Originally Answered: History report: Need help with the history of printing press?
A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring an image. The mechanical systems involved were first assembled in Germany by the goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, based on existing screw-presses used to press cloth, grapes, etc. and possibly prints. Gutenberg was the first in Western Europe to develop a printing press.
During the Renaissance era, printing methods based on Gutenberg's printing press spread rapidly throughout first Europe and then the rest of the world. It eventually replaced most versions of block printing, making it the most used format of modern movable type, until being superseded by the advent of offset printing.
The overall invention of Gutenberg's printing method depended for some of its elements upon a diffusion of technologies from China (East Asia), primarily the Chinese inventions and innovations of paper, in addition to a growing demand by the general European public for the lower cost paper books, instead of the exorbitantly expensive parchment books. By 1424, Cambridge University library owned only 122 books—each of which had a value equal to a farm or vineyard. The demand for these books was driven by rising literacy amongst the middle class and students in Western Europe. At this time, the Renaissance was still in its early stages and the populace was gradually removing the monopoly the clergy had held on literacy.
While woodblock printing had arrived in Europe at approximately the same time paper did, this method was not as suitable for literary communication as it was in the east. Block printing is well-suited to the ancient written Chinese because character alignment is not critical, but the existence of over 100,000 ancient characters and hieroglyphic symbols made the ancient Chinese movable type technology somewhat inefficient and economically impractical affecting the profits of the ancient Chinese book publishers. With the Latin alphabet, however, the need for precise alignment and a much simpler character set positioned movable type as a great advance for the west.
The use of a press was a key technological difference provided European book publishers increased profits over their ancient Chinese counterparts—the screw-based presses used in wine and olive oil production. Attaining mechanical sophistication in approximately 1000, devices for applying pressure on a flat-plane were common in Europe.