Talk:Movable type

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In Korea[edit]

Sorry if this is the wrong place for this comment. I'm not too experienced with this. The Korea section says that Hangul was created "a generation before Gutenberg would begin working on his own movable type invention in Europe". In the Wikipedia article on Hangul, it says it was devised in 1443, but the Wikipedia article on Gutenberg says he started doing movable type printing in Europe in 1439, and developed it over the next couple years. So according to those two articles they happened at almost the exact same time, not a generation apart. I'm not going to edit any of these articles because I'm not in this field and I don't know the source of the discrepancy.

Amulekii (talk) 00:04, 13 August 2008 (UTC)


I've added to the excellent copyedits and rearrangements of Mukerjee, who has much improved what I edited very late last night. I've changed a few words to better indicate the degree of certainty of some of the theories, as specified in their main articles, and to further identify the East Asian and European developments (for example, Gutenberg invented many things, but not paper). I'd be grateful for identification (and translation into English, if necessary,) of the key part of the reference on Uighur printing. DGG 23:05, 16 November 2006 (UTC)

Block printing and similar irrelevant parts[edit]

Since movable type is the alternative technique to block printing, discussions of the detailed technique of block printing do not belong here. They should be moved to the more appropriate article, and replaced by a few words with a link. Material relevant to the spread of printing techniques, however important historically, that are not specifically movable type, do not belong here either, and should be moved to a more appropriate place. If there is no more appropriate place, perhaps a new page is needed, "Diffusion of printing technology", distinguished from the spread of the European techniques deriving from Gutenberg, but possibly most of this would fit into a section on the History of typography in East Asia "Diffusion of typography from East Asia". I requested documentation on the Uighur use of movable type, and none was forthcoming, except a statement that if use in that area took place, the Uighurs were there, reputed to be literate, and might have done it. Perhaps those who know more about this could select the appropriate places, do the moving, and leave the links. I do not remove other editors' material without prior discussions, as I am now doing. Alternatively, what do other editors working on this think about an additional page, as I just mentioned? DGG 06:04, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

follow up[edit]

While the recent edits were being done, the entire question was reopened three days ago on the Village Pump, though not seen till now. Ive commented, though it is not the right place. I ask again whether block printing is movable type? sounds ridiculous, but it's still in here. spread of printing is a more subtle question, as mention above. But block printing--that makes no sense. If anyone wants it in here, would they please defend it. I altered the wording so it looks a little less absurd. DGG 05:38, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Agree. Woodblock printing is a different type of printing. We don't mention bow and arrow in an article about guns, either. Removed the entire part – again. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 10:44, 25 February 2014 (UTC)


Please look a the preview when tinkering with the headings, and please defend edits here, not on the edit summary. so we have a concise summary with all these many edits.DGG 04:26, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

Block printing v.s movable type[edit]

I put block printing into the original narrative as an example of a precursor to movable type, a kind of transitional, intermediate step.

Why is "movable type" so-named? Because the metal type pieces are movable, positionable, can be arranged in almost any combination to form a page image. Block printing with an individual woodblock for each glyph is quite similar to movable metal type: the blocks can be arranged and a page image composed from them, but the technique is nonetheless called "block printing".

The text says as much, in explanatory fashion:

"Pi Sheng's baked clay types were fragile however, and were replaced by the wooden movable type of Wang Zhen 1313. Characters carved onto movable wooden blocks proved resilient to the mechanical rigors of handling."

Key words: movable wooden blocks, wooden movable type.

The labels "Woodblock printing" and "Movable type" bear linguistic bias and lead people to think of block printing and Movable type as different schemes. The only major difference (aside from using a printing press or taking rubbings) is the material used for the types and the method of producing or reproducing them.

Wang Zhen's movable wooden type system did not succeed. Pi Sheng's movable metal type system almost took off but the classical Chinese syllabary stalled it. Gutenberg's movable metal type system succeeded, and won for itself the title of Movable Type.

Movable woodblock type printing is not recognized as movable type because history gave it a crumby innacurate name.
Arbo talk 05:19, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

- the block in woodblock means just that - a single block. Also in block-book. To talk about "movable wooden blocks" is clearly confusing & using the wrong word (would anyone talking about a piece-of-type sized bit of wood call it a block?). Even if your sources use this term, you should avoid it, or explain it.Johnbod 03:07, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
a nice cup of coffee. Because we're all human and make errors.

The original manuscript I donated [[1]] contained a translation error. I made a mistake. From The Gutenberg Revolution; the wooden blocks that succeeded Pi Sheng's clay types were only used to make sand moulds to cast the thin metal stamp types.

I've changed the errant passage and given it citations. Thanks for pointing it out Johnbod. I like to be corrected.

Sorry about that, people. Please have this nice cup of coffee and a sit-down :)

A piece of type made from wood --- the object ought to be called a wooden type or in typophile nomenclature, a wooden sort.
Arbo talk 16:00, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Griffo's italic type[edit]

It's a myth. It was no more compact than the roman type Griffo and Aldus were using to print Latin texts. Please refer to User talk:Tphinney#Griffo italic not so compact afterall. The myth was removed from the History of western typography, and should be removed from every otehr article it appears in, eg: Aldus Manutius, Aldine Press, et al.

That Manutius did in fact produce compact editions of the Latin classics speaks for itself—the evidence is incontrovertable. The italic face used in them offered no space saving advantage however, so exactly how the editions were made more compact is a matter to be researched.
Arbo talk 08:51, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

First "forme"[edit]

I removed the statement that Gutenberg was first to do this. The Koreans and Chinese did it first. Please avoid putting speculative statements into the text. Stick to the facts available in print sources.
Arbo talk 09:15, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

Absolutely agreed. Avoid speculative statements. That's why I took the passage on the Mongol empire out which are irrelevant to the subject printing and more cloesely to movable type. Regards Gun Powder Ma 02:19, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

Type casting[edit]

The Gutenberg and the Korean type casting system were a world apart:

- Additionally, there were a few centuries between them -
  • JG or his immediate successor Schoeffer developed a steel matrize as mould. The Koreans used impressions in the sand.
  • JG invented a type case. I am not aware the Koreans had one.
  • JG invented a steel composing stick. The Koreans used first little bamboo rods, then wax to keep the letters together.
  • JG used a alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, which is still is in use TODAY (source: printing, EB). The Koreans used wooden or copper letters.

All in all, JG's invention was technologically a world ahead, being one of the main reasons why printing spread like wildfire from Mainz throughout Europe.

- and centuries before, it spreaded throughout Asia from Korea -

So could someone please stop the East Asian centrist gang from constantly insinuating how similar Korean printing was to Gutenberg printing? It was not. We have had a tough time keeping their totally unfounded claims of invention from the printing press article, it seems certain users try their business now at others related topics. Regards Gun Powder Ma 19:43, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

- and germans on their german page don't even mention Korea. Life goes on... even if Korea invented book-printing!

"JG or his immediate successor Schoeffer developed a steel matrize as mould. The Koreans used impressions in the sand."

Gutenberg used a "matrix" mould, and reliable sources I have drawn on to srite this article state that the Koreans used sand casting (at one time), and a mold casting technique (later) similar to that used by Europeans (Burke).
Sorry, but you have no clue, part I. The Koreans casted with the green sand casting method which directly derives from age old techniques of East Asian casting coins. Gutenberg matrix, on the other hand, was a completely new invention, owing nothing to that process (coins were minted, not casted in Europe).

