Below is an explanation of the wood-block printing process from “The Pictorial Press its Origin and Progress” by Mason Jackson, London: Hurst and Blackett, 1885. This is not the entire chapter only the section dealing with the actual process. Some artists like Sir John Gilbert, R. A., drew directly on the block with no preliminaries.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The history of wood-engraving for reproduction in England properly begins with Thomas Bewick, whose bucolic wood engravings of birds, animals, cries of London, and illustrations to Aesop caught the fancy of the British public. Bewick’s influence on illustrated commercial art was to enormous. When Bewick died in 1828 many of his wood-blocks came into the possession of Jemmy Catnatch of Alnwick, in Northumberland. When Catnatch moved to London he began using the Bewick “cuts” over and over to illustrate his catchpenny broadsheets and children’s books. The wood-engraving process begun by the “father” of the wood-cut would last until mass reproduction of pen and ink drawings in newspapers and magazines first became possible in the 1880’s with the invention of the line process block, which used photography to transfer the artists’ pen drawing to a metal plate and on to the printing press.