Antique prints provide us with an amazing glimpse into the past, before digital media, computers and the Internet. Smaller in size than our vintage posters, many of these incredible images were rescued from rare books, atlases, reference materials and other antique publications. Their small size lends them extremely well to groupings of pictures, framed together or separately.
Why Antique Prints?
There are many reasons to collect and display antique prints. Some are intrigued by the connection to history and the knowledge they represent. Others are interested in specific subjects and topics, or perhaps a particular artist or author, and will collect only one type. For us, it's all about the image... our collection is chock full of natural history (specifically entomology), early technology, and just about anything else we think is unique. We love everything about these wonderful old gems: the history, the feel of the paper, the patina, even the aroma. We love that they're not perfect, and every smudge, stain and blemish is part of the history and story. We love thinking about the hands this piece of paper have passed through over the years, and the journey it took to get to our collection. We hope you enjoy them too, and find the perfect piece of history to call your own!
Methods of Antique Printing
Chromolithographs- Color printing from a stone or plate, this process was developed in the 1870's and was all but non-existent by the end of the 1930's. A chromolithograph was made using anywhere from eight to 25 stones or more, one for each color and separately drawn. These stones were then applied to the paper one color at a time; a painstaking process that required skill and accuracy, with each stone being precisely registered. The results however were well worth it, with beautiful, vibrant colors available for the first time for everything from books and posters to cigar boxes and crate labels.
Intaglio Print Methods- Etchings and engravings were both very popular methods to illustrate antique publications, prints and plates. Both are similar, in that they share the use of intaglio (Italian for "cut in") printing methods to produce an image. According to the International Fine Print Dealers Association, the different types of intaglio prints are distinguished by the technique used: etching, aquatint, and photogravure are made using acid to corrode the metal plate (copper or later steel), while engraving, drypoint, and mezzotint are made using a sharp tool to incise, or scratch, the surface of the plate. These methods produce fine lines that can create detailed images, which were often hand colored to produce unique works of art.
Hand colored Prints
Prior to the mid 1800's, a printing process that allowed for reliable color reproduction at scale was not available, and the hand coloring of etchings and engravings flourished. This practice began as early as the 1600's and was very expensive, often increasing the cost of production many times over, ensuring only the most important works and the wealthiest clientele would enjoy their unique beauty. The typical technique involved water colors and long broad strokes, a process which is appreciated not only at arms length, but also under magnification, when the nuances and imperfections are displayed in all their glory. Hand coloring could take place at the time the book or print was issued, or at a later date, in fact that are artists today that will hand color a beautiful antique print!
Most antique prints show some age and wear, as their intended use was repeated handling. They're far from perfect, but that's why we love them... you can feel the history and age, and the vintage vibe is undeniable. The best way to view the condition of a print on our site is to use the photo zoom tool to get a close up view. Not only can you view any imperfections, but you'll also see the amazing details these wonderful old images contain, as well as the hand coloring work on many prints.