The earliest printed book in recorded history is the Diamond Sutra that was printed in 868 CE in China. Some people believe, however, that book printing might have occurred long before this date. Early printed works were limited in their edition numbers and were mostly decorative, with lots of pictures and designs. Printing was very rudimentary. The content was carved into wood, stone, or metal, then rolled with paint or ink and transferred by pressure to vellum or parchment, the standard printing materials of the day.

Brief History of Printing

(Pixabay / RonGreene)

Johannes Gutenberg, a German inventor and craftsman, is often credited with innovating the printing process. He introduced the use of the movable type printing press, which was the standard of printing until the 20th century. His invention made the process affordable, giving way to high volume printing.

The next major printing advancement was introduced in 1886 by Ottmar Mergenthaler. He introduced the linotype-composing machine, which became the greatest improvement in printing since Gutenberg’s movable type printing press 400 years earlier.

F.F. Gannett of Rochester, New York; W. W. Morey of East Orange, New Jersey; and the Morkrum-Kleinschmidt Company of Chicago, Illinois invented the teletype setter, a revolutionary device for telegraph typesetting. The teletypesetter was unveiled in Rochester, New York in 1928.

Rene Alphonse Higonnet, together with Louis Marius Moyroud, introduced the first phototypesetting machine. The phototypesetter used a strobe light and a series of optics to project characters from a spinning disk onto photographic paper.

In 1907, Samuel Simon of Manchester, England began using silk fabric as a printing screen. The use of other materials for screen-printing has been mentioned in the history of the Egyptians and the Greeks as early as 2500 BC. A few years after the introduction of silkscreen printing in England, John Pilsworth of San Francisco, California introduced a multi-color silk screen printing process. These printing innovations gave rise to Serigraphy, a stencil-based printing process where ink is forced through a fine screen onto the printing material beneath.

Vinyl printing is a relative newcomer to the printing industry. Vinyl banners are digitally printed using large format inkjet printers, which are capable of full-color printing for outdoor billboards on a single piece of large material. Wall vinyl and outdoor signs are the most popular vinyl banner products on the market today. Vinyl banners were born through advancement in chemistry, manufacturing methods, and business conditions. The concept of vinyl printing began in 1937 when 3M engineers experimented by printing on double-coated cloth tape that contained glass beads. That early product, used as a roadway median, gave rise to the modern vinyl banners that are widely used today.