History of Printing
The history of Printing started, and as such assumed international exposure, to pursue efficient and economic means of printing multiple copies of text, fabrics and graphics. Printing processes enhanced communications, and contributed a great deal to the evolution of commerce, law and culture.
It is a technique to print text or graphic designs that had long been in fashion across East Asia. The art first appeared in China during antiquity as a way of printing textiles and subsequently the paper. As art of cloth printing, the ancient examples that exist so long in China date back to the 4th century.
Ukiyo-e has been the best quality of all known type of Japanese woodblock art printing. The European uses of the technique on paper can be explained by the then prevailed art terminology, “woodcut”, other than the block-books that were printed in the 15th century.
In Egypt, India and Europe, however, the cloth-printing definitely was preceded by papyrus printing — a form of medium employed for printing very close to paper. Same prevailed in China. The process typically remains the same throughout the course of history to-date; in Europe specific design impression of printing had often been taken on silk until approached the 17th century.
Exploring the Art of Printing in the Islamic World
Tarsh, the Arabic name of Block printing was flourishing in Egypt and Arabia during the 9-10th centuries — predominantly for prayers and amulets. There is a little clue to propose that the printing blocks had been synthesized from a range of different materials other than wood; these included metals, viz. lead, tin and cast iron in addition to stone, glass, clay, etc. nevertheless, the techniques used have been incredible as they seem to have cast a little impact outside the Muslim domains.
No doubt Europe had been emulating the wood-block based techniques of printing from the Muslim world, in the beginning for fabric, the art of metal block printing remained largely absent in Europe. However, later on block printing was abandoned by the Islamic Central Asia subsequent to the movable type of printing had been adopted from China.
Printing in Europe
Block printing was first introduced to Christian Europe as a way of printing over cloth, where it had been a known practice by 1300. Graphic designs printed on cloth for religious ends used to be very large and vivid. However, with the convenient availability of paper about 1400, the medium of printing drastically shifted to miniature woodcut images and playing cards to be printed on hard paper. Such prints were being executed in huge numbers from round about 1425 onwards.
By the middle of the century, woodcut books, clock-books with both text and graphics, were normally etched in the same block, evolved as a cost efficient substitute for books and manuscripts to be printed with movable type. All these were brief but densely ornate works, mostly the best-sellers of their time, that have been appearing and reappearing in a number of different block-book version — the Ars moriendi and the Biblia Pauperum being the conspicuous examples.