Is Shakespeare Kid Stuff? Toy Book Adaptations.

Prospero’s storm from The Tempest – detail from cover of Shakespearean Tales in Verse (Cotsen 72670)

Shakespeare isn’t exactly “kid stuff,” is it?  Ask any high-schooler struggling with blank verse, now-obscure Elizabethan slang, or plots so complex that some student guides actually diagram the plot (and sub-plots) in an effort to make clear who’s who and who does what to whom, and when and where it happens..

Tragedies like Titus Andronicus, Macbeth, King Lear, and Hamlet present a veritable catalog of horrors and villains too. And what are we to make of “comedies” like The Merchant of Venice or The Taming of the Shrew, which often seem distinctly unfunny and potentially offensive to audiences in our time?  Literature for children?

Yet, with the exception of the gristly Titus, all the plays mentioned above were included in Lamb’s classic Tales from Shakespeare, prose adaptions of the plays by Charles and Mary Lamb, intended to provide “easy reading for very young children,” as the Lambs themselves phrased it in their “Preface.”  The Lambs were not the first to adapt Shakespeare for children or those without refined reading skills, nor will they be the last.  Some adapters over the years have taken a more sensationalist tack, turning the plays into lurid penny dreadfuls for adults, sometimes featuring garishly-colored covers or illustrations, like the Shakespearean Novelette Series, discussed recently by our colleagues at the Folger Shakespeare Library in a recent blog posting.

The Merchant of Venice – upper wrapper of the “Tales from Shakespeare” toy book  published by Warne & Co. (ca. 1868-88; found on Ebay by the writer)

Reading about these over-the-top, pulp-fiction adaptations, and seeing photos of their publisher’s paper wrappers decorated with chromolithographed illustrations, I couldn’t help but think of some of Cotsen Library’s “toy books” — cheap children’s reading that also feature greatly simplified texts, illustrated paper wrappers, and chromolithograph or  chromoxylograph (color-printed wood blocks) illustrations — issued in the thousands by publishers like Routledge, Warne, and McLoughlin Bros. from the 1860s through the 1920s.  Although “cheap,” these publications usually cost a shilling in Britain, (twelve pence in pre-decimal currency) and anywhere from a dime to a quarter in the USA.  Accordingly, their production values seem a little higher than the penny novelettes.

Upper cover of Shakespearian Tales in Verse for Children by McLoughlin Bros., (© 1882) (Cotsen 72670)

Routledge, Warne, and McLoughlin Bros. also offered more deluxe versions of these toy book publications by combining several individual titles together and issuing them in a cloth-backed books, usually with a color-printed paper onlay on the upper cover.  (The publishers termed these “picture books,” to distinguish them from the wrappered toy books of single titles.)  McLoughlin’s Shakespearian (sic) Tales in Verse for Children (©1882) is a prime example, presenting sixteen-page versions of four plays — The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, and A Winter’s Tale — in four-line stanzas (one rhyming and three with alternately-rhyming lines).  This seems like a curious selection of plays, in terms of both  subject matter, potential interest, or general suitability for children, and also as a group. What’s the common denominator?  It’s possible that these four plays were just the ones that the publisher had on hand at the time this collective title was issued — perhaps they were part of a projected series of all Shakespeare plays, which never seems to have been taken further?

McLoughlin’s editorial contribution to Shakseperian Tales: a new title page, adding an attribution to “Mrs Valentine.”

McLoughlin Bros. stamped an 1882 copyright notice on the foot of the cover of this edition of Shakespearian Tales, an act of real chutzpa.  While McLoughlin could legally protect their work from other American publishers, they were copyrighting what was essentially a book they’d pirated from Warne, routine practice by McLoughlin with a sizeable portion of their output, pirated from English publishers, in particular Warne and Routledge.  Except for the new cover design, binding, and a new title page, the material in Shakespearian Tales is taken right out of Warne’s “Tales from Shakespeare” toy book editions.)
The four plays in Shakespearian Tales are all presented in a similar design format; sixteen illustrated pages with verse and color-tinted illustrations nicely integrated into the page design. Each play begins with a large caption title, part of a large illustration occupying about 3/4 of the page and running down the left side of the page for its whole height.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright? 
The first page of  Taming of the Shrew, but why the fierce tiger and Cupid?

