A Dictionary of Arts: Lithography.

A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines; containing A Clear Exposition of Their Principles and Practice

by Andrew Ure, M. D.;
F. R. S. M. G. S. Lond.: M. Acad. M. S. Philad.; S. PH. DOC. N. GERM. Ranow.; Mulh. Etc. Etc.

Illustrated with nearly fifteen hundred engravings on wood
Eleventh American, From The Last London Edition.
To which is appended, a Supplement of Recent Improvements to The Present Time.

New York: D Appleton & company, 200 Broadway. Philadelphia: George S. Appleton, 148 Chestnut St.


LITHOGRAPHY. Though this subject belongs rather to the arts of taste and design than to productive manufactures, its chemical principles fall within the province of this Dictionary.

The term lithography is derived from lithos, a stone, and (grafein?), writing, and designates the art of throwing off impressions, upon paper, of figures and writing previously traced upon stone. The processes of this art are founded: -

1. Upon the adhesion to a smoothly polished limestone of an encaustic fat which forms the lines or traces.

2. Upon the power, acquired by the parts penetrated by this encaustic, of attracting to themselves, and becoming covered with a printer's in, having linseed oil for its basis.

3. Upon the interposition of a film of water, which prevents the adhesion of the ink in all the parts of the surface of the stone not impregnated with the encaustic.

4. Lastly, upon a pressure applied by the stone, such as to transfer to paper the greater part of the ink which covers the greasy tracings of the encaustic.

The litographic stones of the best quality are still produced from thae quarry of Solenhofen, a villlage at no great distance from Munich, where this mode of printing had its birth. They resemble in their aspect the yellowish white lias of Bath, but their geological place is much higher than the lins. Abundant quarries of these fine-grained limestones occur in the county of Pappenheim, along the banks of the Danube, presenting slabs of every required degree of thickness, parted by regular seams, and ready for removal with very little violence. The good quality of lithographic stone is generally denoted by the following characters: its hue is of a yellowish gray, and uniform throughout; it is free from veins, fibres, and spots; a steel point makes an impression on it with difficulity; and the splinters broken off from it by the hammer display a conchoidal fracture.

The Munich stones are retailed on the spot in slabs or layers of equal thickness; they are quarried with the aid of a saw, so as to sacrifice as little as possible of the irregular edges of the rectangular tables or plates. One of the broad faces is then dressed and coarsely smoothed. The thickness of these stones is nearly proportional to their other dimensions; and varies from an inch and two thirds to 3 inches.

In each lithographic establishment, the stones receive their finishing, dressing, and polishing; which are performed like the grinding and polishing of mirror plate. The work is done by hand, by rubbing circularly a moveable slab over another cemented in a horizontal position, with fine sifted sand and water interposed between the two. The style of work that the stone is intended to produce determines the kind of polish that it should get. For crayon drawing the stone should be merely grained more or less fine according to the fancy of the draughtsman. The higher the finish of the surface, the softer are the drawings; but the printing process becomes sooner pasty, and a smaller number of impressions can be taken. Works in ink require the stone to be more softened down, and finally polished with pumice and a little water. The stones thus prepared are packed for use with white paper interposed between their faces.

Lithographic crayons. - Fine lithographic prints cannot be obtained unless the crayons possess every requisite quality. The ingredients composing them ought to be of such a nature as to adhere strongly to the stone, both after the drawing has undergone the preparation of the acid, and during the press-work. They should be hard enough to admit of a fine point, and trace delicate lines without risk of breaking. The following composition has been successfully employed for crayons by MM. Bernard and Delarue, at Paris: -
Pure wax, (first quality) - - 4
Dry white tallow soap - - 2
White tallow - - 2
Gum lac - - 2
Lamp black, enough to give a dark tint - - 1
Occasionally copal varnish - - 1

The wax is to be melted over a gentle fire, and the lac broken to bits is the to be added by degrees, stirring all the while with a spatula; the soap is next instroduced in fine shavings; and when the mixture of these substances is very intimately accomplished, the copal-varnish, incorporated with the lamb black, is poured in. The heat and agitation are continued till the paste has acquired a suitable consistence; which may be recognized by taking out little of it, letting it cool on a plate, and trying its quality with a penknife. This composition, on being cut, should afford brittle slices. The boiling may be quickened by setting the rising vapors on fire, which increases the temperature, and renders the exhalations less offensive. When ready, it iis to be poured into a brass mould, made of two semi-cylinders joined together by clasps or rings, forming between them a cylindric tube of the crayon size. The mould should be previously smeared with a greasy cloth.

