Letterpress is relief printing. It involves locking movable type into the bed of a press, inking it, and rolling or pressing paper against it to form an impression. It was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century until the 19th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century. In addition to the direct impression of inked movable type onto paper or another receptive surface, letterpress is also the direct impression of inked printmaking blocks such as photo-etched zinc "cuts" (plates), linoleum blocks, wood engravings, etc., using such a press.
Letterpress printing remained the primary way to print and distribute information until the twentieth century, when offset printing was developed. It was also an extremely important technological innovation, making printed material available to a wider range of classes of people.