Movable-Type Printing—Preserving a Dying Art
Movable-type printing, invented in China around a thousand years ago, is considered one of mankind's most important inventions. It revolutionized printing by replacing the tiring method of block printing and made books more available to everyone through its fast and efficient technique. Movable-type printing was the primary form of mass communication until the latter half of the twentieth century, but today, it has become a dying art.
In fact, Taiwan's only remaining movable-type foundry exists in Taipei. The Rixing Type Foundry, founded in 1969, is a large warehouse with rows of shelves containing small lead blocks. Each block is molded into the shape of a Chinese character used for printing. Rixing has millions of movable types consisting of three typefaces and seven sizes, explains foundry volunteer Mr. Yang. This makes Rixing one of the world's largest sources of Chinese type.
In its heyday, Rixing Type Foundry filled many orders, arranging individual types based on how they'd look on the page and delivering the grouped words to printers. Workers in this fast-paced environment had to quickly find characters, which are organized on the shelves according to their radicals. An experienced worker could locate around twenty-five blocks per minute, according to Mr. Yang.