The Early Process of Lithography

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Lithography was the first real innovation in printing after the invention of relief printing in the fifteenth century.

Lithography was the first real innovation in printing after the invention of relief printing in the fifteenth century. It was first invented in Bohemia by Alois Senefelder in 1798. The name lithography comes from the Greek word for stone (lithos) because originally a smooth piece of limestone was used in the process. An oil based image was placed on the surface, and then burned on with acid. After this, gum Arabic (which is water soluble) was used to seal the non oily portions of the plate. During the printing process the oil based ink would adhere to only the oil based portions of the plate, while the water would adhere to the gum Arabic.

It didnít take long for the lithography process to evolve. Within a few short years the process was used to print multi-color images. This new process was known as Chromolithography in the middle of the 19th century. Many fine examples can be found in both America and Europe of pieces created using this process. This process used a separate stone plate for each color, sending the print through several times to achieve its effect. The main problem with this process was maintaining proper alignment as you changed colors and send the image through several times.


 

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