Index Lithography
Aspects of the Victorian Book
  Production   Publishing
  Lithography in the Victorian age

The invention of Alois Senefelder in Germany around 1798, lithography was the first new method of printing for over three hundred years. Unlike relief and intaglio processes, it is a planographic process based on the chemical antipathy of grease and water. Lines are drawn with greasy ink or crayon on a specially prepared limestone, which is then moistened with water; an oily printer's ink, applied to the surface of the stone with a roller, is attracted to the image. This is then printed on to the paper under pressure. Lithographs printed in colour, or chromolithographs, were achieved by repeating this process with a separate stone for each colour, taking care to keep the image register each time it went through the press.

Lithography was introduced into England in 1801, and, after a slow start, emerged as a popular process during the 1820s. The most important English treatise was Charles Joseph Hullmandel's The Art of Drawing on Stone (1824), and it was he who developed, together with his apt pupil James Duffield Harding, a range of techniques which particularly suited the work of topographical artists. Success in printing tints and tonal shades led to a bolder use of colour, initially printing flat areas of different colours side by side, and later achieving more subtle effects by overprinting.

By 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, both lithography and chromolithography had come of age. It was recognised as a versatile, cost-effective method of printing both text and illustrations in a wide range of artistic, scholarly and commercial productions, from topographical drawings to technical manuals, to persuasive advertisements, music covers and manuscript facsimiles. Gradually, however, experiments with photographic processes led to the development of simpler photolithographic techniques, which, as the century drew to a close, replaced the pure art of drawing on stone.

R. J. Goulden

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