A Brief History of Printing Within The UK

14th March 2017

The history of printing is rich with cultural traditions and modern technological advances and can be dated back to as early as 200 AD in China, where they used wooden blocks to print on textiles and paper. Throughout the centuries, printing has been picked up by different cultures and used widely across the world, and has slowly developed into the types of printing that we use today.


Printing in England was believed to have been started by a young entrepreneur named William Caxton, who was born in Kent and had moved to Bruges in Germany in 1446. His brief trip to Cologne was during Germany’s rapidly advancing printing industry where he had witnessed their intelligent and innovative printing techniques. He swiftly set up his own printing business and printed his first English language textbook in 1473. Upon his return to the UK in 1476, he started his own press in Westminster and continued his printing endeavours, forming the history of printing within England. Caxton was renowned for printing romantic fiction and classical works including history textbooks.


William Caxton was credited with forming the basis of the English language through his printed textbooks. He was believed to have expanded English vocabulary and the use of grammar and accents. Another icon in the history of printing was William Caslon, who in the early 1700s was designing typefaces for British press companies due to his ability to engrave barrels and gun locks with inventive typefaces. His work gained recognition for its creativity and later became hugely popular, with the United States using his typeface on the first printed version of the Declaration of Independence.


The use of printing gained huge momentum during the Victorian era where are a number of advances allowed printing to be made for the masses. The development of steam processes was an iconic moment in the history of printing as it allowed for huge numbers of papers to be printed. During the early 1900s, Eric Gill produced a number of iconic and popular typefaces including Gill Sans and Perpetua, both of which remain popular today and are used amongst small printers in England.

Modern Age

Digital printing remains the most popular use of printing to date with a variety of printing techniques available, including laserjet, LED, toners, electro-ink and much more. Predicting which type of printing will dominate the coming years is tough, as constant technological advances allow for easier and faster printing.

If you require any printing services then please call Print and Digital on 01543 415860 or fill out our contact form and our friendly and helpful team will be happy to assist.