For the best experience, please view this page on tablet or desktop.

Dots
Quill From Quill to Cartridge. A visual history of the evolution of printing.
Dots
The Printing Press
Printing

Of all the innovations of man, it is hard to identify any one invention that has had more of a profound impact on our personal and professional lives. The origins and evolution of printing date back millennia, and yet we continue to innovate printing technology to this day.

Join us as we explore a visual history from Quill to Cartridge.

Photo of a scribe
The printing press is invented in 1429 AD, helping to propel civilization toward an era of enlightenment.

The Diamond Sutra

Recognized as the world’s first printed book, the Diamond Sutra Scroll was printed in China during the T’ang Dynasty (868 AD).

Scroll
Scroll
Clay Tablet

iClay - The World's First Tablet

The Sumerians are largely considered the first civilization to invent writing for the purpose of language. Clay tablets with Sumerian writing date back to 3200 BCE.

The paper that we’re familiar with today spread from China via the Silk Road in 206 BCE.

Chinese Paper Craftswomen Chinese Paper Making

A History of Ink

The history of ink is not exact, but can be traced back to approximately 2,500 BCE. Both the Egyptians and Chinese used inks made from fine particles, gums and/or glues.

Dot Matrix Paper

Dot Matrix Method

Before 1984, the prevailing method of printing utilized a technology called the dot matrix method. This method wasn’t very convenient or dependable.

The Dot Matrix Printer The Dot Matrix Printer
Fortunately, some very smart people invented inkjet printers and printer ink cartridges, revolutionizing the printing world. Today, it is the method of choice for printing black and white documents, as well as color graphics and photos.
Ink Cartridges
Background

High Speed Single-pass Printing

The need for speed drove the development of new printing technologies. Today, high speed single-pass printing dominates the fields of industrial printing where high productivity is required.

Comparing Printing Speed

The original printing press was a game changer. For the first time, books could be mass produced, allowing knowledge and education to spread among a freshly literate populace. But imagine if the original printing press had the speed of modern digital inkjet printing. Let’s compare by exploring the time required to print some of history’s most iconic literary works.

Digital Inkjet

60,000 Pages Per Hour

Printing Press

25 Pages Per Hour

ANCIENT ERA

The Library of Alexandria
The Printing Press
The Gutenburg Bible
Bottom Scroll
Library of Alexandria

One of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world.

NUMBER OF SCROLLS: 400,000

EST. LENGTH PER SCROLL: 15 feet

Using digital inkjet technology, the entire collection of scrolls from the Library of Alexandria could be printed in 100 hours from one printer.

100

Hours

27

Years

The Gutenburg Bible Image

The first book to be produced in mass quantities.

LENGTH: 1,286 pages

NUMBER PRODUCED: 180 copies

Using digital inkjet technology, all 180 copies of the Gutenburg Bible could be printed in 3.86 hours by a single printer.

3.86

Hours

385

Days

Dots

RECENT ERA

The Farmers Almanac
The New York Times
The Shakespeares Folio
Farmers Almanac Book Image

The oldest continuously published periodical in North America.

LENGTH: 48 Pages

NUMBER PRODUCED: 9,000 copies

Using digital inkjet technology, all 9,000 copies of the 1793 edition could be printed in just 7.2 hours by a single printer.

7.2

Hours

720

Days

The New York Times Image

The largest metropolitan newspaper in the United States.

CIRCULATION: 1,356,800

Using digital inkjet technology, the front page of the Sunday issue of the New York Times could be printed in just 23 hours by a single printer.

23

Hours

6.2

Years

The Shakespeares Folio

A published collection of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays.

LENGTH: 866 pages

CIRCULATION: 750 copies

Using digital inkjet technology, all copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio could be printed in just 10.8 hours by a single printer.

10.8

Hours

2.9

Years

MODERN ERA

Harry Potter Books
Twitter Logos
Twitter Logos Action Comics Superman
Harry Potter Series

The bestselling book series of all time.

AVG. LENGTH: 603 pages

NUMBER SOLD: 500,000,000 copies

Using digital inkjet technology, all 500,000,000 copies of the Harry Potter books could be printed in 573 years by a single printer.

573

Years

1.3M

Years

Twitter

The Social Media giant Twitter averages just over 500,000,000 tweets a day.

LENGTH: 140 characters

AVG. NUM OF CHARACTERS PER PAGE: 3,838 characters

Using digital inkjet technology, one day’s worth of tweets could be printed in 12.7 days by a single printer.

12.7

Days

83

Years

Action Comics

The comic that featured the debut of Superman.

LENGTH: 68 Pages

COPIES SOLD: 200,000 copies

Using digital inkjet technology, all copies of Action Comics #1 could be printed in 9.4 hours by a single printer.

9.4

Hours

3.5

Years

Future possibilities of printing

A photo of a look inside future possibilities in the printing industry.

We've already begun to see where printing is heading. The future of print isn't going to be just data driven; it's already expanding into materials. 3D Printers are capable of recreating everything from circuit boards, to automobiles, to body parts.

The high speed digital single-pass printers of today can already print 1,000 feet per minute and more. Remember how your parents used to tell you stories about how time-consuming the typewriter was? Just imagine what speeds of printing our children will see.

Dots