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2013 Conference: Seeing Color/Printing Color articles:

Matthew McLennan Young on The Heyday of Trichromatic Process Printing

Nina Schneider


Detail of an illustration by Arthur Rackham for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (Hodder & Stoughton, 1906), reproduced for the book by the Hentschel Colourtype Process.

Matthew McLennan Young began his talk by discussing Jacob Christoph Le Blon’s Coloritto, or, The Harmony of Colouring in Painting (1725). Le Blon invented tricolor printing in the primary colors (blue, red, yellow), occasionally adding black or another color to improve the result. In order to break down the colors into primary components much trial and error was required. Because Le Blon was self-taught, he looked at the printing “accidents” to help guide and refine his methods. [Read more]

Julie Mellby on Stencillers in Twentieth Century Publishing

Paul Romaine


Henry Fielding, The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great (Limited Editions Club, 1943). Colored by Charlize Brakely, designs by T. M. Cleland.

Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator at Princeton University, spoke on “Adding Color: The Business of the Stenciller in Twentieth-Century Publishing.” Many scholars do not treat stencil as a printing art and yet pochoir (its French name) was closely involved with producing high quality color for the printing industry. [Read more]

Jane Rodgers Siegel on Experiments in Color Printing in the 15th through the 19th Centuries

Paul Romaine


Detail of a color-printed intaglio illustration from: Salomon Gessner (1730-1788) Mort d’Abel (A Paris, Chez Defer de Maisonneuve, 1793, page 91). Courtesy of Columbia University RBML.

Jane Rodgers Siegel, rare book librarian at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, gave us a virtual tour of landmarks in her talk “Experiments in Color Printing in the Fifteenth through the Nineteenth Centuries: A Survey.” Printed color was rare in book illustrations until the nineteenth century, when color printing dropped in cost and became widely available. [Read more]

L. Elizabeth Upper on Rediscovering Color in German Graphic Art, 1487–1600

Doug Clouse


Detail of Hans Baldung Grien (attr.), Title Border with Wrestling Putti, color woodcut from two blocks (red and black). Title page of Juan López, De libertate ecclesiastica (Strasbourg: Johann Schott, 1511). Cambridge University Library, shelfmark Acton.d.48.362. Reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.

In her concise and well-illustrated talk on early color printing in Germany, L. Elizabeth Upper set a high standard for the speakers who followed her. Upper made her main point early and repeated it throughout the presentation: color printing from woodcuts in Germany in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was more common than previously thought. [Read more]

Sarah Lowengard on Why Color? On the Uses, (Misuses) and Meanings of Color in Printing

Sara T. Sauers


Detail from Gautier (d’Agoty) and Duverney “Muscles of the head” from Myologie complete en couleur et grandeur naturelle(Paris, 1746). Wikimedia

Why color? For keynote speaker Sarah Lowengard, whose research hangs at the intersection of scientific theories and technological processes in eighteenth century Europe, the answer is in its multiple meanings. Color is both concept and process, and is therefore a significant framework for looking at that modernizing culture’s art, materials, and technology of making. In a similar vein, Lowenberg posited an overarching question about aesthetics, technology, and science: How do we make something beautiful, but lasting? [Read more]

Nancy Sharon Collins on Implications of a Second Color in New Orleans Blue Books, ca. 1910

Kseniya Thomas


“The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1969.19.9_p8,9

Storyville, a neighborhood in New Orleans, was an infamous red light district mandated by city ordinance in 1897. The area spanned several blocks and represented a way for the authorities to keep an eye on legalized prostitution.

[Read more]

Russell Maret on Painting with Polymer: Priming, Shading and Layering in Digital Letterpress

Sara T. Sauers

Seven color letterpress ruler from Russell Maret's forthcoming book, <em>Interstices &amp; Intersections</em>.

Seven color letterpress ruler from Maret’s forthcoming book, Interstices & Intersections.

Russell Maret makes letterpress prints that originate from his paintings, which he uses as sketches. His prints maintain a painted look—those subtle transitions in color and shading—through a painstaking process of scanning, drawing separations, preparing negatives and plates, mixing inks, and printing layer upon layer of carefully chosen and expertly registered hues. Maret shared his techniques, developed particularly since 2008 it would seem, when someone said about his muted color map in Mediaeval in Padua, “Nice book, Russell, but use more colors.” [Read more]

Philip Zimmermann on Four-color Letterpress Printing of the National Geographic Magazine in the 1950s and 60s

Paul Moxon, Website Editor


A 1950s belle, with and without the use of a hand-cut color separation correction mask for her green dress.

Up until 1978, the National Geographic Magazine printed millions of copies every month of their famous yellow-bordered magazine by four-color process letterpress. The distinctive look of the color photo reproductions in the fifties and sixties was partly due to the medium of four-color letterpress and partly due to the state of separation technology at that time. Modern practitioners of letterpress find it hard to believe today that those millions of copies of the National Geographic Magazine were printed by letterpress. [Read more]

Rebecca Romney on Hand-colored Plate Books and the Documentation of Disappearing Native American Peoples

Jessica Holada


George Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio, Plate No. 5, Buffalo Hunt, Chase.

In her survey of landmarks in ethnographic color printing, Rebecca Romney demonstrated that they all went big. And rather than go home, some authors and artists went into the field to record tribes of North American that were vanishing as the result of westward expansion and the devastating Indian Removal Act under President Jackson. [Read more]

Tour: Thomas J. Watson Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jessica Holada

Watson Libray Tour

The Master Silk Printer, New York: Oriental Silk Printing Co., 1922-1927 (Watson Library Special Collections – 156.41 M39)

The Thomas J. Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art comprises over 800,000 volumes focused on art documentation (just one of almost thirty specialized libraries at the Met). Our host, Jared Ash, discussed the significance of approximately fifty color illustrated books, folios, magazines, and trade publications, all of which were displayed for conference goers on well-spaced tables, enabling us to carefully turn pages and take many digital photographs. [Read more]