Monthly Archives: April 2014

The History of Printing – Lithography

Lithography is a method of printing that dates back to the late 1700s. Developed by the German actor, Alois Senefelder as a means to publish scripts cheaply, the technique is founded upon the principle of oil and water repelling.

Early Lithography

The original method of lithography involved an image created by oil or wax upon a smooth stone surface, traditionally limestone.

The stone would then be treated with a mildly acidic gum which would enter the pores of the stone that weren’t protected by the oil based image (etching).

During the printing process the stone would be made wet from water, before an oil-based ink was applied. The etched areas would retain the water, repelling the ink which would adhere only to the oil-based image on the stone.

The inked image would then be transferred to a blank sheet of paper, which would give you the printed image on a page.

Senefelder first develop the process in 1796, continuing to master it into the nineteenth century with a vision that perfecting a multi-coloured form of lithography would allow for accurate re-prints of major works of fine art.

The process was taken on and developed further by Godfroy Engelmann who devised the process of chromolithography in 1837. This new version of the technique involved each colour requiring its own stone, the image being pressed with each stone in turn.

Lithographic techniques would subsequently find favour into the mid-1800s with the British Army for instance, seeing the technique as a means to cheaply mass-produce military drawings and maps during the Peninsula War.

Modern Lithography

Versions of lithography are still used to this day; often still in the producing of maps, drawings, posters or the re-production of artwork.

Furthermore, most types of text based publication – books and magazines, will be produced using what is known as offset lithography.

In this modern format, stone has been replaced by a modern printing plate of aluminium or similar material which is given a brushed texture and covered in photosensitive emulsion. A photo negative of the image required for printing will then be brought into contact with the emulsion and exposed to ultraviolet light.

This process produces a reverse image of the photo negative, in other words, a replica of the original image. The image is then transferred to a cylinder in the press and dampened by water. Similar to the traditional lithography techniques, the emulsion on the image areas repels the water, attracting instead the ink later applied.

The image is then transferred further to another cylinder, this time covered in a rubber blanket, to allow the image to dry out. Paper is then fed through this cylinder and a counter-weighted cylinder, upon which the dry image is impressed.

Lithography and Art

Whilst the technique is still used as a commercial process, albeit in ever more digitised forms, lithography as a form has been used throughout the years as a means of printing by some of the world’s major artists – much as Senefelder suggested it might.

Artists in nineteenth century France used the process to produce limited edition prints of their work, with Manet, Degas and Toulouse Lautrec exponents of the craft.

The form continued into the 1900s with notable names such as Chagall and Picasso creating many of their works directly onto Lithographic stone with the printing process itself becoming an ever more integral component of the creation of the work; lithography taking its place as a technique of fine art.

Chester Carlson – Father of Photocopying

Inspired by the likes of Thomas Edison and in search of a way to escape financial hardship, Chester Carlson had long held onto the idea of becoming an inventor.

With his development of the electrophotography process, he would achieve his wish and make a significant mark upon the world.

Growing Up

Born in Seattle, Washington in 1906 Carlson had to grow up quickly. With little household income due to illness of both parents, he was required to earn a wage from a young age. By thirteen he was major provider for his household, fitting work into his days before and after school.

In school his interests seemed to gravitate towards science and pursuits into graphic design, in particular from a publishing perspective – the idea of producing print copies of documents and text a captivating concept for the young man destined to change that industry forever.

As a high school student he developed a handcrafted newspaper, This and That, while, at the same time, taking an after-school job at a professional printers. Trying to publish his magazine using the traditional methods available to him at the printers was laborious and Carlson grew frustrated by the task.

The seed of his idea for a new way of copying was born.

The Zest for Invention

Carlson worked tirelessly to enable himself a place at University, finally graduating with a degree in Physics in 1930.

His mother had died a few years earlier and his father was, by now, too sick to work. Carlson was desperate for a way out of poverty, at a time when the world was plunging headlong into depression. The idea of a developing some kind of invention seemed like a good way to climb out of the economic mire.

Carlson managed to find work as a research engineer with Bell Laboratories in New York City. Within a year he had moved into the patent department. During his time there he continued to work on ideas of his own; returning always to his passion for printing and his scientific background.

In 1933 Carlson was fired from Bell but, despite the continued depression, he was fortunate to not be out of work for too long. Within two years he had managed to get a job as Head of the Patent Department with P.R. Mallory (who would later become a division of Proctor & Gamble).

By his own admission, however, this kind of office existence didn’t suit him. His drive was for creation invention as a means to financial freedom and personal achievement.

Repeatedly he came back to the notion of creating a means to easily produce exact copies of documents and text.

Developing Electrophotography

Through his own experiences in printing and his background as a physics major, Carlson began to develop the idea of creating duplicates via a process of electrostatic charge – using light and ink to attract to positively charged areas of paper.

In October 1938 Carlson had his breakthrough – his invention worked and the world’s first modern photocopier was born.

The problem at the time, however, was that nobody seemed particularly interested!

Battle Memorial and the road to success

Over the next six years, Carlson saw more frustration head his way as he tried to sell the concept to the major companies such as IBM, all of whom declined.

Then, in 1944 and on the point of giving up, his invention caught the interest of the Battle Memorial Institute in Ohio. They agreed to fund further research, to help with development and to seek out interested parties for the idea.

In December 1946 they finally secured a deal. The Haloid Company were already making copying devices and signed an exclusive rights deal to use Carlson’s idea.

Over the next fifteen years the process was developed into workable machines.

Haloid would become Xerox, Carlson found his fortune and the age of the photocopier was born.

A Hint of Orange: Barcelona’s Debt to the Dutch

The past four decades has seen periods of stunning football and meteoric success for Barcelona football club.

We take a look here at how this has been influenced, in no small part, by a continued connection Continue reading A Hint of Orange: Barcelona’s Debt to the Dutch