Pressed & Printed

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Pressed & Printed An exploration of print production and graphic design through time.

Annaka Cox

Pressed & Printed An exploration of print production and graphic design through time.

Annaka Cox

Illustrations and Design Š 2020 by Annaka Cox All rights reserved. No Part of this book may be reproduced without permission from the author, except by reviewer who may quote passages or reproduce illustrations in a review with appropriate credits; nor may any part of this book be reproduced. The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. The author does not take credit for the information provided. Research was gathered from multiple sources, provided at the end of this book. Fonts used: Recoleta, Brother 1816 Printed in Vancouver, BC

A note to the reader... My hope for this publication is to provide a glimpse into the rich history of production methods and technologies that helped guide graphic design to where it is today. As a communication design student, I felt that I was not given enough of an education of how designers before my time worked and the incredible processes that were in practice before computers were normalized in the workplace. I spent my final year of undergrad gathering research, organizing and synthesizing it to be put into this publication, in a way that it can be quickly and easily comprehend-able. I want you, as the reader to be able to walk away with a broader understanding of how quickly technology’s advancements can change a field of work. -Annaka Cox


Contents Timeline


WoodBlock Printing


Illuminated Manuscripts


The Printing Press




The Rotary Press


Offset Printing


Hot Metal Typesetting


Photo Typesetting








Woodblock Printing

The Printing Press







The Rotary Press

Offset Printing

Hot Metal Typesetting

Photo Typesetting


WoodBlock Printing


WoodBlock Printing 200

Woodblocks are made from a plank, cut length wise from the tree rather than from the cross section. Woodblocks were made from fruit trees, Date or Cherry in the East and Pear in the West.

For roughly 500 years printing was solely from relief surfaces made up of type and woodcuts or wood engravings. Illustrations were printed from engraved copper plates from the early part of the 15th C. The Intaglio process was extensively used for illustrating books in 17/18th C. The earliest use of woodblocks was for reproducing devotional prints of the figures of saints.

Woodcutting was practiced in China before the Christian era, the technique was delayed in Europe until the introduction of paper.

Book Blocks Books in which a page consisting of pictures and words is cut on a single piece of wood. They are believed to be of and after the time of Gutenberg, under economic considerations. Usually very simple in text but could be quickly reprinted on demand and cheaper as there was no laborious cost of resetting type. Heidelberg Dance of Death


Tools The main tool used was a knife held upright in the East but like a pencil in the West. Auxiliary tools included gouges and chisels for clearing spaces between lines.



1.Hangito: Woodcarving knife 2.Aisuki: Flat bladed chisel


3.Komasuki: Round gauge


4.Sankakuto: V-shaped gauge


Tang Dynasty • (618-906) China invented Woodblock Printing, first appearing in the year 600. At first it was used in the spread of information, printing books on medicine and agriculture.

Song Dynasty • (960-1279) Movable Type was invented between 10411048 by Bisheng. This reduced time down from several days to several hours. Clay types could be reused, but were not as efficient in the Chinese language as there are thousands of ideograms.


Dharani Scrolls 770 One of the earliest examples of printed text and the very first large scale mass production Empress Shotoku occupied the Japanese throne twice, (749-758, 764-770). Suffering from depression led to an interruption during her occupancy. Under the care of a Buddhist monk she recovered, but her cousin objected the monk and started a rebellion, leading to Shotoku having her killed. As a sort of penitence Shotoku ordered the printing of 1 million Dharani prayers to be sent to Buddhist temples. No further printing took place in Japan until 1080.

Expert craftsmen carved and cut into the woodblock, then filled it with ink and copied it onto the thin paper strips, made from hemp fiber. Each scroll was inserted into a mini wooden pagoda (13cm tall), then a 7 tiered spire would be placed on top. It would then be boxed up and sent to one of the ten major Buddhist temples in Japan.


Illuminated Manuscripts


Illuminated Manuscripts 6th C. - 15th C.

Illuminated Manuscripts were first created in the 6th C. and popularized across Europe until the 15th C. An Illuminated Manuscript is one which decoration using gold, silver or another metal is used as a reflective surface to light up the page, hence the term illuminated. Until the 13th C. manuscripts were created solely under the devotion of monks and nuns across Europe. As a testament to their devotion Scribes and Illuminator’s would commonly work in solitude from morning until night. Larger monasteries commonly housed scriptoriums which were reclusive spaces built for the purpose of writing, copying , illuminating and binding manuscripts.




