Let’s take a fascinating journey through the history of printing to better understand how this evolution has changed the world, and what transformations still await us in the future.
3500 BC e. – Symbols on the tablets
According to modern understanding, the first attempts to transcribe symbols onto movable materials were made by an ancient group of people known as the Sumerians, who lived in southern Mesopotamia around 3500 BC. Mesopotamia is the ancient name for the region in the Middle East, stretching from the Zagros Mountains in the northeast to the spurs of the Antitaurus Mountains in the northwest and the Persian Gulf in the southeast to the Arabian Plateau in the southwest.
The Sumerians developed a “cuneiform” alphabet (a system consisting of logophonetic, consonantal alphabetic and syllabic characters), the symbols of which were engraved on clay tablets using a triangular stylus called a “calamus”, and then dried or baked in a kiln to preserve them as long as possible. longer. The Sumerians are believed to have been the first people to ever use cuneate writing, which itself is the earliest known writing system in the world.
2400 BC e. – Papyrus scrolls
The earliest surviving papyrus scrolls containing written words date back to around 2400 BC and come from Egypt (Fifth Dynasty of King Neferirkar Kakai), although historians suggest that papyrus may have been in use as early as the First Dynasty (3100 BC).
Papyrus is a very dense paper-like material that was made from the “core” (central part of the stem) of papyrus, a reed-like marsh plant that was found in abundance along the Nile River. This “core” was cut into thin strips, pressed, then glued and dried to form a thin, flat surface on which to write. Callus, cut from a reed stalk and then sharpened, was often used for writing, but bird feathers were also used.
The Egyptians used this material for hundreds of years before the Greeks and Romans adopted the technique. These scrolls were rolled up and often placed in wooden tubes for protection, and books were made by gluing together multiple scrolls up to 10 meters long, and in some cases longer (the story of the Egyptian king Ramses III was over 40 meters long).
Books always unfolded horizontally, and the text occupied the side, divided into columns. This writing method was widely used until the 8th century AD.
600 BC e. – Creation of standardized writing
Around this time, a general consensus gradually emerged among Mediterranean cultures that led to the creation of a more advanced writing system. Preference was given to the left-to-right writing system that is now the standard in Western cultures, although there are still a number of writing systems that use right-to-left writing, including Arabic and Hebrew.
Before this decision, many cultures wrote from left to right, right to left, top to bottom, and even bottom to top.
500 – 200 BC e. – Parchment
Parchment, a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin, or even goatskin, was first developed as a replacement for papyrus. Herodotus, Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC. (considered the “father of history” in Western culture), described the use of skins for writing as common in his time. According to the Roman Varro (a scientist and writer who lived 116 BC – 27 BC), parchment was invented under the auspices of Eumenes of Pergamon (an ancient Greek city in modern Turkey) due to a shortage of papyrus.
Parchment takes its name from the city of Pergamon (the same Greek city as Pergamon) and is known to be where it was perfected. After a large library was established at Pergamum (which rivaled the Library of Alexandria), prices for papyrus began to rise (partly due to the growing shortage of papyrus reed as it became over-cultivated), leading to the adoption of parchment as a primary material. for writing.
Parchment differs from leather in that it is limed (soaked in an alkali solution, which removes hairs from the leather), but not tanned. As such, parchment reacts to changes in humidity (being partially hygroscopic) and is not waterproof. Higher quality parchment is known as parchment, and even in the modern era, parchment has been called “the finest writing material ever invented,” with even the most modern papers not reaching the quality of the finest parchment.
About this time, books begin to take on the appearance we are familiar with. Of course,books with a flashlight under the blanket were difficult to read in those days, but notebooks began to appear, from which blocks were sewn together. To preserve expensive parchment, they came up with binding. Particularly valuable literary works of those times received richly decorated covers, as well as special boxes for storage and transportation.
200 BC e. – Development of wax tablets
Around this time, the Romans and Greeks developed wax tablets. They were essentially blocks of wood coated with wax that could be written on with a stylus and then washed off for reuse.
