Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Folger Exhibitions
• Past Exhibitions
Marketing Shakespeare
The Progress of a Print

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

The Progress of a Print

Although it is possible to create an entirely "pure" engraving, where every line is cut into the plate by hand, in practice, commercial engravings like Boydell's typically began with an underlying etching, as seen in this early proof state (upper image), printed before even all the etching was finished. Etching is considerably faster than engraving: instead of cutting lines into the copper by hand, corrosive acid does the work. Using an etching needle on a copper plate covered with varnish, the printmaker scratches the design into the varnish, exposing the copper. When placed in an acid bath, the varnished parts remain pristine, but the exposed copper is eaten away, creating grooves to hold the ink.


After verifying the basic outlines of the design by taking proof impressions from the etched state, the printmaker would continue to work on the plate, adding engraved lines and taking progressive proofs as necessary to check on the work in progress. Compare this finished print (lower image) to the early proof shown above it. Etched lines, with their rounded ends and somewhat shaky feel, are still clearly visible, par­ticularly in the background. Stronger engraved lines, characteristically swelling in the middle before reaching a sharp point at the end, make up the bulk of the figures.


Next »
William Charles Wilson after Richard Westall. King Henry VIII, Act 3, scene 2. Engraving, London, 1796

William Charles Wilson after Richard Westall. King Henry VIII, Act 3, scene 2. Engraving, London, 1796

Exhibition Highlights

The Progress of a Print

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623