The British Library Guide to Printing: History and Techniques

The British Library Guide to Printing: History and Techniques

The British Library Guide to Printing: History and Techniques

The British Library Guide to Printing: History and Techniques

Synopsis

Offering short, highly illustrated introductions to some key areas in the making of books, the books in this series provide an historical overview of techniques and processes. This title covers the printing methods and techniques used in making books.

Excerpt

Printing is generally held to be one of the most important inventions of all time and to have helped change the course of history. Yet we are not altogether clear what it is and may therefore respond in different ways when asked when and where it was invented.

This short history is about the techniques of printing. Most other books on the history of printing concentrate on grander issues: its impact on society, major figures involved with it, and the finest or most influential printed artefacts. Histories of this kind are essential since, in the long run, a technology is only as important as its products and their uses. Nevertheless, printing techniques have always played a part in shaping their end product, and in some cases have even provided the impetus for particular developments in the publication of documents. For this reason alone it may be helpful to know how printing was done in the past.

The most obvious starting point for those interested in printing methods are printed artefacts themselves, since they always provide us with some evidence about their production. Evidence of this kind is easier for us to interpret when it is backed up by hands-on experience of printing and by reading contemporary technical accounts. It is also helpful to have some knowledge of the materials and equipment used in the past, such as presses, tools, types, blocks, and plates. On occasions, we might even be lucky enough to discover a description of how a particular piece of printing was produced. Mostly, however, we have to make do with whatever evidence we can find.

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