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Era: 1800s - 1900s

Related: reproduction - illustrated newspaper - printing - printmaking

Just as lithography virtually implied the illustrated newspaper, so did photography foreshadow the sound film. For the first time in the process of pictorial reproduction, photography freed the hand of the most important artistic functions which henceforth devolved only upon the eye looking into a lens. --Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1935) - Walter Benjamin


Lithography is a method for printing on a smooth surface.

Lithography as a manual process is based on the repulsion of oil and water. The image is placed on the surface with an oil-based medium; acid is then used to 'burn' the oil into the surface. When printing, the surface is covered in water, which remains on the non-oily surface and avoids the oily parts; a roller can then apply an oil-based ink that adheres only to the oily portion of the surface. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithography [Jan 2005]

Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in Bohemia in 1798, and it was the first new printing process since the invention of relief printing in the fifteenth century. In the early days of lithography, a smooth piece of limestone was used (hence the name "lithography""lithos" is the ancient Greek word for stone). After the oil-based image was put on the surface, acid burned the image onto the surface; gum arabic, a water soluble solution, was then applied, sticking only to the non-oily surface and sealing it. During printing, water adhered to the gum arabic surfaces and avoided the oily parts, while the oily ink used for printing did the opposite.

Within a few years of its invention, the lithographic process was used to create multi-colour printed images, a process known by the middle of the 19th Century as Chromolithography, and many fine examples of chromolithographic colour printing and publishing were achieved in America and Europe during this period. A separate stone was used for each colour, and the print went through the press separately for each stone. The main challenge was of course to keep the images in register. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithography [Jan 2005]

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