These tablets were sometimes joined at one end by cords (like an early form of ring binding), forming a “codex” (originally Latin for “tree”, but later became known as a collection of bound pages), as such it is the earliest known form of bound books. The Codex became very popular in Europe, replacing the scroll.
105 AD – Paper Revolution
It is generally believed that a Chinese eunuch (at the imperial court) named Cai Lun invented paper making for writing instruments and used mulberries, bark, hemp, old rags and even used fish nets to create paper pulp around 105 AD. Archaeological finds of inscribed paper dating back to 8 BC have recently been discovered in the area around Dunhuang, and paper has been used in China for wrapping and printing fabrics since 200 BC.
The papermaking process, regardless of scale, involves mixing fibers with water to form a slurry, then this slurry is passed through a sieve so that a mat of fibers is left behind. It is then pressed and dried to make paper. Once dry, the paper is often pressed between heavy rollers to create a harder writing surface (a process called calendering).
To reduce water absorption, paper can be divided into three categories: non-size paper, which absorbs water well and is used for blotters and paper towels, light-size paper, which still absorbs some water and is used for newspapers, and heavy-size paper, which provides good water resistance.
When paper was developed, it was a fairly standard size, and each piece of paper is known as a “leaf.” When a sheet is printed without folding, it is called a “folio” (which also means “sheet”). This size is approximately the size of a small sheet of newspaper (although folios can come in other sizes). If this original folio is folded once to make two sheets (or 4 pages), then the size of these sheets will be called quarto. If a quarto is folded once to make 4 leaves (or 8 pages), it is called an octavo and is the size of an average modern novel (there are also sixteen- and even thirty-two-volume novels, but these are less common).
400 – 600 AD – adding illustrations
Around this time, the first illuminated manuscript manuscripts (also known as illuminated manuscripts) appeared. These early manuscripts were still written on parchment (which replaced papyrus) rather than on more “modern” paper, since the quality of parchment was superior to that of paper.
These handwritten books were decorated with silver or even gold, bright colors and highly detailed designs. The earliest known examples of illuminated manuscripts come from Italy and the eastern part of the Roman Empire.
It became a very developed art form in Europe (and also in some Muslim countries), and this method of copying books prevailed until the invention of movable type.
The significance of these works lies not only in the works of art themselves, but also in the preservation of non-illustrated works. If this had not been done (mainly by monastic scribes of late antiquity (the period from the 3rd to the 7th centuries AD), then, probably, all the literature of Greece and Rome would have perished.
868 AD – first printed book
The very first book was printed on paper in China using a wooden block on which relief characters were carved. Paint was then applied to the wooden block to create an imprint on the paper.
This technique is known as “block printing” or more accurately in this case “woodblock printing” and was originally used as early as 220 AD as a means of printing on fabric.
A block of wood is carefully prepared by using a knife, chisel or sandpaper along the grain of the wood as a “relief matrix” so that the raised areas present black type. The content should be created in reverse order so that it forms a mirror image when printed. This wood carving process is known as woodblock printing.
Block printing can even be done in color by using multiple blocks (one block for each color), although overlapping two colors can result in additional colors appearing on the print. Multicolor printing can be done by gluing paper onto a frame around wooden blocks.
1041 AD e. – 1230 AD e. – First movable font
Movable type is a printing and typography system that uses movable components to reproduce elements of a document (usually individual letters or punctuation marks).
A Chinese man named Bi Sheng came up with the very first movable type, in which each letter was created from wooden pieces (tablets) and then placed on a wooden board. However, this wood method was not without problems, the most serious of which was that the ink would soak into the wood and create an uneven surface. As a result of these problems, wooden movable type was quickly abandoned and replaced by ceramic tablets, which were made from baked clay.
Due to the complexity of the Chinese written language (there must have been thousands of ceramic tablets), movable type did not take root in the east for a long time.
Around 1230 AD, the first metal movable type was created, this time in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty. This breakthrough eventually led to the creation of the very first movable metal printed book in 1377 AD called “Jikji”.
