Still, the main method in use there remained woodblock printing (xylography), which "proved to be cheaper and more efficient for printing Chinese, with its thousands of characters".Copper movable type printing originated in China at the beginning of the 12th century.From top to bottom, left or right: cylinder seal of a scene, block used for woodblock printing, Korean movable type, printing press, lithograph press, offset press used for modern lithographic printing, linotype machine for hot metal typesetting, digital printer, 3D printer in action.

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By the ninth century, printing on paper had taken off, and the first extant complete printed book containing its date is the Diamond Sutra (British Library) of 868.

Printing spread early to Korea and Japan, which also used Chinese logograms, but the technique was also used in Turpan and Vietnam using a number of other scripts. Block printing, called tarsh in Arabic developed in Arabic Egypt during the ninth-tenth centuries, mostly for prayers and amulets.

Block printing first came to Europe as a method for printing on cloth, where it was common by 1300.

Images printed on cloth for religious purposes could be quite large and elaborate.

Though paper is the most common material, it is also frequently done on metals, plastics, cloth and composite materials.

On paper it is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing.

Sheng used clay type, which broke easily, but Wang Zhen by 1298 had carved a more durable type from wood.