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 Indian Allegory

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  • Glossary of Print-Rela​ted Terms
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Lithography was the first fundamentally new printing technology since the invention of relief printing in the fifteenth century. It is a mechanical planographic process in which the printing and non-printing areas of the plate are all at the same level, as opposed to intaglio and relief processes in which the design is cut into the printing block. Lithography is based on the chemical repellence of oil and water. Designs are drawn or painted with greasy ink or crayons on specially prepared limestone. The stone is moistened with water, which the stone accepts in areas not covered by the crayon. An oily ink, applied with a roller, adheres only to the drawing and is repelled by the wet parts of the stone. The print is then made by pressing paper against the inked drawing.

Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in Germany in 1798 and, within twenty years, appeared in England and the United States. Almost immediately, attempts were made to print pictures in color. Multiple stones were used, one for each color, and the print went through the press as many times as there were stones. The problem for the printers was keeping the image in register, making sure that the print would be lined up exactly each time it went through the press so that each color would be in the correct position and the overlaying colors would merge correctly.

Early colored lithographs used one or two colors to tint the entire plate and create a watercolor-like tone to the image. This atmospheric effect was primarily used for landscape or topographical illustrations. For more detailed coloration, artists continued to rely on handcoloring over the lithograph. Once tinted lithographs were well established, it was only a small step to extend the range of color by the use of multiple tint blocks printed in succession. Generally, these early chromolithographs were simple prints with flat areas of color, printed side-by-side.

Increasingly ornate designs and dozens of bright, often gaudy, colors characterized chomolithography in the second half of the nineteenth century. Overprinting and the use of silver and gold inks widened the range of color and design. Still a relatively expensive process, chromolithography was used for large-scale folio works and illuminated gift books which often attempted to reproduce the handwork of manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The steam-driven printing press and the wider availability of inexpensive paper stock lowered production costs and made chromolithography more affordable. By the 1880s, the process was widely used for magazines and advertising. At the same time, however, photographic processes were being developed that would replace lithography by the beginning of the twentieth century. (Source: University of Delaware Library)



Antique print - All prints printed and published before 1900 are considered antique prints. A modern reproduction of an old print is not itself an antique. The cut-off date of 1900 is not firmly fixed, however, and in many circumstances original prints made before World War II are also considered to be antiques.

Aquatint - An etching technique that creates areas of tone through the use of powdered resin that is sprinkled on the etching plate prior to being bitten by the etching acid. The result is a finely textured tonal area whose darkness is determined by how long the plate is bitten by the acid.

Blind stamp - A blind stamp is an embossed seal impressed without ink onto a print as a distinguishing mark by the artist, the publisher, an institution, or a collector.

Block - A (wood) block is a piece of wood used as a matrix for a print. Wood blocks are used primarily for woodcuts or wood engravings.

Catalogue raisonne - A documentary listing of all the works by an artist which are known at the time of compilation. It should include all essential documentary information.

Chiaroscuro woodcut - A form of woodcut involving several blocks in which one or more of the blocks is used to print large areas of tone. Typically, a chiaroscuro woodcut will involve a line block to indicate the outlines of the composition and tone blocks with areas carved out to create highlights by allowing the white of the paper to show through. The final effect is similar to an ink wash drawing with highlights and line drawing.

Chine applique (chine colle) prints - A chine applique or chine colle is a print in which the image is impressed onto a thin sheet of China paper which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet. China paper takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, so chine applique prints generally show a richer impression than standard prints. Proof prints are often done as chine appliques.

Chromolithograph - a color lithograph usually involving a large number of lithographic stones to allow a complex color separation (at least three colors). The term is often used to describe late nineteenth-century color lithographs that emulate or reproduce paintings.

Counterproofs - In printmaking, impressions taken from a print or drawing by passing it through a press against a damp sheet of paper. The image appears in reverse.

