Wisegeek.com says that letterpress printing is a printing technique that has been in use in the West since the 15th Century, when it was used by Johannes Gutenberg to manufacture the Gutenberg Bible. There has been some debate over whether letterpress printing was first developed in the East or West, with some suggestions that Chinese texts were printed using a similar method before the Gutenberg Bible. 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.
Wisegeek.com also states that letterpress printing involves locking movable type into the bed of a press, inking it, and rolling or pressing paper against it to form an impression. Predecessors of letterpress printing had been around for hundreds of years, with both East and West making prints from woodblocks and carved engravings. However, Gutenberg is usually credited with the introduction of movable type, which could be reset and reused. Movable type revolutionized printing techniques, because each page of a book no longer represented an individually carved woodblock or engraving. A fast typesetter can set a page in only a few minutes.