Isaac and Ede


Four Superb Examples of Early Colour Printing


Before the advent of chromolithography in the 1850s printing images in colours was a time-consuming process. The printer had to apply the coloured inks onto the correct area of the printing plate with a ball-shaped wad of fabric ("à la poupée") for each impression. Once the pull had been taken he had to meticulously clean the plate and start all over again. Such was the work involved that only two or three impressions could be printed a day. This effort made such prints extrememly expensive but their clarity, untainted by black ink under hand colour, make such prints extremely desirable.


Below is a selection of recent acquisitions that show what could be achieved with printing colours from a copper plate.


Darcis Singleton Industry ExtravaganceDarcis Singleton Industry Extravagance

J. Louis Darcis after Henry Singleton

Industry and Oeconomy [&] Extravagance and Dissipation

A very fine pair of colour printed stipple plate engravings by Darcis after Singleton; published in London in 1800.



Ward Bigg Sailor Orphans

William Ward after W. R. Bigg

The Sailor's Orphans or The Young Ladies' Subscription

A mezzotint, printed in colours and hand-finished, engraved by Ward after William Redmore Bigg RA; published in London in 1800.




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