You may know William Blake as a poet, or even as #38 in the BBC’s 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. But did you know that Blake was also an artist and print maker who made illuminated (flourished) books?
Blake sought to marry his art with his poetry and unleash it on the world. To do so, he created an innovative printing process, which is recreated by [Michael Phillips] in the video after the break. Much like etching a PCB, Blake started with a copper sheet, writing and drawing his works backwards with stopping varnish, an acid-resistant varnish that sticks around after a nitric acid bath. The result was a raised design that could then be used for printing.
Blake was a master of color, using few pigments plus linseed or nut oil to create pastes of many different hues. Rather than use a brayer, Blake dabbed ink gently around the plate, careful not to splash ink or get any in the etched-away areas. As this was bound to happen anyway, Blake would then spend more time wiping out the etched areas than he did applying the ink.
Another of Blake’s innovations was the printing process itself. Whereas traditionally, illuminated texts must be printed in two different workshops, one for the text and the other for the illustrations, Blake’s method of etching both in the same plate of copper made it possible to print using his giant handmade press.
Want to avoid censorship and print your own ‘zines? Why not build a proofing press?.