Drypoint - Similar to etching, but the lines are simply scratched into the plate manually, without the use of acid. The hallmark of a drypoint is a soft and often rather thick or bushy line somewhat like that of an ink pen on moist paper.

Edition - An edition of a print includes all the impressions published at the same time or as part of the same publishing event. A first edition print is one which was issued with the first published group of impressions. First edition prints are sometimes pre-dated by a proof edition. Editions of a print should be distinguished from states of a print. There can be several states of a print from the same edition, and there can be several editions of a print all with the same state. For limited editions, cf. below.

Engravings - Prints taken on paper from incised plates. The two main classes of engravings are intaglio and relief. In intaglio engraving, the line engraved has a positive value. The line which is engraved on the plate is the line which appears on the print. Heavy pressure is applied to the plate to extract the ink to the paper. In relief engraving, the line engraved are negatives to leave the design in relief. Relief printing, or surface printing, transfers ink from the lines left on the surface of a plate (like printing from type).

Engraving - A form of intaglio printing in which lines are incised into a metal plate with a carving tool called a burin. The characteristics of burin engraving differ from that of etching in that engraving, requiring considerable force, is done from the strength of the arm and eliminates the quavering autographic qualities of etching, which is done more from the finger tips like fine drawing. The hallmarks of engraving are often elegantly swelling and tapering lines.

Etchings - Prints taken on paper from plates incised using an acid to corrode the plates' surface. The plate is first covered with an acid resistant ground through which the artist scratches a design with a stylus or needle, revealing the bare metal below. This plate is then immersed in an acid bath that cuts the incised lines into the plate. Etched lines often betray the subtle motions of the artist's fingertips.

Fine Art & Historical Prints - Prints can be separated into two general types, fine art prints and historical prints. These types can best be understood through a differentiation of their emphasis. The distinction between the two types of prints is not clear-cut nor is it understood by all experts in the same way, but generally a fine art print is one conceived and executed by an artist with as much or more concern for the manner of presentation of the print as for its content, whereas the concern of the maker of an historical print is focused more on the content of the image than on its presentation.

Foxing - Brownish stains are apparently the result of mold growth; its spread can be stopped by low humidity, but it does not always respond to standard cleaning treatments.
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Genre prints - Prints depicting scenes from everyday life.

Gillotage - A relief process made by transferring a lithographic image to a metal plate that is then etched to produce a relief plate. The term is also used inaccurately to indicate varieties of photomechanical relief printing.

Heliogravure - A forerunner of photogravure in which the photographic image is projected directly onto the plate rather transferred to it on an emulsion. The term "photogravure" is often used indiscriminately for both techniques.

Intaglio - Any of the techniques in which an image or tonal area is printed from lines or textures scratched or etched into a metal plate (engraving, etching, drypoint, aquatint, lift ground, soft ground). The plate is covered with ink, then wiped clean leaving ink in the incised lines or textures of the image. This plate is then printed in a press on moistened paper. The paper is forced down into the area of the plate holding ink, and the image is transferred to the paper.

Impression - An impression is a single piece of paper with an image printed on it from a matrix. The term as applied to prints is used in a manner similar to the term "copy" as applied to a book.

Intaglio - An intaglio print is one whose image is printed from a recessed design incised or etched into the surface of a plate. In this type of print the ink lies below the surface of the plate and is transferred to the paper under pressure. The printed lines of an intaglio print stand in relief on the paper. Intaglio prints have platemarks.

Lettering - The lettering of a print refers to the information, usually given below the image, concerning the title, artist, publisher, engraver and other such data.

Letterpress - Typographic printing from movable type.

Lift-ground aquatint - A form of intaglio printing in which the artists draws with a specially formulated ink on a metal plate. The plate is then covered with an acid resistant ground and immersed in water. The characteristics of the drawing medium (which may be applied with a pen or brush) allow it to dissolve and work through the acid resistant ground. When bitten in acid, the final result resembles pen or brush work.

