The Printer's Art of Medieval Woodcuts

Newsletter editors take note as Dame Aoife shares her sources for information on medieval woodcuts.

Greetings everyone! This week's Links list is about Woodcuts--from initial idea to printing your illustration. Please make use of the following 15 links to discover the Medieval world of printable art. Included are samples of Medieval Woodcuts (many thanks to Master Huen for his invaluable Gode Cokery website AGAIN). Also, Special Thanks to Master Remus Fletcher for suggesting this week's topic.

As always, please forward this list on to those who will find it interesting, and use it to update your own web pages.

Stay warm on this blustery and cold January day!

Cheers

Aoife

Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
Riverouge
Aethelmearc

Gode Cokery: Medieval Woodcuts Clipart Collection
http://www.godecookery.com/clipart/clart.htm
A collection of Medeival artwork and woodcuts, espescially about food but also many other topics, that about.com calls "fairly robust." Nice work, Huen :)

Retrokat.com Medieval Clipart
http://www.retrokat.com/medieval/si.htm
Note that this site prohibits live-links to it's artwork.

Medieval Woodcut Illustrations: City Views and Decorations from the Nuremberg Chronicle (A book for sale)
http://store.yahoo.com/doverpublications/0486404587.html
(Site Excerpt) Comparable to the Gutenberg Bible in its magnificent craftsmanship, The Nuremberg Chronicle, a 1493 history of the world, contains some of the most beautiful woodcuts ever designed. This splendid selection depicts 91 locales-Athens, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Jerusalem, Venice, Prague, Munich, Nuremberg, Florence, and many others, plus 143 illustrations of figures and decorative objects. Designed by a team of artists headed by Pleydenwurff and Wolgemut that included apprentice Albrecht Drer. 194 permission-free b/w illustrations.

Woodcuts (history)
http://www2.mmlc.nwu.edu/c303/levavy/woodcuts.html
(Site Excerpt) Because of the difficult nature of cutting the wood itself, Renaissance artists' designs were often less intricate than they might have been. This is why once etching and engraving became more common practices, woodcutting was abandoned in favor of the media which could render more delicate line. The correlation between artist and carver became so strong that artists would have to take into account the skill and expectations of his carver while creating the design.2 However, wood engraving remained in the 16th century to be the primary form of book publication, preventing a total move from woodcuts to engravings. Artists continued to utilize the durability of woodblocks in creating decorative designs intended to rival the decorative styles of manuscript illumination.

Jean's Printmaking Home Page
http://www.jeaneger.com/
(Site Excerpt--note that this site has a flash movie showing the delicate carving motion on a woodcut) How to make a woodcut:Getting Started You will need:1/2 inch thick piece of wood, about 8 in. by 10 in. preferably pine or birch plywood. You can use linoleum, if you wish, but it is best to buy the stuff specially made for art work, called battleship linoleum.Woodcutting tools or linoleum cutting tools.... Safety Rule!...A woodcutting knife is a tool, not a weapon. Use your woodcutting knives with care and keep them sharp by sharpening them on a stone which you can buy in any hardware store. Watch the position of the woodcutting knife relative to how you are holding your hands. You don't want to cut towards your other hand. That is why this woodcut lesson is not suggested for children under the sixth grade.....

Relief Printing Techniques
http://www.geocities.com/lecomtedominique/techan.html
(Site Excerpt) Because you have to remove a lot of material from your block, these techniques can only be used with "soft" materials like wood or linoleum, sometimes gerflex or PVC, rarely stone. So Woodcut, Linocut and Wood engraving are the 3 main kinds of relief printing techniques. In each one, you draw your subject on the surface of a block and cut away every bit of material that is not the picture, using special instrument called gouges or knifes.

Woodcuts, Wood Engravings
http://www.gis.net/~scatt/woodcuts/woodcut_novels.html
(Site Excerpt--please note that due to the subject matter on the woodcuts shown at the end of the page, it is not suitable for children) Technically, the woodcut requires not only a knowledge of drawing but skill in a distinct kind of craftsmanship. Much more than "hacking" at the wood is necessary. Clarity in design and expression in both line and area are most important. The woodcut is done on soft wood, the long-grain plank of apple, pear, beech, cherry - and also linoleum. All woods used are type high, planed flat and sandpapered very smooth. The design is either drawn directly or traced upon the block, and the method, roughly is is to cut away all white or light areas, leaving the black lines and areas raised, as that, when inked, they will print on paper under pressure. A knife or carver is used for incising the line and chisels or similar tools are used to clean out superfluous wood.

