Printing From Surface

91. This second department of printing is of more frequent

application in the arts than that which has just been considered.

92. Printing from wooden blocks. A block of box wood is, in

this instance, the substance out of which the pattern is formed:

the design being sketched upon it, the workman cuts away with

sharp tools every part except the lines to be represented in the

impression. This is exactly the
reverse of the process of

engraving on copper, in which every line to be represented is cut

away. The ink, instead of filling the cavities cut in the wood,

is spread upon the surface which remains, and is thence

transferred to the paper.

93. Printing from moveable types. This is the most important

in its influence of all the arts of copying. It possesses a

singular peculiarity, in the immense subdivision of the parts

that form the pattern. After that pattern has furnished thousands

of copies, the same individual elements may be arranged again and

again in other forms, and thus supply multitudes of originals,

from each of which thousands of their copied impressions may

flow. It also possesses this advantage, that woodcuts may be used

along with the letterpress, and impressions taken from both at

the same operation.

94. Printing from stereotype. This mode of producing copies

is very similar to the preceding. There are two modes by which

stereotype plates are produced. In that most generally adopted a

mould is taken in plaster from the moveable types, and in this

the stereotype plate is cast. Another method has been employed in

France: instead of composing the work in moveable type, it was

set up in moveable copper matrices; each matrix being in fact a

piece of copper of the same size as the type, and having the

impression of the letter sunk into its surface instead of

projecting in relief. A stereotype plate may, it is evident, be

obtained at once from this arrangement of matrices. The objection

to the plan is the great expense of keeping so large a collection

of matrices.

As the original composition does not readily admit of change,

stereotype plates can only be applied with advantage to cases

where an extraordinary number of copies are demanded, or where

the work consists of figures, and it is of great importance to

ensure accuracy. Trifling alterations may, however, be made in it

from time to time; and thus mathematical tables may, by the

gradual extirpation of error, at last become perfect. This mode

of producing copies possesses, in common with that by moveable

types, the advantage of admitting the use of woodcuts: the copy

of the woodcut in the stereotype plate being equally perfect.

with that of the moveable type. This union is of considerable

importance, and cannot be accomplished with engravings on copper.

95. Lettering books. The gilt letters on the backs of books

are formed by placing a piece of gold leaf upon the leather, and

pressing upon it brass letters previously heated: these cause the

gold immediately under them to adhere to the leather, whilst the

rest of the metal is easily brushed away. When a great number of

copies of the same volume are to be lettered, it is found to be

cheaper to have a brass pattern cut with the whole of the proper

title: this is placed in a press, and being kept hot, the covers,

each having a small bit of leaf-gold placed in the proper

position, are successively brought under the brass, and stamped.

The lettering at the back of the volume in the reader's hand was

executed in this manner.

96. Calico printing from blocks. This is a mode of copying,

by surface printing, from the ends of small pieces of copper

wire, of various forms, fixed into a block of wood. They are all

of one uniform height, about the eighth part of an inch above the

surface of the wood, and are arranged by the maker into any

required pattern. If the block be placed upon a piece of fine

woollen cloth, on which ink of any colour has been uniformly

spread, the projecting copper wires receive a portion, which they

give up when applied to the calico to be printed. By the former

method of printing on calico, only one colour could be used; but

by this plan, after the flower of a rose, for example, has been

printed with one set of blocks, the leaves may be printed of

another colour by a different set.

97. Printing oilcloth. After the canvas, which forms the

basis of oilcloth, has been covered with paint of one uniform

tint, the remainder of the processes which it passes through, are

a series of copyings by surface printing, from patterns formed

upon wooden blocks very similar to those employed by the calico

printer. Each colour requiring a distinct set of blocks, those

oilcloths with the greatest variety of colours are most


There are several other varieties of printing which we shall

briefly notice as arts of copying; which, although not strictly

surface printing, yet are more allied to it than that from


98. Letter copying. In one of the modes of performing this

process, a sheet of very thin paper is damped, and placed upon

the writing to be copied. The two papers are then passed through

a rolling press, and a portion of the ink from one paper is

transferred to the other. The writing is, of course, reversed by

this process; but the paper to which it is transferred being

thin, the characters are seen through it on the other side, in

their proper position. Another common mode of copying letters is

by placing a sheet of paper covered on both sides with a

substance prepared from lamp-black, between a sheet of thin paper

and the paper on which the letter to be despatched is to be

written. If the upper or thin sheet be written upon with any hard

pointed substance, the word written with this style will be

impressed from the black paper upon both those adjoining it. The

translucency of the upper sheet, which is retained by the writer,

is in this instance necessary to render legible the writing which

is on the back of the paper. Both these arts are very limited in

their extent, the former affording two or three, the latter from

two to perhaps ten or fifteen copies at the same time.

