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Litho stones

The images on old lithographic stones are frequently right-reading:
they are so-called mother stones, and they are used for storing images
rather than printing them. When an image on such a stone is needed for
printing, the printer makes a fresh litho impression from the mother
stone and then flops the fresh impression facedown onto another, clean
stone, and runs it through the press. The resulting transferred image
is wrong-reading; it is from this transferred image on what is called
the daughter stone that the edition is run.
        There are several advantages to this system:

        1. The image on the mother stone is protected from wear
and the possible damage that can occur during any long run;
        2. The printer can take several impressions from the
mother stone and flop them down in alignment on the daughter
stone, ganging the original image so that two-up, four-up,
eight-up, and (depending on the size of the original image)
various other combinations of multiple-image printing can occur.
To take an example, think of a postage stamp. The printer stores
the design on a mother stone, where it takes up a small amount of
room. To print a run of the stamp, the printer runs off 100
copies of the image. He then takes the 100 fresh copies and gangs
them together into a 10 x 10 stamp unit on a daughter stone (it's
an easy matter to put positioning hairlines or bullets at the
edges of original image, to enable exact positioning of the 100
images in creating an accurate block of 100 transferred images on
the daughter stone). He then does his run, producing 100 copies
of the stamp with each pull of the press using the daughter
        3. The artist or draftsman creating the original image on
the mother stone is working right-reading, not wrong-reading;
while workers can become very skilled in working in a
wrong-reading environmanet (cf letterpress printers), working
right-reading especially for fancy lettering is a great deal less

There is the further advantage that mother images can be store on
any mother stone that has room for them. This compression saves a
lot of space with something like stationery, where the image is
at the top of the sheet and the rest of the sheet is blank. You
will probably have seen a mother stone at one time or another
filled with images in almost a crazy-quilt fashion, jammed up
next to each other, rightside up, upsidedown, and sideways--an
immediate tip-off that you're looking at a mother stone.

In the Book Arts Press collection we have several uncut sheets of
late c19 cigarette cards. Each sheet contains 59
chromolithographed images of pair of handsomely-dressed young
women, arranged six across and eight down (=48), with an
additional 10 pairs fitted in at right angles to the 48, at the
bottom, and a lone 59th image in a corner. The edges of the
several stones used to create these sheets are clearly visible:
these are clearly either proof sheets or (and more likely, I
suppose) sheets from the run that somehow escaped the board
shears or guillotine. We have five copies of one sheet and six
copies of another; they show related but different images (as
someone said about Haydn string quartets, they are as alike as
peas but not as alike as buttons!). They are German in origin.

Terry Belanger  :  University Professor  :   University of Virginia
Book Arts Press : 114 Alderman Library : Charlottesville, VA  22903
Tel: 804/924-8851   FAX: 804/924-8824  email: belanger@virginia.edu
            URL: http://poe.acc.virginia.edu/~oldbooks/

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