The production of books in great quantity had to await the mechanical processes of printing from movable type. Printing was invented in China, where the first book printed by means of woodblocks is thought to date from the 9th cent. Korea developed movable metal type during the 13th cent. In the West movable metal type was developed by Johann Gutenberg of Mainz, and to a very large extent the history of the book is henceforth the history of printing.
Book production developed very rapidly, the craft becoming enormously sophisticated by the 16th cent. Italian printers set the standards of format and quality retained in Europe until the 19th cent. Great printing houses also arose in France and the Netherlands and, after a general decline in the 17th cent., in England and the United States. The 19th cent. witnessed machine replacement of all the old manual processes. By the end of the century printing quality had been so debased that a revolution, led by William Morris during the arts and crafts movement in England, was necessary to restore the concept of beauty to bookmaking.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.