Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/49

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general considerations

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wood or else box, and is always cut lengthwise, in the direction of the grain, and not across it, as in Europe. The cutting itself is done in this manner: first of all the two edges of the contour lines are cut along with a knife, and then the superfluous wood is removed with gouges of various shapes—formerly a knife was used for this too—so that nothing remains but the outlines of the drawing in relief. Finally, the fragments of paper still adhering to the wood are cleaned off and the plate is ready for printing. The impression itself is always taken off either with the hand, or else, as formerly in Europe, with a rubber. This is the secret of its clearness and beauty, as well as of the amazing fidelity with which it follows the artist's individual intentions. Special care is devoted to the selection of the paper, according to the quantity of colour which it is intended to absorb, and it is slightly damped before printing. In the case of some particularly fine old prints it is thick and of loose fibre, so that the design is deeply impressed on it; it has an ivory tone and a smooth surface. The colouring matter—always water-colour, not oil-colour—is mixed with a little rice-paste and carefully applied to the block with a brush; the paper is then laid upon the block and the back of it rubbed with the hand or the rubber. The most varied effects may be attained by varying the intensity of the colour, the proportion of water added to it, and the pressure applied to the print.[1]

In the case of colour-prints, the artist takes off as many copies of the outline-block as he intends to use colour-blocks, and then further outlines all the parts which are to be printed in the same colour on one of these copies in turn; these are then again cut on as many blocks as there are colours, one being generally put on each side of the same piece of wood,

  1. Tokuno, Japanese Wood-Cutting, 1894; Anderson, Japanese Wood-Engraving, p. 62 ff. (both with illustrations of the implements). See also Régamey, Le Japon pratique (1891).