When most people think of printing they think of books, newspapers and magazines, but there is also a great deal of other printed material. Amongst the latter are business cards, letterheads, envelopes and catalogs as well as packaging and shopping bags. In addition, there are all kinds of financial instruments including checks, stock certificates and cerrtificates of deposit that require printing as do money and postage stamps.
Printing is a graphic art form that begins with the creation of an image on a hard surface, called a matrix. The image on the matrix can then be transferred to paper or other materials by applying pressure. In the earliest days of printmaking this transfer process was done by carving into a wood block, metal plate or stone. The carved image then became the motif that was reproduced as an engraving or etching, lithography, drypoint or silkscreen print.
Movable type was a revolutionary development in printing in the Song Dynasty of China, around 1041. It allowed a single Chinese character to be engraved in relief on an iron plate and then broken up into units of type so that a whole word or even a paragraph could be printed at one time. The invention of movable type encouraged scholarly pursuits and the spread of literacy.
The use of a screw-driven press and later the rotary press made possible mass production of printed works. This helped the development of newspapers and other periodicals, as well as the growth of the book industry.