This week: Women Engravers by Patricia Jaffe.
Comments: Colour printing was traditionally very expensive and consequently many illustrators spent their lives mainly working in black and white. This was invariably pen/brush and ink - think Mervyn Peake, Eric Frazer, Aubrey Beardsley, W. Heath Robinson etc. Less usual (although something of a British tradition) was wood engraving...
Wood engraving is equal part craft and art. Probably the most famous British wood engraver is Thomas Bewick, working in Newcastle in the late 18th century. At this time wood engraving was the easiest way of reproducing an image for inclusion in a book.
The production of a wood engraving is a long and involved process.The initial image is normally drawn in ink using pen and brush. Thereafter the design is carefully traced on to printing blocks made from boxwood. Box trees don't grow very big and this means that prints bigger than a few inches wide have to be made from multiple pieces of wood glued together. This is not easy to do and perhaps explains why most engravings are tiny. Once transferred, all areas that will appear white in the final image are carefully removed with small chisels. One slip can easily ruin the block.
Blocks can take weeks cut and it is testament to the skill and artistry of the engravers illustrated here that images of beauty, drama, movement and life can come out of such a laborious process.
If you want to replicate the 'look' of a wood engraving without the tears and technical challenges we would recommend scraper board as a user friendly alternative.
Anyway, on with the images:
Now wasn't that fantastic, yes?
We don't have a copy in the library at Brampton Road but they do in Lancaster. Order it up and it should be with you the following day.