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Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

What Do You Mean by Movable Type?

What Do You Mean by Movable Type?

Before the mid-1450’s, printing was accomplished by carving all the letters into one wooden block. Because of the difficulty in preparing the blocks, the only kind of printing done then was for titles and decoration. The rest of the book was usually hand written.

With the revolutionary invention of movable type, each letter was an individual block of type, which could be inserted into a frame along with the other letters. It was not a new idea in the 1400’s.

Marco Polo, in 1298, told about the Chinese method of printing with individual blocks of type-Chinese researchers date this practice as far back as the 11th century.

During 1045, a Chinese craftsman named Bi Sheng made individual letters of baked earthen ware and set them in a block of wax, which he inked and pressed onto paper. By 1300, the Chinese were using wood blocks. The Koreans outdid them by making letters with metal.

Movable type is the system of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document (usually individual letters or punctuation).

The diffusion of both movable-type systems was, however, limited. They were expensive, and required an enormous amount of labor involved in manipulating the thousands of ceramic tablets or metal tablets, required for scripts based on the Chinese writing system, which has thousands of characters.

Around 1450 Johannes Gutenberg made a mechanical metal movable-type printing press in Europe, along with innovations in casting the type based on a matrix and hand mold.

The more limited number of characters needed for European languages were an important factor. Gutenberg was the first to create his type pieces from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony—and these materials remained standard for 550 years.

For alphabetic scripts, movable-type page setting was quicker than woodblock printing. The metal type pieces were more durable and the lettering was more uniform, leading to typography and fonts.

The high quality and relatively low price of the Gutenberg Bible (1455) established the superiority of movable type in Europe and the use of printing presses spread rapidly. The printing press may be regarded as one of the key factors fostering the Renaissance and due to its effectiveness, its use spread around the globe.

The 19th-century invention of hot metal typesetting and its successors caused movable type to decline in the 20th century.

Content for this question contributed by Shannon Fry, resident of Aptos, Santa Cruz County, California, USA