1. The art, process, or business of producing printed material by means of inked type and a printing press. 2. All the copies of a publication printed at one time.
Movable type had existed in China since ancient times and it was probably Marco Polo who brought the knowledge of this technology to Europe when he visited Xinjiang in the thirteenth century. The earliest known printed works in China were pages from Confucian classics and Buddhist scriptures. The technique also enabled the creation of books with multiple chapters and tables. An expert woodblock printer could create 2,000 sheets of text in one day.
Gutenberg’s major contribution to the printing industry was a new type of matrix for moulding lead types, which made it possible for books with multiple pages to be printed quickly. This led to the rise of “journeyman” printers who were free to roam Europe with their tools of trade, making it much easier for ideas to spread widely and quickly.
In the 17th and 18th centuries woodblock printing developed into a highly respected form of Japanese art. Known as ukiyo-e, the medium was exploited by great artists such as Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 – 1858). The printmaking technique involved cutting a design into a piece of paper with a knife or blade. A layer of ink is then pressed over the design to create the image. The same sheet of paper can be re-inked to produce multiple prints in different colours.