PRINTING. Letterpress printing is the art of producing im pressions by means of pressing an inked relief surface on to paper or other material. The term "printing" can be applied to any process by which a print is obtained, but it usually refers to typography, or, as it is now generally termed, "letterpress print ing," which includes not only printing from type, but the obtaining of impressions from wood cuts, line and half-tone blocks in monochrome and colour. It has been claimed that the craft of letterpress printing is the medium which turned the darkness of the middle ages into light ; which secured to posterity the intel lectual achievements of the past ; and which furnished to civiliza tion a means of recording all future progress.
The Chinese were the first printers. The oldest known printed book, printed from blocks, was discovered in the Chinese province of Kansu in 1900. It bears the statement, "Printed on May 11, 868, by Wang Chieh, for free general distribution, in order in deep reverence to perpetuate the memory of his parents." Print ing from movable type was first done by Pi Sheng in China in the years 1041 to 1049. Both events are well authenticated. Be cause of the large number of characters in what in Chinese cor responds to an alphabet, the new method was not generally adopted.
Just as there is no actual certainty as to the date of the Euro pean invention of printing from movable types, so it is also doubted who the inventor really was and where the invention took place. Claims are made for Germany, Holland, France and
Italy. One authority, however, sums up the position by stating:— Holland has books but no documents; France has documents but no books; Italy has neither books nor documents; Germany has both books and documents.
It is generally agreed that certain letters of indulgence are the first documents bearing a printed date, and these were printed from type cast in a mould and issued in 1454 and 1455 from a press at Mainz, and ascribed to Johann Gutenberg.
From the press at Mainz a Vulgate bible was published in 1456. This was attributed to Gutenberg, the strongest claimant to the honour of the invention of printing. This book became known as the Mazarin bible, because a copy was found in the famous library of Cardinal Mazarin, or, as it is sometimes called, the bible, owing to the fact that the large majority of its pages are 42 lines to the column, of which there are two on a page. In 1457 the Mainz psalter was produced; it was the first book to bear the name of the printer and the place and date of its pro duction. It was also the first attempt at colour printing. The printers were Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, the latter one of Gutenberg's workmen.
From Mainz the art of printing spread throughout the conti nent. In 1464 Sweynheym and Pannartz, two Germans, carried it into Italy, beginning at Subiaco near Rome. In 1469 Johann and Wendelin, of Speier, began in Venice. They were followed there by Nicolas Jenson, a Frenchman, who printed from 1470 to 1480. Jenson added lower case to the capital letters he found on the Roman monuments, and the type design thus created has since remained standard. Another famous printer in Venice was Aldus Manutius, who printed from 1495 to 1515. He was the originator of italic lower case letters, to which were later added Italic capitals. Aldus, as he was generally known, contributed to the spread of learning by printing the classics in small inexpensive volumes. In 1470 printing was introduced into France by three men of German nationality, Krantz, Gering and Friburger, who in that year set up a printing establishment within the precincts of the Sorbonne in Paris.