- At that time, Europeans lived together with their pigs and chickens in one room -

The above-described process of mold-making and type-casting is the same as that used for casting coin, brass-ware, and bronze-ware as late as the early twentieth century. In Korea coins were cast in the same way... Pow-key san: Early Korean Printing, Journal of the American Oriental Society 1959, p.99

"JG invented a type case. I am not aware the Koreans had one...JG invented a steel composing stick. The Koreans used first little bamboo rods, then wax to keep the letters together."

Please produce references for reliable sources for these statements.
Sorry, but you have no clue, part II. That Gutenberg invented s steel composing stick is common knowldge.

- so Gutenberg redesigned Korean printing system -

The Koreans, on the other hand, went first with wax, then with bamboo sticks:
The new types came with scplare heels and the plate to set them in was sturdily made. It was so well shaped that there was no need to use a wax base. Instead bamboo pieces were used to hold the type in place on an adjustable plate. Ch'on Hye-bong, Typography in Korea, Koreana, p.12

"The Koreans used wooden or copper letters."

They also used an alloy similar to that later used by Europeans. Once again you make a selective statement that presents a biased picture.
Sorry, but you have no clue, part III. The Koreans used wooden types until the introduction of Gutenberg printing at least as often as metal, but even when they used metal it was usually simple copper. The Song Hyon type, for example, features 84% copper, Pb 7%, Sn 7%, and no lead. Gutenberg's alloy, on the other hand, consisted of lead, tin, and antimony, still "the same components used today" (quote Encyclopedia Britannica 2006, entry "printing" ).

"All in all, JG's invention was technologically a world ahead, being one of the main reasons why printing spread like wildfire from Mainz throughout Europe."

Please provide a citation to reliable source that states the view that "JG's invention was technologically a 'world ahead", if that's the wording you wish to use in the article text.
There is no burden of evidence unless you live in a world of complete denial:
1. The printing revolution started not with the few hundred movable type books the Koreans produced altogether, but with Gutenberg in the 1440s.


2. Not Korean metal type, but Gutenberg printing spread around the world.


3. Today, practically every single print all around the world can be traced back to Gutenberg's printing press. Gutenberg's printing is the sole genitor of all printing today.


4. Korean (and Chinese) traditional movable type printing has completely died out, being completely replaced by Gutenberg printing in the 19th and 20th century.


5. Today, in China and Korea, as in every other place in the world, printing is done solely on the basis of Gutenberg printing. Printing today owes nothing to traditional Chinese and Korean printing, they died out after the introduction of Western printing.


"So could someone please stop the East Asian centrist gang from constantly insinuating how similar Korean printing was to Gutenberg printing? It was not." - so could you please accept that book-printing in its pure form originated from korea???-

The balance of historical and archeological evidence combined with the writings of expert scholars on this topic tells us that the two movable type systems were similar. The European printing press and Korean methods of making impressions from the type were very different, but that is not the main topic of the article Movable type. It is written about in detail in Printing press.
I have doen my best to kept this article's POV neutral according to available sources, and will keep it neutral in future.
There is no "East Asian centrist gang from constantly insinuating how similar Korean printing was to Gutenberg printing?"
If you insist "it was not", the burden of proof lies entirely with you, the editor who insists "it was not". Please provide a reference to reliable source that mirrors your view.
Arbo talk 21:20, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
There is no evidence to suggest that Gutenberg adopted printing from East Asia. If so, provide it. In fact, there is actually a multitude of evidence firmly speaking against it, two of them being the practically complete absence of both movable type and woodblock printing among the Arabs as potential intermediaries, and the stark difference in terms of printing technology, with Gutenberg's vastly more advanced printing techniques. Heck, even in China proper, metal movable type was scarcely known long after Gutenberg's invention, so how could the technology have spread 10.000 km to Germany, but not to neighbouring China??? So stop your little game of insinuating a western adoption of movable type techniques by inserting pure speculations from dubious authors. This is meant to be an encyclopedia, and not your ethnocentric playing field. Regards Gun Powder Ma 03:04, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree with you that there is no evidence of his adopting it. Far from it, there is no evidence that anyone in Europe had even heard of it. However, it is not completely implausible, and we don't know any better, and that's all this section says. mukerjee (talk) 00:41, 26 November 2006 (UTC)
The dispute refered to an older article version where it was claimed that Korean type casting was similar to Gutenberg's, which it was emphatically not. Regards Gun Powder Ma 01:52, 26 November 2006 (UTC)
I don't really understand why there is so much controversy about this. I suspect it's because Westerners have historically believed that Guttenburg "invented" movable metal type and are not willing to accept that this method was actually invented in Asia. It's fair to say that Guttenburg's independently-developed method has had a much greater effect on the world of printing. However, we have to acknowledge that he wasn't first, and that the Koreans were. Also, I'd like to point out that Guttenburg's method is not "the same one that is used today". In fact, it's old technology now. Modern computerised printing methods do not use Guttenburg's methods. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:05, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

?Metal? casting in China?[edit]

There is this paragraph at the bottom of the section (just above metal movable type in Korea):

This system was later enhanced by pressing wooden blocks into sand and casting metal types from the depression in copper, bronze, iron or tin. The set of wafer-like metal stamp types could be assembled to form pages, inked, and page impressions taken from rubbings on cloth or paper.

This belies the whole point of this section - it simply cannot be that bronze or copper were also being cast. Around 1300, tin was being cast in China - the type may have been wafer-thin - it surely failed with the inks they were using then. This sentence is too vague and sweeping... Anyone to throw some light on this? mukerjee (talk) 00:41, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

Hi Mukejee. Sorry for the delay replying to this question. I've been flat-out buried under a pile of work in real life.
The info on casting in China came from John Man's The Gutenberg Revolution, chapter 4 "Something in the air", quote, "The same principal was extended to make metal letters: the wood-block was pressed into sand, and the impression used as a mould for bronze, copper, tin, iron or lead. The result was a collection of thin stamps..."
What's so vague and sweeping about that? It's a specific regarding the materials. It may sound sweeping in being all-inclusive (of the metals), if you read it that way. I rewrote the info to avoid copyvio, but otherwise technically the meaning of the passage is equivalent to that in Man's book.
How is it that, " simply cannot be that bronze or copper were also being cast." ? John Man may have got the details on casting materials incorrect, or he may have got it right. If other sources contradict his account let's have them.
Arbo talk 04:19, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
What's the problem with Chinese metal casting? They were casting large bronze ritual vessels from at least the Shang dynasty (1200-odd BC) using lost wax & section mould techniques Johnbod 05:59, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

I am still learning about these subjects[edit]

In the last week or two, partially as a fruit of our arguments, I have learned things that I had not known before and have caused me to revise my view on some of these matters, which I oversimplified. I list them below & will insert them with sources & 'and each is something I did not know a week ago. I Perhaps we should all do some more reading and only after that, some more writing. What I put into articles from now will have a source, since I now have read some sources.

