History of printing: Printing from stone

In the chemical printing office at Vienna, 3 different methods are employed, but that termed in relief, is most frequently used. This is the general mode of printing music.

The 2nd method is the sunk, which is preferred for prints.

The 3rd method is the flat; that is, neither raised nor sunk. This is useful for imitating drawings, particularly where the impression is intended to resemble crayons. For printing and engraving in this method, a block of marble is employed, or any other calcareous stone that is easily corroded, and will take a good polish. It should be 2 1/2 inches thick, and of a size proportioned to the purpose for which it is intended. A close texture is considered as advantageous. When the stone is well polished and dry, the first step is to trace the drawing, notes, or letters to be printed with a pencil; the design is not very conspicuous, but it is rendered so by passing over the strokes of the pencil a particular ink, of which a great secret is made. This ink is made of a solution of lac in potash, colored with the soot from burning wax, and appears to be the most suitable black for the purpose. When the design has been gone over with this ink, it is left to dry about 2 hours. After it is dry, nitric acid, more or less diluted, according to the degree of relief desired, is poured on the stone, which corrodes every part of it, except when defended by the resinous ink. The block being washed with water, ink, similar to that commonly used for printing, is distributed over it by printer's balls; a sheet of paper disposed on a frame is laid on it, and this is pressed down by means of a copper roller or copper press.

The sunk or chalk method differs from that termed relief, only in having stone much more corroded by the nitric acid. In the flat method less nitric acid is used. It is not to be supposed that the surface is quite plain in this way, but the lines are very little raised so that they can scarcely be perceived to stand above the ground, but by the finger.

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