Printing press

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The printing press is a mechanical device for producing many copies of a text on paper. German craftsman Johann Gutenberg is often credited with its invention in the 1450s, and he did make major contributions to the technology, but the press itself was previously known and used by European textile makers to print patterns on fabric. Gutenberg refined the technique by inventing movable type, where the characters are separate parts that are inserted to make the text. He is also creditied with the first use of an oil-based ink, and using "rag" paper introduced into Europe from China by way of Muslims. Before Gutenberg's press, the Chinese and Koreans produced printed texts (such as Buddhist scriptures) from individually carved wooden or clay blocks, processes much more efficient than hand copying but not as efficient as Gutenberg's press.

Books first produced in this period were collectively referred to as incunabula.

While it might take someone a year to hand copy a Bible, with the Gutenburg press it was possible to create a hundred copies a year, with two or three people that could read, and a few people to support the effort. Each sheet still had to be fed manually, which limited the reproduction speed, and the type had to be set manually for each page, which limited the number of different pages created per day. While this was much more efficent that manual copying, the Industrial Revolution and the steam powered rotary press allowed thousands of copies of a page in a single day. Mass production of printed works flourished after the transition to rolled paper, as continious feed allowed the presses to run at a much faster pace.

Later inventions in this field include: