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Navigating Print Identification with Graphics Atlas

A postcard showing chromolithograph color overlaid with a letterpress halftone under varying magnification, as shown in Graphics Atlas.

A postcard showing chromolithograph color overlaid with a letterpress halftone under varying magnification, as shown in Graphics Atlas.

Admit it: you are among the special set of people, like me, who carry around a loupe to examine dot structure on demand. If so, the Graphics Atlas will become your new favorite web haunt for educational reading and pure delight.

Sponsored by Image Permanence Institute, which for 30 years has been leading research and creating strategies to preserve images, the Graphic Atlas bills itself as “a sophisticated resource that presents a unique, object-based approach for the identification and characterization of prints and photographs.” It is exactly that, offering over 200 in-depth descriptions covering the gamut of historical and contemporary printing processes. The uniqueness of the site lies in its empirical photographic illustrations. These enable the viewer to macro zoom to the prints’ surface, and then view cross-sections that delineate the topography of ink and substrate in nanometers. Graphic Atlas also offers animations where one can manipulate prints to be viewed from different angles while simultaneously comparing two processes—such an advancement over flatly-presented reproductions for identification. And for fun you can subscribe to a “Picture of the Week” delivered to your inbox.
 
At this time the Graphic Atlas is heavily focused on photographic processes because it is working to fulfill a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with the goal of photographic preservation through education. However, the site administrators have future plans to expand its descriptions to encompass many more reproduction processes. Keep up with their progress through IPI’s newsletter. Enjoy!