In 1725, the German artist Jakob Christoffel Le Blon (1667-1741) published Scheme of Colours in Coloritto, outlining his discovery of a multi-color intaglio printing technique, which he used to print reproductions of chalk and pastel drawings. For the first time, full-color prints could be created from just three colors: blue, yellow, red (and later black) printed in that order, one on top of the other. Many eighteenth-century French printmakers learned and practiced this technique, which became known as chalk manner engraving. Variations were developed to also reproduce gouache and watercolor paintings.
Philibert-Louis Debucourt (1755-1832) was particularly able at wash manner printing and a good example of his work is “Le Couronnement” or “The Crowning” [at the left] from Héro et Léandre, translated by Le Chevalier de Quérelles (Paris: Pierre Didot l’ainé, 1801). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize PQ2384.Q45 H4 1801q. This particular print required six different plates with six different inks: blue, green, yellow, red, brown, and black, in that order.
In the nineteenth century, these time-consuming and expensive printing techniques were replaced with stencil and hand coloring, which was usually done by low-paid female workers.
Princeton owns a later publication by Antoine Gautier de Montdorge with Le Blon’s text in English and French, along with a complete explanation of the technique. For additional information on chalk manner printing, see the exhibition catalogue: Margaret Morgan Grasselli, Colorful Impressions: the Printmaking Revolution in Eighteenth-Century France ([Washington, D.C.]: National Gallery of Art, 2003). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize 2005-0445Q
For more on color, see the new rare books acquisition announced at http://blogs.princeton.edu/rarebooks/2008/04/