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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Printing Surfaces - Photography, Stencil, Digital

New developments in printing emerged with the turn of the 19th century. Lithography was discovered in 1798—a planographic printing method that made use of lithographic stones to transfer texts and images from their flat planes onto the faces of substrates. Books, artworks, and documents printed this way thus lack the dimensionality of relief and intaglio printing. With the invention of photography, the subsequent development of photomechanical printing processes in the 19th century harnessed relief and intaglio processes in new ways—allowing images to be photographically replicated and printed. Additional methods, such as inkjet, entail no traditional printing surfaces (e.g., blocks, plates, stones) at all.

All of these distinct printing technologies varied in terms of the time, cost, equipment, and labor that they required. Each technology leaves its own discernible traces, providing information not only about how and when books were printed, but also about the different communities who made them.

Transformation: Or, the Romance of Monte Beni. 2 vols. Transformation: Or, the Romance of Monte Beni. 2 vols.

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Transformation: Or, the Romance of Monte Beni. 2 vols. Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1860. 2 copies: copy 1, Ex Libris Ava Stewart; copy 2, Ex Libris Emma Danforth Wiley.

In the 1840s, books began to be illustrated with photographs. Within two decades, publishers and booksellers capitalized on the availability and affordability of albumen prints, as seen here with Tauchnitz’s publication of Hawthorne’s Transformation (appearing in America as The Marble Faun). Italian booksellers and bookbinders allowed purchasers (usually tourists) to customize their copies from a range of photographs suited to their budgets and tastes. These two copies contain different albumen prints of the Faun of Praxiteles: one reader’s copy contains an image with the statue’s genitalia covered with a fig leaf, while another reader’s copy remains uncensored.

Photopolymer plate for the Spring 1997 issue of the Quarterly News-Letter of The Book Club of California.<br /><br />QuarkXPress for Macintosh. Photopolymer plate for the Spring 1997 issue of the Quarterly News-Letter of The Book Club of California.<br /><br />QuarkXPress for Macintosh.

Photopolymer plate for the Spring 1997 issue of the Quarterly News-Letter of The Book Club of California.

Gift of Peter Koch.

QuarkXPress for Macintosh. Denver, CO: Quark, Inc., 1986–1993. 

These photopolymer plates are part of a full set composed by the printer Peter Koch in 1997 using the program QuarkXPress on a Macintosh computer. Koch printed the plates on a 1960s Heidelberg KSBA 18 by 23 in. cylinder press. Photopolymer plates first came into use in 1974. The new technology harnessed light-sensitive plastics, or photopolymers, for preparing letterpress, offset, and flexographic printing plates. Initially developed for large-scale industrial printing, photopolymer plates began to be used by fine and private press printers with the rise of desktop publishing. 

Printing Surfaces - Photography, Stencil, Digital