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In the preceding sheet we endeavoured to describe the representations by being stamped on paper, after havprocess of producing impressions from movable types, ing been inked for the purpose. The reason why wood. generally known as letlerpress - printing: in the pre- engravings possess these qualities over metal plates is, sent, we direct attention to the allied, but more diffi- because the figures or marks to be shown in print are cult and delicate arts of producing impressions from left raised on the wood, the parts not to be printed engravings on wood, copper, steel, and other metals, being cut away. This is the reverse of the principle of from drawings on stone, and by the action of the sun's metal-plate engraving, in which, as will hereafter be rays on chemically-prepared substances.
seen, the figures or marks are sunk, and hence the
difficulty of effecting impressions with any degree of WOOD-ENGRAVING.
rapidity. Another peculiar advantage arises from the fact, that stereotype casts can be obtained from woodcuts as readily as from movable types, thus giving the printer the power to multiply them indefinitely.
The art of carving figures in relief on the face of a piece of wood, and then stamping the figures, blackened with ink, on paper, or some other light fabric, is of great antiquity. The Chinese have for ages stamped or printed books in this rude manner. In Germany, the first attempts at printing with a press were effected by wooden blocks, which, however, were soon abandoned, in consequence of the invention of printing by movable types. Previously, the subjects stamped in Germany were for the greater part of a devotional kind, such as representations of saints, for distribution by the clergy as aids in devotion. The earliest print from a woodblock of which we have any certain date is, or was lately, in the collection of Earl Spencer : it is the representation of St Christopher carrying the in. fant Saviour across the sea, bearing the date 1423. It was discovered in one of the most ancient convents in Germany — the Chartreuse of Buxheim, near Mem. mingnon--pasted within one of the covers of a Latin manuscript of the year 1417. It has an inscription at the bottom, which has been thus translated : * In whichever day thou seest the likeness of St Christopher, In that same day thou wilt, at least, from death no evil blow
incur.-1423. Tutofon Taken me saaame viens milletim acerca
A reduced fac-simile of this curious engraving forms the illustration at the head of the present article. Be
sides being employed to illustrate devotional subjects, The method of taking impressions, or printing from wood-engraving was used in Germany for marking the woodcuts, being precisely the same as that followed in figures on playing-cards; and, what is somewhat reordinary letterpress, we commence with a brief account markable, the rude figures of these early times are of the art of Wood-Engraving, or, as it is sometimes represented with little or no improvement of taste on more learnedly termed, from Greek and Latin com- the playing cards of the present day. pounds, Xylography and Lignography. In doing so, As stated in the preceding sheet, immediately be. our aim will be to afford such information as may fore, and also after the invention of printing, the pracserve at once the purposes of the general reader, and tice of issuing small books composed entirely of woodof the individual who may be desirous of acquiring cuts, representing Scripture subjects, was common in some skill in the practice of the art.
different continental countries. The people not being During the last twenty years, it will have been ob- able to read, were in this manner impressed with served how great has been the increase of works con- glimmering ideas of sacred history. Remarkable in. taining wood-engravings, either for the purpose of illus-cidents mentioned in the books of Moses, the Gospels, tration or embellishment. The illustrations throughout and the Apocalypse, were thus made known to the lessthe present work belong to this species of engraving, instructed classes, but generally in connection with and few publications of a cheap class are now issued legends of the Middle Ages. Some works of this class without them. Usually less delicate and minute than were called Biblia Pauperum:-( Poor Men's Books'); engravings ou copper or steel, woodcuts possess a pecu- and copies of them are now extremely rare. By such liar value from the comparative ease with which they devices was the piety of our unlettered forefathers can be printed. While plate embellishments require excited : the instruction being communicated to the to be produced by a process so tedious, that a man can understanding through the eye, as it is now more with difficulty execute 250 impressions in a day, a generally conveyed through the ear. wood-engraving can be printed with great rapidity by Wood-engraving, for the sake of illustrating printed a machine to the extent of many thousands daily. The copies of the Scriptures, was brought to extraordinary chief value of the woodcut, however, consists in its perfection by Albert Durer at the end of the fifteenth being adapted for printing along with letterpress. It century. Instead of hard outlines, the figures were is inserted among the types by the compositor, and now finely shaded, and an elegant picture produced. impressions come from it along with the letterpress Throughout the sixteenth century the art flourished in which it is intended to illustrate. Hence a woodcut Holland, Germany, and Italy, and had many eminent is to be described as a type-a thing which produces professors. As printing advanced, it may be said to No. 96.
