Prior to Johannes Gutenberg's invention, printed materials were made with a screw press or through the use of wooden blocks for printing. The screw press provided part of the combination of old techniques adapted to new uses and invention of new procedures that marked the Gutenberg press.
The design and use of screw presses dated back to the Roman Empire. A screw was used to exert pressure which pressed one large plate down onto another; this procedure could be used to press grapes to obtain juice for making wine or to press olives and obtain the olive oil, for example. Screw presses were also used to press cloth and paper as it was being made.
Gutenberg originally modified the design of a screw press to insure that the pressure between the top and bottom surfaces was uniform; he also created a movable bottom platform which allowed sheets of paper on the bottom platform to be rapidly changed.