The Evolution of Print Since the Invention of the Printing Press

Print in the modern age has its roots thousands of years in the past, when people first inscribed words and symbols on papyrus and other materials. For thousands of years, “printing” was a manual process that involved multiple steps and required hundreds of hours. Automation came in the form of Gutenberg’s printing press around 1436, an invention that changed the distribution and availability of information and the broader culture.

The spread of the printing press also threatened institutions like the Catholic Church. In 1501, Pope Alexander VI made a decree of excommunication for any person that printed manuscripts without the church’s explicit content. However, the leading thinkers of the time including John Calvin and Martin Luther produced many books in the early to mid-1500’s, furthering the spread of new ideas that questioned the church’s teachings and its powerful hold on Europe.

In the mid to late 1500’s, printers such as Christophe Plantin created some of the first facsimiles of works. These are reproductions of a book, artistic print, or manuscript that’s supposed to closely resemble the source material. This enabled people to acquire content that closely resembled other copies.

The 1600’s and 1700’s see printing further evolve, with improvements in machinery and techniques that enable people to create books at a higher scale. In 1605 the first newspaper reached readers’ hands, which ushered in a new era of content production that spread the printed word to multiple classes of people. In 1731, Ben Franklin and others created the first American subscription library, which further encouraged printed materials on a variety of topics. Lithography, invented in the late 1790’s, was a transformative process that used oil, water, stone, and metal plates to print text and images onto paper or other materials. It’s still widely used today, despite the subsequent inventions of digital printing techniques such as dot matrix, laser, and digital printing’s development in 1991. The majority of modern newspapers, books, magazines, and other high-volume items are printed through lithography.

Printing on paper is still a vital part of the business economy and everyday personal life. Despite the shifts towards digital content, as of 2022, millions of students still utilize paper textbooks. Paperbacks are still sold and cherished by kids and grownups alike.

Advanced printers for that enable print in the modern age are offered by companies like Visual Edge IT that feature crystal-clear reproductions of colors and lines. The company features an array of printing solutions, copiers, and scanners that push forward innovation and printing progress in the same spirit as the printing press.

Featured Photo by Suzy Hazelwood