Movable type

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Movable type is the system of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document (usually individual letters or punctuation). The world's first known movable-type system for printing was created in China around 1040 AD by Bi Sheng (990–1051) during the Song Dynasty; then the metal movable-type system for printing was made in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty (around 1230). This led to the printing of the Jikji in 1377—today the oldest extant movable metal print book.

Neither movable-type system was widely used, probably because of the enormous amount of labour involved in manipulating the thousands of ceramic tablets, or in the case of Korea, metal tablets. Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg introduced what is generally regarded as an independent invention of movable type in Europe (see printing press), along with innovations in casting the type based on a matrix and hand mould. Gutenberg was the first to create his type pieces from an alloy of lead, tin and antimony—the same components still used today.[1]

Compared to woodblock printing, movable-type pagesetting was quicker and more durable for alphabetic scripts. The metal type pieces were more durable and the lettering was more uniform, leading to typography and fonts. The high quality and relatively low price of the Gutenberg Bible (1455) established the superiority of movable type, and printing presses rapidly spread across Europe, leading up to the Renaissance, and later all around the world. Today, practically all movable-type printing ultimately derives from Gutenberg's movable-type printing, which is often regarded as the most important invention of the second millennium.[2]

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