The History of Printing and Printing Processes

The earliest dated printed book known is the Diamond Sutra.

Priniting - First Book Printed in the West
Printing - First Book Printed in the West.

Timeline of Printing

The earliest dated printed book known is the "Diamond Sutra", printed in China in 868 CE. However, it is suspected that book printing may have occurred long before this date.

Before Gutenberg, printing was limited in the number of editions made and nearly exclusively decorative, used for pictures and designs. The material to be printed was carved into wood, stone, and metal, rolled with ink or paint and transferred by pressure to parchment or vellum.

Books were hand copied mostly by members of religious orders.


Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg was a German craftsman and inventor. Gutenberg is best known for the Gutenberg press, an innovative printing press machine that used movable type. It remained the standard until the 20th century. Gutenberg made printing cheap.

Printing Processes

Linotype & Ottmar Mergenthaler

Ottmar Mergenthaler's invention of the linotype composing machine in 1886 is regarded as the greatest advance in printing since the development of moveable type 400 years earlier.



Teletypesetter, device for setting type by telegraph developed by F.E. Gannett of Rochester, N.Y., W.W. Morey of East Orange, N.J., and Morkrum-Kleinschmidt Company, Chicago, Ill. The first demo of Walter Morey's "Teletypesetter" took place in Rochester, New york in 1928.



Louis Marius Moyroud and Rene Alphonse Higonnet developed the first practical phototypesetting machine.

The phototypesetter that used a strobe light and a series of optics to project characters from a spinning disk onto photographic paper.


Silk Screening or Serigraphy

In 1907, Samuel Simon of Manchester England was awarded a patent for the process of using silk fabric as a printing screen. Using materials other than silk for screen printing has a long history that begins with the ancient art of stenciling used by the Egyptians and Greeks as early as 2500 B.C.

A few years after Simon's patent, John Pilsworth of San Francisco developed a multicolor process of silk screening called screen printing. The term "Serigraphy", comes from the Latin word "Seri" (silk) and the Greek word "graphein" (to write or draw).



One of the earliest newspapers was the Roman Acta Diurna said to have been started by Julius Caesar.


Comic Books

The history of comic strips and comic book printing.


Continue > Printing Processes - Technical Reference & History


Printing - Technical Reference & History

    Typesetting - Technical Reference & History

    • A Capsule History of Typesetting
      From the use of wooden blocks in the 1400's to laser technology.
    • Type Museum
      Here you will find information about the history and practice of typesetting.
    • Paige Typesetter
      A competitor to the linotype machine patented by Ottmar Mergenthaler; was the Mark Twain-backed Paige Typesetter.
    • Louis Marius Moyroud and Rene Alphonse Higonnet developed the first practical phototypesetting machine.

