صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

the figure or personage depicted. The books of images are of this description, the printed pages of which are placed opposite to each other in pairs, and as only one side of the paper is printed upon, the blank pages also come opposite to each other. Now, if the leaves thus printed were pasted together, it would give them the appearance of a book printed in the usual way, on both sides of the paper. This, I may remark in passing, is the ordinary mode of book printing in China at the present day, even where the beautiful founts of type prepared by the agents of our great Missionary Societies are used; while the mode of taking an impression at present practised by the Celestials on all common work is that by which it is supposed the earliest impressions from wood blocks were produced in Europe, as in China, namely by horizontal rubbing, rather than by lateral pressure. This, too, is the mode which the wood engravers of the present day adopt in taking proofs of their work.

The earliest print from a wood block of which we have any certain date is a representation of St. Christopher carrying the infant Saviour across the sea — the date 1423. This, with another print representing the Annunciation, and a third, of the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, supposed to be executed about the same period, bring down the productions of the art to the precise period when books printed from wood blocks, -the books of images already adverted to,were supposed to be first produced. These books of images are described by bibliographers under two classes, those without text, and those with. The most celebrated, as they were probably the earliest, are the Biblia Pauperum, which belongs to the former class, and the Speculum Salutis, which is of the latter class. The Biblia Pauperum consists of forty leaves small folio, each leaf containing a cut, with extracts or descriptive sentences, engraved on the wood. The Speculum Salutis, or Mirror of Salvation, said to be the most perfect, in design and execution, is a compilation of historical passages from Scripture, with a few from profane history which have some relation to the Scriptural subjects, having also descriptive extracts or sentences engraved on the wood. So popular did this work become that it was translated into the German, Flemish, and other languages, and very frequently printed. Of two Latin editions which are extant, that which was believed by the late Rev. Hartwell Horne to be of the earliest date has the explanations of twenty-five of the cuts, and these not in regular succession, printed from entire wood blocks, while the explanations of the remainder, thirty-eight in number, and five leaves of preface, are printed from metal type worked with the blocks. In the Flemish and Dutch editions the entire text is printed from moveable metal types. Thus we perceive how, in the printing of books, the use of wood blocks gradually merged into that of moveable metal types. “After the groundwork of the art had been completed," observes Hansard, “its rise towards perfection was more rapid, perhaps, than that of any other art or science whatever; for little more than thirty years elapsed from the time of printing the Biblia Pauperum from wooden blocks, to the time when Guttenberg and Schoeffer had perfected their cast metallic types, as may be seen by the following chronological statement of the progress of the art:Printing from Blocks, invented about the year. 1422.

Letters cut separate, on Wood 1438.
Letters cut separate, on Metal 1450.
Letters cast in Moulds

1456."

No surprise need be felt that, in possession of relics of a very remote antiquity which indicate a very early acquaintance with the principle upon which the art of printing depends, men should have been so slow to discover its capacity of promoting, by the diffusion of knowledge, the social improvement and substantial happiness of the great human family. How many inventions of modern times have vainly sought admission iuto the temple of science, lingering at the threshold until the clay tabernacles of the minds which conceived them have mingled with their kindred dust. Prejudice, the dread of innovation, self-interest, and a variety of motives, some of them not very honourable, have been arrayed against these inventions, and retarded, if not entirely prevented, their introduction into general use. That this noble art was discovered, or revived, when it could best be applied, when the need of it was beginning to be felt, is abundantly evidenced by the fact of its rapid diffusion throughout the chief cities and towns of Europe. And that individual can hardly have studied the history of the last three centuries by the lamp of Divine truth, who fails to discover indications of an influence superior to that of man, or of any of the circumstances in which, from time to time, man may have been placed, directing, controlling, or overruling all events for the advancement of the highest and noblest ends. Be it ours gratefully to acknowledge our debt of obligation to the great Author of our being, for the advantages, civil, social, and sacred, which flow to us from the opportune introduction of the press into Europe, and the consequent emancipation of the human mind at the period of the Reformation as one of its results. And while we mourn over its thraldom in other lands, let us confidently anticipate the day when even there it shall be elevated, as in our own beloved country, if not to the contitutional acknowledgment, at least to the prestige, of a fourth estate" of the realm. The details into which I have felt it necessary to enter can hardly fail to have awakened some interest in the subject of my paper : to me they appeared indispensable to a correct understanding of it. I now proceed with the history of what, for want of a better term, I have called PICTURE PRINTING,

As it is still matter of controversy to what individual the honour of the invention, or revival, of the art of printing in the fifteenth century is to be assigned, and where the art was first exercised, rival cities claiming it for their respective citizens; so with respect to the lighter branch of the art now before us, the production of pictures solely by the printing press, rival nations contend for the honour of having been its birthplace. Jackson, in his history of wood engraving, says, “In the first book which appeared with a date and the printer's name—the psalter, printed by Faust and Schoeffer, at Mentz, in 1457—the large initial letters engraved on wood, and printed in red and blue ink, are the most beautiful specimens of this kind of ornament which the united efforts of the wood engraver and the pressman have produced. They have been imitated in modern times, but not excelled. As they are the first letters, in point of time, printed with two colours, so are they likely to continue the first in point of excellence.” Referring to the same book, and the same printers, he says, it "is, with respect to ornamental printing, their greatest work

and remains to the present day unsurpassed as a specimen of skill in ornamental printing.”

Nearly half a century appears to have elapsed before any attempts were made to extend the range of printing in colours, when, towards the commencement of the sixteenth century, imitations of drawings in sepia, Indian ink, or any other colours, of two or more shades, were executed by means of two or three blocks. The older specimens of these imitations of drawings, to which the name of chiaroscuros is generally given, were seldom executed with more than three. It would appear that the lightest tint was always printed first, as an esteemed friend, to whom I am indebted for several of the specimens submitted this evening, is in possession of one by Ugo da Carpi, in three tints, of the death of Ananias, and also of an impression of the first block only, which is in the lightest tint.

This branch of the art appears to have been cultivated with great success in Italy about the year 1518, and in the opinion of competent judges the specimens which have come down to modern times were, twenty or twenty-five years ago, unsurpassed by any modern production. Ugo da Carpi, the Italian engraver, greatly improved the art. Most of the prints executed by him are from designs by Raffaelle, who is said himself to have drawn some of them on the wood. But, independent of the excellence of the designs, their great characteristics are said to be-effect, and simplicity of execution, all, with one or two exceptions, being produced with three blocks.

Many of Da Carpi's productions were copied by Andrea Andriani, of Milan, between 1589 and 1590, and one of them by Edward Kirkall, an English engraver, in 1722. This, however, is not entirely from wood blocks; the outlines, and the greater part of the shadows, are from a copperplate in mezzotint. Between 1722 and 1724 Kirkall published by subscription twelve chiaroscuros, engraved by himself, chiefly after designs by the old Italian masters, the sepia-coloured tints being printed from wood, and the outlines and darker parts of the figures from copperplates. They are represented as deficient in spirit, wanting the vigorous character of the older chiaroscuros. In the year 1754, Jackson, an English artist, published a work with the following title: "An Essay on the invention of Engraving and Printing in Chiaroscuro, as practised by Albert Durer, Hugo di Carpi, &c., and the application of it to the making Paper Hangings, of taste, duration, and elegance. By Mr. Jackson, of Battersea. Illustrated with Prints, in proper colours.”

The Essay contains eight prints, four of which are chiaroscuros, and four are imitations of drawings "in proper colours.” With specimens before us by this artist executed in 1739, 1741,

« السابقةمتابعة »