Limited Edition - A limited edition print is one in which a limit is placed on the number of impressions pulled in order to create a scarcity of the print. Limited editions are usually numbered and are often signed. Limited editions are a relatively recent development, dating from the late nineteenth century. Earlier prints were limited in the number of their impressions solely by market demand or by the maximum number that could be printed by the medium used. The inherent physical limitations of the print media and the relatively small size of the pre-twentieth century print market meant that non-limited edition prints from before the late nineteenth century were in fact quite limited in number even though not intentionally so. German printmaker Adam von Bartsch, in his 1821 Anleitung zur Kupferstichkunde, estimated the maximum number of quality impressions it was possible to pull using different print media. Engraving: 500 (and about the same number of weaker images). Stipple: 500 (and about the same number of weaker images). Mezzotint: 300 to 400, though the quality suffers after the first 150. Aquatint: Less than 200. Wood block: Up to 10,000. The development of lithography and of steel-facing of metal plates in the nineteenth century permited tens of thousands of impressions could be pulled without a loss of quality. These technological developments led to the idea of making limited edition prints, by which printmakers created an appearance of rarity and individuality for multiple-impression art.

Linoleum Cut - A relief print carved into linoleum rather than wood.

Lithograph - A printing technique in which the image is drawn on a very flat slab of limestone (or a specially treated metal plate). This stone is treated chemically so that ink, when rolled on to the stone, adheres only where the drawing was done. This inked image can then be transferred to a piece of paper with the help of a high pressure press.

Lithograph - Prints taken from a drawing done one polished limestone or zinc or aluminum plates. The drawing is done with greasy crayons, pens or pencils. A solution containing gum arabic and dilute nitric acid is washed on the stone (or plate). This solution fixes the grease in place. The entire plate surface is washed with water and then inked. Print paper is applied and sent sent through a press, transferring a mirror image of the stone (or plate).

Lithotint - A tonal lithograph printed from a single stone or plate.

Matrix - A matrix is an object upon which a design has been formed and which is then used to make an impression on a piece of paper, thus creating a print. A {wood} block, {metal} plate, or {lithographic} stone can be used as a matrix.

Metal Cut - A form of relief printing from an intaglio plate. In the fifteenth century metal cuts often employed drill holes that printed as white dots. Engraved lines will print white rather than black in metal cut since the surface, rather than the marks in the plate, is inked.

Mezzotint - An intaglio process invented around 1650 that allows the printing of rich tonal areas of black and grey. The mezzotint process begins by texturing a metal plate in such a way that it will hold a great deal of ink and print a solid black field. This is done with a tool called a "rocker." A rocker is essentially a large curved blade with very fine teeth along its edge. This blade is rocked back and forth, putting courses of fine dots into the metal plate. After this has been done repeatedly the plate will be covered with fine stipples that can hold ink. The next step is to scrape away the stippled texture where lighter passages are needed. The more vigorously the plate is scraped the less ink it will hold and the whiter it will print. Mezzotint differs conceptually from other intaglio methods because the artist works from black to white rather than white to black. For this reason mezzotint lends itself to scenes with many dark passages.

Mixed Method - A mixed method print is one whose design is created on a single matrix using a variety of printmaking techniques, for example: line engraving, stipple, and etching.

Monotype - A form of printmaking in which the artist draws or paints on some material, such as glass, and then prints the image onto paper, usually with a press. The remaining pigment can then be reworked, but the subsequent print will not be an exact version of the previous print. Monotypes may be unique prints or variations on a theme.

Numbered Print - A numbered print is one which is part of a limited edition and which has been numbered by hand. The numbering is usually in the form of x/y, where y stands for the total number of impressions in this edition and x represents the specific number of the print. The number of a print always indicates the order in which the prints were numbered, not necessarily the order in which the impressions were pulled. This, together with the fact that later impressions are sometime superior to earlier pulls, means that lower numbers do not generally indicate better quality impressions. As with signed prints, the numbering of prints is a development of the late nineteenth century.

