McLean 1972

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McLean, Ruari. Victorian Book Design and Colour Printing. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.

“Mechanical composition, and the many new faces introduced by the Linotype and Monotype companies, did not really begin to affect book design until the 1920s.” (3)

“In 1837 the media of book illustration were, as they had been for nearly 400 years, the wood block and the copper plate, and since about 1800 steel had been used as a harder alternative to copper; but there was also a newcomer, the lithographic stone or zinc plate. This too was a hand process like the others. Photography began to be a factor from about the middle of the century, but was of minor influence until the 1890s. When the photographic plate finally ousted the hand processes for interpreting artists’ drawings for commercial book illustration, anew age began.” (3)

Average first printing of “a serious book, at least up to 1860, was 750 or 1000 copies” (4)

“The foremost name inn Victorian book design is that of the Chiswick Press”, established 1811 (5)

“Charles Whittingham, the nephew, would in any case have been renowned for the excellence of his printing, and at least the soundness of his typography; but the association of Whittingham and the publisher William Pickering resulted in books which neither could have produced alone and which are among the greatest (and most easily accessible) glories of British book design.” (5)

Whittingham met Pickering around 1828; Pickering pioneered cloth binding

“The first cloths used for books were adapted from calico curtain-lining and dressmaking materials. In 1825 the binder Archibald Leighton put on the market the first cloth specially manufactured for covering books, a stiffened dyed calico impervious to the glue required to stick it to the boards.” (6)

Most cloth-bound books had paper label, around 1830 published one with gold blocked direct onto spine

On Pickering’s distinctive title page style (8-9), use of Caslon’s Old Face (12) — antiquarian look

“During the 1840s, Pickering and Whittingham collaborated on a series of reprints of the Prayer Book, and liturgical histories, which were not only magnificent specimens of printing, but also of considerable textual and historical importance.” (12)

“there were many other kinds of book intended rather to be looked at. These usually consisted of steel engravings interspersed with short passages of prose or poetry: the literary contents were of negligible quality and since the books sold very largely on their appearance a great deal of care and ingenuity was lavished on their bindings.” (25 — example of Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap Book series, running from 1830s to 1850s — price 21s., the “normal gift book price for many years” (25)

Early on gift books are steel or copper engravings; “Colour printing was the invention of the ‘forties, and the illuminated gift book, usually printed by chromolithography, and dressed in one of several varieties of fancy binding, became more interesting than the traditional book of copper and steel plates.” (29)

Color printing difficult; most prints colored by hand

J. C. Le Blonde, Frenchman born in Frankfurt in 1667, originated a 3-color process “based on Newton’s discovery that all colors can be made up from the combination of yellow, red and blue” (33)

Hand-coloring from “last few years of the eighteenth and the first thirty years of the 19c” (33)

“The first true color printer of the 19c in England was William Savage (1770-1843). In 1815 he announced Practical Hints on Decorative Printing, and finally achieved its publication, in 2 parts, in 1818 and 1823. One plate was printing from twenty-nine wood blocks, and several ere in 10 or more workings.” (34)

“What Savage had done experimentally, Baxter and Knight proceeded to do commercially, and independently, some twenty years later. Commercial color printing by lithography began at almost exactly the same time.” Baxter got his patent Oct 23, 1835; Knight got his in June 1838l “one of the earliest dated cloud lithographs in England is the print in Owen Jones’s Plans, Elevations, and sections of the Alhambra, dated March 1, 1836”, Hullmandel’s LIthotint patent dated November 5 1840, Engelmann published Manuel en Couleurs in 1835 and patented ‘chromolithography’ in France in 1837 (34-5)

William Lewis, Chess for Beginners (1835), “the diagrams of chess positions are printed by letterpress in green, blue and red” — “There is nothing technically or artistically remarkable about this book, which is an unpretentious and efficient littler manual: but it may be the first use of color printing in a 19c book, in Britain, for a practical rather than an aesthetic purpose.” (35)

Charles Whiting, security printing in colors; lottery tickets, ornamental borders in scrapbooks like eThe Drawing Room Album (35)

Charles Knight, “first books to offer printed color plates to a wide and popular market” (43)

Section on children’s books up to 1850

“Henry Shaw (1800-73) was an antiquary and a draughtsman of exceptional skill, who devoted his life to publishing a series of books of plates on many aspects of medieval and Elizabethan art and architecture, and, in particular, Thea rt of the illuminated manuscript. Shaw had most of his books published by Pickering and printed at the Chiswick Press, and they are among the finest achievements of Victorian book design and illustration.” (65)