99. Printing on china. This is an art of copying which is

carried to a very great extent. As the surfaces to which the

impression is to be conveyed are often curved, and sometimes even

fluted, the ink, or paint, is first transferred from the copper

to some flexible substance, such as paper, or an elastic compound

of glue and treacle. It is almost immediately conveyed from this

to the unbaked biscuit, to which it more readily adheres.

100. Lithographic printing. This is another mode of producing

copies in almost unlimited number. The original which supplies

the copies is a drawing made on a stone of a slightly porous

nature, the ink employed for tracing it is made of such greasy

materials that when water is poured over the stone it shall not

wet the lines of the drawing. When a roller covered with printing

ink, which is of an oily nature, is passed over the stone

previously wetted, the water prevents this ink from adhering to

the uncovered portions; whilst the ink used in the drawing is of

such a nature that the printing ink adheres to it. In this state,

if a sheet of paper be placed upon the stone, and then passed

under a press, the printing ink will be transferred to the paper,

leaving the ink used in the drawing still adhering to the stone.

101. There is one application of lithographic printing which

does not appear to have received sufficient attention, and

perhaps further experiments are necessary to bring it to

perfection. It is the reprinting of works which have just arrived

from other countries. A few years ago one of the Paris newspapers

was reprinted at Brussels as soon as it arrived by means of

lithography. Whilst the ink is yet fresh, this may easily be

accomplished: it is only necessary to place one copy of the

newspaper on a lithographic stone; and by means of great pressure

applied to it in a rolling press, a sufficient quantity of the

printing ink will be transferred to the stone. By similar means,

the other side of the newspaper may be copied on another stone,

and these stones will then furnish impressions in the usual way.

If printing from stone could be reduced to the same price per

thousand as that from moveable types, this process might be

adopted with great advantage for the supply of works for the use

of distant countries possessing the same language. For a single

copy might be printed off with transfer ink, and thus an English

work, for example, might be published in America from stone,

whilst the original, printed from moveable types, made its

appearance on the same day in England.

102. It is much to be wished that such a method were

applicable to the reprinting of facsimiles of old and scarce

books. This, however, would require the sacrifice of two copies,

since a leaf must be destroyed for each page. Such a method of

reproducing a small impression of an old work, is peculiarly

applicable to mathematical tables, the setting up of which in

type is always expensive and liable to error, but how long ink

will continue to be transferable to stone, from paper on which it

has been printed, must be determined by experiment. The

destruction of the greasy or oily portion of the ink in the

character of old books, seems to present the greatest impediment;

if one constituent only of the ink were removed by time, it might

perhaps be hoped, that chemical means would ultimately be

discovered for restoring it: but if this be unsuccessful, an

attempt might be made to discover some substance having a strong

affinity for the carbon of the ink which remains on the paper,

and very little for the paper itself.(2*)

103. Lithographic prints have occasionally been executed in

colours. In such instances a separate stone seems to have been

required for each colour, and considerable care, or very good

mechanism, must have been employed to adjust the paper to each

stone. If any two kinds of ink should be discovered mutually

inadhesive, one stone might be employed for two inks; or if the

inking-roller for the second and subsequent colours had portions

cut away corresponding to those parts of the stone inked by the

previous ones, then several colours might be printed from the

same stone: but these principles do not appear to promise much,

except for coarse subjects.

104. Register printing. It is sometimes thought necessary to

print from a wooden block, or stereotype plate, the same pattern

reversed upon the opposite side of the paper. The effect of this,

which is technically called Register printing, is to make it

appear as if the ink had penetrated through the paper, and

rendered the pattern visible on the other side. If the subject

chosen contains many fine lines, it seems at first sight

extremely difficult to effect so exact a super position of the

two patterns, on opposite sides of the same piece of paper, that

it shall be impossible to detect the slightest deviation; yet the

process is extremely simple. The block which gives the impression

is always accurately brought down to the same place by means of a

hinge; this spot is covered by a piece of thin leather stretched

over it; the block is now inked, and being brought down to its

place, gives an impression of the pattern to the leather: it is

then turned back; and being inked a second time, the paper

intended to be printed is placed upon the leather, when the block

again descending, the upper surface of the paper is printed from

the block, and its undersurface takes up the impression from the

leather. It is evident that the perfection of this mode of

printing depends in a great measure on finding some soft

substance like leather, which will take as much ink as it ought

from the block, and which will give it up most completely to

paper. Impressions thus obtained are usually fainter on the lower

side; and in order in some measure to remedy this defect, rather

more ink is put on the block at the first than at the second