Types of Illuminated Manuscripts: 1. Antiphoner 2. Book of Hours 3. Psalter 4. Missal 5. Breviary 19

Decorative Motifs most popularly consisted of foliage, the classical Acanthus leaf, population of birds, fish and animals.

11th C. : Lion figures and schematized leaf scrolls are prominent

15th C. : Foliage becomes more luxurious and colourful


The introduction of printing from movable type in the mid 15th C. did not first have an effect upon the design or decoration of the manuscripts. They were expected to be handwritten and if they were not they would be then made to resemble it.

Pages of the printed book were a similar size, the layout was kept the same and the design of the letters were made to imitate a scribe. There was space left for the decorations and illuminations to then be done by hand.


The Printing Press


The Printing Press 1440

In 1394, Johannes Gutenberg (Mainz, Germany) wanted to produce bibles mechanically that looked like they were done by hand but could charge handwritten prices.

He produced 200 bibles all alike between 1452-1455, called the “42 Line Bible� as the majority of text was set in 2 columns of 42 lines.


The first movable type invented by Gutenberg were copies of the manuscript hand of 15th C. Germany for nearly 100 years after the invention. Black letter type was the preferred form in western Europe except Italy. Movable type allowed for pages to be set with different fonts and sizes.

Gutenberg’s greater purpose was to compete with copyists of his time, by cutting the cost of production


Gutenberg’s press was a hand press, the Platen press - the lowering of a heavy iron plate under controlled pressure, against the horizontal firmly backed type. Gutenberg’s press and process was not changed for 3 Ÿ centuries! There are 3 methods of the printing process: 1. Relief or Letterpress - a raised, inked surface 2. Intaglio - a lowered surface or plate 3. Planographic - a chemical process, using impression or pressure, but uses a different press (mechanically)


Relief Print

Raised, inked surface.

Intaglio Print

Plate (bottom), and ink adhering to the paper (top).

Planographic Print

Bed of the printing press (bottom), stone, paper and blanket.




Lithography 1796

Invented by Alois Senefelder, a German author and actor who wanted a cheap way to publish theatrical works. The process could be used to print text or artwork onto paper. It prints from a plane or level surface and is therefore referred to as planographic printing. As Lithography was mastered more and more by artists, the medium began to influence letterpress style.



Stone with handle used to smooth lithographic surfaces


19th Century Tools


Steel Pen

Scissors to sharpen nib

Burins with steel points for outlines of drawing

Lithography was not born to serve art. It was first and foremost a technical and commercial proposition linked to a surprising innovation in the field of graphic reproduction. The ability to print rapid, large scale reproductions of documents and pictures was now available.

Lithography was one of the key elements in the development of posters at the end of the 19th C.

Presses available: 1. The Old Fashioned Press 2. Offset Proofing Press

Lithography is different than any other printing process, the impression is taken from a completely flat surface. It is a chemical process rather than mechanical, there is no need for a raised or sunken surface. The process can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable materials. Today, most types of high volume magazines, books, posters, packaging etc. that are illustrated in colour are printed using Offset Lithography, common since the 1960’s. Really any smooth mass produced item with print or graphics on it, will be printed using Offset Lithography.


Fine Grained Limestone “Kelhem”, found in two quarries in Bavaria

The stone can be reused many times, the previous images or drawings were removed by grinding it away.

Post War/WWI: Problems of how to communicate a message were re-examined throughout Europe by professionals who revolutionized the character of publicity posters. Posters were a way to ensure speedy diffusion during military campaigns.

“Posters are not pictures but communicating machines” -Cassandre


The Rotary Press


The Rotary Press 1843

It was in 1865 when rotary printing from curved plates was perfected, which was one of 3 tools in contribution to the newspaper and graphic arts industry.


William Nicholson filed the patent in 1790 for the press but in 1843 rotary drum printing was invented by Richard March Hoe which replaced the earlier patent to update and fix the process. There are 3 main types of rotary processes: Offset, Roto Gravute, and Flexo (all using cylinders to print varying methods). The press in which images to be printed are curved around a cylinder. Printing can be done on a number of substrates including paper, cardboard and plastic. Paper can be sheet fed , unwound or on a continuous roll.


Offset Printing


Offset Printing 1875

George Sigl from Vienna first built the mechanical press for lithography in 1851, but Rupert Barelay improved upon it in 1875. The technique in which an inked image is transferred or (offset) from a plate to a rubber blanket then to the printing surface. It can be in combo with lithography, the oil/water technique employs flat (or planographic) image carriers on which the image to be printed obtains ink from rollers while non printing area attracts water based film, keeping it ink free. The modern “web� process feeds large reels of paper through large presses in several parts for several metres then prints continuously.