  1. My sources say G used wood composing sticks, and so did later printers, probably because no steel ones are known for the period.
  2. I've seen a picture of the Chinese approach to type cases.
  3. Since it is unknown how G actually made the matrices & how he used them, some previous arguments on that basis are not longer tenable. The Princeton Needham had another theory--that the moulds were something like paper-maiche. When I asked him, he said he had no evidence, and was simply trying to figure out all the ways it could have been done.
  4. I've seen a copy of Uighur printing.
  5. I've been reminded about Chinese block-printed money.
  6. Gutenberg & others used a range of composition, based on samples that have been analyzed. In the paragraphs above there's the line that the Koreans used "Pb 7%" but no lead. Pb is lead. Let's include all documented analyses from the period.
  7. I've seen proof G could and did print in red, but stopped.

Do any of us know enough metallurgy to say what could and couldn't have been cast?

I mention once more that POV is not at issue. Not one of those here knows whether G was influenced by EA or, if he was, what form the influence may have taken--a stray artifact, "how could this have been made" or a story from a merchant, "I heard thus and so, but I don't know any details." Nobody else in the world knows either, of we wouldn't be having these discussions. It's all opinion, & none of us is necessarily more expert than the others--if any of us is expert at all. All we can do is reason from known cases of cultural transmission. Fortunately there is a closely relevant one, known in detail: paper. If this knowledge could get transmitted, anything could have been. But the transmission of paper making left abundant evidence--why didn't the others? I do not detect any true POV, though I do detect different attitudes to the word "could" and its synonyms.

Interesting word, could. The knowledge of movable type could have passed to Mozambique, where the Chinese traded. An escaped slave could have brought the knowledge to Ethiopia or Yemen. An Italian merchant might have acquired the servant. The servant may have told a child, who, in his old age, told some goldsmith. The possibility of transmission does not prove transmission. Consider all the Chinese inventions which were not transmitted. I could extend the above sequence to show it was transmitted to the Greenland Eskimo. -- But I made similar fun earlier of the Uighur, and it turns out Christensen has a photo of the printing & perhaps the type.

Interesting word: similar. What counts as similar enough? Two qys--similar enough to make it conceivable, and similar enough to prove it. Remember, we cannot even prove G's method of making matrices, or of using them.

What we can do is what good WP articles do: give the evidence, gve a quote or two for the opinions, and let the reader decide.

I am heartily disgusted with not only having to do this again every day or do, but having to do this again every day or two in 3 or 4 different places. I continue with my principle that he who says the first sarcastic or derogatory word is wrong, and he who says the second is equally wrong. And if anyone thinks I've overdone it myself, let me apologize here and now.

If there is any among us who claims such professional competence that his opinion is the one that matters, let him give the evidence. More to the point, since this is WP, is there any among us who claims to have read all the sources? (I intend to before I'm finished-I'm about 10% of the way.{please the others of you, keep up with me. Start by reading the whole of Christensens essay.) Ma, in this connection I would be much more comfortable working with you if you had a meaningful user page. In the future I intend to respond only to those edits that insert new data, not merely new arguments. DGG 06:28, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

I was also wondering about the material used by G for making types. Please put these in!! Where did you find the Uighur print? Turfan was a big center for printing between 8-13 c., after which the Uighur civilization was destroyed. I think the European part needs more details of the matrix and punch method. Have already made the Hand mould stub. mukerjee (talk) 17:37, 26 November 2006 (UTC)
Of course I will put all this in, as soon as I finish a deadline for an article in the RW. The Uighur printing is in Christensen's online essay, but I cannot tell if it is a replica--I will need to write to him. There is a comment in some of the books that nobody has any real idea of what the European mould was exactly until Moxon's 18th c. Mechanik Exercises, another book I have yet to read.--all the illustrations I've seen are copied from the same place, and are just as unclear as the one in WP. I also want to talk to Needham at Princeton to see what current thought is.DGG 02:32, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
"In the future I intend to respond only to those edits that insert new data, not merely new arguments."
Fair enough, but who deleted my response here today? I must say I view this as an unfriendly act, don't do this again. Check up the proverbial mistake 'Post hoc, ergo propter hoc." If we all begin to include the mere possibilty of a transmission solely on the grounds of temporal priority, a TREMENDOUS number of articles in Wikipedia would have to be written more speculatively.
I seriously doubt that people understand your purely logical 'could', because they are usually lead by psychology. Talking about a possibility makes people automatically assume that there must be at least a minimum of evidence for a transmission, which is not the case. In fact, there is a lot of positive counterevidence. Gun Powder Ma 00:31, 27 November 2006 (UTC)


Ma, I don't think we basically disagree--the difference is that I leave the subject a little more open, but not as far as those who are certain the invention in Europe was a case of diffusion. Christensen is sufficient authority that the possibility of diffusion must be taken seriously.

  • if part of the prior discussion was deleted yesterday, it was most certainly not an unfriendly act, but due to the many comments on this page. If I did it, I apologize, but I must have done it when I gave up on putting my comments next to the paragraph being commented on & moved them to the end. but for things like this I think assume good faith is a reasonable principle. Why would I or anyone do it deliberately?
  • I think your edits today/yesterday are good, and the wording better than before.
However, I do not think the EB is very good authority, any more than WP is authority; they're both encyclopedias. I would like to know what you consider positive counter-evidence. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as some of my teachers liked to say.
    • I suggest we leave the basic text alone, and add more verifiable data with refs as we find it.

DGG 01:16, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

Positive counterevidence:

  • The stark difference in terms of printing technology, with Gutenberg's vastly more advanced printing techniques in about every respect. Gutenberg also invented with the PP a device which was not even conceptually known in East Asia.
  • The practically complete absence of both movable type and woodblock printing of texts among the Arabs as potential intermediaries, or any other culture west of the Tarim basin and east of Germany (the first Arab movable type book was printed in Venice, Italy in the early 16th century).
  • The fact that metal movable type hardly had spread even to China the moment it appeared in Germany. Possibly it did not even have arrived at all in China as late as the 1450s. If true, this is a very strong argument against any diffusion as far as Europe.
  • The fact that wooden movable type was never used by Gutenberg (he started from the outset with metal) also speaks against a possible derivation of the concept of European movable type from woodblock printing

These four lines of reasoning could be greatly expanded to make a convincing counter-case. I found out the more you go into details, the more unlikely is a transmission. Other than the mere concept, Gutenberg printing shared little similarities with East Asian printing. Gun Powder Ma 02:27, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

Just one more tonight--These are suggestive, not really definitive--and the absence of something is negative evidence.
  • yes a press was used only in Europe, and this is a key part for productivity
  • Christensen has a suggestion about the Mongol Khanate ruling the Turks. Not evidence, but another geographic step. The Arabs were slow to use printing even when they knew about it, but I don't know why.
  • Timing is impt, but movable typoe of any sort would have been suggestive.
  • I am rechecking the woodblock evidence, but it will take a while. My guess is he did try movable wooden type and abandoned it. There's this gap in his bio after when he started experimenting and apparently not saying anything--that's the period I find most fascinating.
    • What counts as positive evidence for diffusion is easy. One letter to a German merchant would do. That's why I'm not happy with "practically complete". What I said in the G article might be found is a Chinese banknote or playing card. That's suggestive only, but close. If any of these are found in our lifetime, we will then know the liklihood -- he could still have worked independently.
    • what would be positive evidence against diffusion? A workshop notebook of G's, showing each step and the trials he made, that would indicate he had started with something else altogether, and made his own improvements with no unexplained flashes of genius. A series of scraps printed with increasingly sophisticated stages of the invention. If we haven't found these by now, we won't. This is why it is so hard to disprove diffusion.
    • What do I think the strongest evidence against independent invention--the remarkable number of simultaneous inventions--even Edison never managed anything like this. The new work on his more primitive mould casting is helpful, because it decreases the simultaneous number of inventions. And the analogy--paper was transmitted, and the steps are known. Why not here?
      • Look, we are not going to settle this. Much more learned people have not been able to. I think Christensen goes way out on a limb--but he still knows more than I do.DGG 02:53, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