Offset lithographs - Lithographs printed by transferring an images from a stone or plate to an intermediate surface and then to the print paper.

Oleographs - Chromolithographs printed on a textured surface. Popularly used to produced inexpensive reproductions of oil paintings in the late nineteenth century.

Original Print - An original print is one printed from a matrix on which the design was created by hand and issued as part of the original publishing venture or as part of a connected, subsequent publishing venture. For fine art prints the criteria used is more strict. A fine art print is original only if the artist both conceived and had a direct hand in the production of the print. An original print should be distinguished from a reproduction, which is produced photomechanically, and from a restrike, which is produced as part of a later, unconnected publishing venture.

Paper - Laid paper is made by hand in a mold, where the wires used to support the paper pulp emboss their pattern into the paper. This pattern of closely spaced, crossing lines can be seen when the paper is held up to light. Laid paper often has a watermark. Wove paper is made by machine on a belt and lacks the laid lines. False laid lines can be added to machine-made paper. Though wove paper was invented in the eighteenth century and laid paper is still produced, the majority of prints made prior to 1800 are on laid paper and the majority of prints made subsequently are on wove paper. China paper is a very thin paper, originally made in China, which is used for chine appliqu prints.

Photogravure - A means of printing a photographic image by the intaglio process. The photographic negative (which may be of an artist's drawing) is projected onto a sensitized gelatin emulsion or carbon tissue that is transferred to a copper plate. After washing the plate areas that correspond to the image on the negative are dissolved and the plate can be bitten by acid as in routine etching. In hand photogravure, which is most commonly used in printmaking, the copper plate is first prepared for aquatint etching. The end result can closely resemble a traditional linear etching or soft ground etching.

Photomechanical relief print - There were many means available by the 1880s that allowed a black line drawing to be transferred to a relief printing block by photographic means. These are generically known as line blocks and the images printed from them typically share many of the qualities of woodcut. The means of transferring the image are often complex, and can involve such techniques as etching photosensitized plates or electrotyping light sensitive gelatin plates.

Photomechanical prints - Prints made from photographically prepared printing surfaces. A distinctive dot pattern is usually visible.

Photomechanical reproduction - This term is used to describe a variety of processes involving the transfer of a photographic image to a printing matrix, such as an etching plate, relief block, or a lithographic stone. The term is used here whenever it is not certain exactly what photomechanical process is involved.

Platemark - A platemark is the rectangular ridge created in the paper of a print by the edge of an intaglio plate. Unlike a relief or planographic print, an intaglio print is printed under considerable pressure, thus creating the platemark when the paper is forced together with the plate. Some reproductions have a false platemark.

Print - A single print is a piece of paper upon which an image has been imprinted from a matrix. In a general sense, a print is the set of all the impressions made from the same matrix. By its nature, a print can have multiple impressions.

Proof - A proof is an impression of a print pulled prior to the regular, published edition of the print. A trial or working proof is one taken before the design on the matrix is finished. These proofs are pulled so that the artist can see what work still needs to be done to the matrix. Once a printed image meets the artist's expectations, this becomes a bon tirer ("good to pull") proof. This proof is often signed by the artist to indicate his approval and is used for comparison purposes by the printer. An artist's proof is an impression issued extra to the regular numbered edition and reserved for the artist's own use. Artist's proofs are usually signed and are sometimes marked "A.P.", "E.A." or "H.C." (Cf. glossary of abbreviations) Commercial publishers found that there was a financial advantage to offering so-called "proofs" for sale and so developed other types of proofs to offer to collectors, generally at higher prices. * Proof before letters (Avant les lettres): An impression pulled before the title is added below the image. * Scratched letter proof: An impression in which the title is lightly etched below the image. * Remarque proof: An impression pulled before the remarque is removed.

