Photographs for Wood Engraving

Photographs for Wood Engraving
All wood engravings have hitherto been first drawn by hand on wooden blocks for the engraver, who cuts them for common letterpress printing. This art involves great skill, and a peculiar natural taste on the part of the artist, and requires considerable time to execute the most simple figures. When photography was first discovered in England, its application to the production of pictures on wooden blocks was very early suggested and essayed, as stated on page 96 of our present volume; but although some blocks had been thus prepared and used in printing, the attempts to render the application truly useful failed of entire success. The reason of this, we have been informed, was owing to the defective processes pursued to produce such pictures on the blocks. By one method they (the blocks) were first prepared with a solution of common salt, then they were dipped into a bath of nitrate of silver to render them sensitive. This process injured the color and fibre of the wood, rendering it very brittle and unfit for printing more than a very few copies. Another method consisted in protecting the surface of the wood from the action of the nitrate of silver by a coating of albumen, rendered sensitive afterwards by the nitrate; but it was found that engravers could not cut clear lines, and consequently could not execute good engravings on such prepared surfaces. To obviate those evils, and to produce good photographic pictures on wooden blocks, was the object of the invention for which a patent was granted to R. Price, of Worcester, Mass., as noticed by us on page 390 of our last volume. He has never set up the claim of being the first person who applied photography to wood for engraving purposes, but that his process is the best yet discovered, and that good engravings on wood can be executed from it.

We will describe his process, so that there can be no mistake hereafter, either as to what it is, or its originality. It simply "consists in preparing the wooden blocks first of all with a thin solution of esphelium or bitumen, ether, and lampblack, rubbed into the pores of the wood." This ethereal solution of asphalt is put on the surface of the .block wish a rag, brush or sponge, and then some fine lampblack is also rubbed in dry; the surface of the block is afterwards polished on a cushion, when it acquires a smooth, jet black, glossy appearance. After leas, it is treated by the common photographic process; namely, coated with collodion rendered sensitive by nitrate of silver, then put into the camera; the picture taken, then flied and dried in the usual manner. The whole of this process—preparing the block and taking the picture—does not occupy more than ten misses of time, as we had an opportunity of witnessing personally, a few clays since, at the establishment of Messrs. Brightly, Waters&Co., No. 90 Fulton street, this city. Wooden blocks, prepared as described, appear to be well adapted for engravings, several of which we examined in different stages. Those finished were clear in the outline, and the perspective was very correct.
Article Types: 
Article Locations: 
90 Fulton Street 4th Floor
New York , NY
United States
40° 42' 32.9976" N, 74° 0' 21.5892" W
New York US