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Hot Metal Type Setting


Hot Metal Type Setting 1884

Technology for typesetting text in letterpress printing. It injects molten type into a mold that has the shape of one or more glyphs, later used to press ink onto paper. The typecasting machine was controlled by key boards or paper type.

Two approaches were developed in the late 19th C. Monotype or Super Caster. Monotype produced texts with the aid of perforated paper ribbons, all of the characters were cast separate (up to 24pt. large).


Each individual type had to be picked out of boxes, set in lines, justified, made in form, and used on the press.


Super Caster was designed to produce single type including even larger sizes for hand setting. Of this system there were five enterprises, Linotype, Intertype, Typograph, Monoline (non-qwerty) and Ludlow (each line assembled in a stick by hand).

Monotype and Linotype both set and cast copy- Lino on a slug and Mono cast as individual letters and assembled lines. Linotype was cheaper to produce a first proof but mono provided easier means of correction.

The first thing produced with Hot Metal was the Bible.


The Linotype machine was invented in 1884 by the German watchmaker Ottmar Mergenthather. It was essentially a large scale typewriter with the ability to set lines of type, automatically. The machine would get each letter put it in the sentence, automatically spacing as it went, it did not change for 100 years. This made mass education possible, putting books at a reasonable price. The Linotype machine was controlled by the International Linotype Union which controlled newspaper typesetting industry.


Photo Type Setting


Photo Type Setting 1949 The earliest exploration of Photo Typesetters was around 1900, but were discovered properly in 1920, not being used until the 1950s because of the International Linotype Union. The new(ish) technology of phototypesetting was used as a way for the newspaper industry to finally move away from the union.
































Based on the mechanisms of hot metal type setting, Stroboscopic printing (MIT’s Dr. Edgerton), used a camera fast enough that it could picture something still moving as though it were still. Photo Typesetters had to have the font in its negative form-on a font disk, the light source would go through the moving disk, through the lens and expose the photo paper. When the switch from metal to light, there had to be photographic masters made of all typefaces.




Typefaces had to be redrawn as there was a finer accuracy in the details and characteristics of each letter form. They were thickened up and made more square to replicate the effect of the press.


The Photon Machine was invented in 1949, the first thing produced was a book on insects.

Men considered Cold type as glorified typing, therefore they did not want to do it. 80% of workers in Cold type ended up being women because of it. They were non union as well, so of course were paid much less, very inexpensive for the companies. Typesetters often did more work than the designer, they would make all of the typographic decisions while catching any mistakes.


Photo Typesetting brought more WOMEN into the workplace within the printing industry than any other technology!


Bibliography Books: Allen, L. M. (1969). Printing with the handpress Herewith a definitive manual by Lewis M. Allen to encourage fine printing through handcraftsmanship. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. Bartram, A. (2001). Five hundred years of book design. London: British Library. Chappell, W., & Bringhurst, R. (1999). A short history of the printed word. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks Publishers. Cliffe, H. (1965). Lithography. London. Davies, H., & Murata, H. (1983). Art & Technology: offset prints. Bethlehem, PA: Ralph Wilson Gallery. Hearn, M. K., & Hung, W. (2013). Ink art: past as present in contemporary China. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hurlburt, A. (1976). Publication design: a guide to page layout, typography, format and style. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. McLuhan, M. (1962). The Gutenberg galaxy: the making of typographic man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Meggs, Philip B. (2016). Meggs History of Graphic Design. Wiley. Moran, J. (1974). Printing in the 20th century: a Penrose anthology. London: Northwood Publications. Moran, J. (1978). Printing presses: history and development from the fifteenth century to modern times. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.


Petit, G., & Arboleda, A. (1977). Evolving techniques in japanese woodblock prints. Tokyo:Kodansha International. Porzio, D., Tabanelli, M., & Tabanelli, R. (1983). Lithography 200 years of art, history and technique. New York: Abrams. Robb, David Metheny. (1973). The Art of the Illuminated Manuscript. Barnes. Salter, Rebecca. (2013). Japanese Woodblock Printing. Bloomsbury. Southall, R. (2005). Printers type in the twentieth century: manufacturing and design methods. London: British Library. Thorp, Nigel. (1987). Glory of the Page: Medieval & Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts from Glasgow University Library. Harvey Miller Publishers.

Films: Levit, Briar, director. (2017). Graphic Means: A History of Graphic Design Production.