Copper-Engraving (Line Engraving)

The earliest known, dated, Line Engraving is a German print of 1446. It is not supposed, however, that this print is actually the first one. In the same decade, Line Engraving is found in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy. Most of the earliest Line Engraving concerned itself with small religious prints and with playing cards. The first great master of Line Engraving who emerges from the twilight of the art having "a local habitation and a name" is Matrin Schongauer (1440?-1491). The earliest dated Line Engraving by Durer, its greatest master, is of the year 1497. n Hamerton's Drawing and Engraving, there is an account of Line Engraving which is so clearly expressed that we cannot do better than quote it here in condensed form: "The process is as simple in theory as it is difficult to practice. The most important of the tools used is the burin, which is a bar of steel with one end fixed in a handle, *** the cutting end takes the form of a lozenge. Burins are made in many varieties to suit the different uses to which they are applied. *** The burin acts exactly like a plough *** and turns out a shaving of metal as the plough turns the soil *** The burin, however, is pushed while the plough is pulled, and this *** at once established a wide separation between it and all other instruments employed in the arts of design. *** The manual difficulty which has to be overcome by the engraver is in making himself master of the burin *** "It is unfortunately true that set methods, which may be called the business of Engraving, have a tendency to become much more predominant than in the sister art of painting, so that real originality expressed itself much less frequently with the burin than with the brush [with the lithographic pencil or the etching needle]. *** "When the surface of a metal plate is sufficently polished to be used for engraving, the slightest scratch upon it will print as a black line, the degree of blackness being proportioned to the depth of the scratch." Line Engravings can usually be distinguished from etchings (the only prints with which they are likely to be confused) by their more methodical, stiff and workman-like technique. In comparison, etchings appear very freely drawn and sketchy. Also if one examines a Line Engraving with a magnifying glass each line is seen to be more or less pointed at either end, while an etched line is blunt. It will be observed, too, that in a Line Engraving is frequently found a series of lines that are practically parallel (though they are not necessarily straight lines) and groups of lines alternately thick and thin, or with rows of dots or dashes taking the place of every other line or every third line. Lines will also often be found crossing others so as to form lozenge-shaped spaces in which, perhaps, will be a single dot.