':I agree that we should concentrate on adding substance to the text, rather than going endlessly over formulations. However, as I am sure that you are acquainted with Popper's verification criteria, you know it is impossible to prove the absence of a thing, in our case the absence of a Eastern transmission. By the same line of reasoning, we cannot prove the absence of star ships among the Mayas or power plants with the Aborigines either. So, this means little next to nothing. The counterevidence I posted above is as good as any as long as we don't stop to trust common sense. Regards Gun Powder Ma 17:28, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

Independent Invention?[edit]

Many technologies were passed along the silk road, from paper making to gunpowder. Even if it was an independent invention, does it really matter if it was "independently invented" hundreds of years after it was first invented? Afterall, given enough time, any culture can independently invent anything. We are credited with inventing the atomic bomb, but given enough time, the Russians, British, and French would have invented it themselves without help.


—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Intranetusa (talkcontribs) 02:14, 26 February 2007 (UTC).

Commonly regarded as independent invention[edit]

@what is commonly regarded as an independent invention: Are there any clues that Gutenberg had copied the Koreans? Otherwise this sentence needs rewriting. Shinobu 17:10, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

What is want to say is that, well, there is no positive evidence that Gutenberg copied the Koreans (but a lot of counterevidence). If you have a better phrasing for that, go ahead. Gun Powder Ma 17:21, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
Wording this has been a problem, and my friend Ma and I have struggled through numerous revisions. There is incomplete consensus. Most but not are scholars of the subject think it independent; some do not. Neither view can really be considered fringe or aberrant. Those on each side of the argument are equally sure of themselves.

A five-century long search for critical evidence that would show diffusion is lacking, while the evidence for it being independent has gaps as well--the key invention, the development of the mould, is undocumented & the physical evidence uncertain; we do not know the steps of the invention the way we know the steps by which Edison invented the incandescent lamp. Whatever term we use, there are complaints.

Some of the parts of Gutenberg's invention were certainly novel to him. The use of a press, the use of oil-based ink to provide permanence, the discovery of a useful alloy for casting--all of these are certainly due to him. One key component, the use of paper, obviously was diffusion. Another, the use of engraving to produce the master, was common practice in Europe & the history goes too far back to help. The mould is a mystery & recent technical analysis has made it yet more so. The concept of movable type--rather than a specific implementation of it--is hard to pin down.

As it happens, both Ma and I agree that the great likelihood is that movable type occurred to him de novo. At least one other person we know whom I greatly respect, Christensen, disagrees. This is the classic case for WP POV--there is one set of facts, and the interpretations vary--depending on what, I do not know--it is not just national pride--either of the Germans or the Koreans.

I've had too many disagreements about wording to be sure that Ma would agree with everything I've said here. I can not find a better word than "commonly" -- I consider "generally" an acceptable near-synonym. "Undoubtedly" requires a consensus that does not exist, "possibly" is much too weak--neither I nor Ma would accept that. I think we agree that "probably" is also much to weak. its not the custom to use numericaldegrees of probability here. If we did, I would say 90% sure and Ma would probably say 99%. This is often a problem with the first sentence of an article, which has to summarize the whole multi-page argument in a single word. If you have suggestions, we certainly need them. (Ma, if you like the way Ive written this out, maybe we can substitute it for part of the current wording)DGG 03:04, 28 November 2006 (UTC) DGG 03:04, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Hello DGG. "the key invention, the development of the mould, is undocumented & the physical evidence uncertain"
You mean the matrix? What is your source on that? I'll have to look deeper intpo the matter, but off the top of my head Gutenberg's matrix was a very idiosyncratic invention. Certainly, very different from the Korean mould which was just an application of East Asian coin casting methods for the purposes of printing (in Europe coin casting was AFAIK not even known, coins were minted since the ancient Greeks till today). PS: 'Generally' sounds perhaps slightly better. Regards Gun Powder Ma 10:08, 28 November 2006 (UTC)
Its in the articles and PBS by Blaise Aguera y Arcas and Paul Needham mentioned in the Gutenberg article. They've had various theories since '01, but the one thing which is sure is that he did not punch matrices in copper, put them in a metal frame, and cast type on them in what became the universal way. The types show too many variations of the sort that cannot be caused by wear--it was clear from the enlargements that more than one punch had been used per letter-form (allowing for Gutenberg's known deliberate variations). Also shows up in the Indulgence he printed with the same type. Absolutely beautiful work. Arbo reworded the text that is there now, I think. DGG 01:59, 29 November 2006 (UTC)
I forgot to mention that to me this is a littleadditional evidence that G. developed the process himself. My difficult was always that he needed to get too many things perfect. This is one he got workable, but not perfect. DGG 02:02, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

Early history[edit]

I don't know when this passage came in:

"The technique of imprinting multiple copies of symbols or glyphs with a master type punch made of hard metal first developed in coining around 3000 BC in ancient Sumer. Bars or ingots of precious metal were imprinted with a distinctive stamped design; the act of stamping the ingots certified them as currency by the power of the authority symbolized by the type image. These metal punch types can be seen as precursors of the letter punches adapted in later millenia to printing with movable metal type."

- but I think it is wrong. Sumer & the other Early Mesopotamian cultures made much use of "cylinder seals" - round things you rolled along a clay tablet. These were cut from stone, & go right back to the "Proto-Literate Period" -in fact 2,500-3,000 BCE(Frankenthaler, that vol of pelican/yale History of Art). Certainly cannot be called coining - was for personal ID. Pre-writing so just images - very beautiful & sophisticated.

Ingot stamping came much later (2,500 odd years) in Lydia in Anatolia. I can make the changes if you like - I don't want to intrude on the beautiful thing Ma & Dgg have going... Johnbod 21:21, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Don't know, but the invention credited to the Lydians is coined money. The author above seems to be talking though only about bars and ingots, of which I am rather certain that they must be much older. The Greeks themselves still made extensively use of metal bars as currency (the famous "talent" is such a bar of either silver or gold). Gun Powder Ma 01:25, 29 November 2006 (UTC)
the earliest Lydian/greek "coins" were small ingots of Electrum (gold/silver alloy) with little attempt to shape them into coins, so I think that is what he is talking about.Johnbod 02:15, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
The passage was originally written as part of the proto-history of typefounding for History of western typography. The source is Numismatics EB 1968, which I own. Feel free to change or adapt it to suit Movable type. Note that the original text was not written as a self-contained article on the subject of Movable type, and when I carved it off History of typography no guarantees were made regarding its suitability to delineating the subject of Movable type.
Regarding the time and place of ca 3000 BC in Ancient Sumer: gee whiz, if I got that wrong it wasn't on purpose.
The original typescript I wrote had a critical difference from the version quoted above:
"The technique of printing multiple copies of symbols or glyphs with a master type punch made of hard metal first developed around 3000 BC with the appearance of currency in ancient Sumer. Bars or ingots of precious metal were imprinted with a distinctive stamp design; the act of stamping the ingots certified them as currency...
The edit history reveals that Mukerjee changed "currency" to "coinage" here [2]. Mukerjee, can you explain why you made that change please?

