Blackwood's Magazine/Volume 1/Issue 2/Account of the Method of Engraving on Stone



The increasing taste for the fine arts in this great literary capital, and the pretty eager attention now paid to them by the public in general, inspire a hope that you will allot a place in your Magazine for so interesting a department of polite and useful knowledge.

Nothing can be more conducive to the promotion of the arts than publicity, which may be greatly accelerated through the medium of your publication, by the admission of discussions on the works of ancient and modern artists, explanations of their modes of representation, or descriptions of the implements or apparatus used by them for that purpose. To those desirous of information, you may thus furnish facilities of acquiring it; and to those willing to communicate the result of their experience, a reputable and easy channel to publicity. To the inexperienced, nothing is more discouraging than the difficulty with which practical information is to be obtained, with regard to the composition or management of the substances or implements to be employed in the arts in general. With this view, and trusting to a coincidence of opinion on your part, I beg leave to request the insertion of the following article on Lithography, or the art of engraving on stone, which I hope may be the means of calling forth other communications, either on the practice or criticism of the fine arts.

This art has been long and succesfully practised on the Continent, and we believe Germany has the honour of its invention. It was introduced into this country by a person of the name of Andrè, about fifteen years ago, who attempted the publication of a periodical work, containing specimens of it by some of the most eminent artists in London, but which has been discontinued. It was also used in the Quarter-Master General's office, for the purpose of printing military plans, &c. In this country, however, it has never reached that state of perfection to which it has arrived on the Continent, as may be seen by a comparison of the works of Spix on craniology (in the College Library), Albert Durer's Missal, and the Bavarian Flora, all of which are printed at Munich, and also the Flora Monacensis, and the last number of the Journal des Scavans; and these also furnish a proof of what may yet be done in the detail of this extraordinary invention.

The great advantages which this art possesses over every other kind of engraving, are, first, that any person who can draw, can also execute the engraving with the same ease with which he uses the pencil on paper; and, secondly, the circumstance of his being enabled to have any number of copies taken at less than half the expense of ordinary copperplate printing

Nothing equal, it is true, to the tone, or minute elegance of the best line engraving can be produced, but an inspection of the works already mentioned, will show how admirably it is adapted to represent objects of a picturesque description, natural history, outlines, anatomical subjects, plans, &c. It is also applicable to the purpose of multiplying writings, as the subject can be written on the prepared paper, afterwards transferred to the stone, and then printed without delay, at no further expense than the printing. In this way all the proclamations of the state at Munich are made public.

Directions.—A slate of white lias (Bath stone), about one inch thick, must be made perfectly level, and polished with very fine sand. The subject is then drawn on the stone with a common pen, and a prepared liquid of the consistence of common ink, and with the same facility; after this the stone is washed over with diluted nitric acid, which slightly corrodes that part of the stone only which has not been drawn on with the pen. The liquid is made with gum lac, dissolved in ley of pure soda, with a little soap, and coloured with lamp black. The liquid upon the stone., after the design is drawn, must be allowed to dry for about four days, and then soaked in water till perfectly saturated; in this state (with the water on the surface), a common printing ball is dabbed over it as in type printing. This ink adheres to such parts as have been drawn upon, the other parts of the stone being wet, repel the printing ink; the impression is then taken, by passing it through a press with a single cylinder. When the print is wished to resemble a chalk drawing, the stone is left rather rough, by using a coarser sand to polish it; and instead of the ink and pen being used, a crayon made of the same materials (only with a larger quantity of the lamp black) is applied in the same manner as a pencil. There is another method by which it may be done, namely, by covering the stone over with a thin mixture of gum water and lamp black, and after it is dry, the design is drawn with the point of an etching needle, in the same being enabled to have any number of way as on copper, cutting through the covering of gum and black, till the surface of the stone is reached, and then rubbing the solution into the lines or scratches. This done, it must be allowed to dry for the above mentioned time, and then soaked as before in water, when the gum will dissolve, leaving the lines only; upon which the printing ink is applied, as before explained, and the impression taken. Should this plan find a place in the Magazine, it is proposed to give, in some of your subsequent numbers, a short account of the history of the discovery, and of the methods used in common etching upon copper, together with some receipts for the preparation of the grounds, &c.