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Antique Lithographs

Discovered by Alois Senefelder (1771-1834) in the late 18th century this technique revolutionised the printing industry. Lithography is a planographic system, that is, the image is on the surface of the medium (limestone), with little pressure ('a kiss') being required to make a print. For this reason there is no plate mark associated with a lithograph, only four in hole where the paper was secured during the printing process.

Antique Lithographs Print - Saltash Bridge by Brunel A good example of an antique lithograph print is Brunel's Railway Bridge at Saltash. The soft tonal qualities of the limestone produced image are used very effectively in the historic scene.


Antique Lithograph Prints- The Technique

The process relies upon the principle that oil and water do not mix. The artist worked on a specially surfaced slab of limestone drawing the image with a greasy pencil. On completion of the drawing was treated with a solution of diluted acid which was repelled by the greasy drawing but bit into the surrounding stone. The stone was then soaked with water and printing ink applied by roller. The ink from the roller would not adhere to wet limestone but was attracted to the grease of the drawing. Providing the stone was kept moist and the design regularly inked, almost unlimited copies could be made.

The image was obtained by placing the paper on top of the prepared drawing and then placing in a press. One of the best known proponents of this technique was James Duffield Harding (1798-1863) who produced many topographical views and animal studies.


Antique Lithographs - prints technique explained

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