The Taming of the Shrew, the first play in the Shakespearian Tales collection, has a particularly nicely-done opening page, I think — notice how the first word “once” has been rendered as part of the illustration.  But take another look at the illustration… It’s a little enigmatic, isn’t it?. What does the fierce tiger and Cupid have to do with the Shrew story of two adversaries-turned-lovers?  The tiger seems to represent Kate — aka “the shrew” — and love (or perhaps Petruchio?) is depicted as Cupid, approaching the “fierce” tiger holding up his empty bow and an arrow in separate hands, as if in a gesture of peace.  (Cupid seems to have no intention of shooting his arrow at the tiger, in contrast to his usual tactic with lovers!)  Somehow this peaceful approach works for, as we see in the last vignette of this adaption, cupid — having “tamed a shrew” — is shown riding off on a beautiful, contented-looking cat.  A metamorphosis, as well as a happy-ending love story!  Visually, this suggests the triumph of gentleness or love over ferocity or willfulness, a fierce spirit calmed — a reconciliation, of sorts — not a harsh “taming” of a woman by a man, as Shakespeare’s plot presents (an aspect that has troubled audiences and probably contributed to a relative lack of productions of this play, compared with most others.  Yet it’s also worth pointing out that the Lambs were quite comfortable with Shrew as an object lesson in a how a “shrewish lady” with “fiery temper” became “an obedient and duteous wife,” a starchier lesson than “love conquers all” which actually appears in background of two scenes in the toy book version.)

The Taming of the Shrew… or, Love Conquers All?

The verse adaption of the text in this version presents a rendition of the story that’s more closely related to the original play, but one adapted for children, and as such, without the harsh battling between Kate and Petruchio.  The triumph of love is the real force here. There is an illustration of a musician and his broken lute –smashed over his head by a raging Kate — but it’s after-the-fact, and most of the other illustrations in this edition are curiously unexpressive, with an emphasis on “old” costumes and decor.  Kate generally looks quite demure.

With that, her cheeks all fiery red,/
She beat the lute about my head, /
Through the broken wood it passed, /
And I was in a pillory fast!

No supper Kath’rine had that night, /
But hungry work with morning’s light, /
And putting haughtiness aside /
Went forth to get her wants supplied.

The other three Shakespeare adaptations in the picture book volume follow a similar basic pattern: greatly simplified versions of the stories with an emphasis on reconciliation and happy endings: The Winter’s Tale ends with marriage and celebration — an abandoned child is revealed as a royal princess; The Tempest with the newly-free Ariel “rejoicing” and singling as he soars off with Miranda and Ferdinand betrothed lovers sailing back to Milan; and The Merchant of Venice with Antonio (the merchant from whom Shylock sought to extract a pound of flesh), “repaid for all the love he bore his friend [with better fortune from henceforth.”  The good prosper, and seem ready to live “happily ever after,” while bad repent and are forgiven.

The Merchant begins with a composite scene of Venetian tourist delights: the Realto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace, and a canal with some gondolas, as well as a couple of merchant’s ship — all things that a child of this time might associate with Venice, a fabled Grand Tour site in the late nineteenth century.

Opening illustrated page of The Merchant featuring a Venetian backdrop

Shylock, one of the most famous of all Shakespeare’s characters, features prominently in the illustrations for this version, as we might expect.  He is shown as being virtually transformed by his “wolfish hate” of Antonio and the extremity of his demands for vengeance from a dignified old man into a savage fury, knife-in-hand, in several scenes.

Shylock proposing the bond

Shylock ready to extract his bond

After Portia’s “quality of mercy” judgement on Shylock takes away all his wealth and money and denies his demand for extraction of the pound of flesh, he is described in the toy book version as being left a “poor, broken-hearted man… with heavy heart” — a monument to understatement, perhaps intended to soften the ending for children.

The version of The Tempest in Shakespearian Tales uses the same opening-page design format we’ve seen in the other two plays.  But as you can see, it invents a an opening scene not found in Shakespeare’s play at all (which begins with Prospero’s conjured storm  — the tempest, for which the play is names) or in the Lamb’s retelling (which begins with a fairy-tale like opening: “There was a certain island in the sea, the only inhabitants of which were an old man, whose name was Prospero, and his daughter Miranda…”).  Instead, young readers were provided with a story beginning with Prospero and Miranda finding themselves in a small boat “on the foaming waters wild” long before the actual events in the play take place, with an accompanying two-color illustration.
(Contrast this visual with the “more accurate” one of Prosperso and Ariel conjuring the storm in which the ship founders, shown at the top of this posting, and taken from a cover detail.)

