Metalcuts in the dotted manner

20 October 2010 § Leave a comment

Metalcuts in the dotted manner

Dutch: Schrootblad

French: Manière criblé

German: Schrottblatt

It’s a kind of relief print whereby you use metal instead of wood. This technique involves punching dots and stars into the surface of the metal. The results are patterns of white among completely black areas. At first, the this technique was used on wood. Where recesses had to be made over large surfaces, they didn’t cut into the wood, but would punch dots to produce a kind of “shotgun” effect. It turned out that wood wasn’t the best material for this particular process and so they started using plates of soft metal. These were most likely alloys of tin and copper or simply copper. It was especially useful if you wanted to turn a boring black background into something a little bit more interesting. Aside from using awls, you could finish the picture by punching holes and figures into the metal.

It’s not known who actually invented it, but it was introduced between 1430 and 1490. In the time they started using woodcuts, they experimented with other materials as well. As stated, metal came to be the preferred material. This is how the dotted print technique came into being. The prints made this way are often signed with a vignette or monogram. This practice leads back to the origins of the technique in the silvermsith’s working place.

Christ on the mount of olives (ca. 1470)

It was mostly used in fifteenth century Germany. To be more specific, it was especially popular around 1450-1480 in the area of Cologne. It was quite popular as a technique for book illustrations in the late fifteenth century and all through the sixteenth century.

And at the end of the 15th century, it was especially the French who used this technique enthusiastically in religious books such as a book of hours. The technique was used to produce the initials and the decorations on the side of the page.

This technique isn’t one you can find in just any handbook on printing techniques. Below you will find some works where there is a mention of the technique. The upside to this technique is that it’s not hard to recognize. Have a look at the illustration. You will easily recognize the “shotgun” effect, the many round holes.

Brunner, F. A handbook of graphic reproduction processes. Teufen: Arthur Niggli, 1962.

Gascoigne, B. How to identify prints: a complete guide to manual and mechanical processes from woodcut to inkjet. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Klein, H. Handboek druktechnieken. Bentveld-Aerdenhout: Landshoff, 1977.

Laurentius, Th. Oude prenten: een handleiding voor verzamelaars: techniek, geschiedenis, etsen, gravures, houtsneden, papier, vals en echt, kwaliteitsbeoordeling. Lochem: de Tijdstroom, 1978.

Linden, Fons van der. De Grafische Technieken. De Bilt: Cantecleer, 1979.


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