Date added: 26.3.2015
THE PROCESSES OF EARLY ENGRAVING. THE BEGINNINGS OF ENGRAVING IN RELIEF. XYLOGRAPHY AND PRINTING WITH MOVABLE TYPE.The nations of antiquity understood and practised engraving, that is to say, the art of representing things by incised outlines onMoreTHE PROCESSES OF EARLY ENGRAVING. THE BEGINNINGS OF ENGRAVING IN RELIEF. XYLOGRAPHY AND PRINTING WITH MOVABLE TYPE.The nations of antiquity understood and practised engraving, that is to say, the art of representing things by incised outlines on metal, stone, or any other rigid substance. Setting aside even those relics of antiquity in bone or flint which still retain traces of figures drawn with a sharp-pointed tool, there may yet be found in the Bible and in Homer accounts of several works executed by the aid of similar methods- and the characters outlined on the precious stones adorning the breastplate of the high-priest Aaron, or the scenes represented on the armour of Achilles, might be quoted amongst the most ancient examples of the art of engraving. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Etruscans have left us specimens of goldsmiths work and fragments of all kinds, which, at any rate, attest the practice of engraving in their countries. Finally, every one is aware that metal seals and dies of engraved stone were in common use amongst the Romans.Engraving, therefore, in the strict sense of the word, is no invention due to modern civilisation. But many centuries elapsed before man acquired the art of multiplying printed copies from a single original, to which art the name of engraving has been extended, so that nowadays the word signifies the operation of producing a print.Of engraving thus understood there are two important processes or methods. By the one, strokes are drawn on a flat surface, and afterwards laboriously converted by the engraver into ridges, which, when coated with ink, are printed on the paper in virtue of their projection. By the other, outlines, shadows, and half-tints are represented by incisions intended to contain the colouring matter- while those parts meant to come out white on paper are left untouched. Wood-cutting, or engraving in relief, is an example of the first method- while to the second belongs metal-work or copperplate engraving, which we now call engraving with the burin, or line engraving.In order to engrave in relief, a block, not less than an inch thick, of hard, smooth wood, such as box or pear, is used. On this block every detail of the design to be engraved is drawn with pen or pencil. Then such places as are meant to come out white in the print are cut away with a sharp tool. Thus, only those places that have been covered beforehand by the pencil or the pen remain at the level of the surface of the block- they only will be inked by the action of the roller- and when the block is subjected to the action of the press, they only will transfer the printing ink to the proof.This method, earlier than that of the incised line, led to engraving in camaïeu, which was skilfully practised in Italy and Germany during the sixteenth century. As in camaïeu engraving those lines which define the contours are left as ridges by the cutting away of the surrounding surface, we may say that in this method (which the Italians call chiaroscuro) the usual processes of engraving in relief are employed. But it is a further object of camaïeu to produce on the paper flat tints of various depths: that is to say, a scale of tones somewhat similar to the effect of drawings washed in with Indian ink or sepia, and touched up with white. Now such a chromatic progression can only be arrived at by the co-operation of distinct processes. Therefore, instead of printing from a single surface, separate blocks are employed for the outlines, shadows, and lights, and a proof is taken by the successive application of the paper to all these blocks, which are made to correspond exactly by means of guiding marks.EDITORIAL NOTE.The author of La Gravure, of which work the present volume is a translation, has devoted so little attention to English Engraving, that it has been thought advisable to supplement his somewhat Engraving: Its Origin, Processes, and History by Henri Delaborde : by LE VICOMTE HENRI DELABORDE.