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Print Techniques Explained

The term ANTIQUE PRINT is often a confusing term.

Since Johannes Gutenberg invented the Printing Press in 1452 in an effort allow knowledge to be replicated, so the Industrial Revolution has created new methods of creating new printing methods dictated by materials available, the affluence of the customer, hence the demand for product and where in the world it was produced. Printing technology evolved 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, Growing affluence and demand for literacy and knowledge meant more durable materials needed to be used. Steel was harder, and once engraved, had longevity.

With the advent of photography in the late 1800s, the traditional forms of image making gave way to the cheaper, more easily replicated, forms of Photography. by the end of the 1900s scanning technology was added too the adaptation of  images.

1  a) 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.

 b) 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”.

 c) Publishers, to make printing affordable, often issued chapters, or parts, to subscribers. The illustrations were issued during a period.

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 1840-1848 issued 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 “1840-1848”, as all lithographs were published consecutively between these dates.

2) Reproduction or Limited Editions of "Antique Prints" that look old but have been copied using modern technology ie photography or scanned, and printed using reproductive modern techniques. Here is where knowledge of color pigments and how paper was made through the centuries is essential for authentication purposes.

c)  "Re-strikes" that are later printing of the original copper plate or Lithograph, if it has 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 lithographic slabs were cleaned and reused. The maximum images taken from a copper plate was only 100.



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