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The Collation

Simran Thadani’s wild guess for the December Crocodile Mystery, backed up by Martin Antonetti and Deborah J. Leslie, is our winner. This month’s image is a close-up of the lower right edge of a mezzotint engraving. The lines that look like warp and weft are, in fact, rows of tiny black dots crossing each other at right angles.

Detail of lower right edge of a mezzotint.

Detail of lower right edge of a mezzotint.

This happens to be a fairly coarse mezzotint, with the grain easily visible to the naked eye. Here’s the full image, which depicts Mary of Modena, consort of King James II, and their baby son. (Or was he their son? Anti-Catholic rumor-mongers called James Francis Edward Stuart “the warming-pan baby,” an impostor allegedly smuggled into the birth room in a warming pan to take the place of a still-born child.) Our crocodile image was a detail of the bottom right portion of the plate, where the image meets the text.

Mezzotint of mother with baby

Peter Schenk (1660–1718 or 19). The young prince of Walles [sic]. Mezzotint, circa 1688. Platemark 249 x 182 mm. Folger ART 230988 (click to enlarge)

  1. See the The Collation post “Woodcut, engraving, or what?” for more information.
  2. I haven’t been able to find a good video of the entire process of the traditional way of  making a mezzotint, but printmaker Martin Langford has some good still pictures under “How is a mezzotint created?” on his website.


Wahoo, nice! RBS course “Book Illustration Processes to 1900” FTW.

Simran Thadani — December 9, 2014