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Blocks and Plates - Towards a History of Relief and Intaglio Printing Surfaces 1450-1830 

 

The history of printed imagery is based on the final product, the printed impressions. But the objects with which they were printed can tell a different and much more complex story. By adapting methods used for the history of type-casting and typography to non-textual material, this course offers a new methodology to make research use of the hundreds of thousands of surviving cut woodblocks, etched and engraved plates, and other print matrices/printing surfaces from the hand-press period. The course offers students new ways of approaching historical printed visual material by exploring what information these objects can offer that printed impressions cannot, and vice versa. By examining cast-metal images, techniques of replicating relief surfaces (both type and imagery), xylographic woodcuts, wood type, etc, as well as ‘texts’ and ‘images’, it bridges modern disciplines to ask where text ends and image begins from the maker’s perspective. The object-based teaching is structured around lectures, historically informed practical sessions (in a print workshop and a collection of historical presses), hands-on exercises exploring relevant digital methods and reference sources, and object sessions with the woodblocks, copperplates, and other items used to print historically significant artworks, books and book illustrations.

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