"Sumer & the other Early Mesopotamian cultures made much use of "cylinder seals" - round things you rolled along a clay tablet."

Yes I know, and I included a brief description of cylinder seals after the bit about punch-stamped ingots.

"Certainly cannot be called coining - was for personal ID."

I did not call cylinder seals coining. The text explains that cylinder seals were "...were a related form of early typography..."

"Ingot stamping came much later (2,500 odd years) in Lydia in Anatolia."

Are you certain of that?
"...the invention credited to the Lydians is coined money..."
Yes. You are absolutely correct Ma.
"...The author above seems to be talking though only about bars and ingots, of which I am rather certain that they must be much older."
Yep. Right again.
Johnbod, if ingot stamping came 2,500 years after ca 3000 BC, that would place ingot stamping at ca 500 BC. Doesn't tally with ancient history which has Greeks minting coins in 650 BC. Stamped ingots as currency must have appeared sooner than coins. Ma, you're right.
"...the earliest Lydian/greek "coins" were small ingots of Electrum (gold/silver alloy) with little attempt to shape them into coins, so I think that is what he is talking about..."
Nope (with all respect).
Arbo talk 16:39, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm now totally confused, & slightly alarmed with the way you play fast & loose quoting my comments. "2,500 odd years" after "about 3,000 BC" is 650BC in my book. The distinction between currency and coinage seems dubious & none of the books I have on Greek coinage mention any earlier ingots from Sumer. It would be nice if you could give us a quote directly from your sourceJohnbod 00:22, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Used today[edit]

A small point, but there's a bit in the article that says JG used the same mix of metals "still used today". should that not be "used until very recently" or "until the end of movable type printing" or something. I have handset metal type myself, but I am the last of the Mohicans (It was very difficult - I think carving a woodblock might have been easier....) Johnbod 02:20, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

used through the 20th century. (?) Is the art still taught, even if not used? I know some libraries and some historical reconstructions maintain working presses, but this may not be real "use"
actually looking at Letterpress printing (!! yet another article) it seems to continue as a craft & for small presses etc, so I'm happy with the article text as it is. Johnbod 20:15, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
EB (entry 'printing') says: Spectroscopic analyses of early type pieces reveal that the alloy used was a mix of lead, tin and antimony - the same components used today: tin, because lead alone would have oxidized rapidly and in casting would have deteriorated the lead mold matrices; antimony, because lead and tin alone would have lacked durability. Gun Powder Ma 23:25, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
Ma, my point was - is anybody actually still using movable type today? But (see above)I'm satisfied they are. Johnbod 23:59, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
"today" in such expressions is not intended to be taken literally. I suggest we leave this alone, since it is likely to confuse nobody. DGG 01:30, 3 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, movable type using letterpress technology is still taught and used today for commercial paying print jobs. It's a most healthy and living art that never died. Living typographers at typophile and typographica will confirm this, as will any of the dozens of letterpress operators keeping the craft alive.
Arbo talk 01:41, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Wooden movable type[edit]

The invention of wooden movable type: a later interpolation?[edit]

As with most aspects of early Asian movable type printing, we find with the supposed introduction of wooden movable type by Wang Cheng a great deal of uncertainties involved. The question is whether the supposed invention of movable type by Wang Cheng does not in fact constitute a much later interpolation:

In discussing the history of movable type in China, Professor Carter translates a text said to have been written in 1314 the Mongol dynasty by Wang Cheng; this text, however, is preserved only in an appendix to a work on agriculture by this author edited in the K'ien-lung period (1736-95). Carter reproduces from this book the illustration of a revolving wheel alleged to have been contrived by Wang Cheng as a type-setting device in 1314, but here he remarks cautiously, "Whether this illustration goes back to the original edition of 1314 or whether it is a reconstructiou by K'ien-lung's editors, is uncertain." But this suspicion is ripe for the whole text: the wooden movable types ascribed to Wang Cheng are strikingly similar to a font of wooden types made under K'ienlung in 1773 for printing the catalogue of his library (not mentioned by Carter), and there is a well-illustrated Chinese book extant which describes the various stages in the manufacture of this type. There are striking coincidences between the descriptions of this book and those of Wang Cheng, and a critical comparison of the two texts would probably clear up the problem in part. (The Invention of Printing in China and Its Spread Westward, Review Author: B. Laufer, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 47. (1927), p. 72f.)

What has more recent scholarship found out about this? Gun Powder Ma 15:26, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

No idea? Gun Powder Ma 12:31, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

"Movable wooden blocks" is nonsense[edit]

From Gun Powder's edit summary: [3] AFAIK wooden movable type appeared only in the early 14th century; "movable wooden blocks" is nonsense.

I agree. Movable wooden blocks is nonsense. That's why I took the scenario out of the text in my recent edit. It was the result of an honest mistake. Now you've put it back in with a citation request.

Can you help us understand why you've restored information which you, myself and other editors are skeptical of—and then asked for a reference for it?[4]

This seems like irrational and disruptive behaviour, a breach of WP's code of civility, so please desist.
Arbo talk 01:17, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Calm down. I provided sources for both the dating of wooden movable type (see above) and the unsuitability of ceramic types for large-scale printing. Please provide in future yourself sources in order to improve the article. Regards Gun Powder Ma 16:40, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Like I'm worked-up. Nah, you won't jump to that conclusion so readily in future. When I see suspicious edits made by an editor (GPM) with a history of disrupting Wikipedia to make a point, using WP as a soapbox, attempting to contribute original research, and editing with wanton disregard and disrespect for readers, WP policies, principals and guidelines, and the efforts of other editors—I naturally question the nature of it with vigor.

Regardless of the intention and motivation behind your edits, the effect is one of disruption. Here's a demonstration of how it works:

  1. First, without discussing your rationale, you replaced the movable wooden type scenario [5] and asked for a citation for it—after I removed the movable wooden type scenario with explanation on the talk page. In the same edit you removed two citations inserted by me with no rationale whatsoever for removing them.
  2. Then you rephrased the information about movable wooden type while retaining its meaning and removed the citation request [6] on the same day you posted the reference to movable wooden type above and declared movable wooden blocks "nonsense", but did not add the citation to the passage in the article.
  3. These contradictory actions cause me to write this detailed analysis and critique.
  4. The net effect is disruption, and provocation of near-incivility in me. Your actions appear lined with subterfuge and designed to provoke outrage and opposition. It's uncivil:

Wikipedia:Civility#When and why does it happen?: "Most of the time, insults are used in the heat of the moment during a longer conflict. They are essentially a way to end the discussion. Often the person who made the insult regrets having used such words afterwards. This in itself is a good reason to remove (or refactor) the offending words.

"In other cases, the offender is doing it on purpose: either to distract the "opponent(s)" from the issue, or simply to drive them away from working on the article or even from the project, or to push them to commit an even greater breach in civility, which might result in ostracism or banning. In those cases, it is far less likely that the offender will have any regrets and apologize.