have declined ; the eye and the feelings were less the cuts will warp, and be useless to the printer. After
lines. One or more of the gravers require to be slightly
graver, and, as is shown in the annexed cut (6), is trifling as it seems, which tells a woful tale of suffer- much more tapering and sharp at the ing. Wood-engraving was now raised to the rank of a point. 4. A fiat or gouge - tool, for regular profession in England, and was greatly advanced cutting away blank spaces at the by Nesbit, Harvey, Branston, and Thomson, both as edges, and trimming the cut. 5. A respects elegance of design and delicacy of execution. hone or Turkey stone, on which to sharpen the various In France and England its professors have latterly been tools, and bring their edge to any required degree of numbered by hundreds.
slope. 6. A steel burnisher. 7. An inking slab, a
dabber, and a small quantity of fine printing ink, 23 Practice of Wood-Engraving.
afterwards specified. 8. India paper, on which to The Wood.—The pieces of wood employed in wood- take proofs.And lastly, two or three fine and hard engraving are usually termed blocks. These are inva- black-lead pencils. riably of the box-tree--a species of wood exceedingly A sufficient stock of the above-mentioned apparatus, fine in the grain. The tree is cut across in slices with of fair quality, for an amateur learner, need not cost a fine saw, and the slices, after being planed smooth above twenty or thirty shillings. on the surface, are cut into square blocks of the re- Drawing the Subject.—Equipped with the proper tools quired size. The blocks must be exactly one inch in and a few small blocks, the learner is ready to begin depth--such being the height of the printing-types in his operations. There is, however, something to be which they are to stand. When a block of more than done preliminary to engraving: this is the drawing of from six to eight inches square is wanted, it is neces- the figures to be engraved on the wood. The ability sary to join two or more pieces together, as the box-tree to draw with neatness and precision, also a knowledge is too limited in diameter to furnish blocks of a large of effect in light and shade, are indispensable in the size. Blocks ready for use, of any required size, are to amateur wood-cutter, or any one who desires to rise in be had from the carpenters who supply printers with the profession. There are indeed wood-engravers who furniture for their presses, likewise from turners of fine do not ordinarily draw, the designs being put on the wood, and other tradesmen. The price of a block of blocks by artists of celebrity, but to this class we do medium quality and size may be purchased for ten- not address ourselves. We are solicitous that no one pence or a shilling per pound—a pound of wood yield- who wishes to instruct himself in wood - engraving ing a printing-block about six inches square.