    Newspapers - Technical Reference & History


    • 618 to 906: T’ang Dynasty - the first printing is done in China using ink on carved wooden blocks begins to make multiple transfers of an image to paper.
    • 868: The Diamond Sutra is printed.
    • 1241: Koreans print books using movable type.
    • 1300: The first use of wooden type in China.
    • 1309: Europeans first make paper. However, the Chinese and Egyptians had started making paper centuries previous.
    • 1338: First papermill opened in France.
    • 1390: First papermill opened in Germany.
    • 1392: Foundries that can produce bronze type are opened in Korea.
    • 1423: In Europe block printing is used to print books.
    • 1452: In Europe, metal plates are first used in printing. Gutenberg begins printing the Bible which he finishes in 1456.
    • 1457: First color printing by Fust and Schoeffer.
    • 1465: Drypoint engravings invented by Germans.
    • 1476: William Caxton begins using a Gutenberg printing press in England.
    • 1477: Intaglio is first used for book illustration for a Flemish book called Il Monte Sancto di Dio.
    • 1495: First papermill opened in England.
    • 1501: Italic type first used.
    • 1550: Wallpaper introduced in Europe.
    • 1605: First weekly newspaper published in Antwerp.
    • 1611: King James Bible published.
    • 1660: Mezzotint invented in Germany.
    • 1691: First papermill opened in the American colonies.
    • 1702: Multi-colored engraving invented by German Jakob Le Blon. The first English language daily newspaper is published called the Daily Courant.
    • 1725: In Scotland stereotyping invented by William Ged.
    • 1800: Iron printing presses invented.
    • 1819: Rotary printing press invented by Napier.
    • 1829: Embossed printing invented by Louis Braille.
    • 1841: Type-composing machine invented.
    • 1844: Electrotyping invented.
    • 1846: Cylinder press invented by Richard Hoe. Cylinder press can print 8,000 sheets an hour.
    • 1863: Rotary web-fed letterpress invented by William Bullock.
    • 1865: Web offset press can print on both sides of paper at once.
    • 1886: Linotype composing machineinvented by Ottmar Mergenthaler.
    • 1870: Paper is now mass-manufactured from wood pulp.
    • 1878: Photogravure printing invented by Karl Klic.
    • 1890: Mimeograph machine introduced.
    • 1891: Printing presses can now print and fold 90,000 4-page papers an hour. Diazotype invented (print photographs on fabric).
    • 1892: 4-color rotary press invented.
    • 1904: Offset lithography becomes common. The first comic book is published.
    • 1907: Commercial silk screening invented.
    • 1947: Phototypesetting made practical
    • 59 B.C.: Acta Diurna the first newspaper is published in Rome.
    • 1556: First monthly newspaper Notizie Scritte published in Venice.
    • 1605: First printed newspaper published weekly in Antwerp called Relation.
    • 1631: The first French newspaper published, the Gazette.
    • 1645: Post-och Inrikes Tidningar is published in Sweden and is still being published today, making it the world's oldest newspaper.
    • 1690: The first newspaper is published in America, Publick Occurrences.
    • 1702: The first English language daily newspaper is published called the Daily Courant. The Courant was first published (periodical)in 1621.
    • 1704: Considered the world’s first journalist, Daniel Defoe publishs the Review.
    • 1803: First newspapers published in Australia, the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser.
    • 1830: Number of newspapers published in the U.S. is 715.
    • 1831: The famous abolitionist newspaper The Liberator is first published by William Lloyd Garrison.
    • 1833: The New York Sun newspaper costs one cent - the beginning of the penny press.
    • 1844: First newspaper published in Thailand.
    • 1848: The Brooklyn Freeman newspaper is first published by Walt Whitman.
    • 1850: P.T. Barnum starts running newspaper ads for Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale" performances in America.
    • 1851: The Post Office starts offering a special cheap newspaper rate.
    • 1855: First newspaper published in Sierra Leone.
    • 1856: The first full-page newspaper ad is published in the New York Ledger. Large type newspaper ads are made popular by photographer Mathew Brady. Machines now mechanically fold newspapers.
    • 1860: A "morgue" in newspaper terms means an archive. The New York Herald starts the first morgue.
    • 1864: William James Carlton of J. Walter Thompson Company begins selling advertising space in newspapers. The J. Walter Thompson Company is the longist running American advertising agency.
    • 1867: The first double column advertising appears for the department store Lord & Taylor.
    • 1869: Newspaper circulation numbers published by George P. Rowell in the first Rowell's American Newspaper Directory.
    • 1870: Number of newspapers published in the U.S. is 5,091.
    • 1871: First newspaper published in Japan - the daily Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun. Famous newspaper interview with explorer Stanley Livingston published.
    • 1873: First illustrated daily newspaper published in New York.
    • 1877: First weather report with map published in Australia. The Washington Post newspaper first publishes with a circulation of 10,000 and a cost of 3 cents per paper.
    • 1879: The benday process improves newspapers. The first whole page newspaper ad placed by an American department store (John Wanamaker) is run.
    • 1880: First halftone photograph (Shantytown) published in a newspaper.
    • 1885: Newspapers are delivered daily by train.
    • 1887: The San Francisco Examiner published.
    • 1893: The Royal Baking Powder Company becomes the biggest newspaper advertiser in the world.
    • 1903: The first tabloid style newspaper, the Daily Mirror is pblished.
    • 1931: Newspaper funnies now include Plainclothes Tracy starring Dick Tracy.
    • 1933: A war breaks out between the newspaper and radio industries. American newspapers try to force the Associated Press to terminate news service to radio stations.
    • 1954: There are more radios than there are daily newspapers.
    • 1955: Teletypesetting is used for newspapers.
    • 1967: Newspapers use digital production processes and began using computers for operations.
    • 1971: Use of offset presses becomes common.
    • 1977: First public access to archives offered by Toronto Globe and Mail.
    • 2007: There are now 1,456 daily newspapers in the United States alone, selling 55 million copies a day.
    • 2009: This was the worst year in decades as far as advertising revenues for newspapers. However, newspapers are moving into online internet versions.