Good Reading : December January 2011
DECEMBER 2010/ JANUARY 2011 ı goodreading 23 invented in Korea and in China in the eleventh century, but never caught on, mostly because of the large number of characters that are used in written Chinese and Korean. Gutenberg invented moveable type independently, and his approach was simple and efficient. First, he carefully made punches of hardened steel, each with the raised shape of a letter. With these, he punched impressions of the letters into copper. Next, he fitted the 'negative' copper pieces into a hand- held mould of his own invention, and poured in molten metal to cast as many perfect copies of the letters as he needed. The metal Gutenberg used was an alloy of lead, tin and antimony that has a low melting point and solidified quickly inside the mould. His alloy is still used wherever 'founder's type' or 'hot metal' letterpress printing methods survive today. While still in Strasbourg in the 1440s, Gutenberg experimented with another crucial element of his printing system: the press. Gutenberg's press was adapted from winemakers' screw presses. The inked, typeset text was slotted face-up on a flat bed, covered with paper, then slid under neath a heavy stone; tur ning the screw then pressed the paper onto the type. Repeating the process gave exact copies time after time. Gutenberg also formulated oil-based ink, which was more durable than the water-based inks in use at the time. He knew that by putting all these technologies together he was onto something very important. By 1448, Gutenberg was back in Mainz. He bor rowed money from a wealthy investor, Johann Fust (c.1400 --1466), to set up a printing shop there. Knowing that the church would be the main source of business, Gutenberg decided to print bibles. Work on the Gutenberg Bible began around 1452, after several test prints of other works, including books on Latin grammar. The relatively low price of the bibles, and their exquisite quality, secured the success of Gutenberg's new technology, which then spread quickly across Europe. By 1500, millions of books had been printed. Gutenberg had created the first media revolution. Unfortunately for Gutenberg, Johann Fust demanded his money back, and accused Gutenberg of embezzlement. A judge ordered Gutenberg to hand over his printing equipment as payment. Fust went on to become a successful printer, and Gutenberg set up a smaller printing shop in the nearby city of Bamberg. Gutenberg later moved to a small village where, in 1465, he was finally recognised for his invention and given an annual pension. He died three years later in relative poverty. THE HISTORY OF PRINTING c.200 BCE Woodblock printing is invented in China. At the time, most printing is done on silk, but the invention of paper around the same time, also in China, makes the process easier. 11th century Chinese inventor Bi Sheng produces the first moveable type, using wooden letters. The first metal moveable type was used in Korea in the 13th century. 1440s Johannes Gutenberg invents his printing press and independently invents moveable type, along with a way of making raised letters from a hand-held mould. 1796 German playwright Aloys Senefelder works out a way to print illustrations from a smooth, flat plate -- a process called lithography. Initially, the plate was made of limestone, but later, metal plates were used. 1818 Senefelder invents chromolithography -- an extension of lithography that enabled the printing of coloured illustrations. 1843 American inventor Richard March Hoe makes the first rotary press, which speeds up printing manifold. 1855 French chemist Alphonse Poitevin develops photolithography -- a way of reproducing photographs in books and newspapers. 1903 American inventor Ira Rubel invents modern offset lithographic printing, in which a printed page is transferred, or 'offset', onto a rubber roller before being printed onto paper. 1969 American researcher Gary Starkweather invents the laser printer, in which a laser casts an image onto a drum. The drum becomes electrically charged where the laser strikes, attracting toner ink. 2000s Electronic paper becomes popular in e-book readers. Invented in the 1970s, electronic paper works with reflected light, like ordinary paper. Above: A highly decorated page from a Gutenberg Bible. Gutenberg produced 180 copies of his bible. Some were on vellum, others on paper; some were decorated (by hand), others were left plain. The books caused a sensation when they were first displayed at a trade fair in Frankfurt in 1454. Above: Portrait of German playwright Aloys Senefelder, the inventor of lithography. His process enabled printing of illustrations from a flat surface; artists could draw directly onto it, using special water-repellent inks.