1250 AD e. – Block printing in Egypt
Around this time, block printing (called tarsh in Arabic) appeared in Egypt, although it is unclear whether it was developed separately or influenced by block printing already in use in Asia (although Arabic chronicles confirm that paper production in Egypt was developed in Central Asia). This block printing method appears to have been used almost exclusively by the Muslim community.
Most extant engravings indicate that block printing was largely limited to religious texts such as amulets (long thin strips of paper with quotations from the Koran, listing the names of God, and other texts intended to ward off evil). These “amulets” were rolled into metal tubes and worn around the neck on a chain.
It is unknown why block printing never developed in Egypt or the Muslim community, but it is thought that it may be due to the Tarsh being used by itinerant tinsmiths, rogue scribes (such as Abu Dulaf al-Khazraj, who wrote about the Tarsh process at the courts of the Iranian Buyid princes) and other gullible people who could take advantage of the piety of the gullible masses. This explains his isolation from the rest of society and why the technology was never expanded upon.
1439 – 1450 AD – movable type for printing books in Europe
The very first movable type was created in Europe by a German goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg (full name Johann Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg), who is known to have developed this technology independently of the movable type system used in Asia.
Already proficient in the technique of cutting coin punches and molds, Johannes developed a metal movable type system for casting letters from dies using a device called a hand mold (a very simple two-part mold into which the hand-made movable type is placed). The matrix itself was made from a lead alloy (known as type metal), which was discovered by Johannes himself. This alloy allowed for stronger and more uniform inscriptions, which ultimately led to the advent of printing and type.
Hand molding was the first practical method of producing cheap copies of type in the enormous quantities required to print the average book. This made movable type a viable business and is considered a truly monumental invention that revolutionized the writing and printing of information and led directly to the advent of the printing press.
This event is widely regarded as the most important event of the modern period, playing a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation and Scientific Revolution, while spreading the medium of learning to the masses and forming the basis for the modern knowledge-based economy we see today. Virtually all movable type printing is derived from Guttenberg’s metal alloy movable type, which is often considered the most important invention of the second millennium.
1455 AD – Guttenberg Bible
Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of movable type in Europe led directly to his magnum opus, the creation of the Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible, Mazarin Bible, or B42). It was the very first major book printed on Gutenberg’s new movable type printing press, and it marked the beginning of the Gutenberg Revolution and the dawn of the printed book.
The Gutenberg Bible has an iconic status in the Western world and is widely recognized for its high artistic and aesthetic qualities. There are believed to be 21 complete copies still in existence and they are considered the most expensive books if they ever went on sale.
Gutenberg made three very significant changes to the printing process of the Bible. The first change involved “rubbing” (a process where additional text in red was added for headings, leading characters, or notes) of the pages, which were passed through the press twice, with the second pass being in red.
This process was soon abandoned, leaving gaps for manual addition of categories. Some time after this, the number of lines was increased from 40 to 42, most likely to save paper. As a result, pages 1-9 and pages 256-265 contain 40 lines (they were printed first), page 10 contains 41 lines, and all other pages contain 42 lines.
The third change was to increase the circulation, which meant that those pages that had already been printed had to be discarded. All new sheets used the new default of 42 rows. As a result, there are two different settings in sheets 1-32 and 129-158 of Volume I and sheets 1-16 and 162 of Volume II.
The Bible is printed in the so-called “black letter” font in the Gothic book font (Textualis) and Schwabacher styles using the frame technique. These books came out of the workshop without illustrations, without binding and mostly without headings. Guidelines for adding text were prepared for rubricators, and significant margins were left for illustrators, although some copies were left without illustrations.
It is believed that a total of 180 copies of the Gutenberg Bible were created, 135 on paper and another 45 on parchment. Of these, 21 are known to exist in complete condition, while another 26 or 27 are incomplete. Of these, 12 are on velum, but only 4 are complete (one in France, one in Germany, one in the British Library and the last in the US Library of Congress).
After Gutenberg produced his Bible, he fought and lost a lawsuit against his investor Johann Fust, who put Peter Schoffer (an employee of Gutenberg) in charge of the printing press. Gutenberg himself founded a new printing press, but the monopoly on the technology was lost, and thus began the widespread proliferation of printing presses throughout Germany and the rest of the world.
