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A Very Short History of Print

Thursday, 02 January 2014 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

My next door neighbour’s child is a seven year old tech-savvy brat. You know the sort. He can reprogramme the operating system of an iPad and is the only one in the house who can operate the catch-up TV. So it was with interest that I saw that he had been given a “John Bull” printing outfit for Christmas. This is a series of small rubber letters, a wooden holder, together with a bottle of ink and a collection of coloured cards.

To begin with, I think it went down like the proverbial lead balloon, but once he had exhausted all the other electronic gifts, as well as exhausting his parents, he apparently turned to his new printing outfit with some curiosity, particularly since it didn’t have batteries or a USB port.

We were invited round on the day after Christmas for drinks with the neighbours and this gave him the opportunity to question me about his present, since he knew I was involved in printing with Landa and I had told him it was very high-tech. He wanted to know what on earth his John Bull outfit had got to do with our high-tech Nanographic Printing® process and was very persistent. So after a couple of glasses of mulled wine, I gave him a brief history of print and told him how we got from John Bull letters to Nanography®. Given that he was seven years old and I was on my third glass of mulled wine, we both had short attention spans, so if I remember correctly it went something like this:

Printing – from Backward Characters in a Holder to Squirting Ink onto Paper

I explained that printers started by putting metal letters backwards in a holder, putting ink on them and then pressing a piece of paper onto the letters – a sort of grown up John Bull printing. Some bright spark then discovered stones were porous and from there we moved quickly on to printing from right way round photographs onto wrong way round rubber blankets and right way round paper. Picking up one of the festive balloons that dotted the neighbours lounge, I then explained that the “Happy Christmas” was printed on them by a system that used joined up John Bull rubber letters and if he went to the fridge he would see lots of other examples.

Printing – from Backward Characters in a Holder to Squirting Ink onto Paper

On my fourth glass of mulled wine, I moved onto how his TV listings magazine was produced using rollers with the image scratched onto them and using a Christmas card as an example went through melting tiny bits of plastic onto paper and squirting ink out of a nozzle.

Since he was only seven and not drinking mulled wine, his interest had waned. I could see him eyeing his Xbox just as I was about to launch into my virtuoso explanation of Nanography, with microscopic drops of ink forming a thin polymer layer.

It was clear that he had enough of history lessons for this year. And my wife’s stern look from across the room indicated that she thought the same about my wine intake!

Landa S10 - Printing Press