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British Museum Press

The Print Before Photography

The Print Before Photography

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Winner of the Apollo Magazine 2016 "Book of the Year" award.

A landmark publication—beautifully illustrated with over 300 prints from the British Museum’s renowned collection—which traces the history of printmaking from its earliest days until the arrival of photography.
Copperplate printmaking, developed alongside Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type, was a huge business employing thousands of people, and dominating image production for nearly four centuries across the whole of Europe. Its techniques and influence remained very stable until the nineteenth century, when this world was displaced by new technologies, of which photography was by far the most important.
Print Before Photography examines the unrivaled importance of printmaking in its golden age, illustrated through the British Museum’s outstanding collection of prints. This unique and significant book is destined to be a leading reference in print scholarship, and will be of interest to anyone with an interest in this era of art history.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Print production – materials and techniques / printing capacity of copper plates / costs and profitability / lettering, language and text / censorship, privileges, taxation and promotion / copying / reprinting / colouring / single sheets, pairs, sets / book illustration / survival and loss of prints

Part 2: European print trade – brief history of period / participants / the printmaker / the painter, designer / publisher – finance and production and distribution / patronage / non-commercial printmaking / the printseller / marketing, advertising, subscriptions / the buyer / cheap prints, street trade and peddlars

Part 3: Use and understanding of the print – variety / display and storage / collecting / knowledge and literature / understanding of prints / hierarchy of print techniques

Coda – print in the 19th century – the arrival of photography

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