Skip to content

History of Book Illustration: 1400-1900

16 August - 27 September 2019

Curator - Lee Hayes

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

From woodcut to lithograph, this exhibition explores the history and methods of book illustration, and sheds light on the important role that co-existent images and text play in the transfer and retention of meaningful knowledge.

Learn more about these centuries-old techniques and view some of the finest illustrated books that Rare Books & Manuscripts has to offer.

In October 2019, this exhibition was converted into the following online display.

Woodcuts Created using ‘relief’ techniques, the woodcut first appeared on textiles in Japan around the seventh century, and earlier still in China and Egypt... Learn more

Wood Engravings Not to be confused with the woodcut, the wood engraving is a much finer piece of work. Discrepancies exist in the literature as to its exact date of origin... Learn more

Intaglio Engraving In the context of printing, the word ‘intaglio’ is used to describe the techniques by which an image is incised into a metal surface... Learn more

Copperplate Engravings For line engraving, copper was the preferred metal, with its earliest use recorded from the 1430s. Until the 19th century, when steel was introduced... Learn more

Etchings Another of the intaglio printmaking methods, etching involved the application of an acid-resistant ‘ground’, a waxy substance comprised of tar, asphaltum and... Learn more

Steel Engravings Steel engraving produced illustrations based on steel, rather than copper. The method was first introduced in 1792 by American physicist, Jacob Perkins... Learn more

Mezzotints Though technically part of the intaglio printmaking family, mezzotint might better be described as a tonal method, one in which half-tones were created... Learn more

Aquatints At its simplest, aquatint engraving involved exposing a zinc or copper plate to acid through a layer of melted, granulated resin. The acid bit away the plate... Learn more

Lithographs Lithography, the art of drawing or writing on stone, was unlike any other relief or intaglio printmaking method. It used simple chemical processes... Learn more

References and Further Reading The curator would like to thank and acknowledge all of those who have provided inspiration for History of Book Illustration 1400-1900... Learn more

University Library

Barr Smith Library
South Australia 5005


Phone: +61 8 8313 5224