The Galerie Napoléon owes before all its fame to its unique catalogue of more than 25.000 antique prints and historical documents dating from the 14th to the 19th century and classified among more than 300 categories.
Other terms often used for printed engravings are copper engraving, copper-plate engraving or line engraving. Steel engraving is the same technique, on steel or steel-faced plates, and was mostly used for banknotes, illustrations for books, magazines and reproductive prints, letterheads and similar uses from about 1790 to the early 20th century, when the technique became less popular, except for banknotes and other forms of security printing. Especially in the past, "engraving" was often used very loosely to cover several printmaking techniques, so that many so-called engravings were in fact produced by totally different techniques, such as etching or mezzotint.
Engravers use a hardened steel tool called a burin to cut the design into the surface, most traditionally a copper plate. Gravers come in a variety of shapes and sizes that yield different line types. The burin produces a unique and recognizable quality of line that is characterized by its steady, deliberate appearance and clean edges. The angle tint tool has a slightly curved tip that is commonly used in printmaking. Florentine liners are flat-bottomed tools with multiple lines incised into them, used to do fill work on larger areas. Flat gravers are used for doing fill work on letters, as well as most musical instrument engraving work. Round gravers are commonly used on silver to create bright cuts (also called bright-cut engraving), as well as other hard-to-cut metals such as nickel and steel. Burins are either square or elongated diamond-shaped and used for cutting straight lines. Other tools such as mezzotint rockers, roulets and burnishers are used for texturing effects.
Originally, there was only hand engraving. In that process the burin is held in the hand with the handle in the palm of the hand. The point of a new tool is snapped off to a length just longer than the engraver's fingers, and the point reground. The actual engraving is done by a combination of pressure and manipulating the workpiece. That process is still practiced today, but modern technology has brought various mechanically assisted engraving systems. In essence they are handles which resemble burins, but inside are pneumatic pistons that drive the point much like a jack hammer, but at speeds up to 15,000 strokes per minute, thereby greatly reducing the effort needed in traditional hand engraving.
In addition, there are engraving machines. They are usually used for lettering, using a pantographic system. There are versions for the insides of rings and also the outsides of larger pieces. Such machines are commonly used for inscriptions on rings, lockets and presentation pieces.
Wood engraving is a relief printing technique, where the end grain of wood is used as a medium for engraving, thus differing from the older technique of woodcut, where the softer side grain is used.
The technique of wood engraving developed at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, with the works of Thomas Bewick. Bewick generally made his engraving in harder woods than normally used, and would engrave the end of a block instead of the side. Finding a knife not suitable for working against the grain in harder woods, Bewick used the engraving tool the burin, which has a V-shaped cutting tip. Engraving on wood in this manner produced highly detailed images, usually quite unlike those produced by engraving on copper plates. Furthermore, unlike copper-plate engravings that quickly deteriorated, thousands of copies could be printed from engraved wood blocks. Since wood engraving is a relief process while metal engraving is an intaglio technique, wood engravings could be used on conventional print presses, which were themselves making rapid mechanical improvements during the first quarter of the 19th century. As a result of Bewick's innovation and improvements in the printing press, illustrations of art, nature, technical processes, famous people, foreign lands and many other subjects became more widely available.
Intaglio is a family of printmaking techniques in which the image is incised into a surface, known as the matrix or plate. Normally, copper or zinc plates are used as a surface, and the incisions are created by etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint or mezzotint. Collographs may also be printed as intaglio plates. To print an intaglio plate, ink is applied to the surface and then rubbed with tarlatan cloth to remove most of the excess. The final smooth wipe is often done with newspaper or old public phone book pages, leaving ink only in the incisions. A damp piece of paper is placed on top and the plate and paper are run through a printing press that, through pressure, transfers the ink from the recesses of the plate to the paper.
Intaglio techniques are often combined on a plate. For example Rembrandt's prints are referred to as "etchings" for convenience, but very often they have engraving and drypoint work as well, and sometimes no actual etching at all.
Apart from intaglio, the other traditional families, or groups of printmaking techniques are:
Relief prints, including woodcut, where the matrix is cut away to leave the image-making part on the original surface. The matrix is then just inked and printed; not wiped as described above.
Planographic, including lithography, where the image rests on the surface of the matrix, which can therefore often be re-used.
Other families have developed, especially in the twentieth century.
Both intaglio and relief, as well as planographic printing processes, print a reversed image (a mirror-image of the matrix), which must be allowed for in the composition, especially if it includes text.