1490 AD e. – 1500 AD e. – Printing Revolution
Gutenberg’s invention of mechanical movable type (printing press) led to a massive revolution in printing, and by the end of the 15th century, printing had spread to no fewer than 236 countries in Europe, with more than 20 million books produced. From this time on, it is generally accepted that the printed book was widespread in Europe.
This rapid expansion and sharp decline in production costs took everyone by surprise, giving birth to the first “best sellers,” the first newspaper, and an entirely new branch of media—publishing.
This printing revolution was not limited to Europe: the almost simultaneous discovery of sea routes to the West by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and routes to the East by Vasco da Gama in 1498 allowed the establishment of trade links, which meant that Gutenberg’s printing press spread to the rest of the world.
1501 AD – forerunner of the modern paperback book cover
As the printing revolution gained momentum, many improvements were made to both the printing method and the typeface. Aldus Manutius (in Italian Aldo Manuzio il Vecchio) was an Italian humanist who founded the Aldine printing press in Venice. Aldous is credited with inventing the italic typeface, introducing the modern use of the semicolon, and, most importantly, introducing inexpensive small-size (octavo) books that were bound in parchment and read like modern paperbacks.
It was Aldous’s desire to preserve the rich literature of Greece from further loss that led him to adopt the small book format. He invented pocket editions of the classics in Greek and Latin so that everyone could own and read these books, and gentlemen of leisure could easily carry them in their pocket or knapsack. To this end, he introduced cursive type, which was not used for underlining, as it is today, but for pocket books due to the narrow and compact shape of the letters. The very first book printed in this new pocket book format was Virgil’s Opera (P. Vergili Maronis Opera) in 1501 AD.
1639 – 1640 – America’s First Book
The Puritans arrive in a new land of opportunity and bring with them the first printing press in North America. This press was specially transported to print America’s very first book, The Bay Psalter, which was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640. Bay Psalm is essentially a “psalter,” a volume containing the book of Psalms (150 sacred verses from the Hebrew Bible that are sung) translated into English. Eleven copies of this first edition are known to exist, and David Baldacci’s 2006 novel The Collectors recounts the discovery of a twelfth complete copy.
At the time the book was printed, there were 13 British colonies, and it is testament to their desire to consider themselves an “advanced civilization” that this press appeared and the book was printed just 20 years after the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock, and with him and the very first British colonists.
1832 – 1860 – Birth of the “cheap” novel
With the further spread of writing, the growth of education, and the ever-declining cost of printing, the first mass-produced paperback books appeared. In Britain there were two different markets that these mass-market publications were aimed at: the juvenile market with the “story papers” and the adult working class, which was known as the “penny horror”, “penny number” or “penny blood” – due to that each of them cost “a penny.” Eventually, these novels were aimed exclusively at the working-class youth market, and the term “story paper” became interchangeable with “penny dreadful.”
These stories were printed on cheap pulp paper and were reprints or rewrites of stories, mostly in the gothic thriller or crime genre, including the stories of Sweeney Todd and Varney the Vampire. One of the most popular series was “Black Bess or the Knight of the Road,” which consisted of 254 episodes and told about the fictional events of the real life of road worker Dick Turpin.
As early as the late 1800s, America began to influence British culture, with many of their versions of pulp stories published in England. Many of them proved extremely popular, mainly Wild West stories such as “Dick Deadwood” and “Buffalo Bill” delighted the “Penny Dreadful” audience, and so began for many a love for the fictional Wild West and stories about “cowboys.” and the Indians.”
Those working class boys who couldn’t afford a penny a week often formed reading clubs with friends and shared the expenses. Some more enterprising boys even rented out their copies to others.
In America, these novels were known as “ten-cent novels,” and are believed to have originated with the Beadles Dime series of novels by Beadle and Adams in 1860, the first book of which was “Maleaska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter” (by Anne S. Stevens). ). The “Beadles Dime” series ran for 321 issues and established almost every convention of the genre. Much of the material for dime novels was obtained from weekly newspapers, which were newspaper publications ranging in size from tabloid to full-sheet. By the 1880s, recurring characters such as Frank Reed (a detective and the first character to be called a “snoop”) began to appear, ending the trend of Old West stories that had persisted until now, and making way for the hugely popular detective novel.
