The printing press was a very important invention that changed the ways people communicated with each other and shared ideas. Printers could make books faster, which meant that knowledge could be spread more widely, and more people learned how to read.
Here are some cool facts about printing:
- It took almost two years to produce Shakespeare's First Folio. The First Folio was printed in 1623 and was the first time that Shakespeare's plays had been published together.
- Johannes Gutenberg adapted a wine press to make the first printing press in about 1439. Instead of pressing grapes, the equipment pressed metal letter forms onto sheets of paper, parchment, or vellum. Gutenberg was a professional goldsmith who used his metalworking skills to make the first set of movable type in Europe!
- When books were made by hand, scribes used water-based inks; these inks did not stick to printed pages very well, so printers had to invent oil-based inks. The oil-based inks spread over the metal type more evenly. Printers sometimes used ingredients from their homes to create inks. Soot, for example, made a good homemade black ink.
- Mexico had a working printing press in 1534—before Ireland, Russia, or America! The first American printing press was started in Cambridge, MA in 1639. Jose Glover came from England with his family to open the first print shop, but he died either on the journey or very soon after his arrival. His widow and one of the assistants, Stephen Daye, successfully started America's first printing press.
- Each piece of movable type, including letter forms, punctuation, and blank spaces, was originally made by hand. Some printers created their own typefaces, also called fonts. Some of these fonts are still used today. Garamond, for example, is on many computers and is named after the French printer Claude Garamond.