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Print Comes to Europe

Initially silk and spices were exported from China to the European countries. During the eleventh century, Chinese paper entered Europe along with silk and spices.

The imported paper was used to prepare hand written manuscripts in Europe.

Marco Polo was a great explorer. He was in China for many years and he learnt the printing technology from the Chinese during his years of exploration. He returned to Italy in 1295 and introduced this new technology. Now Italians began producing books with woodblocks, and soon the technology spread to other parts of Europe.


Marco Polo

  Marco Polo’s Exploratory Route


Luxury editions were still handwritten on very expensive vellum. These expensive books were meant for the rich aristocrats.

Handwritten Manuscript on Expensive Vellum

As the demand for books increased all over the world, booksellers in Europe began exporting books to many countries.

  • Book fairs were held at different places.
  • Production of handwritten manuscripts was organised.
  • More than 50 scribes/ hand-writers often worked for one bookseller.
  • The demand for hand-written books slowly diminished. Copying by hand was expensive, laborious and time-consuming. These hand written manuscripts were fragile, awkward to handle, and could not be carried around or read easily. Woodblock printing gradually became more and more popular as the demand for books increased.

    In the early fifteenth century, woodblocks were being widely used in Europe to print textiles, playing cards, and religious pictures with simple, brief texts.

    As the need for books increased the need for faster, cheaper printing also increased . Johann Gutenberg developed the first-known printing press in the 1430s.

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