"Some editors deliberately push others to the point of breaching civility, without seeming to commit such a breach themselves. This may constitute a form of trolling, and is certainly not a civil way to interact."

Since I did not contribute the above source on movable wooden type, and have no knowledge of its providence or its reliability, it is inappropriate and contraindicated for me to add the reference. That task is your responsibility, as you're the editor who wants the information on movable wooden type in the article.

Or do you? Make a decision and stick with it. Think of the readers. As a Wikipedian you are not here to play with article text(s) to please yourself—as you have done and continue to do wantonly—the texts you edit are for the benefit of readers, a benefit you have compromised more than any other Wikipedian I've met—by a very long margin.

If you do not commit the reference to the passage, the passage must be removed.

"...Please provide in future yourself sources in order to improve the article...."

Oh please, you'll have to try harder than that to put the onus on me, (I'm not intimidated but amused by such a weak, cheap shot) considering I provided the bulk of the article text and structure in the first place, complete with refs and pics. This isn't about me. It's about your recent edits and responsibility to reference them, and your obligation to cease disrupting the wiki.

Thanks for providing the ref for the unsuitability of ceramic types.
Best regards, Arbo talk 20:07, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

What is meant by "unauthorized edit"?[edit]

Gun Powder your edit summary "Reverted unauthorized manipulation of past talk by user Arboghast" here: [7]. What does an "unauthorized" edit mean?

I am allowed to edit my own uncivil comments and poor etiquette, which I did here [8], and you reverted using what reads as ad absurdum argument. Wikipedians are also encouraged to refactor the uncivil behaviour of others (yours and mine, and anyone else's on this page), and in extreme cases to remove it. Please read: Wikipedia:No personal attacks and Wikipedia:Civility.

This is a wiki, with complete openness and freedom to edit—within reason, in good faith. It is widely-established practice that Wikipedians are allowed to refactor their own comments on talk pages and remove uncivil behaviour and personal attacks by others, as a way of taking back things said in the heat of a moment of dispute. All top admins and Wikipedians refactor, including Mongo and Jimbo Wales. Please make an effort to be civil. Forgive and forget past disputes, and cease repeatedly inciting incivility on this project as you have done. Thanks!

Have a great day!
Arbo talk 08:01, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

My apologies, but I was mistakenly under the impression that you have edited also parts of my text to which my "unauthorized" refered. However, I do not think that it is appropiate to re-edit discussions, at least not on a regular basis, since this obviously distorts the conversation as it was made by you and as I reacted to it. To take the action away with the reaction remaining may convey a misleading impression to third parties about the real course of our discussion. Regards Gun Powder Ma 14:45, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

reediting discussion[edit]

The way to apologize for uncivil behavior on an article talk page is to use strikethrough, not delete.

Wikipedia:Civility#When and why does it happen?: "Often the person who made the insult regrets having used such words afterwards. This in itself is a good reason to remove (or refactor) the offending words."
Arbo talk 20:33, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

editing text[edit]

It is perfectly in order for one editor to ask another for help in adding sources. We are not debating the issue itself--that would be OR & if we want to do that I can find a wiki where we can all enjoy ourselves without disrupting WP. I am continuing to assume that we want to add all the relevant verifiable fact we can find, and all the relevant opinion from reputable sources, and we should be helping each other do this. If we disagree with our authorities, we help each other to find other authorities on the opposite view. Let's get back to this.

I really object to the time spent in discussing specific wording. it is particularly hard to find appropriate wording for a one or two sentence statement in the lede and therefore controversies difficult to summarize should be left for later in the article.
I do not think any of us now doing it are more than amateurs--and the reason I say this is the difficulty we find getting sources, which if true experts we would have immediately at hand. But as not all of WP users can read east Asian languages, I think it reasonable to insist that souces in that language have the relevant parts translated. and a key sentence included from each source used.
if doing it in a cooperative way proves impossible, I will change the title to movable type in west europe, and put all discussions of EA in the separate article.

All. Just a note each time: for similar discoveries/work in EA, see or for possible connections, see: and then in EA every last single view we can find and summarize goes in. If the facts are contradictory, we let them all stand. It is not we who have the responsibility of preparing s synthesis--just of preparing a report. I don't want to edit so as to disrupt a consensus, but if there is no consensus...

I have not been able this month to have the time I need to add sources, but I will be, and it will be the easier if things already found are left in. Perhaps the clearest way do discuss such details is to add in line comments.
see you guys in '07. DGG 07:06, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Cheers David. Yes, it's quicker and easier to talk in inline comments because we don't have to sign with four tildes (the edit summary records user ID of each edit), and more accurate because inline comments can be placed adjacent to the relevant passage in the article.
Arbo talk 20:40, 12 December 2006 (UTC)


Arbo, please spell out what this consists of. Thank youJohnbod 00:23, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Can you help me understand what you mean by "Contradiction"? Thankyou—Arbo talk 13:42, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
I think you had placed a contradiction tag on the article without explaining why. Water under the bridge now. Johnbod 14:24, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Ligature picture[edit]

Please see the discussion about possible inaccuracy of captioning of the s/i ligature picture at Image talk:Fi garamond sort 001.png

Notthe9 18:43, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

sources needed[edit]

The material in the entire punchcutting section has no sources give. Further, the first two paragraphs of the woodblock section have no sources. It is possible they became lost due to earlier rapid changes back and forth. Can anyone help?DGG 05:48, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

Bad interwiki[edit]

As far as I understand, ALL the interwiki links here are wrong because they all link to foreign versions of Typography article. This can be mechanically checked by the way. I'll remove Russian link, as this is the only text I can fully understand and I am sure that it's "off topic". Alex Kapranoff 22:34, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Message on the Picture[edit]

On the picture next to the Movable Type heading, there are words that say,

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs and feels if he were in the seventh heaven of typography together with Hermann Zapf, the most famous artist to the..."

Pretty Neat

To Gunpowder Ma[edit]

I just added Wang Zhen's (or Wang Chen) link to wooden movable type in China. His info can be found in his article. So there will be no more dispute. Period.--PericlesofAthens 01:28, 5 May 2007 (UTC)


I do not see the point of duplication of quotes here with HTEA. In fact, I do not see the point of having the same sections here as in HTEA-- but if keeping it here will keep the peace, OK with me. DGG 05:21, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

Languages (other wikipedias)[edit]

Aren't all other languages articles linking to typography? --Absinthe88 22:28, 27 June 2007 (UTC)

yes, that's because a year ago all this material was in a jumble under that heading in enWP. They havent kept up. There is no automatic way of doing this between the different WP editions. DGG (talk) 09:27, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

movable type only[edit]

This is not the article on woodblock printing. this is the article on movable type. It includes material on wood or ceramic or metal, wester or asian. But not about thins that are not the use of movable type. do not insert irrelevant material. We've discussd it before. Woodblock printing is a subject of the greatest relevance., But it has its own article. DGG (talk) 09:29, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Who is this guy from Haarlem?[edit]

I am currently proofreading "Paul and the printing press" by Sara Ware Bassett for Distributed Proofreaders.

It includes the following intriguing paragraphs:

"I read to-day," he announced to his father one evening, "that the printing press was invented by Lawrence Coster (or Lorenz Koster) of Haarlem. The book said that he went on a picnic with his family, and while idly carving his name on the trunk of a beech tree he conceived the idea that he might in the same way make individual letters of the alphabet on wooden blocks, ink them over, and thus print words."

