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. This was a dramatic improvement on earlier printing methods in which the cloth, paper or other medium was brushed or rubbed repeatedly to achieve the transfer of ink, and accelerated the process. Typically used for texts, the invention and spread of the printing press was one of the most influential events in the second millennium

The printing press was invented in the Holy Roman Empire by the German Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, based on existing screw presses. Gutenberg, a goldsmith by profession, developed a printing system, by adapting existing technologies to printing purposes, as well as making inventions of his own. His newly devised hand mould made possible the precise and rapid creation of metal movable type in large quantities. Movable type had been hitherto unknown in Europe. In East Asia, where it was invented, the usefulness of movable type was limited by the complexity of the writing system and, without the hand mould, the production of sorts (individual letters of type) was slow. In Europe, the two inventions, the hand mould and the printing press, together drastically reduced the cost of printing books and other documents, particularly in short print runs.

In Renaissance Europe, the arrival of mechanical movable type printing introduced the era of mass communication, which permanently altered the structure of society. The relatively unrestricted circulation of information and (revolutionary) ideas transcended borders, captured the masses in the Reformation and threatened the power of political and religious authorities.