The Printed Book

by Harry G. Aldis, M.A. Cambridge at the University Press 1916

Book illustrations Part 7

From Bewick and his contemporaries, Stothard, .Blake, and Flaxman, the procession of notable book illustrators-artists and engravers-goes on in unbroken succession and variety. Cruikshank, Hablot Browne (' Phiz') illustrator of Dickens, Ainsworth, and Lever, with John Leech, of Punch fame, are foremost in the first half of the century. The stirring pictures of Sir John Gilbert and the 'rural beauties' of Birket Foster, translated in wood by the brothers Dalziel, were the delight of the midVictorians; while in the 'sixties' a group of artists, of which John Millais, Frederick Walker, and Arthur Houghton were leaders, contributed to Once-a- Week, Good Words, Oornhill, and other magazines illustrations which are regarded by some as the high-water mark of pictorial design rendered in woodcut. The colour-books of Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, and Randolph Caldecott, each with their distinctive genius, mark the succeeding period; and in the wonderful 'nineties' the Yellow Book-episode had its passing hour.

The English Illustrated Magazine, founded in 1883, was a brave effort in the cause of wood engraving, and some of the most delicate and beautiful work in this art is to be found in its earlier volumes and in the Oentury Magazine and Harper's Magazine. But, in the last decade of the nineteenth century, wood engraving with its rivals, metal engraving, etching, and lithography all met their fate as methods of book illustration in the onset of mechanical photographic processes for reproducing drawings and pictures. In the palmy days of wood and metal engraving the engraver shared honors with the artist whose designs he interpreted through the medium of his craft; but in these new processes the middleman is dispensed with, and we get a direct reproduction of the work of the artist. This difference, though important, was not the main element in effecting the revolution. Both engraving and etching are slow and laborious arts, and consequently expensive. On the other hand, the photographic processes are, by comparison, expeditious and cheap, qualities which give them an overwhelming advantage in meeting the requirements of the present day.

Nearly all these process methods of reproduction have photography as their basis, and, like their prototypes, may be classed in three divisions: relief, intaglio, and flat surface, according to the nature of the printing face. Only the first of these, which, like type, has the design in relief, can be printed in the same way and at the same time as the text of the book. The others are printed by a different operation, and the pictures produced by them, when used for book illustration, are usually added to the book in the form of plates.

In Line etchings, sometimes called zincographs, the design to be reproduced is transferred by photography to a zinc or copper plate the face of which has been coated with a preparation sensitive to light. After further treatment to fix' the design the plate is exposed to the action of acid which eats away that part of the surface not covered by the design. The class of work reproduced by impressions from blocks in relief falls into two divisions: (1) Line etching, which is suitable for designs or pictures consisting of lines, such as line drawings and wood engravings; (2) Half-tone, which is used for wash drawings, photographs, and other pictures composed of tones in light and shade.