Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, right? Wrong. Bi Sheng invented moveable printing blocks in China 400 years earlier.
You probably know that the Chinese language doesn't use our 26 Roman alphabet letters (A, B, C). Chinese uses thousands of symbols and each symbol represents a word. Our phonetic alphabet letters each represent a sound, so we can combine C and A and T to write CAT. We can write a B instead of a C and make BAT. Chinese is written in logograms, where each symbol represents a whole word. So....
.. you can't just combine 26 blocks in different ways to make all the words, you need a separate block for each and every single word. So instead of this......
...you'd need this:
I got this image of a wall of modern Chinese characters from the design blog idsgn.org
In Bi Sheng's time, they had turntables like this:
Sometimes, as I'm researching these tablets, I find loads of images - photos, paintings, drawings of the subject. Other times, I really have to hunt for a few low-quality images, like these pathetic low-res images (above). There's a pattern: European and American images are abundant, other cultures much less. Here's some of the many, many images of early European printing presses:
These are the best images I could find of the typesetting tables in China..
Given the poor quality of the available images, photoshopping together the typesetting table needed for this tablet was a major challenge.
Once I had the table ready, it was simple to combine it with this image:
.....and a drawing of a Chinese typesetter:
...to create this design:
OK, let's finish this up on Wednesday.