Typography traces its origins to the first punches and dies used to make seals and currency in ancient times. The typographical principle, the creation of a complete text by reusing identical characters, was first realized in the Phaistos Disc, an enigmatic Minoan print item from Crete, Greece, which dates between 1850 and 1600 BC. It has been proposed that Roman lead pipe inscriptions were created by movable type printing, but German typographer Herbert Brekle recently dismissed this view.

When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

The essential criterion of type identity was met by medieval print artifacts such as the Latin Pruefening Abbey inscription of 1119 that was created by the same technique as the Phaistos disc. The silver altarpiece of patriarch Pellegrinus II (1195−1204) in the cathedral of Cividale was printed with individual letter punches. The same printing technique can apparently be found in 10th to 12th century Byzantine reliquaries. Individual letter tiles where the words are formed by assembling single letter tiles in the desired order were reasonably widespread in medieval Northern Europe.