At about 1045~1058, the movable type was invented by Bi Sheng in China. Bi Sheng was born in Shexian County and later moved to Bianliang, the capital of China during the Former Song Dynasty (960-1127). See also: Movable Type Printing in Qimen County
He invented it on the basis of reforming engraving type. At first he sawed wood into small pieces, then he lettered every small piece of wood to make movable Chinese characters. According to what charceters an article needed, he arranged the needed characters on an iron board. After printing, all these characters could be reused.
It did not take him much time to make 3000 characters in common use. Because it is hard to find a character from the whole characters, Sheng though of a method. He put the charcters in dozens of wood plates by their first parts of pronunciation.
At a later time, Bi Sheng also made movable characters from earth successfully. To be more efficient, he prepared two iron board. When one was for pinting, the other one could be used to arrange characters for next page or other articles. When the former printing was finished, people could used the latter one, which was already arranged, to continue printing. Then the characters on the former board were hitted to be moved down for reusing. By using the two boards alternately, people could print faster.
Bi Sheng prepared several movable characters for every character, even scores for some used very frequently, because sometime several were needed for the same character on one page. If a uncommon word was required, he could letter it very quickly and put it in a kiln to bake. This was also very convenient.
Compared to the printing in modern society, what Bi Sheng invented was simple, but it already had the main traits of movable typing: making movable letters, typesetting and printing.
Movable type is a reform in the history of printing. It has contributed much to human civilization. About 400 years later, Gutenberge invented the machine to make use of movable type. (see also: http://www.cgan.com/english/english/cpg/engcp20.htm)
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