Page 20 - February 2015
P. 20

by Ron Prosser (9405)

          everal years ago when visiting the      as William Siemens. Siemenns went into
           Bookshop town of Hay-on-Wye in         partnership with the English engineer Joseph
           the Brecon Beacons I purchased an      Woods, who developed the process and
unusual Sketchbook entitled Hunting Sketches      received British Patent No.10219 in 1844 for
by Violet Morgan, printed and published by        Improvements in Producing Designs and Copies,
W. P. Spalding of Cambridge. My interest had      and in Multiplying Impressions either of Printed
been aroused by the announcement on the           or Written Surfaces.
back cover that it was produced by Anastatic
Printing which I had never heard of and I         The process enabled an original to be copied, in
resolved that one day I would research this       facsimile, by a chemical process provided the
process. That day came on 6th December,           illustration or text had been executed using
2014 when I rediscovered the book in              oil-based ink. The document to be copied was
my bookcase and the Internet revealed a           then sponged with dilute nitric acid which
fascinating story.                                saturated all parts except where the ink lay, the
                                                  acid being repelled from those areas by the
The graphic reproduction process which            oily nature of the ink. The original was then
came to be called anastatic printing began        placed face down on a polished zinc plate and
to be known in October 1841 when the              passed under the roller of a press, the pressure
proprietors of the London Journal—The             of which caused the acid to bite into the plate
Athenaeum—received from a correspondent           except in the inked areas. The plate was then
in Berlin, a reprint of their issue of September  moistened with gum and water which adhered
25th containing some woodcut illustrations.       to the bitten parts but was repelled by the oily
This was so perfect a facsimile that they         parts. Ink was applied to the plate by roller, a
immediately inquired as to how it had been        blank paper placed upon it and passed through
done, and they learned that it had been           the press to give a new impression. The
made by a secret new process. In their issue      whole procedure taking a matter of minutes.
No.736 of December 4, 1841 The Athenaeum          Additional copies were run off in seconds by
published a notice on p.932 entitled ‘Printing    re-inking, adding paper and running through
and Piracy—New Discovery’ concerning              the press as often as required.
the dangers to the publishing industry that
such a high quality facsimile method could        A programme of promotion ensured and
pose, particularly with regard to expensive       Michael Faraday and Edgar Allen Poe were
illustrated works, production of facsimiles       among the enthusiastic advocates, the latter
of which had previously been assumed to           of whom foresaw huge advantages over the
be difficult and expensive. The new process,      stereotype process, as anastatic printing
it was learned had been invented by a C. F.       plates could be produced quickly and cheaply,
Baldamus of Germany, and promoted by              obviating the need to store bulky stereotype
the German engineer and entrepreneur Carl         plates or flongs. Poe also believed that
Wilhelm Siemens, later known in England           anastatic technology would enable authors
                                                  to write out and publish their own books as

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