BLTC Press Titles

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Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


by Cyril Davenport


IF a polished sheet of metal be slightly indented or scratched, and ink be rubbed into the mark, when damp paper is strongly pressed in it a cast of the lines will be made on the paper in relief, the ink which has rested in the lines in the metal being absorbed and retained by the paper.

On the other hand, if most of the metal surface be cut away either by graver or by acid, and a few lines left sticking up at their original surface-level, these lines being inked, and paper lightly pressed on them, an impression of them in intaglio will be left on the paper, the ink being retained by the paper equally as in the first case.

These two processes, exactly opposite in principle, have both been largely used for the multiplication of prints from metal plates or blocks. The first, which may be called the intaglio process, is made use of in the case of line engravings, etchings, rouletted work, dry-points, and aquatints; the second, the relief process, was most effectively used in the case of the beautiful illustrations found in the French Horaoi the fifteenth century, especially those printed, and possibly engraved, by Pigouchet or Simon Vostre, and also in the eighteenth century when William Blake cut or etched copper blocks in relief from which he printed his curious poems with their illustrations. s A metal plate, engraved as a mezzotint with rocker and scraper, holds an intermediate place between the two methods of intaglio and relief. The groundwork, prepared by roulette, rocker, or file, begins by being intaglio, but by reason of much trituration part of the surface metal is actually raised above its original level in small points, forming a surface which may be considered somewhat analogous to an untouched wood block, inasmuch that if inked each would make a black impression, although one is rough and the other is smooth. Again, if the wood block be engraved —that is to say part of it cut away—a corresponding light mark will appear on a print made from it; so also, if part of the rocked surface of the metal plate be scraped away or pressed down, a corresponding light mark will appear on the print.

But in practice few mezzotints actually exist by themselves; they are generally helped by some more definite touches either of the burin or of the etching or dry-point needle, and the existence of much of this work brings the plate at once into the class of intaglio engravings.

When a plate has been etched before it has been roughened by rocker or roulette, the etched lines will appear on the print in low relief. Sometimes, ETCHING, STIPPLE AND DRY POINT

if the rocking, rouletting, or grounding has been carried very deeply, it may obliterate the etched lines altogether in dark places, but they can generally be detected by their difference of texture to that of the soft mezzotinting. As a rule an etched

line has blunted ends, whereas an engraved line has delicately pointed ends, and also has cleaner edges. Etching, as well as engraving, removes some metal from the plate on which it occurs, but rouletting or v rocking does not unless it is carried too far, in which case the plate is ruined.

Graining by stipple, a process much used by mezzotinters, especially those of Cousins' school, is a sort of etching, but instead of lines the etcher makes dots, and the acid eats the metal away irregularly, so that no two dots are the same shape. Pointilld work, the fine dotting which can be seen on faces, is usually simply done by hand with a fine point. Microscopically, on a print, both the stipple stars and the pointiHd dots project above the general level of the paper.

Dry-point consists of scratches made on a metal plate with a sharp, strong needle. These scratches have fine ends like those of an engraved line, but no metal is removed; the needle only cuts a furrow like that made by a plough, and throws up the superabundant metal at the side in a burr. In a print a dry-point line shows with a blurred effect, due to the burr catching some extra ink under its sheltering ridge. When the burr is worn or scraped off, the line itself shows only as if it were engraved by the burin.

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