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Saturday, January 24, 2015

The "A Chromolithographic Mistake" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just removed a two page informational summary from the rear of a framed print that was brought into the gallery where I work and began to disassemble it.  The owner of the print wanted us to remove the print from the frame that it was currently in and place it in another antique frame that he had purchased.  Problem was that the antique frame wasn't the same size and required that I cut most of the mat from either side to make it fit. Only when I took it out of it's original frame and read the two sheets did I realize what I was viewing.  
The chromolithograph with the new frame.  The sides of the
original mat were almost totally trimmed to make it fit in
the antique frame.  Click on the photo to view it larger and
to give you an idea how beautiful this 1854 print really is.
The print, titled "Iron City. M.W. Baldwin & Co. Locomotive Builders, Phila- delphia", is remark- able. It was printed using the method referred to as chromo- lithography.  As some of you know by now, I taught graphic arts in high school and during the first level course we produced stone lithographs.  To do this you take a block of limestone and draw a design or artwork on the limestone with  greasy crayons.  The stone is then moistened with water and then an oil-based ink is rolled onto the surface.  The areas that are covered with water will repel the oil-based ink while the image drawn with the grease crayon will accept the ink.  By pressing paper against the inked drawing you will obtain an image on the paper that mirrors the original drawning.  Many copies of the original drawing can be made by re-inking and printing.  The process was discovered by German Alios Senefelder in 1708.  Chromolithography is much the same except you used a series of stones, each producing a different color.  Registration, or getting all the colors to line up, is extremely hard to do.  Depending on the amount of colors, it could take months to produce prints by skilled craftsmen.  Offset lithography or offset printing eventually replaced chromolithography.  Today chromolithographs are purchased as fine art, since few remain.  The print I am looking at today was purchased by our customer in 2009 from The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd.  
This is the chromolithograph heading from The
Philadelphia Print Shop Blog.  Beautiful print!
It was an adver- tisement for the Baldwin Locomotive Company in the mid-1850's.  The price of the print was $7,500 according to the paperwork I am reading.  Careful LDub!  Don't make a wrong move and damage anything!!  Well, I trimmed the sides of the mat that covered the print without damaging anything, but the result that remained looked poor.  I know that the customer is always correct in almost all businesses, but this really looks bad.  To place a print like this in a frame because you like the frame is not doing justice to the print.  But, it's not my print, taste or money involved, so I carefully put the job in the antique frame and finished it.  I have included a photo of what it now looks like for you to see how beautiful the chromolithograph advertisement is, but you too may realize the mistake that was made by re-framing it.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.       

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