Chinese invented movable type 600 years before Gutenberg
May 17, 2012 | 9:11 am
By Paul Biba
This was too interesting to pass up. From an article in io9:
We don’t have any examples of the books he produced, but we do have a remarkable description of the mechanism he invented, from a contemporary of Bi’s named Shen Kua:
During the reign of Chingli, [1041–1048] Bi Sheng, a man of unofficial position, made movable type. His method was as follows: he took sticky clay and cut in it characters as thin as the edge of a coin. Each character formed, as it were, a single type. He baked them in the fire to make them hard. He had previously prepared an iron plate and he had covered his plate with a mixture of pine resin, wax, and paper ashes. When he wished to print, he took an iron frame and set it on the iron plate. In this he placed the types, set close together. When the frame was full, the whole made one solid block of type. He then placed it near the fire to warm it. When the paste [at the back] was slightly melted, he took a smooth board and pressed it over the surface, so that the block of type became as even as a whetstone.