Printing is any of a number of techniques for reproducing text and illustrations on a material such as paper or fabric. It may be either black or in colour, and it is possible to produce a specified number of identical copies. Some modern processes, such as digital printing, no longer depend on the mechanical concept of pressure or even on the material concept of colouring agent.
Printed texts spread literacy and general knowledge, and they allowed scholars to pursue scholarly research with much greater speed and intensity. They also gave rise to a number of new social structures. These included cooperative associations/publication syndicates in which printers shared the risks of publishing and split the profits, as well as subscription publication, in which readers paid for the privilege of receiving a new work before it was available in shops. Jobbing work was also common, in which printers took on menial tasks such as making covers for books to supplement their income.
The earliest printing was in wood or clay, but the invention of movable type by Johannes Gutenberg made it possible to publish many books in one language at once, and on a large scale. This revolutionised communication and book production, and it was the first time that knowledge had been widely accessible to the public. Printing also contributed to the development of science, and it helped to bring about the Enlightenment. A large part of early printing was religious, particularly Protestant, literature, but the dissemination of ideas and information was more important.