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A replica of the Phaistos Disc Seals and stamps may have been precursors to movable type. The uneven spacing of the impressions on brick stamps found in the Mesopotamian cities of Uruk and Larsa , dating from the 2nd millennium BC , has been conjectured by some archaeologists as evidence that the stamps were made using movable type. A few authors even view the disc as technically meeting all definitional criteria to represent an early incidence of movable-type printing. Woodblock printing The intricate frontispiece of the Diamond Sutra from Tang Dynasty China, an early woodblock-printed book, AD British Museum Following the invention of paper in the 2nd century AD during the Chinese Han Dynasty , writing materials became more portable and economical than the bones, shells, bamboo slips, metal or stone tablets, silk, etc. Yet copying books by hand was still labour-consuming. It was soon used for printing designs on fabrics, and later for printing texts. Woodblock printing , invented by about the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty , worked as follows. First, the neat hand-copied script was stuck on a relatively thick and smooth board, with the front of the paper, which was so thin that it was nearly transparent, sticking to the board, and characters showing in reverse, but distinctly, so that every stroke could be easily recognized. Then carvers cut away the parts of the board that were not part of the character, so that the characters were cut in relief, completely differently from those cut intaglio. When printing, the bulging characters would have some ink spread on them and be covered by paper. With workers' hands moving on the back of paper gently, characters would be printed on the paper. By the Song Dynasty , woodblock printing came to its heyday. Although woodblock printing played an influential role in spreading culture, there remained some apparent drawbacks. Firstly, carving the printing plate required considerable time, labour and materials; secondly, it was not convenient to store these plates; and finally, it was difficult to correct mistakes. With woodblock printing, one printing plate could be used for tens of hundreds of books, playing a magnificent role in spreading culture. Yet carving the plate was time and labour consuming. Huge books cost years of effort. The plates needed a lot of storage space, and were often damaged by deformation, worms and corrosion. If books had a small print run, and were not reprinted, the printing plates would become nothing but waste; and worse, if a mistake was found, it was difficult to correct it without discarding the whole plate. When he wished to print, he took an iron frame and set it on the iron plate. In this he placed the types, set close together. When the frame was full, the whole made one solid block of type. He then placed it near the fire to warm it. When the paste [at the back] was slightly melted, he took a smooth board and pressed it over the surface, so that the block of type became as even as a whetstone. For each character there were several types, and for certain common characters there were twenty or more types each, in order to be prepared for the repetition of characters on the same page. When the characters were not in use he had them arranged with paper labels, one label for each rhyme-group, and kept them in wooden cases. If one were to print only two or three copies, this method would be neither simple nor easy. But for printing hundreds or thousands of copies, it was marvelously quick. As a rule he kept two forms going. While the impression was being made from the one form, the type was being put in place on the other. When the printing of the one form was finished, the other was then ready. In this way the two forms alternated and the printing was done with great rapidity. Bao Shicheng — wrote that baked clay moveable type was "as hard and tough as horn"; experiments show that clay type, after being baked in an oven, becomes hard and difficult to break, such that it remains intact after being dropped from a height of two metres onto a marble floor. The length of clay movable types in China was 1 to 2 centimetres, not 2mm, thus hard as horn. There has been an ongoing debate regarding the success of ceramic printing technology as there have been no printed materials found with ceramic movable types. However, it is historically recorded to have been used as late as in China from the Song dynasty through the Qing dynasty. However, this technology was abandoned in favour of clay movable types due to the presence of wood grains and the unevenness of the wooden type after being soaked in ink. Soon afterwards, he summarized his invention in his book A method of making moveable wooden types for printing books. Although the wooden type was more durable under the mechanical rigors of handling, repeated printing wore the character faces down, and the types could only be replaced by carving new pieces. This system was later enhanced by pressing wooden blocks into sand and casting metal types from the depression in copper, bronze, iron or tin. This new method overcame many of the shortcomings of woodblock printing. Rather than manually carving an individual block to print a single page, movable type printing allowed for the quick assembly of a page of text. Furthermore, these new, more compact type fonts could be reused and stored. Wooden movable types were used continually in China. A