105 AD – Credited with inventing paper, Chinese government official Ts’ai Lun presented the Emperor Han Ho Ti with samples of paper.
868 AD – The Buddhist scripture Diamond Sutra was made using block printing. One of the oldest types of printing process, block printing existed as early as the 5th century BC with roots in East Asia, particularly China. The process involves using a carved material (usually wood) covered in ink to press an image on to paper or fabric.
1041 - 1048 AD Pi Sheng (or Bi Sheng) invents movable type made of baked clay and were set in an iron form, stabilized using heated resin and wax. Wang Zhen, a government official, later on improved the process by creating types out of wood. The movable type is intergral in the development of printing technology. The movable components made it possible to reproduce the elements – letters and punctuations – of a document instead of manually carving an individual block to print an entire page.
1234 – From using wood type, printers during the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea shifted to metal type. A set of ritual books known as Sangjeong Gogeum Yemun was printed using movable metal type.
1377 – Jikji, the abbreviated title of a Korean Buddhist script, which can be translated as "Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests' Zen Teachings" was printed during the Goryeo Dynasty. It is considered the oldest extant metal printed book in the world.
circa 1270 – Printing arrives in Europe with the establishment of a paper mill in Fabriano, Italy. As early as 950, Europeans had imported and when the first European paper mill was established in Italy, it became the center of paper-making on the continent.
1436 – Johannes Gutenberg started work on his printing press with his partners Andreas Dritzehn, a man he had previously thought the practice of gem-cutting, and Andreas Heilmann, a paper mill owner.
1440s – Gutenberg completed his movable metal type press. By 1446, important books and literary works became accessible to almost anyone, as Gutenberg's printing of the "Poem of the Last Judgement" showed. A period called the Gutenberg Revolution started as more and more people have gained access to education due to Gutenberg's invention. Gutenberg printed Calendar for the Year 1448, further revolutionizing the public's access to printed materials as simple as a calendar.
1450-1455 – Gutenberg worked on his 42-Line Bible, which is also called the Gutenberg Bible. Considered as the first ever book printed with movable type in Europe, this bible was published in 2 volumes, for a total of over 1,200 pages. Around this time, Gutenberg also printed indulgences (slips of paper sold to Christians by the Catholic Church to pardon their sins).
1455 – Gutenberg's business partner Johann Fust sued him for failing to return a certain amount of money loaned by Fust. The money is said to be used for developing the printing press and the production of the Gutenberg Bible. Gutenberg lost the lawsuit, which presumably forced him to turn over some of the printing equipment to Fust. Fust later established a partnership with Gutenberg's assistant Peter Schöffer.
1457 – The Mainz Psalter (a collection of Psalms) was printed by Faust and Schoffer after the incident with Gutenberg. This is the second major work that was printed with movable type in Europe (after the Gutenberg Bible). The Psalter also introduced a few innovations: the first book to print a date of publication and the first to be produced in three colors.
1460s - Gutenberg was able to reestablish his printing business with the printing of the Catholicon. He was aided financially by one Konrad Humery, a wealthy Mainz resident, who became the beneficiary of Gutenberg's will upon his death in 1468.
1460 - Albrecht Pfister was the first to print illustrations to a book using woodcuts. The book Der Ackermann aus Bohmen and an edition of collected fables enititled Der Edelsteinis were said to be among his first works. Der Ackermann aus Bohmen is considered as the first illustrated book and the first one in German to be printed with movable type.
1470 – Nicolas Jenson, an expert master die-maker for the French royal mint, set the standard for Roman type. Considered one of the best typeface designers, his 1470 roman type face proved appropriate for the mass publications during his time because the people then were used to texts written in artistic scripts.
1476 – An illustrated edition of Aesop's Fables that used two hundred woodcuts was printed. This period was also the first time copper engravings were used instead of woodcuts for a book by Boccaccio, which was done by an unknown engraver.
1476 – William Caxton, an English translator and importer of books, started a printing press in Westminster – the first printing press in England. Some of the books he printed included Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' and Malory's 'Le Morte d'Arthur'.
