Printing is a process of producing images, text and other forms of information on paper. It includes business cards, shopping bags and brochures, as well as postage stamps.
In its earliest stages, printing was a labor-intensive, expensive, and dangerous pursuit. Although the idea was rejected by the Roman Curia, a number of European nobles were reluctant to have books printed in their libraries. Some were also apprehensive that a hand-copied manuscript would not hold up as well as a printed version.
Early “journeyman printers” traveled Europe, printing wherever they went. They usually began their apprenticeships at 15 years of age. Once their apprenticeships were complete, they could set type and print anywhere.
Later, printers learned to make movable type, which was made from a hardened clay. This was glued to a piece of iron plate. The type was then detached from the plate and reassembled for a new page.
Movable type changed the way people printed. It allowed for more creative types of printing. However, it was not widely used in China until the introduction of European-style printing presses in the relatively recent past.
In the thirteenth century, Marco Polo visited China and possibly brought back knowledge about printing with him. A few years later, a printing press was built in Venice. During the fifteenth century, printing became popular in England and France.
By the sixteenth century, printing technology was being used to produce a variety of materials, including maps, financial instruments, and magazines. A number of English and French inventions, such as publication syndicates, made it easier for publishers to distribute their work.