19. Copper engraving

19. Copper engraving

IMAGE 1.  Nova reperta, plate 19.


Inscription. COPPER ENGRAVING. With a new technique the sculptor engraves figures in a glistening plate, and prints them with a press.
Description. In the right foreground, an elderly master with spectacles teaches two youthful apprentices how to draw on a plate, burins and other engraving tools before him on the table.  A second apprentice is at work in the left foreground. Between them, two grown men prepare a copper plate for printing: one heats the plate, to help disperse the ink, which the other applies.  The inked plate is then covered with paper and passed through the large rolling press to the left: note the muscular labourer applying two arms and a leg to the onerous task.  In the left background, printed sheets are hung out to dry along the walls.  In the right background, a second workshop can be seen in an adjoining room.
IMAGE 2.  Graveurs en taille douce au bruin et a l'eave forte, 1643, by Abraham Bosse (1602-1676), engraving; 26.2 x 33 cm (sheet). Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Call Number: FP - XVII - B745, no. 46 (A size), Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-22009. No know restrictions on publication.

Description. This print shows an etcher sitting on the left and an engraver on the right (the latter identified by pencil inscription as Abraham Bosse himself) in their studio, with patrons viewing prints hanging on the wall in the background. Here printmaking is depicted as a genteel art, employing only the most subtle manual dexterity in a setting more reminiscent of an art gallery than a workshop.  By contrast, almost half a century earlier, Galle depicted the same art as a mechanical trade (Image 1), in which burly working men, with shoulders hunched over their labours and sleeves rolled up their forearms, sweat over heating pans and strain to power heavy machinery.

Notable engravers featured in SS 13 include Wenceslaus Hollar and David Loggan.

Further resources. The copperplate engraving process is illustrated by Andrew Stein Raftery, Associate Professor of Printmaking, Rhode Island School of Design, in the brief video (7:15) below by Eric Paul Meier. 

Commentary. Howard Hotson (February 2017)