type, for printing, was invented in China (c.1040), using woodblocks. Related devices, such as seals and stamps for making impressions in clay, had been used in ancient times in Babylon and elsewhere. Movable type made from metal molds was developed in Korea as early as the beginning of the 13th cent. However, there is no evidence that the European invention of movable type attributed to Johann Gutenberg was influenced by Eastern developments. The first dated printing from movable type in Europe is a papal indulgence, printed at Mainz in 1454. The first dated book printed from movable type was a psalter printed by Fust and Schöffer on the Gutenberg press at Mainz in 1457. Gutenberg's Mazarin Bible, completed at Mainz not later than 1455, is believed to be the first book printed in Europe from movable type. The type used in these beginnings of European printing was of the kind known as black letter or Gothic, represented now by such types as Old English and German. The forms of the letters were derived from popular handwriting styles.

Other styles suggested the letter forms of roman and italic type. Roman type was used by several printers before Nicolas Jenson so improved it as to ensure its triumph as the standard type. Italic type was first used by Aldus Manutius, who also introduced small capitals. Roman type is of two basic sorts, old style and modern. The modern type emphasizes the contrast between light and heavy lines and has conspicuous level serifs; the old style type keeps its lines of nearly the same weight and has inconspicuous serifs, some of them sloping. Qualities of old style and modern types are often combined. Into the mid-20th cent. type characters were usually made by pouring metal into previously cut matrices and, less frequently, by processes using plastics and other synthetic materials. Computerization of type design and photomechanical printing techniques have almost entirely replaced metal type. By the early years of the 21st cent. the computer had made the design of new styles of type, once an arduous task, a relatively simple process. Tens of thousands of type fonts are now in existence, and new styles of type are created on a nearly daily basis.

Famous designers of types include, in addition to those named above, Geofroy Tory, Claude Garamond, Robert Granjon, Christopher van Dyck, William Caslon, John Baskerville, Giambattista Bodoni, François Ambroise Didot, William Morris, Bruce Rogers, F. W. Goudy, and the contemporary American Matthew Carter.

See also typography.

See F. W. Goudy, Alphabet and Elements of Lettering (repr. 1922); H. Lehmann-Haupt, One Hundred Books about Bookmaking (1949); J. R. Biggs, An Approach to Type (2d ed. 1962); S. Carter, Twentieth-century Type Designers (1987); A. S. Lawson with D. Agner, Printing Types (rev. and expanded ed. 1990); W. P. Jaspert et al., Encyclopaedia of Type Faces (5th ed. 2001); D. B. Updike, Printing Types (4th ed. 2001); P. Baines and A. Haslam, Type and Typography (2002); M. Bierut, Seventy-nine Essays on Design (2007); J. Tholenaar and A. W. Purvis, Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles (2009). See also bibliography under typography.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Libraries, Books, and Printing