And in the beginning was the word*…

…and the word was transmitted by scribes in medieval monasteries. This was an extremely expensive and time-consuming method of production, however; therefore, only the very wealthy could afford the written texts, which meant that the works were scarcely being seen, let alone read. The printing press would change all that. From the Digital Printing website:

Printing from wooden blocks was probably invented in China in the years around the birth of Christ. However each plate had to be hand carved with each ideogram in position on the plate, which meant a completely new carved block for each new page.

In 1457 Gutenberg invented the first printing press with moveable type. That is each letter was a separate carving and could be used again and again in different pages on different books. Gutenberg lived in Mainz in the heart of Germany’s wine growing region and his press was built on the same idea as the presses that are used for pressing the juice from grapes to create wine.

Working the letterpress

Working the letterpress

From humble beginnings printing presses spread over Europe, and with them a rapid increase in the number of people who could read, and the number of people who could afford to have their ideas reproduced in books. It is widely acknowledge that the reformation would not have occurred without the catalyst of the printing press. Printing presses across Europe rapidly produced copies of the thoughts of religous figures such as Martin Luther, because more people could read these ideas spread much more quickly than would have been possible with expensive and time-consuming hand-drawn books.

The idea of having raised type, applying ink to it and then squashing it onto paper to form an image, later became known as letterpress printing and was to be the most successful and most common form of printing until the 1950’s.

The following beautiful images are courtesy of The Type Junkie‘s Etsy album, which you can find HERE. If you don’t find it extremely difficult to keep your hands to yourself at the sight of these carved letters, itching to run your fingers across them, up and down, side to side, back and forth… well then, you might be on the wrong blog. (but please stay anyway.)

Don’t worry: this is certainly not the last you will see of my beloved letterpress.

*Note: I am not at all religious, but I do believe that (non-religious) words are the basic building-blocks of any and all things.


3 responses to “And in the beginning was the word*…

  1. Bienvenue et longue vie à ce nouveau blog !
    A bientôt…:)

  2. Merci bien Pignouf! Je suis contente que tu sois venu jeter un coup d’oeil! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Letterpressing, a month at a time. « Words & Eggs Must Be Handled With Care

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