1530 – French font designer and publisher Claude Garamond established the first type foundry where he created and sold fonts to printers. His first type was used in an edition of "Paraphrasis in Elegantiarum Libros Laurentii Vallae" by Erasmus.
1543 – The anatomy book De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books) by Andreas Vesalius was published. Considered as the most famous and most beautiful anatomy book ever published, the work combines text with numerous illustrations. This showed how much printing has developed during this time.
1555 – Christophe Plantin opened a print shop in Antwerp and became one of the most famous printers of his time. His shop produced fine work that featured engravings. Many of his works and some of the equipment from the shop are displayed in the Plantin-Moretus museum.
1631 – The 'Wicked Bible' was printed, albeit accidentally. It was actually a reprint of the King James Bible where the word ‘not’ is unintentionally left out of Exodus 20:14. The result was the line “Thou shalt commit adultery,” which caused The Archbishop of Canterbury and King Charles to revoke the printing license of the printers, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas. All the copies were destroyed, except for eleven that still exist up to this day.
1642 – German engraver Ludwig von Siegen invented mezzotint, a technique that is intended to produce half-tones by roughening a copper plate with little dots using a metal tool with cutting teeth, called a ‘rocker’. The plate's tiny pits hold the ink after the surface is wiped clean. The result is a range of soft, subtle tone gradations without the sharp lines seen on etchings.
1690 – Papermaker William Rittenhouse, who left Holland in 1688 to settle in Philadelphia, established the first American paper mill near Germantown, Pennsylvania. The Rittenhouse mill operated as the only mill in the colony until 1710, when William DeWees, a brother-in-law of William Rittenhouse's son, built his own mill.
1709 - The Statute of Anne, the first modern copyright law, was enacted in the United Kingdom. The statute granted publishers legal protection for 14 years upon the commencement of the statute and granted 21 years of protection for books already in print. It was the first statute of its kind in the UK and any where else in the world.
1722 – Typeface designer William Caslon released his first typefaces. Based on 17th century Dutch old style designs, Caslon's types became popular in Europe and the American colonies, most especially that the typefaces were used for the first printings of the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution.
1796 – Author Aloys Senefelder develops lithography to print his own plays. Senefelder established the possibility of creating forms of relief printing through chemical treatment of limestone. In 1818, he published an account of his invention entitled A Complete Course of Lithography.
1800 - Lord Stanhope (Charles Earl Stanhope) invented the first printing press made of all cast-iron parts. The Stanhope press can produce about 200 impressions in an hour. It was also durable and able to print larger sheets.
1810 – Publisher Isaiah Thomas created the two-volume History of Printing in America, which continues to be one of the best resources on colonial printing and typography in the United States.
1816 – William Caslon IV developed the first commonly known sans serif typeface, the Egyptian font. Sans serif typefaces, which lack the decorative serif elements at the ends of the characters, were a radical departure from the norm in the world of typography.
1822 – American inventor William Church patented a typesetting machine. Although the invention was not fit for commercially use and lacking in automatic line justification, it contributed to the creation of the principle of "non-distribution," which proposes that with a sufficiently good typecasting machine, it would be easier and cheaper to cast new type for every use than to "distribute" the type back to typecases for reuse.
1829 – Louis Braille devised a code based on a series of embossed or raised dots, which lead to the invention of embossed printing.
1838 – The process of electrotyping was invented by Moritz von Jacobi. It is used to duplicate relief and intaglio engravings by electrolytic processes. Electrotyped copper plates are useful in sustaining longer print runs, better than what wood block carvings could accomplish. This development was valuable for magazine and newspaper printing.
1847 – Robert March Hoe received the patent for the rotary printing press that he created in 1843. The machine was much faster than the traditional flatbed printing press, greatly speeding up the printing process. (By1870, the process became even faster as Hoe eventually built a rotary press that can print both sides of a page in one operation.)