The opening page of The Tempest

Perhaps the authors of both adaptations of The Tempest thought the narrated story-within-a-story history that Prospero provides to Miranda after the storm he himself conjures up was too complex for young readers?  And of course, any narrative version will lack the tremendous dramatic impact of The Tempest’s opening storm on-stage.

“Sweet music floated on the air”

The story of a magician and his daughter marooned on a magical island would always hold a a certain interest for your readers. But this toy book version foregrounds all the magical creatures on Prospero’s island, partly due to the toy book format’s inherent stress on illustration, but mostly due to inspiration of the illustrator (possibly J.H. Howard), who concocts several scenes calling to mind A Midsummer Night’s Dream world of fairies and sprites. Just take a look at them!  Illustrated books about fairies, sprites, and elves have long been an audience-pleasing staple of children’s literature and the ones here must have strongly appealed.

“For he was skilled in magic arts…

“…and could call spirits from the deep”

After the visual enchantments of The Tempest, the version of The Winter’s Tale that closes out Shapespearian Tales seems like a somewhat unexciting variation of the overall design theme, as well as a blander text, at least to me.  But take a look and decide for yourself:

The opening page of The Winter’s Tale

“The sea ran high, the winter wind / Wailed o’er a desert, rocky shore…”?  Shades of a “It was a dark and stormy night…”  But then again, Mary Lamb’s version in Tales from Shakespeare seems a little uninspired to me too, with its opening: “Leontes, king of Sicily and his queen, the beautiful Hermione, once lived in the most perfect harmony together…”  Not the best of her work in that volume, I’d say.

The toy book version does add a novel, if perhaps not entirely successful, visual wrinkle to its conclusion: a depiction of some old men telling winter’s tales around a roaring fireplace, while some children look on quite happily.  Are they the tellers of the tale we’ve just read? The depiction recalls the traditional frontispiece illustration for Mother Goose, which we’ve looked at before here on the Cotsen blog: an old woman tells tales to children while seated in front of a fire.  But again, you be the judge. Like some stories, some illustrations are perhaps best left to be enjoyed for their own sake, rather than critically anatomized by commentators?

Telling winter’s tales that children like on a cold winter night…

But while we can’t tell how these verse adaptions of the plays were received by child-readers, I think it’s safe to say that the whimsical color illustrations in at least several of them must have been “a hit, a palpable hit.”

Encounters with Illustration Processes, or “What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation?”

Remember being asked the, “What did you do on your summer vacation?” question at the beginning of each new school year?  And usually being hard-pressed to come up with a “good” answer?  Here’s a possible answer for one grown-up in 2017… Imagine being in a postgraduate-level class held at a leading American university with fellow professionals, some of them tenured faculty members, and making pictures of various types… And liking it…  And learning a lot in the process…

Original wood-engraved block used to print upper wrapper of McLoughlin Brothers’ “Little Pet’s Picture Alphabet” (ca. 1875) Cotsen 32858

No, this is not the Cotsen Blog’s April Fool’s Day posting!  And the classwork was definitely not quite as simple as “making pictures” either.  But in a recent class on “Book Illustration Processes” at “Rare Book School,” a program held each summer at the University of Virginia’s main Charlottesville campus, not far from the Thomas Jefferson-designed “Lawn” and Academic Village, we did get to make wood-engravings, metal-cut engravings, and drypoints, as a complement to five days of 8:30 am to 5 pm classes, lectures, and presentations, and lots of scholarly reading.  (Definitely not a leisurely “vacation”!)  And in the process of putting reading into practice, we did  learn a lot about the differences between these illustration processes (and other processes) that were widely used in books for both children and grown-ups from the earliest days of printing into the mid-eighteenth century (when Thomas Bewick began executing wood-engravings) and on into the early twentieth century, when manual illustration processes became supplanted by process-printing and photo-mechanical work.

It’s one thing to read about how a burin (a sharp, chisel-like tool used in wood-engravings) leaves characteristically different traces on a wood-engraved block than those made by a metal engraving graver on a copper or steel plate (most which can usually be seen only under magnification).  It’s another to wield these tools with your hands and feel how differently an engraving tool interacts with the wood or metal medium as it glides relatively smoothly through a soft metal surface — the incised engraved lines which will provide the basis of the intaglio engraving — compared with the sort of jabbing motion made by a chisel-like burin as you try to scoop out bits of the non-printing area on a piece of hardwood.  (Full disclosure: we actually used linoleum blocks, rather than hardwood, in the interests of conservation and safety, and zinc plates rather than a copper ones, in the interests of economy (copper is expensive!), but the basic processes used are still the same in the respective media.)

