The earliest books were printed using hand printing technology which was first developed in China, Japan and Korea. In ancient China skilled woodblock carvers started printing books from AD 594 onwards.
Paper was rubbed on the inked surface of woodblocks and then pages were stitched to form a traditional Chinese ‘accordion book’. This was also known as the hand printing.
A century later, urban culture bloomed in China which introduced reading as a leisure activity. They wanted to read a variety of books such as, fictional narratives, poetry, autobiographies, anthologies of literary masterpieces, and romantic plays. Mechanical presses from the Western countries were introduced in China.
In AD 868, the Japanese printed their first book ─ Diamond Sutra. An interesting art form called ukiyo emerged in Japan, introduced by painter Kitagawa Utamaro.
In the 13th century, the hand-printing technology was introduced in Europe with the Chinese paper travelling to Europe via the silk route. In 1295, Marco Polo returned to Italy with the knowledge of woodblock printing technology.
In the 1430s printing press was invented by Johann Gutenberg in Germany. The first book he printed was the Bible. Between 1450 and 1550, printing presses were established in most of the European countries.