THE BRITISH LIBRARY Catalogue of Photographically Illustrated Books
Detail from Catalogue of Photographically Illustrated Books
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Glossary of terms, subjects and descriptions in separate fields


Broad terms used Includes for example:
Animals Birds, Insects, Fossils, etc.
Art Art objects, Drawings, Etchings, Paintings, Sculptures, Stage Designs, Portraits , etc
Buildings Architecture, Castles, Cathedrals, Churches, Cities, Houses, Mosques, Museums, Railway Stations, Schools, Streets, Towns, etc
Craft Objects Book covers, Bindings, Cameras, Ceramics, Costumes, Crosses, Furniture, Jewellery, Models, Seals, etc.
Human Body Anatomical specimens, Face, Feet, Hands, Legs, Skin, etc.
Landscapes Deserts, Glaciers, Lakes, Mountains, Rivers, Valleys, etc.
Machinery Locomotives, Printing presses, Railways, Trains, etc.
Parks and Gardens Botanical gardens, Gardens, Parks, etc.
Plants Algae, Botanical Specimens, Flowers, Mosses, Trees, etc.
Texts Inscriptions, Manuscripts, Printed texts, etc.
Vessels Barges, Boats, Clippers, Ships, Yachts, etc.
Warfare Armour, Firearms, Military Camps, Military Life, Shields, Swords, Weapons, etc.
People Actors and Actresses, Children, Dancers, Farmers, Men, Soldiers, Portraits, Women, etc.


Albumen = invented by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Évrard in 1850; an improvement on the salted paper print, used between 1848 and the late 1870s. Plain paper was coated with a layer of egg-white containing salt and sensitised with silver nitrate before exposure. This type of photograph was susceptible to the deleterious effects of light and oxygen - many of these photographs show signs of fading and yellowing with loss of density and contrast.

Blanquart-Évrard Process = introduced in 1851 and used until 1857, Louis Désiré Blanquart-Évrard developed the sensitised salted paper print and produced multiple copies of photographs from one negative. These runs of large prints were highly suitable for book illustration and, for their day, were of exceptionally high quality.

Calotype = W. H. F. Talbot invented and developed this process in 1840 and patented it in 1841; it was used until circa 1855. The image was produced using fine quality writing paper (which was sensitised by silver nitrate and potassium iodide), and placed with a negative in a printing frame, exposed to sunlight and developed in a solution of gallic acid and silver nitrate. This type of early photograph often faded over time with the result of localised fading and loss of detail and contrast.

Carbon Prints = in use as book illustrations from 1860 to 1930. There were many early versions of this process invented by A. L. Poitevin in 1855 and J. Pouncey in 1858, and perfected by J. Swan of Newcastle in 1864. A negative was exposed in daylight against a sheet of paper tissue coated with pigmented gelatine (sometimes carbon black) and sensitised with potassium bichromate (or bromide). During exposure the gelatine hardened in proportion to the light exposure through the negative. The excess pigment remained soluble and was washed away leaving the final image which was in slight relief. Carbon images are permanent and characterised by deep rich tones of brown without any deterioration. They were very suitable for book illustration and commercial editions of photographs. Their greatest use was between 1870 and 1888.

Chromolithography = a photolithograph which is produced in colours; in use from 1850.

Collodion = invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. The negative was produced by hand coating a sheet of glass with an application of guncotton dissolved in ether (collodion) and potassium iodide solution and sensitised with silver nitrate. The plate was exposed (early versions were exposed whilst still wet) and developed immediately on location.

Collotype = a photo-mechanical process. A sensitised plate or sheet of gelatine, etched by actinic light, produced an impression which absorbs printer’s ink in proportion to the action and level of light. Used between 1870 and 1914.

