The First Printing Press

The printing press or the wooden printing press was an early form of communication.
The printing press is interesting from the stand point that is a early form of
mass communication. The process and complications of the printing press are
important to understanding prints importance to communication to the information

Johann Gutenberg invented the first printing press in 1440. While there had been
imprinting prior to Gutenberg’s invention in countries such China and Korea,
Gutenberg’s invention was different from prior inventions that it used letter
printing which was practical in Europe as they had a phonetic alphabet, unlike
eastern Asian countries such as China that used pictorial language for
writing.  It was further uniquelydifferent in that it printed text on a mass scale like never before. Accordingto James Moran, Gutenberg in designing the printing press  was looking, “…to find a more rapid method ofmanufacturing printed texts then the slow rub-printing if his invention was notto be nullified.”[i]Gutenberg achieved finding a method of faster printing through his design of the printing press.  The wooden printingpress consisted of two large wooden support beams, a ratchet wheel, a pressing board, and a large wooden screw that into the center of the ratchet wheel, witha large wooden circle around it.  To useto printing press the pressing board using the wooden screw would be pressed down on a damp piece of paper made from cloth.

However, despite being an invention ahead of its time, the wooden printing press had many complications. From a mechanical standpoint, the wooden press’s wooden design was something that people tried to improve on with metal parts, which would eventually lead to the Stanhope press which had wooden part also incorporated a cast-iron frame into it design. [ii]Anothercomplication came as a result of an increased demand for printing, which was precipitatedby an increase in literacy. The wooden press was limited by the fact that it could only imprint one page a time. Using the printing press, Michael Pollack
quotes one person as saying, “it is probably reasonable to regard this [a speed of 190 to 200 printed sides of paper an hour] as the normal rate of the wooden press throughout the entire period of its history.”[iii] Morangives a slightly higher number, writing that in Frankfurt the average speed was250 to 240 sheets per an hour, although he admits that towards the end of thework day the number of sheet printed per an hour was closer to 200. [iv] Speed was defiantly an issue for the printing press, and it is interesting to
think the printing press in a way presented in own complications by making literature more widely available, which helped to facilitate an increased to demand for it.

The printing press presented a unique process of mass communication, by vastly increasing the rate at which reading material became available. Through this process the
printing press created its reason to be needed.






Moran, James. Printing Presses: History and
Development from the 15th Century to Modern Times.
Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1973.


Pollak, Michael.
“The Performance of the Woden Printing Press.” The Library Quarterly 47, no. 2 (April
1972):  218 – 64. (accessed September 25th 2011)




[i] James
Moran, Printing Presses: History and
Development from the 15th Century to Modern Times
(Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1973), 18.

Moran, Printing Presses: History and
Development from the 15th Century to Modern Times,

Michael Pollak, The Performance of
the Wooden Printing Press,” The Library
47, no. 2 (April 1972): 220,
(accessed September 25th, 2011)

Moran, Printing Presses: History and
Development from the 15th Century to Modern Times,


One Response to “The First Printing Press”

  1. Ken Hartfield says:

    James wrote the history of the printing company Stephen Austin and Sons of Hertford in 1968 at the time of their 200 years celebration. The company still exists and soon will be 250 years old and probably the oldest privately owned printing company in the UK?

    My question is whether James Moran is still alive and is there a list of his publications?

    Many thanks for any informatio you can provide.

    Ken J Hartfield