« EelmineJätka »
Raimback, Doo, Watt and S. Cousins, all celebrated for their great talent in figures; and we must not neglect to mention C. Heath and Finden, whose general talents are so greatly shown in the many beautiful plates they have executed. Indeed we have only to enter the house of Hodgson and Graves, Colnaghi, or any other large establishment, and we are immediately struck with the immense number of beautiful subjects from the hands of English masters. It is greatly to be deplored that there should not be a certain just limitation to the number of proofs from any celebrated plate. Frequently a plate is worked to the utmost merely for proofs, and then retouched, and the usual enormous number of prints is then struck off. It is a system by which the print publisher gains a large sum of money, but which gives very little satisfaction to that class of subscribers who really understand what they purchase, and it is one which unfortunately must tend to the depreciation of real genius, and to that purity which should exist in the fine arts, for only those who are fortunate enough to possess one of the proofs can judge of the real merits of the print.
In regarding the many beautiful improvements that the art of engraving has undergone, it is natural to connect with these improvements all those inventions which become as branches attached to the main trunk. Before we altogether quit the subject, we will cursorily glance at these beautiful applications. The first which claims our attention, as being more immediately connected with actual chalcography, is that of the engraved views entitled Excursions Daguerriennes.
Mons. Lerebours, of Paris, conceived the ingenious idea of engraving facsimile views from those which are taken by the Daguerreotype. The mode in which this instrument is used, is too well known to need any description. We will only remark, therefore, that in the process adopted by M. Lerebours, two plates are used-the former, of the usual material of which the Daguerreotype plates are composed; the latter is a steel one for engraving upon. Everything being favourable, the view is thrown upon the prepared plate in the usual manner. The artist then traces out the outlines of the picture with a dry point upon the steel plate, and subsequently completes the subject with all the lights and shades which nature threw around at the time the picture was taken, and by the skilful command of his graving tool, and carefully comparing his work during the time with the first plate, he at last produces a perfect facsimile, as far as the hand of man can attain it. The style of engraving in which they are executed is that of aquatinta, for as M. Lerebours justly remarks in his prospectus, it more nearly resembles nature. Many of these views are taken from all parts of the world, and of course
consist of cities and various remarkable buildings; for the bright trees of the forest, with their branches stirring in the passing breeze, would be more troublesome to the Daguerreotype than the varying expression of a wayward child to the artist, who only exercises his calling upon the more staid countenances of adults. They are very clear and beautiful, particularly those of Jerusalem, the Grand Place at Florence, the Arch of Titus at Rome, and the Arsenal at Venice. Five numbers are already published, each containing four plates. They are very pleasing, and are more beautiful perhaps when viewed through a powerful lens.
The wonderful and rapid progress of electro-metallurgy, and more especially of electro-type engraving, now occupies great attention. It is not our intention to enter into the interesting scientific details of this subject, nor have we time to weigh the claims of many foreign scientific gentlemen to the discovery of the art. In our own country the invention is due to Mr. Spencer of Liverpool, and we refer our readers to a very able pamphlet of which that gentleman is the author for many minute and curious details. Many have taken it up since, and with great success, particularly Mr. Palmer of Newgate Street, who has been most happy in his application of many of his own beautiful improvements in batteries and necessary apparatus. A very interesting work has been lately published by Mr. Smee, which gives a full account of Mr. Palmer's operations, and a careful history of the origin and his own progress in the art. The public are truly indebted to Mr. Palmer for his especial attention to electro-type engraving, and the important preparation of plates for the engraver.
The ordinary copper plates used by the trade are by no means pure. The copper-plate maker in preparing them picks out many a piece of foreign metal, which he hammers over and thus fills up the gap. Any impurity is a great enemy to the etcher, for the acid is unequal in its biting. Mr. Palmer now produces electrotype plates of copper, precipitated in the usual manner upon a prepared copper plate. The duplicate of course has the same polish as the original, and is of the purest copper. It has been found better to hammer these plates, as they become more elastic, and it is considered that these hammered plates will work as well as steel. Mr. Palmer had various specimens of the art worked upon one of these plates, and all the artists at once perceived the superiority of the pure copper. This is alone a most valuable application of the science, for the ease of producing innumerable plates at a very small expense is a great desideratum. Mr. Palmer has been most successful in making duplicates of engraved plates both of a large and small size. They are perfectly identical with the originals, and the impressions are not to be told from each
other. There is a curious remark which the author makes with regard to the impression of the electro-type plate, which is, that the impression of the duplicate is slightly superior to that of the original, and he accounts for this from the circumstance of the greater purity of the copper. Mr. Palmer has lately completed a very splendid specimen from the engraving of the interview between John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots. He has not only been successful in line engraving, but has made a beautiful facsimile of a mezzotinto plate, which is a still more striking example of the power and beauty of the art; nor does it seem that the plates are limited to size, for there have been lately executed map plates for printing a sheet of a very large size, termed double elephant.
