Although the British engraver and publisher Edward Orme (1774-ca. 1838) always claimed to have invented transparent prints, Michael Twyman reminds us that Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) published 109 transparent etchings between 1796 and 1802, along with a book entitled Instructions for Painting Transparencies (1799). Even before Ackermann, the caricaturist Mary Darly published a few “humorous and transparent prints” in 1763.
However, it was Orme who made the genre popular in the early nineteenth century through his bilingual manual, An Essay on Transparent Prints and on Transparencies in General (1807) Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize Rowlandson 8415q. The effect was created by taking a normal etching or engraving, painting large areas of color on back of the print and then, adding varnish to specific areas make the paper translucent when held up to a light. Scenes often included fire light, moon light, and other glowing illusions. Orme’s instructions suggest that transparent prints could be substituted for stained glass, in lanterns, lampshades, and fire screens.