should think of making the attempt till he can draw As in every other article, there are good and bad on the wood the subjects which he intends to execute. qualities of wood : that which is preferable ought to be This degree of skill is not alone necessary for the puras smooth on the surface as the finest paper, perfectly pose of rendering wood-engravers independent of artists; level, perfectly dry, and of a uniform yellow colour, it is also requisite to enable them to give effect to the without knots or flaws. When the tint is a darkish- designs which artists put on the wood. Sometimes the red, the wood will most likely prove brittle; and when designs are not made by black-lead pencils, but by very light, it may be spongy, and will absorb ink when various shades of India ink, laid on with camel-bair the cut comes to be printed. Some of the light-tinted pencils; and the effect of these various shadings tewood has the appearance of satin-wood. Upon this no quires to be brought out by lines and marks of different attempt should be made to engrave, it being utterly kinds—all the invention of the engraver. useless. Wood of various colours--as, for instance, Besides mere drawing, modern improvements have that which is dark in the middle of the disk, and gra- added another branch to this department of the art, dually getting light towards the edges--if not well- which is called lowering? The surface of the block dried or seasoned, is also not good; when of this kind, I being perfectly level, it is obvious that, while being printed at a press equally true and even, every line the graver cautiously forward at a uniform depth, and left standing on the cut 'receives an equal degree of clearing out small chips or threadlike parings. pressure. The finest lines forming a sky, for instance, In picture-painting, innumerable tones, tints, lights, receive an equal weight and impress with the deepest shades, nearness, and distance, are produced by applyand broadest shadow. Now this is manifestly not as it should be; for fine lines ought to be printed lightly, and dark ones heavily. To obviate this, in printing the commoner class of cuts, the pressman lays small patches of paper below his sheet, opposite the spots to be printed more darkly than others; but this mode of patching fails to a considerable degree in making fine work, and a surer plan for bringing up the effect at press, consists in slightly lowering certain parts of the surface of the block. This may be effected as follows: -Sketch the design on the block, and then scrape away with the scooper those parts to be printed lightly; for example, the sky, and the edges of trees, the whole ing a variety of colours, and any error can be rectified in various degrees, according to the degree of required by a new touch of the brush. In wood-engraving, lightness. We desire to add, that beginners should every kind of effect must be produced by a mere varianot trouble themselves with this process, as it applies tion in the marking, first with the pencil, and afteronly to an advanced class of exercises. If lowered, the wards with the graver; the result in printing being a designs will require to be re-sketched on the wood; but variety of dark marks and lines on a white ground. whether lowered or not, the surface of the block must The skill of the wood-engraver is therefore tested to no be prepared in the manner now to be described :- mean degree. On the careful and judicious disposition It will be observed in these examples, as well as in other cuts of a simple class, that three gradations of
The surface of the block being too smooth to receive of his lines, and the lightness and strength of his the markings of a pencil, it is roughened, and at the masses of darkened parts, depend the entire effect of same time delicately whitened all over with moistened his labours. In executing a woodcut, the parts drawn powder of Bath brick and flake white, and the palm of upon remain, and the blank spaces which the pencil the hand is afterwards passed over the block, to remove has not touched are cleared away. from it any gritty particles. When dry, it is ready for The first lessons of a learner should consist in the drawing, which is now put upon it, care being engraving straight parallel lines with a tinting-tool, taken that nothing is marked which is not to stand in as are here exemplified. The degree of darkness is relief. On being finished, the drawing appears to be a minute and perfect sketch on a white ground.
Besides being able to draw, the learner should be acquainted with the practice of copying and reducing from prints. For example, a wood-engraving 3 inches long by 2 inches broad is required to be made from a print 12 inches long and 8 inches broad. In this, as in all other cases, it is necessary to copy everything in exact proportion. A square frame, on which threads regulated by the thickness of the lines, and the spaces are stretched lengthwise and crosswise, leaving square cut out between them. Take care that the lines are openings, is laid on the print. Small squares to the cut smooth and clean, free of ruggedness or breaks. same number are now lightly traced on the wood, and Not till pretty well grounded in the art of cutting whatever parts lie within any opening in the frame are straight parallel lines, should the learner proceed to copied within the corresponding opening on the wood : the next steps in advance, which will consist in cutting thus a copy in exact proportion is obtained.
bent and waving lines. The following cuts exhibit As pencil-drawing is very apt to be blurred or partly the nature of this progression. Having cut one or more effaced by touching with the hand, it is necessary to cover the block, while working upon it, with a piece of paper. A slip of smooth, hard writing-paper is the best for this purpose : it should be neatly folded over the edges, and tied firmly round with a thread. On beginning to cut, tear off a piece of the paper from the part to which the tool is to be applied, and so remove the paper as the work proceeds.
