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Print Techniques?

The History of Printing starts with Johannes Gutenberg (circa 1400-1468) invented the Printing Press circa  1452 in an effort allow knowledge to be replicated. The science, evolving technology and mechanization of the collaboration of the Age of Enlightenment & the Industrial Revolution enabled Gutenberg's invention to be adapted as population, literacy and affluence increased.

Timber & copper were used in the beginning. These materials were soft so easier to cut or engrave. Problem was the industrial revolution invented a growing merchant/middle class, hence increasing affluence and demand for literacy and knowledge. Steel was introduced to Europe in 1854. Being a harder metal it was stable to cater for the increasing demand. Once engraved it had longevity.

With the advent of photography in the mid 1800s, the traditional forms of image making gave way to this cheaper, more easily replicated technique. By the e1990s scanning technology has added too the adaptation of  replicating images and so it will continue...

1) An ANTIQUE PRINT is often described as "original", aka it was created by the technique described eg.  "Original copper engraving", "Original lithograph", "Original Aquatint" meaning it was printed using the copper plate, limestone block, aquatint etched surface, at the date stated. Often a print, once identified as original, has a publisher and date of publication at the base. However, if it has been orphaned from its folio, the seller uses knowledge of publisher, engraver, type of paper and printing technique to give an approximate date, or “CIRCA”. Publishers, to make printing affordable, often sold chapters, or "parts", to subscribers who purchased them monthly, bi monthly, etc. This is why a published date can span decades due to labor intensive type-setting, engraving and often individually hand coloring of each print.

Examples: George French Angas’ “South Australia Illustrated” published in London between 1846-47. The folio was published by Thomas McLean, London, and issued to 200 subscribers, in ten two-monthly parts for one guinea per part. Each lithograph was hand colored as issued. John Gould published “Birds of Australia” in Seven volumes, between 1840-1868 limited to 250 subscriber worldwide. This first comprehensive collection of Australian ornithology included 681 hand colored lithographs and descriptions. Of these, 328 were new to science. In this case the publishing date may be “1840-1869”, as all lithographs were published consecutively between these dates.

2 ) REPRODUCTIONS of "Antique Prints" may look old but use modern technology ie photography or digital scanning. They are printed on modern paper. Here is where knowledge of color pigments and/or how paper was made through the centuries can authenticate originality. Such collections are justified as original prints were made using finite materials, like soft copper, or delicate techniques like "mezzotint" as demand was limited to smaller populations. The maximum images taken from a copper plate was only 100 before compression fatigued image integrity.

3)   RE-STRIKES are later printing of the original metal plates or Bavarian limestones, if they managed to survived. However, if it was a soft copper-plate it would be worn and not of good quality.  Given our ancestors need to recycle materials this is rare. Engraved copper plates that had served their purpose were often melted down to create new plate. Bavarian limestone used for lithographic prints, were usually cleaned and reused.





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