Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing using a printing press, a process by which many copies are produced by repeated direct impression of an inked, raised surface against sheets or a continuous roll of paper. A worker composes and locks movable type into the “bed” or “chase” of a press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer the ink from the type which creates an impression on the paper.
In practice, letterpress also includes other forms of relief printing with printing presses, such as wood engravings, photo-etched zinc “cuts” (plates), and linoleum blocks, which can be used alongside metal type, or wood type, in a single operation, as well as stereotypes and electrotypes of type and blocks. With certain letterpress units it is also possible to join movable type with slugs cast using hot metal typesetting. In theory, anything that is “type high” or .918 inches can be printed using letterpress.
Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century until the 19th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century. Letterpress printing remained the primary way to print and distribute information until the twentieth century, whenoffset printing was developed, which largely supplanted its role in printing books and newspapers. All forms of data collection were affected by the invention of letterpress printing, as were many careers such as teachers, preachers, physicians and surgeons and artist-engineers. More recently, letterpress printing has seen a revival in an artisanal form.