Intaglio engraving, as a method of making prints, was invented in Germany by the 1430s, well after the woodcut print. Engraving had been used by goldsmiths to decorate metalwork, including armour, musical instruments and religious objects since ancient times, and the niello technique, which involved rubbing an alloy into the lines to give a contrasting colour, also goes back to late antiquity. It has been suggested that goldsmiths began to print impressions of their work to record the design, and that printmaking developed from that.
Martin Schongauer was one of the earliest known artists to exploit the copper-engraving technique, and Albrecht Dürer is one of the most famous intaglio artists. Italian and Netherlandish engraving began slightly after the Germans, but were well developed by 1500. Drypoint and etching were also German inventions of the fifteenth century, probably by the Housebook Master and Daniel Hopfer respectively. The golden age of artists engraving was 1450-1550, after which the technique lost ground to etching as a medium for artists, although engravings continued to be produced in huge numbers until after the invention of photography. Today intaglio engraving is largely used for currency, banknotes, passports and occasionally for high-value postage stamps. The appearance of engraving is sometimes mimicked for items such as wedding invitations by producing an embossment around lettering printed by another process (such as lithography or offset) to suggest the edges of an engraving plate.
Copperplate refers to the use of inscribed sheets of copper in printing. The engraved or etched sheets of copper are inked and then have paper rolled over them to produce a copy.
Steel engraving, is a commercial engraving technique for printing illustrations, based on steel instead of copper. It has been rarely used in artistic printmaking, although was much used for reproductions in the 19th century. Steel engraving was introduced in 1792 by Jacob Perkins (1766-1849), an American Inventor, for the use of banknote printing. When Perkins moved to London in 1818, the technique in 1820 became adapted by Charles Warren and especially by Charles Heath (1785-1848) for Thomas Campbell's Pleasures of Hope with the first published plates engraved on steel. The new technique only partially replaced the other commercial techniques of that time as woodcut, wood engraving, and later lithography. All the illustrations of the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911 are steel engravings.
Most engraving is done by laying out the broad, general outline onto the plate first. This is commonly referred to simply as etching. After this step is complete the artist can move to strictly engraving the work. The tool most commonly used for engraving is the burin, which is a small bar of hardened steel with a sharp point. This is pushed along the plate to produce thin strips of waste metal and thin furrows. This is followed by a scraper which removes any burs as they will be an impediment to the ink. It is important to note that engraving must be done in the reverse or mirror image, so that the image faces the correct way when the die prints. One trick of the trade was for engravers to look at the object that they were engraving through a mirror so that the image was naturally reversed and they would be less likely to engrave the image incorrectly. Steel plates can be case hardened to ensure that they can print thousands of times with little wear. Copper plates can not be case hardened but can be steel-faced or nickel-plated to increase their life expectancy.
Lithography is a method for printing using a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a completely smooth surface. Lithography originally used oil or fat. However, in modern times, the image is now made of polymer applied to anodized aluminium plates. The smooth surface is divided into hydrophilic regions that accept a film or water and while damp these areas reject ink, and hydrophobic (water repelling) regions which accept ink because the surface tension is higher on the greasier image area which remains dry because the water will part and run off the greasy image. This process is quite different to gravure or intaglio printing where a plate is engraved, etched or stippled to make cavities to contain the printing ink, and in woodblock printing and letterpress ink (non waterproof) is applied to the raised surfaces of letters or images.
Invented in 1796 by Bavarian author Alois Senefelder as a low-cost method of reproducing artwork,lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or another suitable material. Most books, indeed all types of high-volume text, are now printed using offset lithography, the most common form of printing production. The word "lithography" also refers to photolithography, a microfabrication technique used to make integrated circuits and microelectromechanical systems, although those techniques have more in common with etching than with lithography.
Lithography: a modus utilized in offset printing. Offset printing principally covers the idea that the printing plate, printing and non printing surfaces exist. Contact between ink, water and the printing plate is the norm. Initially, use of oil and fat was common.
Lithography uses simple chemical processes to create an image. For instance, the positive part of an image would be a hydrophobic, or "water hating" chemical, while the negative image would be hydrophilic or "water loving". Thus, when the plate is introduced to a compatible printing ink and water mixture, the ink will adhere to the positive image and the water will clean the negative image. This allows a flat print plate to be used, enabling much longer and more detailed print runs than the older physical methods of printing.
An example of a 19th century lithograph depicting royal Afghan soldiers of the Durrani Empire in Afghanistan
Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in Bohemia in 1796. In the early days of lithography, a smooth piece of limestone was used . After the oil-based image was put on the surface, a solution of gum arabic in water was applied, the gum sticking only to the non-oily surface. During printing, water adhered to the gum arabic surfaces and avoided the oily parts, while the oily ink used for printing did the opposite.