A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink. Such devices have existed for a long time in Artograch, but the technology is still in infancy. Mass-printing of books is a relatively recent phenomenon - only one century old - and is heavily limited.
Even though more or less practical printing has existed in the Occident ever since the 8th century, the technology still hasn't completely caught on.
Woodblock printing Edit
Woodblock printing has existed in the Shár Empire ever since 1000 BEKE, and has also existed in the Occident since 100 AEKE. The surface that needs to be black/inked is left while surface that needs to be white/uninked is cut off from a piece of wood. The whole block is then put into ink, and pressured onto paper.
Ever since 300 AEKE, coloured woodblock printing has existed in the Shár Empire, making it into the Occident at around 500 AEKE.
Since this method of printing involves the long and laborious process of carving out wood, it was very rarely used for printing books - more often, it was used for printing individual scrolls or posters.
The page-stamp Edit
The page-stamp is the oldest, most expensive and most widespread method of printing, dating back to the Ancient Lizardman Empire, who wrote onto clay tablets and then used these clay tablets as molds, casting copper stamps that they then used to print to papyrus and parchment.
After the fall of the Ancient Lizardman Empire, this technology was revived around 150 BEKE in Froturn, but it did not become a big hit, due to its serious flaws: for every page one had to print, they had to have a cast stamp of the writing, which was deemed too expensive for books. This technique was used for printing out wanted-posters and scrolls, but very rarely books. Copies of the Book of Visions were printed with soft wax stamps.
Around 720 AEKE, in the Kingdom of Etrand, a new technique was pioneered that involved they would use massive amounts of wax, write into the wax - or magically track inked surfaces of a manuscript to "automatically" write into the way tablet - trim off the unnecessary bottoms of the wax, use the wax as a mould to slipcast the clay stamp. The wax is then melted to be reused to make more stamps, making it much cheaper to print books.
Essentially, this type of printing basically means the copying of a manuscript.
Movable type printing Edit
In the Occident, movable type printing was invented around 750 AEKE in Froturn (albeit quickly spread into Etrand and Artaburro), but it has existed ever since around 200 AEKE in the Shár Empire. Froturnish printers were dissatisfied with the Etrandish clay stamp-printing, and sought a way to print cheaper. Instead of whole stamps of pages, they decided to make individual letters out of clay or copper, mass-produce them, arrange them for printing pages.
Instead of putting the "stamp" into a pool of ink, they would put ink on leather and rub it on the letter stamps before pressuring the paper onto the inked stamps.
While this method of printing is cheaper than making whole stamps for individual pages, it is a very slow and laborious process.
Printing culture and censorship Edit
In the age of handwritten books, there was a clear set of limit on who could become an author - it was very difficult, if not impossible for the likes of Negbiarth Pheidoras to distribute their creartions - only a very limited crowd could access books that were not endorsed by those in power. In fact, the majority were (and still are) illiterate.
The birth of a much cheaper and easier method to produce books also birthed the necessity to control what types of books can be printed and distributed, lest all the civilians would be reading books that incite revolt against the state and the church.
In Etrand, during the infamous Cairbrean Censorship during the reign of King Cairbré I of Etrand, the Royal Office of Censorship was established and tight rules were set for printing books. For example, it became illegal to own a printing press without a permit from the office of censorship. Printers had to apply for the permit, and if they were caught printing blacklisted books, their permit would be revoked and their printing press confiscated. Before having the permission to print a book, printers also had to make sure the book was white-listed - every book has to be reviewed and whitelisted by the Royal Office of Censorship before it can be printed. The whitelisting proccess also includes giving the book a unique ID, publishing the date of approval, putting the signature of the author, the approving censor as well as the operator of the printing press onto it.
Similiar practices have gotten implemented in Froturn and Artaburro as well, albeit on a much lighter scale. After Cairbré's death, the censorship has become much less restrictive in Etrand as well. In fact, the fact that blacklisting has also existed means that even under Cairbré's reign, several institutions - such as the Mages Guild - had the privilege of printing non-whitelisted books, so long as they weren't blacklisted.