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More Scribner’s Magazine Engravings

June 30, 2010

Here are a few more examples of the fine engravings I found digging around the archive.org site, these coming from the 1890 edition as I recall. I’m including some cropped closeups. |Link to previous post|

While researching the artwork in publications from this era, I discovered that most if not all of them were made using wood rather than copper plates. That surprised me a bit, since I had always associated wood engraving as looking more crude than these. The species of wood was typically boxwood, whose small size forced them to use multiple square blocks screwed together for large prints. The wood surface would be either drawn on for the artwork or have photographs printed directly on them, and then the individual blocks would be given to several artisans to engrave in order to speed up the process. This was no doubt why single names of the engravers don’t often appear, or even if they did, those artists sometimes had “factories” of people working for them as well.

I’ve read that some original wood blocks still survive from this period, but the wood hasn’t aged well, making new prints difficult to get from them. In most cases, metal castings were made after the wood was engraved so that the wood didn’t have to go through the press. It’s doubtful if those castings still exist.

I found a couple more sites that have other online editions of these magazines, but the scans tend to favor the text more than the artwork. It’s still good to see them, and the text is interesting reading also.
Cornell University
Haiti Trust Digital Library

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