Current Maughan Library exhibition
From woodcut to photograph: techniques of book illustration
The Weston Room
London WC2A 1LR
Wednesday 22 January -
Tuesday 15 April 2014
Monday to Friday 09.30 - 17.00
Saturday 10.00 - 18.00
‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ - this commonplace adage reflects a widespread appreciation of the value of the visual image as both an aid to understanding and a stimulus to emotional or aesthetic response. That appreciation is reflected in the long and varied history of book illustration and in the constant striving by printers, illustrators and inventors to develop better ways of reproducing illustrations accurately and economically - themes we explore in this exhibition.
Illustration has been a feature of book production since the earliest days of printing. The early printers, keen to attract wealthy buyers, sought through illustration to emulate the tradition of the illuminated manuscript, and some books, such as the Bible, were more commonly produced in illustrated editions than is the case today.
As more and more books were printed, techniques of book illustration evolved, reflecting the demand for more sophisticated and detailed images. The woodcut lost ground to the copperplate engraving and its derivative techniques, such as mezzotint and aquatint, and these in turn were gradually supplanted in the 19th century by the lithograph and by techniques reliant on photography. The 19th century revival of the wood engraving, however, shows that technical evolution need not always be irreversible, the age of mechanisation bringing a hankering for the individuality of the hand craftsman.
Highlights of the exhibition include masterpieces of woodcut illustration, such as a 1490 Venice edition of Petrarch and Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica, Richard Bentley’s engraved illustrations to Thomas Gray’s poems, exquisitely coloured aquatint landscape views, wood engravings by Thomas Bewick and Eric Gill, pop-up anatomical diagrams in chromolithograph, and a forged Shakespeare title page produced by a combination of photogravure and photozincography.
All items in this exhibition are from the collections of the Foyle Special Collections Library, King’s College London.
If you are coming from outside King's, you are advised to contact Special Collections staff on 020 7848 1843 or visit our web pages for the latest exhibition news before you travel.
Admission and access
Access to the exhibition is free. On arrival at the Maughan Library, please follow the signs to the Weston Room. Please note that visitors who are not registered members of the Maughan Library are required to complete an exhibition ticket on arrival at the Library. The exhibition ticket is available to print below, as is a guide to the exhibition. Copies of the guide are also available to pick up in the Weston Room.
Please note: the exhibition will be closed on the following days:
Wednesday 12 March 2014 (closed 10.00-14.00 only)