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What is a Lithograph?


A lithograph is an artwork or illustration printed from a stone block onto paper.


Lithography became popular after about 1820. Its great attraction was that drawing on stone was almost as natural as drawing on paper.

1) The artist would draw onto a polished stone (usually limestone from a particular quarry in Bavaria) using a special, waxy lithographic crayon, pen or pencil.


2) The artist would roll black ink over the stone.


3) The ink would only stick to the wax, not to the stone.


4) The stone would be pressed onto paper to print the image


5) The artist would then either color the print by painting on water colors, or use other printing stones to apply different colored inks to selected parts of the picture (these prints are known as chromolithographs - the Victorians printmakers were unsurpassed at this).


Antique lithographs have a soft and natural appearance compared to prints made from metal plate engravings. The characteristic tiny speckles you can see under a magnifying glass are due to the printing surface is limestone. Hand made lithographs had their heyday in the period from 1820-1900. Before that, engraving was used to make prints. After that, cheaper photomechanical printing techniques became widespread.

Antique Chromolithograph
antique etching
Dog by Cassell, circa 1880

We hope you have found this interesting. If you have any questions about antique prints please do not hesitate to contact us.