Movable type printing

Moveable type is the system of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document (usually individual letters or punctuation).

The first known movable type system for printing was made of ceramic materials and created in China around AD 1040 by Bi Sheng.

Around 1450 Johannes Gutenberg made a mechanical metal movable-type printing press in Europe, along with innovations in casting the type.

Gutenberg’s type pieces were made from an alloy of lead, tin and antimony. Metal type pieces were more durable and the lettering more uniform than woodblock printing, leading to typography and fonts.

Movable type printing (image)

Frame of print blocks

This frame of letterpress wooden print blocks contains blocks that would have originally been used in the printing industry sometime between the late 1800’s and the mid-1900’s.

The blocks comprise different fonts and sizes and would have been manufactured at different dates.

Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing using a printing press.

A worker composes and locks movable type into a ‘bed’ or ‘chase’ of a press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer the ink from the type which creates an impression on the paper.

More for members

Floorplan

Join the IET

Find out why you should become a member and all the benefits on offer.

London Partner logo
Britain for Events logo
HBAA logo