Almost 200 years ago, having a book was a rare thing and often reserved for the ultra-wealthy or church clergy. Anything that was printed on the printing press was scripted in Latin, and the common man couldn’t speak or write the superior language, anyway. As the Enlightenment wended its way through Europe and America, more books were printed in more languages because of the invention of the steam powered press. As time marches on, so do the ways tomes are created, and today the majority of books are made in one of the following three ways:
An offset image is transferred to a paper by inking a rubber covered cylinder and moving it over the paper in offset printing. The paper for a Sheet-Fed Offset is fed through the machine one sheet at a time and allowed to dry. In Web Offset printing, a roll of paper is fed through the system and is printed as it unrolls. In both types of printing, the paper is cut into sheets and fed into the bindery.
Born from the Gutenberg style of printing press, the letterpress is used to ink paper by transferring the image to the paper using a single sheet. Engravings, etched plates, pressed lettering, and several other types of plates can be constructed to print using the letterpress. This method is still used today to create limited edition or one of a kind books.
Becoming a popular print-on-demand style of publishing, the digital style of printing a book marries a computer to a copying machine for fast results. The operator sends a file to the copy machine, which then prints the ready pages out, effectively creating a single book at a time.
If you have a press that runs various inks through end seals, you can always look back at the way printing a book used to be and stand amazed at how far printing has come. What do you think will come next?