Cyanotype = this early process was invented by Sir John Herschel in 1840. A contact print was made with fine quality paper, which was coated with iron salt and potassium ferricynanide. The image was produced by placing a negative or botanical specimen on the sensitised paper and exposing it to light. Where light reached the paper the area turned a stunning cobalt blue colour; where the light was blocked, it remained white. Anna Atkins perfected Herschel’s process and produced British Algae between 1840 and 1845. The British Library holds one of the complete copies of this outstanding work. This process is still in use today; it is commonly known as blue print and used for architectural drawings. Contemporary artists are also using this process to great effect.

Electrotype = a copy of a model which is created by the deposition of copper by a galvanic action.

Engraving = a subject represented by lines incised upon a metal plate, from which the image is printed

Gelatine Silver Prints = were used from the early 1880s and are still in production today. A generic term referring to prints coated with silver salts. Paper is coated with gelatine containing halides; sodium bromide is now universally used. The exposed bromides are converted to silver bromide by chemical development producing black and white prints of various tones of black through to white in different degrees of contrast.

Glyptotype = a form of electrotype process where a copy is obtained from an engraved plate by creating a raised surface suitable for letter-press printing.

Heliogravure = an engraving process using the action of light upon a sensitised surface. Used between 1870 and 1914

Heliotype = an image produced by printing from a film of gelatine which has been sensitised with bichromate of potash and exposed to light through a photographic negative.

Lemerciergravure = a photo-mechanical process perfected by the French printers Lemercier.

Letterpress = a printing process using type rather than plates.

Lithography = the art and process of creating an image upon a stone surface.

Lichtdruck (Ger.) = the first reproduction process used to produce halftone illustrations in books in Germany from 1870 to 1900.

Photo-galvanography = a process of creating a positive photograph on glass or paper by means of a gutta percha impression from a relief negative made from encased bichromated gelatine; an electrotype plate used for printing.

Photoglyptie (Fr.) = the French equivalent of the Woodburytype where a relief image was made in bichromated gelatine and placed in a hydraulic press and pressed in contact with lead which produced a mould in relief creating the contours of the different densities in the photograph.

Photogravure = a variation of the intaglio printing process, in which the image is placed on the plate by photographic means. It was invented by W. H. F. Talbot in 1858, but not used commercially until 1880 when Karl Klic refined the development process. The image was produced from a copper plate, dusted with ashphaltum powder and coated with bichromated gelatine tissue (similar to carbon tissue). The exposed, hardened layers were etched to different depths. The result is a high quality photograph with continuous tones, used effectively in book illustration.

Photolithography = the process of producing by photography designs upon a lithographic stone from which prints may be taken.

Photo-mechanical prints = a generic term used to describe an early application of photography to the print industry; it denotes a process where the action of light upon chemicals on a prepared surface allows the printing of an infinite number of impressions.

Photo-mezzotype = a photo-mechanical printing process similar to collotype.

Platinum Print = used from 1873 to circa 1920; the image is produced by the coating of a sensitising solution of iron salts and a platinum compound. The exposed contact print was developed in a solution of potassium oxylate; platinum deposits created the imbedded image.

Printing Out Papers = used from the late nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. The image on the prints was formed by the action of light upon the sensitised paper. The tonal range, contrast and densities were produced without chemical development; many prints were toned with gold to improve the stability of the image and colour.

Stannotype = a simplified form of the Woodburytype process of photo-mechanical engraving.

Stereoscopic = two photographs taken with a stereoscopic camera. One photograph represents the left eye, and the other the right eye. When the two photographs are viewed in a stereoscopic apparatus, they combine to create a single image with depth and relief.

Talbotype = the name given to William Henry Fox Talbot’s invention patented as the calotype in 1841.

Woodburytype = invented by Walter B. Woodbury and patented in 1865. Publishers used these early photo-mechanical prints for book illustration, theatre and opera programmes from 1865 to circa 1900. Similar to the carbon process, its advantage was that the production costs were considerably less. The relief image was created in a film of bichromated gelatine and placed in a hydraulic press in contact with a sheet of lead which was coated with gelatinous ink and transferred to paper. The edge densities of the original image are seen characteristically as a subtle visible relief image.

Zincotypes = prints produced from engravings or etchings on zinc.