Third book, Illuminated Ornaments, worked with Chiswick Press and Pickering as publisher.. “This work began publication in monthly parts in June 1830 (the earliest date of pub mentioned on some of the plates): Pickering advertised it in 1831 as appearing in 12 monthly parts each containing 5 plates, price 3sss. 6d. Each park, plain, or, carefully colored from the originals, 7s. 6d.” (65) — some copies on Imperial Quarto with gold applied and better colors — key drawings by Shaw are printed from etched or lithographed plates (the same illustration occurs in both etched and lithographed versions, for no apparent reason), colors painted in by hand

Shaw, The Encyclopedia of Ornament (1836), with plates including engraved and aquatinted stone and copper plates, and a zinc-graph, all hand-colored, several plates printed in color from wood blocks — title page dated 1842 when the work is completed — precursor to Owen Jones, Grammar of Ornament and “the numerous other pattern books which followed the Great Exhibition”

Shaw, Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages (1843) — 94 plates, mostly on copper; has “a considerable claim to be called the most handsome book produced in the whole of the 19c” (66)

Other books by Shaw, published by Pickering:

  • Examples of Ornamental Metalwork (1839)
  • Alphabets, Numerals, and Devices of the Middle Ages (1845)
  • A Book of Sundry Draughtes, principally serving for Glasiers (1848)
  • The Decorative Arts Ecclesiastical and Civil of the Middle Ages (1851)

Specimens of Tile Pavements (1858)

A Handbook of the Art of Illumination (1866)

The Arms of the Colleges of Oxford (1855, issued in parts

Contributed to W. S. Gibson, The History of the Monastery founded at Tynemouth (1846)

Contributed some embellishments to gift books (68)

V&A Museum has a collection of ~95 pages of facsimiles of medieval msss by Henry Shaw, mostly on vellum, never published but drawn title-page bearing the words “Choice Leaves from Rare Illuminated Manuscripts by Henry Shaw F.S.A., A.D. MDCCCLXV” — “suggests that a book was intended” (70)

“Much of Shaw’s work, being reproductive, became unnecessary when photography was able to replace it: but Shaw’s pages are a great deal pleasanter to look at than any modern printing of color photography.” (70)

Owen Jones, Alahambra

“The chromolithographs were the first of their kind to be produced in England, the forerunners of a great new industry. They were mostly printed in up to six or seven printings, including much gold. Many were representations of three-dimensional details; one, printed in at least eleven colours, with embossing, reproduced a ceiling painting; another, a vase. The rest portrayed mostly flat patterns, where colours did not overlap. Compared with later chromolithographs, some may be a little crude, but all are magnificently vigorous.” (78)

“the foundations are laid, not only of a new kind of book illustration, but if a new school of designers, the pilers-on of reproduced ornament” (78)

Owen Jones helped found a new industry, interested in illuminated gift book and Orientalism in design (81)

Illuminated book — “essentially a gift book, whose text was often, but not always, taken from the Bible, and whose pages were decorated in cloud, in a style closely or distantly resembling that of a medieval manuscript. Gothic lettering, either drawn or set in type, and gold printing were normal ingredients; but th description ‘illuminated’ was also given to any gift book in which text and colored illustrations were combined.” (83)

“The fashion for illumination can be called part of the Gothic Revival. Illuminating was also, even more than water-color painting or needlework, a highly suitable occupation for Sundays. But all through thee later half of the century it was also a subject for serious study and pleasure.” (83)

Thomas Castle, The Origin and Progress of Writing (2nd ed., 1803); 31 etched plates, including illuminated initial from Lindisfarne Gospels; “his illustrations, even those that are simply hand-colored, are in no sense facsimiles. The introduction of chromolithography was a great aid to art scholarship. It’s earliest uses in this field were probably in Germany: It was used, for example, for Zahn’s work on Pompeii (Berlin, 1828) and for Boetticher’s Die Holzarchitectur des Mittelalters (Berlin, 1836-42).” (83))

List of other books with old scripts (83)

Other works pub’d in England that reproduce ms pages “with varying degrees of fidelity, but with scholarly intentions”

  • Henry Noel Humphreys and Owen Jones, Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages (1849) — lavish color reproduction of manuscripts
  • J. O. Westwood, Palaeographia Sacra Pictoria (184305)
  • Westwood, Anglo-Saxon and Iris Manuscripts (1868)

More popular intro to the subject:

  • Noel Humphreys, The Art of Illumination and Missal Painting (Chiswick Press, 1849) — small handbook for students intending to practice themselves
  • Tymms and Wyatt, The Art of Illuminating — What it was — What it should be — and How it may be practiced (1860)
  • Periodical, The Illuminator’s Magazine (1861-2)

