Printing is the process of producing text and images with ink on paper, using a printing press or other kind of printing apparatus. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process and is an essential part of paper-based (as opposed to present-day electronic or online) publishing and transaction printing.
A specialized form of printing, used in fine arts and graphic design, is called printmaking. It involves creating a design on a matrix, which may be wood or other flat surface, then inking the matrix and pressing it onto another material to produce a print of the image. Other methods of printmaking include etching, engraving, and lithography.
Originally, printing was a craft. Early printing artisans worked for a living and traveled with their tools of trade. Eventually, however, printing began to become a commercial activity.
By the sixteenth century, jobs associated with printing were becoming increasingly specialized. The Master Printer was dying out and the role of the bookseller – publisher was taking over.
In addition, a number of new ways of funding publishing became possible. These included cooperative associations and publication syndicates. Subscription publication was also developed.
The earliest form of printing was woodblock printing. It was practiced in China from about 220 A.D., and was also widely used in Egypt. It was later introduced into Europe by Johannes Gutenberg in the fifteenth century. It was considered one of the Four Great Inventions of ancient China, along with agriculture, astronomy, and medicine.