The History of Printing and Printing Processes

The earliest dated printed book known is "Diamond Sutra"

Diamond Sutra excerpt
By Jingangjing.jpg: Wang Jie. Photographic facsimile by British Library derivative work: User:Earthsound (Jingangjing.jpg : 6th line, 2nd word) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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

Back then, 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.

In 1452, Johannes Gutenberg--a German blacksmith craftsman, goldsmith, printer, and inventor--printed copies of the Bible on the Gutenberg press, an innovative printing press machine that used movable type. It remained the standard until the 20th century. 

A Timeline of Printing

  • 618-906: T’ang Dynasty - The first printing is performed in China, using ink on carved wooden blocks; multiple transfers of an image to paper begins.
  • 868: "Diamond Sutra" is printed.
  • 1241: Koreans print books using movable type.
  • 1300: The first use of wooden type in China begins.
  • 1309: Europeans first make paper. However, the Chinese and Egyptians had started making paper in previous centuries.
  • 1338: The first paper mill opened in France.
  • 1390: The first paper mill opened in Germany.
  • 1392: Foundries that can produce bronze type are opened in Korea.
  • 1423: Block printing is used to print books in Europe.
  • 1452: Metal plates are first used in printing in Europe. Johannes Gutenberg begins printing the Bible, which he finishes in 1456.
  • 1457: The first color printing is produced by Fust and Schoeffer.
  • 1465: Drypoint engravings are invented by Germans.
  • 1476: William Caxton begins using a Gutenberg printing press in England.
  • 1477: Intaglio is first used for book illustration for Flemish book "Il Monte Sancto di Dio."
  • 1495: The first paper mill opened in England.
  • 1501: Italic type is first used.
  • 1550: Wallpaper is introduced in Europe.
  • 1605: The first weekly newspaper is published in Antwerp.
  • 1611: The King James Bible is published.
  • 1660: Mezzotint--a method of engraving on copper or steel by burnishing or scraping away a uniformly roughened surface--is invented in Germany.
  • 1691: The first paper mill is opened in the American colonies.
  • 1702: Multicolored engraving is invented by German Jakob Le Blon. The first English-language daily newspaper--The Daily Courant--is published called.
  • 1725: Stereotyping is invented by William Ged in Scotland.
  • 1800: Iron printing presses are invented.
  • 1819: The rotary printing press is invented by David Napier.
  • 1829: Embossed printing is invented by Louis Braille.
  • 1841: The type-composing machine is invented.
  • 1844: Electrotyping is invented.
  • 1846: The cylinder press is invented by Richard Hoe; it can print 8,000 sheets per hour.
  • 1863: The rotary web-fed letterpress is invented by William Bullock.
  • 1865: The web offset press can print on both sides of the paper at once.
  • 1886: The linotype composing machine is invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler.
  • 1870: Paper is now mass-manufactured from wood pulp.
  • 1878: Photogravure printing is invented by Karl Klic.
  • 1890: The mimeograph machine is introduced.
  • 1891: Printing presses can now print and fold 90,000 four-page papers per hour. Diazotype--in which photographs are printed on fabric--is invented.
  • 1892: The four-color rotary press is invented.
  • 1904: Offset lithography becomes common, and the first comic book is published.
  • 1907: Commercial silk screening is invented.
  • 1947: Phototypesetting is made practical.
  • 59 B.C.: "Acta Diurna," the first newspaper, is published in Rome.
  • 1556: The first monthly newspaper, "Notizie Scritte," is published in Venice.
  • 1605: The first printed newspaper published weekly in Antwerp is called "Relation."
  • 1631: The first French newspaper, "The Gazette," is published.
  • 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: "The Daily Courant." The "Courant" was first published as a periodical in 1621.
  • 1704: Considered the world’s first journalist, Daniel Defoe publishes "The Review."
  •  1803: The first newspapers to be published in Australia include "The Sydney Gazette" and "New South Wales Advertiser."
  • 1830: The number of newspapers published in the United States 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 and is the beginning of the penny press.
  • 1844: The first newspaper is 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 United States Post Office starts offering a cheap newspaper rate.
  • 1855: The 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: "The New York Herald" starts the first morgue--a "morgue" in newspaper terms means an archive. 
  • 1864: William James Carlton of J. Walter Thompson Company begins selling advertising space in newspapers. The J. Walter Thompson Company is the longest-running American advertising agency.
    • 1867: The first double column advertising appears for the department store Lord & Taylor.
    • 1869: Newspaper circulation numbers are published by George P. Rowell in the first Rowell's American Newspaper Directory.
    • 1870: The number of newspapers published in the United States is 5,091.
    • 1871:  The first newspaper published in Japan is the daily "Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun." 
    • 1873: The first illustrated daily newspaper, "The Daily Graphic," is published in New York.
    • 1877: The first weather report with a map is 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--a technique for producing shading, texture or tone in line drawings and photographs by overlaying a fine screen or a pattern of dots, which is named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Day--improves newspapers. The first whole-page newspaper ad is placed by American department store Wanamaker's.
    • 1880: The first halftone photograph--Shantytown--is published in a newspaper.
    • 1885: Newspapers are delivered daily by train.
    • 1887: "The San Francisco Examiner" is 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 published.
    • 1931: Newspaper funnies now include Plainclothes Tracy, starring Dick Tracy.
    • 1933: A battle develops between the newspaper and radio industries. American newspapers try to force the Associated Press to terminate news service to radio stations.
      • 1955: Teletype-setting is used for newspapers.
      • 1967: Newspapers use digital production processes and begin using computers for operations.
      • 1971: The use of offset presses becomes common.
      • 1977: The first public access to archives is offered by Toronto's "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. Newspapers begin moving into online versions.
      • 2010-present:resent: Digital printing becomes the new norm, as commercial printing and publishing fade slightly due to technology.