“Henry Noel Humphreys … was a popularizer, with an astonishing gift for absorbing the art of the illuminated manuscripts he had studied in Italy and recreating out of them modern pages which were not direct copies yet were full of vitality and richness.” (85)

“No other work by either man consisted merely of reproductions of manuscripts (except the relevant pages in Jones's Grammar of Ornament, 1856). Both used the medieval art of illumination as a source of inspiration and material for exploiting the new art of chromolithography, for which it was admirably suited, and set a fashion in decorative printing which kept chromolithographers busy for many years. Illuminated manuscripts provided themes not only for book design but for the designers of chromolithographed music covers, from the 184os onwards, and the publishers of religious mottoes, and Christmas cards, which later became a considerable industry.” (85)

The Illuminated Calendar and Home Diary for 1845 (1844), designed by Noel Humphreys 00 describing the hours of Anne of Brittany, which has the originals copied in the calendar

John Murray, Book of Common Prayer, with borders designed by Owen Jones

Joseph Cundall, A Booke of Christmas Carols (1845)

Lewis Gruner, books on ornamental design (92)

Owen Jones, The Song of Songs (Longman, 1849)

Henry Noel Humphreys, Insect Changes (1847) — also with drawings in the style of the hours of Anne of Brittany (104)

Humphreys, Parables of Our Lord (1847) — illuminated and chromolithographed

“The original edition contains one hundred folio plates (and a gothic illuminated title-page) all drawn on stone by Francis Bedford, and about one hundred and fourteen pages of text, consisting of essays on the various kinds of ornament, and references for the plates, by Owen Jones, J. O. Westwood, J. B. Waring, and Digby Wyatt. To us today, inundated with photographic references for almost every work of art or kind of decoration in the world, The Grammar of Ornament is still a superb picture-book: but in the 185os it was the first time in England that anything like so many illustrations of ornament had ever been assembled in colour in one work, and certainly the first time in England that any systematic and serious reproductions in colour of historical ornament had ever been printed, apart from Owen Jones's Alhambra, and works by Digby Wyatt and Noel Humphreys already mentioned.

Humphreys, The Miracles of Our Lord (1848), with some “remarks of the illuminator” at the back, on Christian symbolism and explanations of designs

Maxims and Precepts of the Saviour (1848)

The Book of Ruth (1850)

Sentiments and Similes of Willam Shakespeare (1851), also has introduction by Humphreys on his approach to chromolithography (108)

Noel Humphreys and Owen Jones, The Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages (1849) — issued in parts to subscribers

Lewis Gruner, Specimens of Ornamental Art (1850)

Jones, Grammar of Ornament (1856)

  • 100 folio plates drawn on stone by Francis Bedford, 114 pages of text with essays on ornament by Owen Jones, J. O. Westwood, J. B. Waring, Digby Wyatt

“To us today, inundated with photographic references for almost every work of art or kind of decoration in the world, The Grammar of Ornament tis still a superb picture-book: but in the 1850s it was the first time in England that anything like so many illustrations of ornament had ever been assembled in color in one work, and certainly the first time in England that any systematic and serious reproductions in color of historical ornament had ever been printed, apart from Owen Jones’s Alhambra, and works by Digby Wyatt and Noel Humphreys already mentioned.” (122)

Other words attempted on continent (lists 124) “but Owen Jones’s book was by far the most ambitious in scope yet attempted” (124)

Idea that by showing different styles of ornament together, he could stop people from just copying any ornament from the past without attempting to understand the circumstances that made it beautiful — ornament should follow content

Photographs transferred to lithographic stones, John Pouncy, Dorsetshirt Photographically Illustrated (1857)

J. O. Westwood, Facsimiles of the Miniatures & Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon & Irish Manuscripts (1868), only 200 copies

Works published by Day & Son include many illuminated by women (named on 134)

“The market for illuminated books printed by chromolithography was now having to face competition from the wood-engravers: the majority of artists seem in fact to have preferred that medium. Chomolithography sales began to dwindle: so it Wass apparently just at the wrong time that the firsts magazine on the subject, The Chromolithograph, was launched.” (136)

Curmer, L’Imitations de Jesus-Christ (1856)

Racinet, L’Ornement Polychrome (1869) — like Jones, Grammar of Ornament, “but more finely drawn and superbly chromolithographed by Firmin-Didot” (137)

“But probably the finest work of all at this time was being produced by Engelmann & Graf, to whom the most scholarly illustrations seem to have been entrusted.” (137)

  • Statuts de l’Ordre du Saint-Esprit (1853)
  • L’Architecture du V au XVII Siècle (1858)
  • Paroissien Romain (1858), a breviary

Louis Prang, Parallel of Historical Ornament (1874-7), illustrations taken without acknowledgment from Jones Grammar and Racinet L’Ornement