Printing is the process of creating an image or text by drawing or carving it onto a hard surface (called a matrix) such as a block of wood, metal plate, or stone. This is then inked and the image transferred to paper or another material by the application of pressure, resulting in a printed image.
Originally the term “print” was applied only to books, but it later spread to other items such as textiles, plates, wallpaper, packaging, and billboards. The field of printing is vast and continues to expand as new information technologies emerge and compete with it.
The Development of the Printing Press
In the ninth century, printed books began appearing in China and quickly spread to other provinces. They included Confucian classics, Buddhist scriptures, dictionaries, mathematics texts and other works. The invention of movable type in the 12th century changed this by giving people the power to reproduce their own works and by making them accessible to a wider audience.
The Role of Printing in Knowledge
In its five centuries of existence printing has been a dominant force in the transmission of knowledge. It has been instrumental in the dissemination of critical thinking, a process that helped to break down traditional barriers between people.
The development of the printing press led to the mass production of books, which in turn gave impetus to the growth and accumulation of knowledge throughout the world. It also changed the social nature of reading, allowing people to become more independent and form their own opinions about texts.