In the modern era, the term “penny novel” is usually used to describe a sensational but superficial work. Without “penny horrors” and “ten-cent novels,” we would likely never have seen the mass market paperbacks that became so widespread in the 20th and 21st centuries.
1920 – 1938 AD – The Fall and Rise of the Paperback
By the early 20th century, the hardcover book had become common, and hardcover book publishers believed that paperback books contained inferior or shoddy content, and that these paperback novels would not be attractive to their audience. In the early 1920s, this was even proven in the American market after a test was conducted with the release of Gertrude Atherton’s Sisters-in-Law, which was released simultaneously in both hardcover ($2) and paperback versions. cover ($1.5). As a result, the hardcover novel outsold paperbacks 54 to 1, and of the paperbacks sold, the majority were purchased by a single dealer hoping to strike it rich (which he did not). Other similar experiments yielded the same results.
However, there was one publisher who had great success with the paperback format, although he was not “mainstream” in publishing and advertising. This publisher was an American eccentric named Emanuel Haldemann-Julius, who advertised in newspapers for his series of “University in Print” mini-books, which were wrapped in paper and cost only three cents each. The standard blue cover was used, the series was called “little blue books”, and orders simply poured in. In his first year alone (1921), he sold over 31 million little blue books! By 1925, Publisher’s Weekly proclaimed it “the greatest publishing house in history”, but due to its atheism and communist views, as well as very low levels of publishing demand, it was considered “the greatest publishing house in history.”
Meanwhile, the Boney brothers, who founded the Modern Library (which eventually became Random House, the largest publishing house in the world), observed these publishers and learned from their mistakes. They realized that all of these paperback revolutions were most successful because of mail order books, not books that were sold in stores. As a result of this research, they founded Charles Boney’s Paper Books, a mail-order book club whose members received periodic mailings of high-quality paperback literature for an annual subscription of $5. To give mainstream market appeal and prestige to the books, each was illustrated by a famous artist such as Noman Rockwell and Rockwell Kent. Unfortunately, the year the Boney brothers began operating (1929) coincided with the year of the massive crash on Wall Street, and their business was doomed. However, their influence was widespread through the spread of book clubs and the further popularization of paperback books.
The evolution of printing is one of the most significant and revolutionary breakthroughs in the history of writing. From ancient clay tablets to modern e-books, printing has come a long way, transforming society and our relationship with knowledge.
The invention of the printing press and the introduction of the printing press in the 15th century was a turning point that opened the way to the mass distribution of books. This technological breakthrough made knowledge and ideas available to a wider audience, leading to intellectual progress and the development of science and literature.
However, the modern digital age has brought new changes to the world of books. E-books and online reading platforms have become increasingly popular, providing convenience and mobility to readers. They have opened up new horizons for authors, publishers and readers by providing easy access to a wealth of books and knowledge.
However, despite the progress and convenience of digital technologies, classical printing has not lost its significance. He continues to be a cultural symbol and an inspiration to many people. The aroma of a fresh book, the feel of paper under your fingers, the aesthetics of a shelf of books in a library – all this creates a special atmosphere that cannot be completely replaced by electronic devices.
In the future, the evolution of printing will likely continue. New technologies, such as 3D printing or using artificial intelligence to create books, may change the way we perceive and interact with written texts. However, regardless of future innovations, books will always play an important role in disseminating knowledge, preserving cultural heritage, and influencing our thinking and imagination.
The evolution of printing shows how humanity strives to expand the boundaries of its knowledge and information. From the first parchment manuscripts to modern electronic publications, each stage of this evolution has left its mark on the culture and development of society. Books are a source of inspiration, education and entertainment that connects us and transcends generations.
Thus, the evolution of printing is the story of mankind’s constant quest for knowledge, discovery and progress. It clearly demonstrates how technology is shaping our culture and changing the way we perceive and transmit information. Books will remain an integral part of our world, continuing to inspire, enlighten and connect people throughout time.