of these early exercises, the parts of the block not to be
printed must be lowered with a flat or gouging-tool, Engraving.- Persons with weak sight use a strong so as to leave no parts so high as the lines. The depth magnifying-glass when engraving, or when closely ex- to which the blank-spaces or whites' must be cut is amining the appearance of their work. We would regulated chiefly by their extent—the larger the space, recommend beginners to avoid using a glass, if possible, the deeper the gouging. for it injures the sight with the naked eye. Persons Perfected in the art of cutting lines straight, bent, with ordinary eyesight require no glass in wood-cut- and waved, the learner may proceed to cross-hatching, ting. The work may be best executed with a strong which consists in cutting lines at different angles, steady northern light. In cutting by lamplight, a and of different lengths, across other lines, with the shade should be employed to throw the light down;
view of expressing graduated and the light may be concentrated by being made to
depths of shade. The varie. shine through a globe of water, the rays coming to a
ties of hatching are endless, focus on the block.
from light tones up to the The engraving is done at a table or bench of con
darkest shadows. venient height, placed below or near the light just
nexed figure of a hand reprementioned. The engraver, seated on a chair, holds and
sents a familiar variety of crossmoves about the block on the pad with the left hand,
hatching. while he operates with the tool in the right, as is repre- These specimens ar given more for the purpose of sented in the following cut. Great steadiness of hand showing what cross-hatching is, than of inducing learnis of the utmost importance, for the least cut in a ers to prosecute this kind of engraving. Cross-hatching wrong direction may mar, if not ruin, the effect to be should always be sparingly employed, and in no case produced. Until the learner becomes familiar with his when an effect can be attained by simple lines; for it tools, he should proceed gently and patiently, pushing introduces complexity, and often too much minuteness
of detail. “A good engraving,' as Jackson observes, light and shade with as few lines and hatchings as posviewed as a work of art, is not good in proportion, as sible
, never making two or more small marks where one many of its parts have the appearance of fine lace.' of a bolder stretch would answer.
The earliest exer-
Apparent faults in wood-engravings can with great
Outline figures, or such as have but a few touches
cute figures with shading, it is advisable to begin with A precaution may be necessary in taking proofs by those possessing few details, and as little complicated the above plan—which is, to leave a border of the whites in subject as possible. Perhaps something like the folo standing round the edge of the block, as something for lowing might be copied with advantage : the hand and the burnisher to bear upon. To prevent the black mass (which will of course be inked with the rest) from appearing on the finished proof, a rough one must be taken first, and the subject of the engraving cut out of it with scissors. After inking the block for the clean proof, the black border must be covered with what is left of the first impression, which protects the former from the ink during the burnishing process. Of course the border on the block must be cut away in finishing the woodcut for press.
After using, the slab should be cleaned with lye of potashes, or turpentine, and the dabber must be kept Another class of exercises consists in cutting sketches clean and soft. If these precautions are not attended of round and oval objects, in which there are strong to, the proofs will soon become coarse in appearance, and the cuts will be clogged. The most perfect dabber is the ball of the hand; but few will choose to soil their hands with printers' ink. Cuts are cleaned most effectually with turpentine, and they should be carefully dried before being put aside.
Outline Figures.- In commencing to cut figures and scenes, it is advisable to copy from wood-engravings of a simple and expressive kind. Almost all beginners commit a serious mistake in attempting to imitate the finer class of wood-engravings, which abound in minute and sudden depths of shadow and strong and sudden marking. They should learn to bring out an effect in lights, as in the preceding figure of the acorn.
Wood-Engraving as a Profession. shade require to be studied. After the pure white Wood-engraving is carried on as a profession chiefly comes the lightest shading, consisting of only a few in London, where there are some extensive establishscratches : next we have the gray or middle tone : ments devoted to this line of business. In these, as in lastly, we have this mid tone shading down to the all other large concerns, it is not unusual to have a pure black. Pure blacks are portions of wood scarcely, division of labour: a cut being made to go through if at all, touched by the graver.
several hands, from the drawing to the finishing. By About this stage of advancement the learner may such means cuts can be produced with surprising rapi. exercise himself in drawing and cutting foliage of dif- dity; but it may be doubted if this wholesale system ferent kinds. As is well known to the draughtsman, of production is advantageous to art. The too-common foliage is represented differently, according to the na- failing of woodcuts is their want of character and ture of the tree. In the accompanying sketch, the truth. They may be neat, elegant, and highly-finished,
but not striking for their fidelity, and too ambitiously imitative of steel or copper-plate engravings. Woodcuts should possess a character of their own, which cannot be mistaken ; and to attain this character for his productions ought to be the aim of every artist.
