BLTC Press Titles

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Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Etching and mezzotint engraving

by Sir Hubert von Herkomer


Aquatint, by which tints can be bitten over the surface of a plate to any depth and gradation you wish, is a method I cannot recommend, for it never harmonises with any other kind of work. Flat sulphur tints I would also summarily dismiss.

Soft-ground etching I will not describe, because it is no better than ordinary lithography, and much more troublesome to manage.


We have now reached a most important part of our subject —printing the plates.

The artist is too apt to forget that it is in the printed state alone that all etchings are to be judged. It matters not how a plate looks, as long as it can be printed well; but it matters a great deal how the plate is treated in the printing if you want an artistic rendering.

There is plain printing, like the printing of visiting cards, and there is artistic, or artificial printing, which means the application of endless "dodges." These two methods represent the two extremes in printing.

The plate, when finished, is blackened all over with printer's ink by means of a dabber made of the blanketing used for the rubber, as described before. Then all this is apparently wiped off, and the feeling of an outsider will be one of astonishment that enough ink is left in the work to produce the requisite impression. But herein lies the mystery of printing. It is not only in the way the ink is left in the work, or between the work, that the artistic effect is given, but also in the very quality of the ink, which depends both upon the colours that are used and the oil with which they are ground.

In order to have all the resources of the art of printing at one's fingers' ends, one must undergo some apprenticeship with a clever printer. But there are printers and printers; and it is astonishing how few printers there are in England who can print artistic plates satisfactorily. In illustration of this I may mention an incident that happened to me some time back. You must know that I have had for some years a small printing establishment of my own at Bushey

of which I make a business. Now it happens that

work sometimes comes with a rush, so that my two printers cannot get through it. On one of these occasions I thought I would send one of my etchings (a copy of a portrait) to some other printer. I sent it to one of the

first firms in London, with a sample of the manner in which I wanted it printed; in addition to this my printer gave them a minute description of the method of making up the ink, the nature of the oils used, and how the plate was to be treated in the wiping. Yet they failed after repeated trials to get anything even approaching our sample, and declared themselves unable to produce the result desired.

There is, of course, Mr. Goulding, who probably cannot be rivalled even by the French printers for ability. But a new generation of printers will have to be reared, because Mr. Goulding cannot do all the printing of the artistic plates that we hope will be forthcoming in the near future, nor do I wish to enlarge my establishment very much. Etchers themselves would never be able to print editions, but they should always do some of the most valuable impressions of their plates; for an etcher himself may be permitted to toy with his plate in the printing, to vary the impressions according to his mood, and as long as he signs them as printer, the public cannot complain. But such a privilege could not be extended to other hands, not even to the skilful hands of Mr. Goulding.

Every etcher should at the start of his career equip himself fully for printing. The press need not be large, but it is absolutely necessary that it shall have cog-wheel action, and have a fly-wheel instead of the star handle. This would have to be ordered, as nearly all the small presses are made with a star handle, which cannot give you the amount of pressure often required, the action being A PORTRAITS

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