If it wasn’t for printing, a scribe would have to copy out this entire book word for word. There wouldn’t be many copies and they’d cost a bomb.
Making an Impression. One of the earliest surviving printed books is a Buddhist text, written in Chinese and dating back to AD 848. It was printed using wooden blocks which had the words and illustrations carved into them.
In the 11th century the Chinese invented a new way of printing, using moveable raised letters made, firstly, from clay, but later wood and then metal. These letters could be moved into place, inked, then stamped on to paper, as many copies as were needed. The only time-consuming bit was putting the letters and words in the right order in the first place.
But the printing invention that really changed the world was the printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany in 1440. It wasn’t based on the Chinese invention but on olive- and wine-presses and it was so good that for more than 300 years hardly any changes were needed. More efficient versions were made after the industrial revolution, but still they used the same basic design.
The printing press created a revolution: for the first time, ideas and information could be easily communicated to lots of people much more cheaply than ever before. More people learned to read as a result.
Stop the press! The printing press led to the development of different kinds of printed material: the first newspaper was published in Germany in 1605; the first magazine appeared in London in 1731. It was called The Gentleman’s Magazine and it ran for over 170 years.