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History of printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing.
Block printing came to Christian Europe as a method for printing on cloth, where it was common by 1300. Images printed on cloth for religious purposes could be quite large and elaborate, and when paper became relatively easily available, around 1400, the medium transferred very quickly to small woodcut religious images and playing cards printed on paper. These prints were produced in very large numbers from about 1425 onwards.
Around the mid-century, block-books, woodcut books with both text and images, usually carved in the same block, emerged as a cheaper alternative to manuscripts and books printed with movable type. These were all short heavily illustrated works, the bestsellers of the day, repeated in many different block-book versions: the Ars moriendi and the Biblia pauperum were the most common. There is still some controversy among scholars as to whether their introduction preceded or, the majority view, followed the introduction of movable type, with the range of estimated dates being between about 1440–1460.[1]
The volume of Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilization in China dealing with Paper and printing has a chapter that suggests that “European block printers must not only have seen Chinese samples, but perhaps had been taught by missionaries or others who had learned these un-European methods from Chinese printers during their residence in China.”, but he also admitted that the “only evidence of European printing transmitted from China is a lack of counterevidence”.[2] However, paper itself was needed for the printing process and this came to Europe via trade with the Arabs from China. Historians acknowledge that paper indeed came from China without which printing would have been impossible, however, there is less direct evidence of the influence of printing technology from Asia and its influence on European printing technology.