Engravers are afraid that this new art will be of injury to the trade, but we think that they need not have any fears on this head, for greater labour and nicety will be required in plates which are intended to be copied and consequently far better prices will be paid for their labour. Since Perkins's invention of the multiplication of steel plates, the increase of cheap engravings has been enormous, and the demand equally great. The appreciation of the fine arts is certainly increasing amongst all classes of people, and those who are debarred by pecuniary considerations from purchasing the splendid subjects which are now published, will be eager to possess them, when the price is considerably lowered by the comparatively cheap and perfectly accurate manner in which thousands and thousands of impressions will be produced by the new art. Our idea is that mediocre subjects will be laid aside and that a still finer taste and tone will be produced by it. Artists will strain every nerve, and will employ all their deepest feelings and talent to produce a work from which they know any number of perfect proofs may be produced and which will spread the fame of their genius; and another point is, that the artist's bright and original inspiration remains as a standard of his genius, for such original plates will never require to be retouched, for in case the demand should be so great that all the facsimile plates which have been made should be exhausted, the original may again be subjected to the batteries and plates having the same purity and perfection may be produced.
In following Mr. Smee's remarks upon the subject, we beg our readers to observe that not only will the fine arts be improved and benefited by this great invention, but many of our most important manufactures will be raised to a far higher grade, more especially our potteries and calico printing. The most beautiful designs may be introduced by the former manufacturer, and the latter can afford to employ the best artists for his plates when he has the
power of multiplying the originals to any extent. We regret that our space will not allow us to linger any further upon this interesting subject, which is still in its infancy, and which through the energetic labours of our scientific men will make wonderful and rapid progress.
There is one other beautiful discovery, by Mr. Schonberg, a Pole, which the artist terms Relief Engraving or Agrography. It is a mode by which he can produce any designs in relief in type metal, giving the same, and in many instances a better effect than that which is attained by the Xylographic art. The invention at present remains a profound secret to the public. The advantages which will accrue from it will be very great, since with such ease and rapidity are the designs produced upon the metal, that in the course of a single day five or six fac-simile plates of the same subject can be prepared, each of which will produce thousands and thousands of clear copies. Another great advantage derivable from this invention is, that the artist's original design is immediately impressed (if we may so use such a term) upon the metallic plate. From what we have already said in our observations upon Xylography, we need not point out to our readers that this is not the case in the process of wood engravingaud again in working the subject upon the metal, the artist can produce much greater effect by the disposition of his lines and crosshatchings, as he is not controlled, as in wood engraving, by the direction of the grain. Mr. Crouch is now illustrating his admirable Miscellany of the Tudor Library by the labours of Mr. Schonberg. He has commenced with the first number of the Spectator, and we refer our readers to this publication for a specimen of the new art. We have no doubt that Agrography will be very generally adopted, not only from diminution of the expenses incurred in producing the original designs of our artists, but from the important consideration that the letter-press and illustrations are identical and that each will return the same number of copies. Should this invention be perfectly successful, we cannot calculate the influence or the change it may make in the Xylographic art; but we are now in an age when science, advancing with rapid strides, is continually gaining fresh power and yet simplifying all processes, and in which all improvements seem but to tend to supply the rapid and increasing wants, both in mind and body, of an increasing population.
ART. V.-1. Cruautés horribles des Conquérants du Mexique, et des Indiens qui les aidèrent à soumettre cet empire à la couronne d'Espagne, Mémoire de Don Fernando D'Alva Ixtlilxochitel; Supplément à l'Histoire du Père Sahagun; publié et dédié au Par gouvernement suprême de la Confédération Mexicaine. Charles-Marie de Bustamante. Mexico, 1829. Paris, 1838. 2. Voyages, Relations, et Mémoires Originaux pour servir à l'Histoire de la Découverte de l'Amerique, publiés pour la première fois en Français. Par H. Ternaux-Compans. 1840. AT the present time, any work that tells of an untried region comes as the bearer of glad tidings; and there is perhaps no track, either in the old or new world, that has been less hacknied than Mexico. Yet it is an empire abounding with historic interest its vast extent; the boundless wealth which has lent its aid in demoralising Spain; the condition of its inhabitants, strangely civilized, yet fearfully savage; the desperate wars it has waged; and its present singular political position; all mark it as the theme for romance; while the startling fictions that mingle with truths scarcely less incredible in its records, render these equally interesting to the historian. But the details hitherto published have afforded little satisfaction to the researches of the curious. We read with incredulity of a vast and warlike empire conquered by a handful of adventurers, while hints of allies which might dissipate our suspicions, only serve by their obscurity to exaggerate our doubts. Poems and romances have sprung plentifully from the exulting conquerors, involving the subject in an impenetrable cloud of fable, while British writers, intimidated perhaps by conscious or hopeless ignorance, have generally avoided the scene as a land of danger, and left it undisputed in the hands of the discoverers. The days of Mexican dreams have passed, and with them doubtless much of the romance; but the work before us, though it removes the marvels that have hung so long like an obscuring cloud over the land, and admits a ray of clearer light than has been elicited before, yet leaves abundant scope for the play of fancy, and opens an untried range for the poet and novelist. Don F. Ixtlilxochitl, the author of the work before us, was the grandson of one of the native princes of Mexico; and his account was taken from the pictorial histories of his countrymen, from traditionary statements, and from the details of eye-witnesses who were living at the time he wrote. His history has been twice translated, once into Spanish, and lately into French, by M. Bustamante, and its revival from the obscurity into which it had fallen may be considered as an era of the utmost importance in the records of the conquest of Mexico.