Some readers may remember this post from January 2016, in which I gave a potted history of the career of the copperplate-maker Benjamin Whittow (fl.1750 -1805). Whittow was one of the principle manufacturers of copperplates for the engraving trade in eighteenth-century London and his wares were used by a range of noted artists and craftsmen, ranging from William Blake to Thomas Rowlandson and Robert Dighton.
I was inspired to write that post after acquiring one of Whittow’s plates at auction in late 2015. That plate was eventually sold to John Gill, proprietor of the Printing Office of Edes & Gill in Boston, Massachusetts, and a specialist in the recreation of eighteenth-century printing techniques, who has managed to take an impression from it using a reproduction of a period wooden rolling press. A short video of John’s second attempt at printing from the plate can be seen on his Facebook page:
As you can see from the video, John’s impression comes out flawed as a result of excess pressure being applied by the rollers. This nicely illustrates (if you’ll forgive the pun) that the printer’s skills were of equal importance to those of the artist and engraver in bringing a finished print to market. Here’s an image of a later impression. Lkely to be one of the first taken from this plate in almost 230 years: