WOOD ENGRAVINGS

Winslow Homer’s wood engravings resulted from a collaborative process that involved many hands and transformed his designs into metal (electrotype) printing plates. To begin, Homer usually drew on a prepared, end-grain boxwood block—most often consisting of smaller pieces of wood bolted together. A team of professional wood engravers then incised the blocks.

Next, pictorial and text components were arranged into a page layout and a wax mold was made of the whole. This mold was coated with powdered graphite and placed in an electrically charged chemical bath together with plates of copper. The chemicals and electric current caused copper particles to form on the graphite coating, creating a precise metal replica of the page’s type and engraved images. This replica, reinforced with various metals, was then used to print the images we call wood engravings.

Gathering Berries, publ. Harper’s Weekly, 11 July 1874

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