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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Printing Surfaces - Planographic

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.

[Ottoman Calligraphies (خطوط عثمانية).

Mehmed İzzet Efendi. [Ottoman Calligraphies (خطوط عثمانية). Istanbul: Osmanh Kutuphanesi, 1323 AH (1905/1906 CE).]

Though the new planographic technology of lithography was used primarily for pictorial and cartographical texts in Europe, in Arabic-speaking regions it flourished after the 1820s as the main process by which hand-written texts were reproduced in the form of books and newspapers. This writing manual by the Turkish calligrapher Mehmed İzzet Efendi (1841/1842–1903) is printed via lithography. It includes instructions about how to write in several different Arabic scripts whose intricate forms would be difficult to reproduce via metal moveable type.

Lithographic stone used to print the covers of Edward Willett. Davy Crockett’s Boy Hunter, no. 11; and John F. Cowan. The Mountain Demon, no. 16. Lithographic stone used to print the covers of Edward Willett. Davy Crockett’s Boy Hunter, no. 11; and John F. Cowan. The Mountain Demon, no. 16.

Lithographic stone used to print the covers of Edward Willett. Davy Crockett’s Boy Hunter, no. 11; John F. Cowan. The Mountain Demon, no. 16. Cincinnati: The Arthur Westbrook Company, 1908.

Gift of Terry Belanger.

In earlier editions, these dime novel covers were printed in relief color, but the publishers who produced them turned to chromolithography by the end of the 19th century. Here is the stone used to print the black outlines of the title and the outlines and tones in the illustration. The completed covers include four to five separate colors, each of which would have been printed with a separate stone.

Hero jam jar labels. Hero jam jar labels. Lithographed facsimile of a letter from the Philomuse Society of Athens, 14 August 1819.

Hero jam jar labels. Esslingen am Neckar, Germany, ca. 1950. Proofs commissioned from Hans Ulrich in 2006 by RBS; Box of Korn’s Lithographic Crayons, No. 3. New York: Wm. Korn, Inc., ca. 1950.

This mid-20th-century lithographic stone comes from the Steindruckerei of Hans Ulrich, a German lithographer who created proofs demonstrating seven color separations used to print this jam jar label. Pale red underlies all of the succeeding colors: yellow, blue, red II, sign blue, grey, and, lastly, black. Each color was printed successively, in this exact order, onto one large sheet of paper. After going through all seven rounds of registered printing, the sheet would be cut, resulting in a stack of multi-color labels.