While looking through the Folger collection for snow scenes (it’s that time of year!) I stumbled across this image of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, drawn in the 1960s by C. Walter Hodges:
It is one of about 900 items in the “C. Walter Hodges collection of Elizabethan and other theatre drawings” acquired by the Folger between 1986 and 1990. Hodges drew it for the 1968 edition of his book The Globe Restored: A Study of the Elizabethan Theatre, published by Oxford University Press. The drawing’s origin as a 20th-century book illustration clings to it, literally, thanks to the transparent overlay hinged to its left edge with tape:
If you zoom in on the overlay in the online digital image, you can see that it’s actually a uniform grid of dots with cut-outs where the “snow” appears in the drawing.
When folded back over the drawing, the black dots in the overlay create the optical illusion of a shade of grey, letting the snow stand out more brightly (though the original it is much yellowed today). This “camera ready” art would then have been photographed and transferred to a printing plate.
Book illustrators in Shakespeare’s day faced the same problem: how do you create shades of grey using only black ink? Back then, woodcutters and engravers typically relied on varying the width and spacing of the black lines to create shading (see the Collation post “Woodcut, engraving, or what?” for more on this topic):Shades of grey could also be produced by careful placement of black dots of varying size or spacing:
Things became much easier by the end of the 19th century: instead of having to make dots by hand, commercial illustrators could purchase sheets of ready-made dots in different densities that they could cut-and-paste as needed to create different tonal effects. These screentone sheets dominated inexpensive 20th-century commercial illustration.
The final result of C. Walter Hodges’ drawing of the snow-covered Globe, with the addtion of mechanical screentone, can be found on page one of The Globe Restored: A Study of the Elizabethan Theatre (Oxford University Press, 1968).
And in case you’re like me, and wonder what the scene would look like with just the snow, I leave you with this:
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