Another, and perhaps more serious fault of many woodcuts, is their not being adapted to the kind of printing for which they are intended. There are now two kinds of letterpress printing, very different from each other-printing by fat pressure with the handpress, and printing with cylinder machines, moved by steam power. At the hand-press, cuts can be worked off with the greatest possible deliberation and care; and if inked by means of soft balls, any degree of colour can be imparted to them. At the printingmachine, no such pains can be taken : a common or easily-working ink must be employed; the rollers run over the forms with uncompromising speed ; and the cylinders, turning out ten or twelve sheets per minute, give a depth of impression which is fatal to delicacy of
lines. Now the misfortune is, that wood-engravers do willow is represented by perpendicular markings, ter- not sufficiently study these distinctions. In sending minating in a point, to give the idea of its pendent home their cuts to their employers, they give along foliage. A broad mass of light is usually preserved, with them proofs on India paper, which look exceedand an increase of markings is given to one side of ingly beautiful; and if the cuts were to be printed on each subdivision of foliage, with considerable power of India paper with fine ink, the work would be quite characteristic markings on the shade-side of the tree, answerable. Such, however, is not the case. Perhaps besides an occasional repetition of touch for effect. as many as nine-tenths of all the cuts executed are for
Advanced Excercises. After outlined and shaded machine-printing, with which it is impossible to do figures, the learner may proceed to figures with shadings them on all occasions justice. Hence the many blurred and backgrounds, requiring a variety of light and dark and ineffective cuts which are seen in books, all the lines. In beginning figures or objects with backgrounds, tones being confounded, and often only a gray haze it is necessary to cut an outline round it, as a boun- pervading the work. Not that these cuts are badly dary to other lines coming against it; but this outline executed, but that they are suited to an entirely difshould not be seen in the impression of the engraving. ferent process of working. This outlining prevents the figure from appearing to We mention these circumstances with the view of adhere to the background, and is indispensable. doing all in our power to inspire amateur learners . In this department of study the learner may engrave with a correct idea of the deficiencies as well as the human figures, animals of different kinds, and rural excellencies of wood-engraving in its present state of and street scenes with skies ; beginning, for example, advancement. We wish to show them not only what with such as have few objects, and little complexity they should attain, but what they ought in prudence of light and shade, as in the following sketch:- to avoid. Already it has been stated that, without a
knowledge of drawing, all attempts to prosecute woodengraving successfully must prove fruitless. Let us repeat and impress this fact on the mind of every one who thinks of taking a graver in hand. Let all who are deficient in this qualification procure instruction; and we know of no better seminaries than the Schools of Design now generally established throughout the country. Learn, we say, to sketch with fidelity from nature, to copy from prints and paintings, to acquire taste in grouping, and disposition of light and shade, and to design subjects in illustration of passages in stories, &c. Having acquired a certain proficiency in
these departments, which involve much miscellaneous After some practice with sketches of this nature, he knowledge, the amateur may proceed to wood-cutting, may proceed to others of a more complicated kind, and but not till then. in which the contrasts of light and shade are bolder, The surmounting of so many preliminary impediand require more delicate handling. In this, how-ments will no doubt require time and trouble; but no ever, as in many other things, much must be left to attainment of any value can be acquired without inthe taste, the patience, and the skill of the engraver. dustry and patience. The attainment in the present Beyond this it is unnecessary to offer any hints in this instance is worthy of more than the usual degree of brief and rudimentary description. Those who wish labour. It is the acquiring of an art which may be to pursue the profession of wood-engraving, will find tumed to most important uses. To those in easy cirit advantageous to consult the elegant and elaborate cumstances, it may be a delightful and elegant exertreatise of Mr Jackson. (C. Knight, London, 1839.) cise. To others less fortunate in worldly condition, it