A note about Descriptions & “Colour” with regard to Antique maps and prints
Most antique maps and were originally printed in black and white and could then be hand coloured, usually by the publishers in house. For this reason the printer could sell both uncoloured or coloured versions of the same map; the coloured version of course being more expensive Where this is the case we will have mentioned “Original Colour”.
It was also the case that clients could ask for items to be coloured and even heightened in gold to add extra luxury and status, or to reflect particular interests or even political and religious beliefs.
In the 16th century, where a map is coloured, usually all of the map is coloured including cartouches . In the 17th century particularly the German publishers would issue maps with the main body of the map coloured but with the copper engraved title cartouche left black and white. As mentioned wealthy clients could pay a premium to have the cartouches coloured as well, however it is usually the case to find the maps of Homann, Seutter, Lotter &c with black and white cartouches. Some modern dealers have taken to adding colour, but we prefer to present our material as close to its original state as possible.
There is also the example of an item being coloured close to the time of issue, but not necessarily by the publisher. After so many years it is difficult to distinguish from “Original Colour” but where it is obvious it will be described as “Contemporary Colour”.
“Coloured” indicates that an item has been coloured at a later date. Map sellers through history would buy black and white maps and have them coloured to make them more attractive to the buyer.
“Modern Colour” will indicate that in our opinion the item has been coloured recently.
“Printed in Colour” or “Partially printed in Colour, means precisely what it says, and will usually refer to later maps or prints, with the exception of some particular types of Antique Prints.
Antique Prints and Engravings
Most prints are illustrations of books although there are separately issued prints particularly in the 18th century when every Gentleman would have his printroom.
These separately issued prints often commemorated an important event or person, or were a printed representation of a painting or even a tapestry [ for instance the ”Battles of Alexander” by Charles le Bruyn].
From the end of the 16th century Copper engraving was the main method used for prints, as technology developed also Mezzotint, Aquatint, Stipple engraving and later Lithograph were used.
In the 19th century Steel engraving was developed which meant that plates did not wear out so easily, and thus developed the publishing of many illustrated books for the more modest income.
Colour printing as we know it today was not developed fully until the end of the 19th century, as such most prints were printed in black and white and then hand coloured. During the 18th century colour was used in the printing , for instance sepia , or a number of colours particularly with Stipple engraving.
Aquatints were often partly printed with coloured ink and then finished by hand, they are freer in style to copper engravings, and look more like watercolours.
Stipple engraving, Aquatint and Mezzotint were expensive techniques, and mainly used for separately issued prints, or for luxurious publications, e.g. Ackerman’s “Microcosm” or Daniel’s “Voyage Round Great Britain”; such works were usual published by Subscription, i.e. the “Wealthy and Good” paid in advance, before printing, for the book; thus ensuring the publisher covered his costs.
With the invention of Lithography in the early 19th century, when it was discovered how to print from stone, the earlier methods fell out of favour. Lithography appears as less obviously manufactured, and the best look like drawings with a soft pencil. Throughout the century methods were improved, with the introduction of tints.
David Robert’s in his works on Egypt and the Holy Land is considered by many as the “Apotheosis of lithography”. John Gould when publishing his magnificent Ornithological works used lithography, and then hand colouring, often heightened with gum Arabic to add depth. He had a studio of colourists working for him to produce the wonderful plates with their “ natural” colours. Before him it was often a case of variation in colours between copies of the same plate. An example of this are the birds of Albin, coloured by himself and his daughter on demand, but depending on the pigments they could find or afford in the market at the time.
To continue about Natural history prints; the height of production was form the mid 18th century, with the improvements in print technology and colour, either printed or handcoloured. For this we have the
great works of Buffon Martinet [ on birds], Mark Elieser Bloch’s “Icthyology” and the Botanical works of Andrews and later Loudon and Paxton. With the advent of improved techniques and colours it was possible to represent more realistically the great scientific discoveries of the period.
Steel engraving was a result of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and made the mass manufacture of illustrated books much more cost effective. It was no longer necessary to find ‘Subscribers’ before publication. Illustrated books could now be printed in larger runs and in less luxurious formats, hence the appearance of so many quarto and octavo illustrated books. An illustrated book was no longer the sole preserve of the Aristocracy, the new educated middle classes could also have a library. Even so, it was still not an everyday purchase, and many works were issued in parts, to spread the cost, just as we have part-work publications today. In 1832 John Murray published “ The Landscape and Portrait illustrations of Lord Byron” in monthly parts containing 4-6 plates in each part, at a cost of 7 shillings and sixpence. It was only later he offered a bound volume of the first 8 parts and proposed the same for the successive issues. Indeed once he discovered he had a market he enlarged the work with more parts.
The terms used to describe colour on our prints will be the same as those for maps.