By the 9th century, Chinese craftsmen had developed by carving words and pictures into wooden blocks, inking them, and then pressing paper onto the blocks. Each block consisted of an entire page of text and illustrations.
|Examples of printing woodblock and woodblock-printed book (top)
and bronze movable type blocks and movable-type-block-printed
book (bottom) from the National Palace Museum.
Click on the image to get more information about the objects from the NPM website.
As in Europe centuries later, the
introduction of printing in China dramatically lowered the price of
books, thus Inexpensive books
also gave a boost to the development of drama and other forms of popular
culture. The storytellers depicted in the
Beijing Qingming scroll (below) may have benefited from “prompt
would help them review the stories that they told orally to their audiences.
In the 11th century (one piece of type for each character) was invented. Movable type was never widely used in China because whole-block printing was less expensive, but when movable type reached Europe in the 15th century, it revolutionized the communication of ideas.
Movable type was first created by ,
who used baked clay, which was very fragile. The Yuan-dynasty
official is credited with
the introduction of wooden
movable type, a more durable option, around 1297.(1) Cast-metal
movable type began to be used in Korea in the early 13th century, and the
first font is believed to have been cast there in the 1230s.
Chinese inventions of printing, gunpowder,
and the mariner’s compass were brought to Europe by Arab
traders during the Renaissance and Reformation. Francis
Bacon (1561-1626), a leading philosopher, politician, and
adviser to King James I of England, was unaware of the
origins of these inventions but deeply impressed by their
significance when he wrote:
“It is well to observe the force and
virtue and consequence of discoveries. These are to be
seen nowhere more clearly than those three which were unknown
to the ancients [the Greeks], and of which the origin,
though recent, is obscure and inglorious; namely printing,
gunpowder, and the magnet. For these three have changed
the whole face and stage of things throughout the world,
the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third
in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes;
insomuch that no empire, no sect, no star, seems to have
exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than
these three mechanical discoveries.”
— Francis Bacon
In Peter Amey, The Scientific Revolution (Greenhaven
World History Program: Greenhaven Press), 23.
in the Rare Books Collection [National Palace
A brief introduction and two topics: 1) Understanding
Rare Books (including the evolution of printing in China); 2) Appreciating
Rare Books (including script types and bookbinding). With many images
of rare books.
of the Forbidden City: Palace Imprints of the Ch’ing Dynasty [National
With information and examples of various types
of publications, plus a section on printing techniques and bookbinding.
• “Paper,” in Commerce
and Society in Sung China, by Shiba Yoshinobu (Ann Arbor, The
University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 1970), 103-111.
(1) Michael Twyman, The British Library
Guide to Printing:
History and Techniques (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999),