Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Block printing is a form of printing first developed in China. The earliest known example with an actual date is a copy of the Diamond Sutra from 868 A.D (currently in the British Museum), though the practice of block printing is probably about two thousand years old.
The first step in block printing is the production of the original document. This is laid on a large, smooth wooden block and fixed into place, reversed. Next, craftsmen of various skill levels, ranging from master carvers for the fine work to less talented artisans for cheaper blocks or less important sections, carve the original painted, drawn or written image into the block of wood. The block can now be covered with ink and used in a press to create duplicates of the original.
In some ways block printing is superior to cast type or moveable type -- for a language such as Chinese which has a very broad character set, block prints are much cheaper to produce for the initial run. The process also allows greater artistic freedom, such as the easy inclusion of pictures and diagrams. However, printing blocks are not very durable, and deteriorate very rapidly with use, requiring constant replacement which limits the possibility of large-scale print runs.
Block printing can also refer to a style of calligraphy.
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