The history of printing starts as early as 3000 BC, when the proto-Elamite and Sumerian civilizations used cylinder seals to certify documents written in clay tablets. Other early forms include block seals, hammered coinage, pottery imprints, and cloth printing. Initially a method of printing patterns on cloth such as silk, woodblock printing for texts on paper originated in China by the 7th century during the Tang dynasty, leading to the spread of book production and woodblock printing in other parts of Asia such as Korea and Japan. The Chinese Buddhist Diamond Sutra, printed by woodblock on 11 May 868, is the earliest known printed book with a precise publishing date. Movable type was invented by Chinese artisan Bi Sheng in the 11th century during the Song dynasty, but it received limited use compared to woodblock printing. Nevertheless, the technology spread outside China, as the oldest printed book using metal movable type was the Jikji, printed in Korea in 1377 during the Goryeo era.
Woodblock printing was also used in Europe until the mid-15th century. Late medieval German inventor Johannes Gutenberg created the first printing press based on previously known mechanical presses and a process for mass-producing metal type. By the end of the 15th century his invention and widescale circulation of the Gutenberg Bible became responsible for a burgeoning economical book publishing industry across Renaissance Europe and eventually among the colonial publishers and printers that emerged in the British-American colonies. This industry enabled the communication of ideas and sharing of knowledge on an unprecedented scale, leading to the global spread of the printing press during the early modern period. Alongside the development of text printing, new and lower-cost methods of image reproduction were developed, including lithography, screen printing and photocopying.