Mr. Cameron listened attentively.

"Such is the old legend," he replied. "It is an interesting one and many persons believe it to this day. History, however, fails to bear out the tale. Instead, as nearly as we can find out, what Coster is really conceded to have done was not to invent printing but to be the first to make movable type, which was one of the greatest factors in the perfecting of the industry. Holland has done honor, and rightly, to the inventor by placing a statue of him at Haarlem; but the real inventor of printing was probably John Gutenburg, a native of Strasburg, who made a printing press which, although not so elaborate as that in present use, was nevertheless a properly constructed one. Simple as it was the principle of it is identical with that used to-day."

"That is curious, isn't it?" observed Paul.

"Yes. Think how long ago it was; from

1440 to 1460 he toiled at his invention....

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Cimon Avaro (talkcontribs) 21:25, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

Ahem, sorry about forgetting to sign. In any case, who is this guy from Haarlem, and does hemerit a mention in the article about movable type? -- Cimon Avaro; on a pogostick. (talk) 21:29, 24 February 2008 (UTC)
The tale of Lorenz Coster is well-known to scholars of movable type and typography as the tale of a supposed rival (to Gutenburg) inventor of printing with movable type—and nothing more than a tale. Only Coster's story survives. No equipment, drawings, designs or records of Coster's supposed invention exist. For those reasons there seems no point mentioning him in this article. Arbo talk 07:07, 28 February 2008 (UTC)
Well, a little more than the tale, if it is true they erected a statue to him... ;) -- Cimon Avaro; on a pogostick. (talk) 14:26, 28 February 2008 (UTC)
  • No equipment, drawings, designs & hardly any records of Gutenberg's survive either, though of course many copies of his well-financed luxury books do. Given the paucity of evidence of the production details of the numerous and popular blockbooks of the same period, such lack of documentation cannot in itself make the Coster story implausible. A short mention may be appropriate. Johnbod (talk) 15:23, 28 February 2008 (UTC)
I am not opposed to this article mentioning Coster, as long as the text dealing with him is accurate and unbiased in and of itself. Whoever wants to put him in there, go ahead. I am not interested in working on this article but will contribute to the editing discussion here on the talk page.
Cimon Avaro---your reasoning that if "they" erected a statue to Coster then the tale of his having invented movable type must be a little more than a tale, is non sequiter flawed logic. Erection of the statue of Coster does not prove any historical fact of Coster having invented a movable type system.
Johnbod---"...hardly any records of Gutenburg's survive either..." is not true. Technical records of his invention are almost non-existent, but court records from Mainz exist and are the principal proof of Gutenburg's invention. Almost everything else relating to Gutenburg's activities is inferred from the court records and printed articles attributed to him or his business successors (Fust, Shoeffer et al). By contrast, no technical records, no court records and no printed articles attributed to Coster are known to exist. That's a substantial difference as far as records go, surely. ----Arbo talk 14:38, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
The fact he failed (as far as we know) to have a legal dispute with a business partner is hardly convincing proof of his not being a printer. Many blockbook editions, from Coster's presumed mileu, survive in only a single copy, and many others are presumed not to have survived at all, like the great majority of prints from the period. I never said there was not "a substantial difference as far as records go". You were the one who raised all those forms of evidence that are actually missing for Gutenburg as well. Johnbod (talk) 15:32, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm not inclined to go on arguing with you after this post Johnbod, because you are twisting the points I have made and twisting my rationale. "The fact he failed (as far as we know) to have a legal dispute with a business partner is hardly convincing proof of his not being a printer." I never said it was. I only said that the court records of Gutenburg's business activities are the principal proof of his invention, and that by contrast no court records attributed to Coster are known to exist. You're reading between those two points and putting words into my mouth. Please desist.
"Many blockbook editions, from Coster's presumed mileu, survive in only a single copy, and many others are presumed not to have survived at all, like the great majority of prints from the period." How does that evidence relate to Coster's supposed movable type invention? You're talking about printed articles of some kind that were printed by single page block? Doesn't sound like movable type printing. How many is "many"? "Many" is a well-known weasle word at Wikipedia. You need to come up with precise figures. And what is meant by "from Coster's presumed mileu"? Are these articles attributed to Coster, or are they attributed to his circle of coworkers?
"I never said there was not "a substantial difference as far as records go"." I never said that you did say that. I simply made the point that there is a substantial difference in the amount of evidence pertaining to Gutenburg compared to that for Coster. Full stop. "You were the one who raised all those forms of evidence that are actually missing for Gutenburg as well." Yes, I did raise those forms of evidence. So what? I don't mind. The absence of them does not bother me.
If you wish to add material about Coster to the article, please go ahead. I will not be joining the edit process. I will not return to this section of the talk page to continue arguing with you either. I'm busy completing a typeface and getting it ready for release. I bear you no animosity, but I do think you are making irrational arguments and possibly allowing your emotions to override your powers of logical reasoning. That's not a personal attack, just an honest observation for your benefit. Instead of talking to me about Coster, editing the article text would be more productive.
Arbo talk 18:38, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Yawn - do keep your hair on. I take no position on the Coster question, and will leave others to judge who is twisting what, and overcome by emotion. I was merely pointing out that in the circumstances of Coster absence of evidence is unconvincing as evidence of absence. If Coster had been printing books for a similar market to that for blockbooks, it is not inherently implausible that none have survived. By mileu I meant time and place, as well as possibly the much more populistic market of the blockbooks, whose many buyers did not have nice dry libraries to keep their books in. Johnbod (talk) 18:46, 21 April 2008 (UTC)
Coster deserves a mention, and an article about him. Try a paragraph. It's not the bare fact that Gutenberg is mentioned in the court documents that proves his work, but what is said there about the course of his devleopment of the process Blockbooks survived. Other prototypography has survived. Coster's putative work did not. That doesn't prove he didn't do any, but it hardly proves he did. "Might have" is not evidence. Neither is the mention in the work cited above. Either use a modern source or make clear the reference is old & not confirmed by 20th century work. DGG
We have always had the article: Laurens Janszoon Coster. Johnbod (talk) 04:16, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

Total Western Bias[edit]

What is up with the total western bias in this article? I have not been back here for a few months and I can not believe that although the Chinese invented movable type 400 years before Gutenberg, it is not even mentioned once until about the 11th paragraph. I thought when I had left editing about this info, it was in good hands, people that were rational, smart and playing fair.

Please be honest with yourselves. Can you honestly tell me that if some white guy had invented something, even if it was less effective, 400 years before the Chinese "invent" it, that white guy's name would not be mentioned first in an article like this? and not buried way down in the 11th paragraph?

Even the article on the Printing Press is less bias than this article and it seems pretty clear that while the Chinese invented movable type 400 years before Gutenburg, they did not invent the printing press. This makes NO sense!

By the time Gutenburg "invented" movable type, the Chinese and Koreans had printed hundreds and hundreds of items using movable type. While I completely agree that Gutenburg's printing press surpassed these earlier inventions, the Chinese and Korean use was not some limited one off invention. Please read the good article on Wang Zhen. It talks about wooden and bronze movable type being commonly used in China into the 19th c. (clearly not related to Gutenburg's "invention"). It was used by local academies, local government offices, by wealthy local patrons of printing, and the large Chinese commercial printers located in the cities of Nanjing, Suzhou, Changzhou, Hangzhou, Wenzhou, and Fuzhou. It was used for novels, art, science and technology, family registers, and local gazettes. The article on Wang Zhen even mentions wooden movable type receiving officially sponsored by the imperial court at Beijing, and being widespread amongst private printing companies.