1852 – Photoglyphic engraving, was invented by William Fox Talbot. Photoglyphic engraving was an early method of photogravure – the reproduction a photograph through the process of printing on paper from a copper plate that was inked and etched. Through his invention, ordinary paper photographs can be transferred to plates made of steel, copper, or zinc, and print off the impressions afterwards using the usual printer's ink.
1856 – American inventor William Bullock improved Hoe's rotary press design and invented the web-fed printing press, a machine that could feed paper continuously and print both sides of the sheet at once. Bullock's press was capable of delivering about 10,000 flat sheets per hour, with prints on both sides.
1857 – The process of stereotyping was first used in newspaper printing. Stereotyping, invented in Edinburgh by William Ged in 1725, is a process that involves a whole page of type being cast in a single mould so that a plate could be made from it. Stereotype made it possible for the multiple production of printing plates. Until its invention, type needed to be reset if the printer needs a second printing.
1867 – The company Agfa (Aktiengesellschaft fur Anilinfabrikation) was founded in Rummelsburg, Germany. Intially, the company was focused on producing color dyes but eventually went on to become one of the top manufacturers of film and printing plates.
1875 – Robert Barclay of England received the patents for the first offset lithographic press for printing on tin, which was a common coating materials. The offset cylinder he used was covered with specially treated cardboard, which transferred printed images from the litho stone to the metal surface.
1878 – The Czech painter Karel Klíč invented the photogravure process of transferring an image from a negative to a copper plate through gelatin-coated carbon pigment paper. This effectively reproduced the detail as well as the continuous tones of photographic images. His work was based on Talbot's research. By the 1880s, Klic's technique was often used to print high quality books with photographs.
1880 – The New York Graphic printed the famous illustration "A Scene in Shantytown" by Stephen Horgan. It was the “first reproduction of a photo with a full tonal range in a newspaper" with a crude halftone screen. Halftone is the reprographic process that simulates continuous tone imagery with the use of dots varying in size, shape or spacing.
1886 – German inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler invented the Linotype composing machine. It is widely considered as one of the greatest developements in printing since the creation of movable type around 400 years earlier. The Linotype allowed the printing operator to set an entire line of type using a 90-character keyboard, allowing newspapers to print pages four to five times faster.
1890 – In England, the first flexographic press was built by Bibby, Baron and Sons. This press uses the relief on a rubber plate to hold the image to be printed. It came to be known later on as “Bibby’s Folly” because the water-based ink used in the process smeared easily. Later improvements made flexography one of the most commonly used industrial printing processes.
1903 – Ira Washinton Rubel of the United States stumbled upon the idea of using offset press to print on paper. He noticed that whenever sheets of paper was not fed into the lithographic press, the stone printed the image to the rubber-coated impression cylinder. The impression then had an image on both sides – direct litho on the front while an image from the rubber blanket was printed on the back. He noted that the back image was much sharper and clearer than the litho image since the soft rubber was able to transfer the image onto the paper much better than the hard stone. This discovery lead the Potter Press Printing Company to build the first lithographic offset press for paper.
1938 – Xerography, a method of dry photocopying wherein image is transferred through the use of attractive forces of electric charge, was invented by Chester Carlson. After being turned down by several companies, Carlson was able to sign a licensing deal with a company called Haloid, which eventually changed its name to Xerox in 1961. In 1959, the company launched the Xerox 914, the first commercially-successful plain paper copier which revolutionized document-copying.
1951 - The first drupa trade show was held in Dusseldorf, Germany. Drupa, which means “Druck und Papier” (print and paper respectively) is a trade fair and exhibit for the printing industry held every four years.
1976-1977 – The first laser printers became commercially available. The IBM 3800 shipped in 1976 and the Xerox 9700 in 1977. Laser printers introduced fast, high quality text printing featuring multiple fonts to businesses and consumers.
1984 – Adobe launched PostScript, a page description language that can be used to control output devices like laser printers. It provides computer printers with information on how pages should appear upon printing. PostScript has gone through several major revisions: PostScript Level 1 (1984), PostScript Level 2 (1991) and PostScript 3 (1997).