Relief print - Any print in which the image is printed from the raised portions of a carved, etched, or cast block. A simple example would be a rubber stamp. The most common relief prints are woodcuts. The term "relief print" is used when it is not clear which kind of relief printing has been used (photomechanical or hand carved, for example).

Relief - A relief print is one whose image is printed from a design raised on the surface of a block. In this type of print the ink lies on the top of the block and is transferred to the paper under light pressure.

Remarque - A remarque is a small vignette image in the margin of a print, often related thematically to the main image. Originally remarques were scribbled sketches made in the margins of etchings so that the artist could test the plate, his needles, or the strength of the etching acid prior to working on the main image. These remarques were usually removed prior to the first publication of the print. During the etching revival, in the late nineteenth century, remarques became popular as an additional design element in prints and were also used in the creation of remarque proofs.

Reproduction - A reproduction is a copy of an original print or other art work whose matrix design is transferred from the original by a photomechanical process. A facsimile is a reproduction done to the same scale and appearance as the original.

Restrike - A restrike is a print produced from the matrix of an original print, but which was not printed as part of the original publishing venture or as part of a connected, subsequent publishing venture. A restrike is a later impression from an unrelated publishing project.

Screen Print - A form of stencil printing in which the stencil is adhered to a fine screen for support. Ink can be squeegeed through the screen onto paper. Screen printing can have a hard edged quality caused by the crisp edges of the stencil. Also referred to as "silk screen" and "serigraphy."

Signed - A signed print is one signed, in pencil or ink, by the artist and/or engraver of the print. A print is said to be signed in the plate if the artist's signature is incorporated into the matrix and so appears as part of the printed image. Proof prints were originally signed as "proof" that the impression met the artist's expectation. Later proof prints were signed in order to add commercial value to these impressions. In the late nineteenth century, in response to the development of photomechanical reproduction techniques, fine arts prints were signed by the artists in order to distinguish between original prints and reproductions. Seymour Haden and James McNeil Whistler are usually credited with introducing this practice in the 1880s.

Silver print - A photographic print utilizing paper impregnated with silver nitrate (distinct from a platinum print, for example).

Soft ground - An etching technique in which the plate is covered with malleable ground through which a variety textures can be pressed, allowing them to be etched into the plate. For example, a piece of paper laid on top of a soft grounded plate can be drawn upon with a pencil, and the resulting etched image will resemble a pencil line drawn on paper. To be distinguished from "hard ground" used for simple line etching.

State - A state of a print includes all the impressions pulled without any change being made to the matrix. A first state print is one of the first group of impressions pulled. Different states of a print can reflect intentional or accidental changes to the matrix. States of a print should be distinguished from editions of a print. There can be several editions of a print which are the same state, and there can be several states of a print in the same edition.

Stone - A lithographic stone is a slab of stone, usually limestone, used as a matrix for a print. Lithographic stones are used to make lithographs and chromolithographs.

Sulphur ground - A technique in which a caustic sulphur compound is painted directly on an etching plate, or in which sulphur dust is otherwise applied to a plate. The resulting marks will hold ink and can be printed like an etching. The technique typically creates blotchy expanses of grey tones. This might be compared to printing rust marks on a steel or iron plate.

Watermark - A watermark is a design embossed into a piece of paper during its production and used for identification of the paper and papermaker. The watermark can be seen when the paper is held up to light.

Wood engraving - A relief print carved in the end grain of a block of wood whose thickness is the same as the height as a piece of movable type ("type high"). This was traditionally a commercial technique practiced by specialists and used in magazines and book illustrations.

Woodcut - A relief print usually carved in the plank grain of a piece of wood. After the relief image has been carved in the plank with knives or gouges it is inked with a dauber or roller. It can then be printed by hand (in which case a sheet of paper is laid down on the inked plank and rubbed from the back with a smooth surface such as the palm of the hand or a wooden spoon) or with the help of a mechanical press.

Zincograph - A lithograph done on a zinc plate instead of on a stone. The term is also used to designate a photo-etched relief print.