and government leaders. Only the most educated and rich people had books. Then they had the power to teach all the regular people just what they wanted them to know. Most of the early printed works were religious books and pamphlets. But after the printing press was invented and books became easier and cheaper to make, reading became available to regular people. This helped the common people to depend less on the church and government and begin to have their own ideas. Without the invention of the printing press to make books available to more people, William Shakespeare might never have been inspired to write some of the world's most famous plays.
Apart from the time it took to print, there were more changes to come in printing too. Now, we are able to print in color. Only four main colors are used to print all the other colors: yellow, cyan (a cross between green and blue), magenta, and black. To make the other colors, two or more colors are printed on top of each other. For example, to get green, they use cyan and yellow.
Today, computers are connected to printing presses, and it is a very different process. In fact, nowadays many people have printers in their homes which are connected to computers.
It is very common for people around the world to read. It doesn't even matter how much money you have. You don't have to be a president or church leader any longer. So get out there and read a book.
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