Put yourself in the shoes of a 19th century handbill printer. One day, you heard the cry, "Go west, young man!" You closed your shop, traded your house for a wagon and team of… oxen, and joined a wagon train heading west. \n.
\nHere's your problem: handbill type is large and, if it's made from lead, heavy. Everything you've got for your trip has to be able to be pulled by four oxen. You can choose to carry either a few tons of lead that will do nothing for you until you get it to where you're going and absolutely nothing else, or carry just a set of body matrices, a few hundred pounds of lead to cast small text faces with, and carving tools to make handbill type from wood. The latter is what they chose to do--because, by making type from wood cut at their new homes, they could also bring their equipment, household goods and families.\n.
\nSo...that's the purpose of woodblock printing: to be able to print without having to bring five thousand pounds of lead from New Jersey to Utah. (MORE)