White Krane (talk) 18:27, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

It is rather ridiculous, and contrary to WP:LEAD, that there is no mention in the lead, since there is good coverage lower down. Johnbod (talk) 22:25, 20 April 2008 (UTC)
I'll look again for balance. It's in the article adequately. And there's even a separate article on the history of printing in Asia. DGG (talk) 23:34, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
The lead para can hardly be claimed to summarize the article as it stands. Johnbod (talk) 23:49, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
So change it. Edit the article.Arbo talk 07:53, 24 April 2008 (UTC)
the necessary proportion to be observed is that a/they were independent traditions. Neither Chinese nor Western wooden type were a precursor to Gutenberg. And b/ that in China after their invention they were not the predominant method. Block print continued to be the usual method of book printing until the introduction of Western methods. DGG (talk) 20:32, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

While it is true that neither Chinese nor Western wooden type (movable) were direct, connected precursors to Gutenberg's invention, they are nonetheless part of the story of movable type, part of the history of developments that led eventually to the advent of movable type in Europe. That they are not directly connected to Gutenberg, that's the way history unfolds in some instances. The ancient peoples who invented the letterpunch in all likelihood did not forsee its later use as the key unit in a movable type system. Many separate inventions constitute the prehistory of movable type, and it should not be surprizing they were an unconnected series of events. In other words, So what if they were independent traditions? This isn't a narrative about connected traditions. It's a history, preferably with a neutral view of its subject.

Your personal bias in favour of Gutenberg and bias against Eastern movable type inventions is blatant and plain for all to see — Arbo talk 05:54, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

Mr. Arboghast, this article is very far from NPOV. This is now an article that very clearly advocates for an Asian-centric view of the history of type, even though the use of movable type in Asia was far less common than other forms of printing for centuries after movable type became the primary form of printing in Europe (because the size of typesets for Asian languages is so much greater). A balanced article would have an introduction mentioning both Asian and European inventions, and a body that would begin with the Asian innovations, then explain why movable type did not catch on as quickly in China and Korea, and then finish with a discussion of the development of movable type in Europe and why it did catch on quickly - a discussion that is as long at least as the discussion of Asia. The reality is that movable type had far greater influence on European history than it did on Asian history, while the "balance" of your article suggests otherwise. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:54, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

Eastern bias[edit]

It is clear that as the article now stands it is as far from NPOV as the moon. Movable type was in fact scarcely used in the Far East, were there more than 1.000 titles ever printed from movable type? I hardly count more than a few dozen before Gutenberg. By comparison, there are 30.000 extant titles from 15th century Europe alone and this was really only the beginning. Estimations of the European output reach from 10-20 million volumes (=copies) in the 15th century to 150-200 million in the 16th century. Out of European movable type printing modern phenomenon like the newspaper and public opinion evolved in Europe. By contrast, there was no typographic media revolution, no printing revolution in the East and when the printing press was finally introduced in the 19th century, movable type printing was viewed as a completely new invention by the Chinese so little had it actually been used. If the article aspires to only approach NPOV, its contents need to be balanced to reflect the diverging paths of movable type technology in West and East. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:15, 28 February 2011 (UTC)

Small correction. One count has a total of 100 Chinese "books" printed with movable type for the Ming period (1369-1644) and 2.500 "titles" for the length of the Manchu dynasty (1644-1911). That is less than one tenth of the number of extant incunables, European titles printed with movable type between ca. 1440 and 1501 alone. Considering the exponential growth of Gutenberg-style printing in the following centuries, not to mention of the vastly more productive steam-powered and rotary printing presses of the 19th century, we may easily arrive at an output ratio of 1000:1 books printed by movable type. This should give us some quantitative measure for weighing the relative impact on the West and Far East and for balancing the article accordingly. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 16:30, 28 February 2011 (UTC)

Position of J and U in job case?[edit]

Capital J and Capital U appear at the end of the capitals alphabet.

In 2008 while attending WMSTR in Rollag, MN, and touring their printing press historical building with operating linotypes and a whole lineup of early hand presses, the person discussing the history of the equipment was telling me that J and U appear at the end of the alphabet in the job case, because those letters either didn't exist or weren't commonly used when Johannes Gutenberg first invented his movable type system.

And what with legacy system designs often living far beyond their original usefulness, nobody ever had the willingness to reorder Gutenberg's original typeface positions in the job case since that would mess up the system that typesetters have been memorizing for some 400+ years hence.

The reason the letters appear at the end of the alphabet is because the slots around the perimeter of the job case were apparently reserved for "miscellaneous" type symbols that were useful to the typesetter, and over time the new letters took over these misc slots.

This explanation makes much more sense than the current text which suggests they are there to prevent confusion of shape with I and V, since they are clearly different and not mirror images and inversions like the lowercase d b q.

I have been wanting to add this to this page for a long time but I am not a historian of typesetting so I don't have any reliable sources other than what this person told me. However, doing research within Wikipedia does seem to bear this out:

  • Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type press around 1439
  • English letter J: 1478-1550 first distictions noted
  • English letter U: mid 1386 first use, mid 1500s more commonplace

Searching Google for possible sources isn't turning up anything relevant to typesetting job cases at all. DMahalko (talk) 19:25, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

Discrepancy in the Article[edit]

From the intro: 'The earliest known movable type system for printing invented in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty (around 1230).' Later in the article: 'The first known movable type system for printing was created in China around 1040 AD by Bi Sheng (990–1051).'

Clearly, someone has missed something (or added something that shouldn't have been there). Since 1040 is a smaller number than 1230, I'm inclined to think that the first sentence must be wrong... Can someone please change it? dawhipsta (talk) 19:34, 17 April 2010 (UTC)

I see what the problem is now... never mind —Preceding unsigned comment added by Whipster (talkcontribs) 19:36, 17 April 2010 (UTC)


This word appears in the second paragraph. It doesn't exist. I expect the author meant 'extant'. (talk) 07:54, 13 December 2012 (UTC)

Prüfening dedicatory inscription[edit]

If this article mentions precursors as far removed as the Phaistos Disc, shouldn't it also mention medieval European precursors as evidenced by the Prüfening dedicatory inscription? See also Typography#History, which, even as a summary, is more complete. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 12:30, 30 November 2013 (UTC)

Is 1377 the oldest extant print with movable metal type or 1234?[edit]

The Wiki article shows that 1377 is the date of the Jikjisim Sutra, published by the Heungdeoksa Temple in Cheongju, under the long title of Baegunhwasang Chorok-buljo Jikjisimche Yojeol. However, on p. 56 of Science and Technology in Korean History: Excursions, Innovations, and Issues by Park Seong-rae, the first mention of Korea's movable metal type printing is found by Yi Gyubo (1168-1241) to the effect that fifty volumes of Detailed Rituals of the Old and New were published in 1234 with metal types for distribution among government offices. Does this not lead us to suspect that 1234 predates 1377 as the first text via movable type? Snowfalcon cu (talk) 22:27, 17 February 2015 (UTC)