Printing is the process of producing copies of text or pictures on paper. It’s possible to produce complete pages by computer and transfer them to paper using laser printing or a photocopier. This is a very common way of producing business documents, catalogues and flyers.
The earliest surviving examples of printed material are woodblock printed Chinese silk fragments, dating from around 220 A.D. Woodblock printing on paper became popular after 1300 A.D, when paper became available in Europe. Early printing was done by hand, but by the seventeenth century a number of mechanical processes had become common.
One such was the movable type printing technique invented by Bi Sheng in China. This allowed characters to be made of individual blocks of clay, rather than carved from wood or bronze as they had been in East Asia. The new system of printing made it much easier to make large numbers of books at short notice. When a book has been published a number of times, we say it has gone into a “second printing.”
In the past, there were a variety of different kinds of printing presses and types of ink used for printing. Many of these methods have now been superseded by digital and other methods. The most common type of printing today is on the internet and on computer screens, where it’s called inkjet or laser printing. It’s also used for printing business cards, packaging and decorative plastic laminates such as kitchen worktops. It’s sometimes used in transactional printing such as bills and bank documents.