Wood-Block Printing
F. Morley Fletcher
1916

http://www.woodblock.com/encyclopedia/entries/011_03/preface.html
(Site Excerpt)
This little book gives an account of one of the primitive crafts, in the practice of which only the simplest tools and materials are used. Their method of use may serve as a means of expression for artist-craftsmen, or may be studied in preparation for, or as a guide towards, more elaborate work in printing, of which the main principles may be seen most clearly in their application in the primitive craft.

Printing Woodcuts on an Etching Press
http://www.neilwoodall.com/wood-etch/wood-etch.html

Deutsches-Museum Printing
http://www.deutsches-museum.de/ausstell/dauer/druck/e_druck.htm
(Site Excerpt) Between about 1440 and 1450, Johannes Gensfleisch Gutenberg invented letterpress printing, a method of duplicating large numbers of identical prints at low cost. This was the technical prerequisite which made books accessible to a larger audience, accounted for the rise of newspapers and periodicals, and generally brought about a much wider dissemination of the written word than ever before. Hardly any other invention has exercised such a great influence on civilization and society. The Department of Printing is divided up into three areas: Handicrafts, industry and the Modern Age.

THE WORLD OF THE RENAISSANCE PRINT SHOP
by Merry Wiesner-Hanks
Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

http://www.uwm.edu/Library/special/exhibits/incunab/incmwh.htm
(Site Excerpt) The amounts printed were absolutely fantastic compared with medieval production. Scholars estimate--and this is a very hard thing to agree on -- that there were somewhere between 8 million and 20 million incunables, or books printed before 1500. This, of course, vastly exceeds the number of books produced in all of western history up to that point.

Works on Paper - Woodcut
http://www.noteaccess.com/MATERIALS/Woodcut.htm
(Site Excerpt) The block for a woodcut can be cut from the log either lengthwise, along the grain, or crosswise, across the grain, each method producing a slightly different look in the final print. Virtually any kind of wood that can be cut is suitable. In his bird's eye view of Venice, printed in 1500, Jacopo da Barbari used six walnut blocks. Albrecht Drer used pearwood, and Gauguin used boxwood. Early woodcut artists preferred a close grain which made it possible to cut very fines lines. In the past hundred years, artists have often used wood with a coarser grain, incorporating its natural pattern into their prints. Some modern artists use plywood. In this century, linoleum has been a frequent alternative to wood. The blocks are cut with straight knives or scooped ones called gouges. In recent years some artists have begun to use power tools.

About.com's William Caxton c. 1421-1491
http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/caxton/index.htm
(Site Excerpt) From textiles to printing, this English printer produced the first printed book in English to make extensive use of woodcuts. Learn more from these profiles and biographies.

RTF from Florilegium.org on Woodcuts
http://www.florilegium.org/files/SCRIBAL-ARTS/woodcuts-msg.rtf
See also
http://www.florilegium.org/ crafts for the woodworking tools and techniques section.

Print-making TIME-TABLE
http://www.xs4all.nl/~knops/timetab.html
(Site Excerpt) 868PAPER The first book printed on paper in China, in block printed Buddhist scripts.
896COLOPHON Colophon, oldest known manuscript colophon, in Books of the Prophets written by Moses ben Asher in Tiberias.
896MOSES BEN ASHER Colophon, oldest known manuscript colophon, in Books of the Prophets written by Moses ben Asher in Tiberias.
950WINCHESTERWinchester School, 950-1100, characteristic style of manuscript illumination
954ABINGDON Abingdon Monastery founded by Aethelwold, monks famous for manuscript illumination, Winchester School
1041MOVABLE TYPE In 1403 the earliest known book was printed from movable type in Korea, a process which had been used by the Chinese as early as 1041. In 1450 Gutenberg printed his 42-line Bible in Mainz on a quality of handmade paper which remains unsurpassed to this day. 26 Years later William Caxton brought the art of printing to England, and in 1486 the first English coloured illustrated book was printed in St. Albans.

Artlex on Woodcuts
http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/wxyz/woodcut.html
(Site Excerpt--numerous photos of examples) France, Troyes, Dance of Death, 16th century, incunabulum, illustrated with hand-colored woodcuts, Saxon State Library, Dresden, Germany. Based on a fourteenth-century morality poem by an unidentifiable author, the Dance of Death evolved into a set of illustrated verses depicting a dialogue between Death and people of all social ranks. The theme was very popular in 15th and 16th century Christian Europe, reminding the living that rank and station in life were meaningless in the face of death. The illustrations show representations of ecclesiastical and secular society being carried off by Death. The pages displayed here show the Pope, the Emperor, a cardinal, and a king. See vanitas.

RTF from Florilegium.org on Woodcuts
http://www.florilegium.org/files/SCRIBAL-ARTS/woodcuts-msg.rtf
See also
http://www.florilegium.org/ crafts for the woodworking tools and techniques section.