Let’s take a look at the faux wood-engraving I made (with apologies for the lack of artistry or wood-engraving skills) and a trial printing of it.  As you can see, parts of the block were cut away (using the burin), leaving the outline of the elephant illustration on the original level of the block’s surface.  (A version of the illustration had been made on the block as a guide for us to follow — as is always the case in wood engraving — but the goal was for us to leave the lines more or less intact and carve away the rest; the idea being that the printed surface would then replicate the guide illustration.  Vestiges of these lines have been obscured by the printer’s ink now, though.)  When the block is inked, these chiseled-away away sections — recessed below the printing surface — remain uninked and so appear as white space in the actual print — and also on the block itself, as you can see.  Wood-engravings tend to accentuate black colors, as you can see in this crude example.  In the hands of a real master wood-engraver, like Thomas Bewick or the Dalziels, the effect can be highly dramatic!

“Wood-engraved” block (actually a lino-cut block) at right, and trial print made from it (at left): note the black-white contrast and the “mirror images.”

Do you notice anything fundamentally different about the block and the print-out made from it?  The print image is reversed.  This doesn’t really matter in an illustration like this, except perhaps for a more aesthetic effect one way or the other, but imagine if the block depicted an actual landscape scene, a building, or included some lettering!  The wood-engraver would have to work “in reverse” in order for the actual print to have an accurate orientation.  Even if a mirror, or reverse-view guide-image was used, imagine how much harder this would make the cutting!  Hands-on work like this project really brought home the skill of the wood-cutters to all of us in the class — and also the sheer level of physical effort needed to engrave the block — and not obliterate the image by chiseling out too large a gouge (my elephant almost lost an eye that way, as you can perhaps see if you look closely).

Two printings from of the same block: one the whole block (on left) and the other with the background masked out by a paper frisket (on right).

Take a look at the two prints above and see if you can spot the difference and figure out how that was done… The print on the left displays the entire block’s illustration — the elephant and the quasi-decorative border.  For the print on the right, I used a paper “frisket” to effectively mask off the background (it’s not perfectly done, as you can see on the right edge, but I hope you get the basic idea).  The frisket here was just a piece of paper cut to mask off the area outside the illustration outline, or any area you don’t want to print — Photoshop-style techniques done manually!   In a case like this, we might want to hide the border to make the illustration fit more harmoniously on a page with letter-press text above and below — or for the sort of small vignettes often seen on title pages or as head- or tail-pieces in wood-engraved books in the hand-press era.

A frisket could also be used to facilitate the printing of two-color illustrations (usually red and black), by first masking off the area to be printed in red, and then masking off the area already printed in black with another frisket when red was printed.  This allowed the page to be printed without unlocking the printing form or the whole illustration by just re-inking the added red color– a significant saving in time, effort, and money at the time.  The same basic approach was also used for red and black text on the same page, in many cases.

As so often happens, once you learn about something in one context, you seem to happen upon another related instance soon afterward.  Just days after returning to work at Cotsen Library after Rare Book School, we were looking at a wood-engraved block from the mid-nineteenth-century, used by McLouglin Brothers — the renowned New York publisher of children’s books, games, paper dolls, and paper-based toys of all sorts from the mid-nineteenth century- into the early twentieth century — to print the upper paper wrapper of their children’s publication, Little Pet’s Picture Alphabet, especially unusual since the block is housed with a copy of the actual toy-book-like publication now (Cotsen 32858).

Wood-engraved block (from McLoughlin Brothers’ publisher’s archives) and an example of one of the two-color paper wrappers printed from it (Cotsen 32858

You can see the “mirror image” relation between the block itself and the printed version again. I think that the essentially outline line-illustration and black half-circle backdrop around the children was printed upon red paper (or paper printed red), but I’m not certain.  The black area has the kind of “textured” irregularity usually found in solid black areas of wood-engravings or wood blocks; pure black was hard to to print smoothly via a woodblock, made from organic, naturally textured wood (in contrast to the smooth surface of an unworked metal plate used for intaglio printing).

Side view of the composite wood-engraved block, highlighting the lines between the separate individual blocks.

You can also see the lines between different pieces of the composite wood-engraved block — it looks like seven separate blocks to me.  This enabled several engravers to render an illustrator’s artwork on different blocks at the same time — time was money in printing then, as now.  It’s also possible that separate interlocking blocks were somehow easier for McLoughlin to store and manage, and perhaps also to re-purpose individual blocks for other illustrations, as the firm often did.  (For large illustrations, of course several — sometimes, many — wood-engraved blocks would have to be used; how many trees do you see with smooth straight 11″ x 17″ — or larger — sections from which a smoothed block that size could have been made?  Large planks were in high demand in the hand-press era for things like ship-building for the navy and trade vessels too.)  And for wood-engraving blocks, which run across the grain, we’re looking for trees with that size as a usable circumference, not counting the bark, outer ring, and core.

This particular composite block was presumably originally comprised of six separate pieces — the seventh small one (on the left side) must have been a correction of a mistake, an unsatisfactorily-rendered detail, or a “quick fix” for a block damaged in printing, handling, or storage.  If you look closely, you can also see what looks like a crack in the upper center block, running into the smaller child’s head, reinforcing the idea that the block was damaged after being rendered, not due to an error during the original wood-engraving.  (Wood blocks can be repaired, or have small pieces added like this, while correcting pieces of missing or badly-damaged metal plates can be all but impossible.)

There’s a trace of the small block’s line in the black background area, but it doesn’t seem visible in the child’s face.  Either the touch-up was very good, or this further damage occurred some time after the wood-engraving was used to print the accompanying book that now accompanies it.  If damage to hand-rendered printing resources seems careless to you, remember that McLoughlin had literally thousands of these blocks to store and keep track of, and that they were often reused for later printing.  Proof-copies of many of the blocks were printed on sheets in large tome-like scrapbooks in the firm’s publisher’s archive — document and object management before the digital era!  (Cotsen has ten of these unique, publisher’s archives scrapbooks in its collection, which we hope to digitize in order to provide better access.)

Metal engraved plate: Note the residue of black ink in the grooves and incised lines made by a graver; these printed out as black lines in trial prints, with the unworked “surface” part of the plate not printing.

I may have been using the term “wood engraving” without really defining it or distinguishing it from “woodcut.”  What’s the difference?  Both wood-engraving and woodcuts are “relief processes” — that is, both print the surface area of a block, leaving the area unprinted (and usually white) where the wood has been cut away by a knife or burin. Woodcuts, the earlier-devised process, use smoothed blocks cut lengthwise along the grain like a plank, often softer wood that can be cut relatively easily with a sharp knives or similar cutting tools.  Wood engravings use blocks of hard wood (frequently boxwood) cut across the grain, using burins to chisel into the harder wood.  Wood engravings are generally more durable than woodcuts, as you’d expect, and can pick up a lot of contrast-adding texture from the inherent grain of the wood, at least when done by a master like Bewick. (By the way, the Tempest connection was based on an woodcut I seem to recall seeing some time ago in a fairly early edition of the play, with a similar scene, but the ship on the tempest-tossed sea.  “Full fathoms five” is part of Ariel’s song to the shipwrecked crew.)

As relief processes, both woodcuts and wood engravings are distinct from “intaglio”  processes, such as copper and steel engraving — or etching, mezzotint, or aquatint, for that matter (which use acid and chemicals instead of tools to render the illustrations), but we won’t get that far today.  (And, yes, the reuse of the term “engraving” for both relief wood engravings and intaglio metal engraving is confusing!)

In intaglio processes, the lines cut into the plate by the engraving tools are where the ink gathers during the printing process — these lines print black (in contrast to relief processes, where the incised, or cut away, sections remain unpainted). Tremendous pressure is needed to actually squeeze the dampened paper slightly into the grooves, where the paper picks up the inked impression. A roller-press is usually needed to achieve this level of pressure on a relatively think metal plate, and that’s what we used at Rare Book School to make our proof prints. (“Hands on” experience, to be sure!)

However our sub-journeyman engraver here (i.e. me) forgot a basic fact of printing when adding the text, didn’t he?  Take a look below!  The image prints in reverse of the plate!  So his “JB” monogram initials and and his brief quote, from the Tempest, are also printed in reverse.  Oops!  What to do?  Scratch out the text and try to doctor the plate somehow?  Weep in frustration?

Engraved metal plate (right), with inked outlines visible in the grooves, and a proof printing (left), which reverses the plate’s orientation of both illustration and text — making the latter illegible. Back to the drawing board!

Mercifully, the course instructor and Grand Maester of Printing Processes, Terry Belanger, immediately had a solution — a “counterproof” print. We removed the plate and used-the newly-inked print (whose ink was still damp) to print another version of the illustration — in reverse of the print– on a new sheet of paper, which resulted in a correctly douple-reversed orientation of the engraved text.