number of books printed in Tangut script during the Western Xia — period are known, of which the Auspicious Tantra of All-Reaching Union that was discovered in the ruins of Baisigou Square Pagoda in is believed to have been printed sometime during the reign of Emperor Renzong of Western Xia — It was faster to carve one woodblock per page than to composit a page from so many different types. However, if one used movable type to produce multiple copies of the same document, the speed of printing would increase relatively. Such paper-money printing might date back to the 11th-century jiaozi of Northern Song — Another sample of Song dynasty money of the same period in the collection of the Shanghai Museum has two empty square holes above Ziliao as well as Zihou, due to the loss of the two copper movable types. Song dynasty bronze block embedded with bronze metal movable type printed paper money was issued on a large scale and remained in circulation for a long time. Each set consisted of 5, volumes, making a total of , volumes printed using movable type. At first, one cuts letters in beech wood. One fills a trough level with fine sandy [clay] of the reed-growing seashore. Wood-cut letters are pressed into the sand, then the impressions become negative and form letters [moulds]. At this step, placing one trough together with another, one pours the molten bronze down into an opening. The fluid flows in, filling these negative moulds, one by one becoming type. Lastly, one scrapes and files off the irregularities, and piles them up to be arranged. But Korea's cultural elite, "appalled at the idea of losing hanja , the badge of their elitism", stifled the adoption of the new alphabet. Within several decades around European towns took up movable type printing. Gutenberg was a goldsmith familiar with techniques of cutting punches for making coins from moulds. Between and he developed hardware and techniques for casting letters from matrices using a device called the hand mould. Before Gutenberg, books were copied out by hand on scrolls and paper, or printed from hand-carved wooden blocks. It was extremely time-consuming; even a small book could take months to complete, and because the carved letters or blocks were flimsy and the wood susceptible to ink the blocks had a limited lifespan. Gutenberg and his associates developed oil-based inks ideally suited to printing with a press on paper, and the first Latin typefaces. His method of casting type may have been different from the hand mould used in subsequent decades. Detailed analysis of the type used in his line Bible has revealed irregularities in some of the characters that cannot be attributed to ink spread or type wear under the pressure of the press. Scholars conjecture that the type pieces may have been cast from a series of matrices made with a series of individual stroke punches, producing many different versions of the same glyph. Editing with movable metal — cca. Venice quickly became the center of typographic and printing activity. Significant were the contributions of Nicolas Jenson , Francesco Griffo , Aldus Manutius , and other printers of late 15th-century Europe. A piece of cast metal type, Garamond style long s i ligature. Type-founding as practiced in Europe and the west consists of three stages. Punchcutting If the glyph design includes enclosed spaces counters then a counterpunch is made. The counter shapes are transferred in relief cameo onto the end of a rectangular bar of mild steel using a specialized engraving tool called a graver. The finished counterpunch is hardened by heating and quenching tempering , or exposure to a cyanide solution case hardening. The counterpunch is then struck against the end of a similar rectangular steel bar—the letterpunch—to impress the counter shapes as recessed spaces intaglio. The outer profile of the glyph is completed by scraping away with a graver the material outside the counter spaces, leaving only the stroke or lines of the glyph. Progress toward the finished design is checked by successive smoke proofs; temporary prints made from a thin coating of carbon deposited on the punch surface by a candle flame. The finished letter punch is finally hardened to withstand the rigors of reproduction by striking. One counterpunch and one letterpunch are produced for every letter or glyph making up a complete font. The letterpunch is used to strike a blank die of soft metal to make a negative letter mould, called a matrix. Casting The matrix is inserted into the bottom of a device called a hand mould. The mould is clamped shut and molten type metal alloy consisting mostly of lead and tin , with a small amount of antimony for hardening, is poured into a cavity from the top. Antimony has the rare property of expanding as it cools, giving the casting sharp edges. Excess casting on the end of the sort, called the tang, is later removed to make the sort the precise height required for printing, known as "type height". The type-height was quite different in different countries. United Kingdom, Canada, U. France, Germany, Switzerland and most other European countries 0. At the end of the 19th century there were only two typefoundries left in the Netherlands: They both had their own type-height: Enough difference to prevent a combined use of fonts of both typefoundries: Enschede would be to light, or otherwise the Amsterdam-font would print rather bold. A perfect way of binding clients.
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