Art of printing

The art of producing impressions from characters or figures on paper or any other substance. The art of Block Printing was known in China as early as B.C. 202, and is said to have been introduced from that country into Europe by Marco Polo in the latter part of the 15th century. It was first employed in the manufacture of playing-cards and little books of devotion, consisting in most cases of only one page, illustrated by rude pictures, and containing short scripture texts. The earliest date on these books is 1423.

The invention of printing with moveable types is claimed for several persons, the chief of whom are Lawrence coster (1370–1440), of Haarlem; John Gudenberg, born at Mentz (Mayence) about 1400, settled at Strasburg in 1424, returned to Mentz in 1441, dying there February 24, died about 1490; and Peter Schœffer or Schoffer, of Mentz, who died about 1502. Coster is said to have printed by means of separate wooden types, tied together with the thread, as early as 1430, but the evidence is doubtful. John Gutenberg, or Geinsfleisch, established himself at Mentz in 1441, and printed two small books in 1442. In 1443 he took John Fust or Faut into partnership, and in 1450 he first employed cut-metal types in the production of the Mazarin Bible, which appeared five years later. About the same time Peter Schœffer, the servent of Gutenberg and Faust, invented cast metal types, which were first used in 1459.

The Gothic types, or “Black” letter, gave place to Roman letters towards the end of the 16th century.

To secure good printing the following points are essential:—

  1. The types carefully set, fixed with precision in formes, rendered level all over, so that all parts may be pressed alike, and the whole properly cleaned by a wash of potash ley.
  2. A uniform inking of the surface, to give uniformity of colour.
  3. The paper damped equally, neither too much nor too little, so as to take an impression easily and evenly.
  4. An equable, firm, and smart pressure, and with that degree of steadiness in the mechanism that the sheet shall touch and leave the types without shaking and blurring.
  5. Care in adjusting the pointing or gauge, so that perfect register may be secured in printing the second side.
  6. The laying of small patches on the tympan, where, from any inequality, it seems necessary to bring the pressing surface to a thorough equality.


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