“Original” print (right) and counterproofed, second version , reversing the illustration and text a second time — now the text is legible!

As you can see in the “print-counterproof” print comparison above, the counterproof reversed the engraved test’s orientation a second time, so now it’s legible.  This served the bill perfectly here, although it would probably not have been a viable tactic in a commercial printing establishment, even one with a limited printing run of 500-1000 copies. (And the sub-apprentice engraver avoided having his ears boxed by his master for executing poorly thought-out work!)  Not surprisingly, the counterproof printing is lighter than the first version, since it relied on wet ink from the print proof, and some of the toning from ink on the surface of the plate (visible below the sun in the first proof) is similarly missing.  But disaster was averted!  And the lesson also indubitably imprinted in my mind too.

The “reverse” aspect of letterpress type and relief and intaglio printing (like almost all illustration processes) is one of the aspects we always stress for students or others to whom we present rare printed books.  Imagine setting all the type, using thousands of individual pieces of individual metal type letters, set in reverse, and also set from the end of the lines to the beginning, in the First Folio or Gutenberg Bible!  And don’t forget about spacing or justifying type in the center of a page or column; this required flat (non-printing) metal spacers, a good eye, and sometimes adjustment of the spacers after an initial proof print was made. (Of course, large books requiring as much type and paper as the First Folio, were generally not all set in type at the same time — few, if any, printers had that much type on hand to use, even with borrowed type or in syndicated print jobs, nor could they afford to tie it all up in a single time-consuming book project like the First Folio; printers needed some type readily available for job printing, handbills, and broadsides in order to keep paying their bills!

“Drypoint” is another intaglio process we looked at closely in “Book Illustration Processes” and one at which we also tried our hands. In drypoint, a steel needle replaces the rougher  engraver’s tool and allows an illustrator to draw directly on a metal plate, with something vaguely like the experience of drawing on paper. Unlike graver or burin, which scoop the shaved metal bits out of the incised lines, the thin needle throws up a “burr” on both sides; sometimes this burr is removed and sometimes left intact “adding richness of line to the design when printed” (John Harthan: History of the Illustrated Book, p. 282).

For class purposes, we used thin, clear acrylic sheets for our drypoints — softer and easier to work than metal, easier to proof in a preliminary way, using very lightly inked paper run across the engraved surface to reveal details (or lack thereof!), and most important of all, the clear sheets allowed us to place a printed master image to copy right underneath the acrylic sheet and essentially use the needle to “trace” lines on the sheet — or attempt to.  A real illustrator wouldn’t need such a guide to follow and would probably also prefer the flexibility of drawing freely, which is one of process’s main points of attraction to artists.  No need for a “mediating” engraver with a drypoint.

Drypoint intalglio as executed on clear acrylic sheet (right), with proof print (left). Note the visible outline of the plate-mark on the print. Plate-marks are one of the tell-tale signs of intaglio illustration processes — if you’re lucky! Sometimes, they can be faint or virtually invisible.

But what’s “wrong” with the picture above?  Remember the reverse image of the engraved metal plate and wood engraved illustration?  Why should drypoint be any different?  Well, it isn’t!  Since the acrylic sheet is transparent, I was able to photograph it “upside down” with the incised lines underneath, in the interests of facilitating comparison between the incised sheet and the print.  (The unmarked surface of the underside of the sheet also just seemed to photograph better too — something to do with quick-and-dirty digital photography, though, not the illustration process itself!)

I hope I’ve shared some of what I learned about illustration processes with you, and in a way that clarifies what can be murky abstract concepts with differences that can also be hard to explain without showing actual examples — good, bad, or indifferent in artistic terms.  Wood-engraving, intaglio metal cuts using both copper and steel plates, and drypoints were all important illustration processes in children’s books from the early- to mid-eighteenth century through the early twentieth century.  There were other processes too, such as mezzotints and aquatints, but all of these were non-colored processes, except where hand-coloring or stencil-coloring was used.

For color illustrations, we have to look at color-tinted wood blocks or wood-engravings, color lithography, chromolithography, chromoxylography (colored wood-engravings), and color processes like the Baxter and Nelson Processes.  And this leaves out process-printing, photolithographic processes, and others besides.  I hope to cover that in a later posting here on the Cotsen blog.  For now, perhaps I should put my “artistic” endeavors in illustration processes up on the mantle-piece with some woodblocks, color lino blocks, and prints of these that my daughter made a number of years ago, and see which ones people like more?  I have a bad feeling about that contest, though…