M. Lasteyrie prescribes a more simple composition, said to be equaly fit for the lithographer's use: -
Dried white tallow soap - - 6 parts.
White wax - - 6 -
Lamp black - - 1-

The soap and tallow are to be put into a small goblet and covered up. When the whole is thoroughly fused by heat, and not clots remain, the black is gradually sprinkled in with careful stirring.

Lithographic ink is prepared nearly on the same principles: -
Wax - - 16 parts.
Tallow - - 6 -
Hard tallow soap - - 6 -
Shellac - - 12 -
Mastic in tears - - 8 -
Venice turpentine - - 1 -
Lamp black - - 4 -

The mastic and lac, previously ground together, are to be heated with care in the turpentine; the wax and tallow are to be added after they are taken off the fire, and when their solution is effected, the soap shavings are to be thrown in. Lastly, the lamp black is to be well intermixed. Whenever the union is accomplished byheat, the operation is finished; the liquor is left to cool a little, then poured out on tables, and, when cold, cut into square rods.

Lithographic ink of good quality ought to be susceptible of forming an emulsion so attenuated, that it may appear to be dissolved when rubbed upon a hard body in distilled or river water. It should be flowing in the pen, not spreading on the stone; capable of forming delicate traces, and very black to show its delineations. The most essential quality of the ink is to sink well into the stone, so as to re-produce the most delicate outlines of the drawing, and to afford a great many impressions. It must therefore be able to resist the acid with which the stone is moistened in the preparation, without letting any of its greasy matter escape.

M. de Lasteyrie states that after having tried a great many combinations, he gives the preference to the following: -
Tallow soap, dried - - 30 parts
Mastic, in tears - - 30 -
White soda of commerce - - 30 -
Shellac - - 150 -
Lamp-black - - 12 -

The soap is first put into the goblet and melted over the fire, to which the lac being added fuses immediately; the soda is then introduced, and next the mastic, stirring all the while with a spatula. A brisk fire is applied till all these materials be melted completely, when the whole is poured out into the mould.

The inks now prescribed may be employed equally with the pen and the hair pencil, for writings, black-lead drawings, aqua tinta, mixed drawings, those which represent engravings on wood (wood cuts), & c. When the ink is to be used it is to be rubbed down with water, in manner of China ink, till the shade be of the requisite depth. The temperature of the place ought to be from 84° to 90° Fahr., or the saucer in which the the ink-stick is rubbed should be set in a heated plate. No more ink should be dissolved than is to be used at the time, for it rarely keeps in the liquid state for 24 hours; and it should be covered or corked up.

Autographic paper. - Autography, or the operation by which a wriitng or a drawing is transferred from paper to stone, presents not merely a means of abridging labor, but also that of reverting the writings or drawings into the direction in which they were traced, whilst, if executed directly upon the stone, the impression given by it is inverted. Hence, a writing upon the stone must be inverted from right to left to obtain direct impressions. But the art of writing thus is tedious and difficult to acquire, while, by means of the autographic paper and the transfer, proofs are obtained in the same direction with the writing and drawing.

Autographic Ink. - It must be fatter and softer than that applied directly to the stone, so that though dry upon the paper, it may still preserve sufficient viscidity to stick to the stone by mere pressure.

T compose this ink, we take -
White soap - - 100 parts
White wax of the best quality - - 100 -
Mutton suet - - 30 -
Shellac - - 50 -
Mastic - - 50 -
Lamp-black - - 30 or 35 -

These materials are be melted as above described for the lithographic ink.

Lithographic ink and paper. - The following recipes have been much commended: -
Virgin or white wax - - 8 parts
White soap - - 2 -
Shellac - - 2 -
Lamp-black - - 3 table-spoonful.

Preparation. - The wax and soap are to be melted together, and before they become so hot as to take fire, the lamp-black is to be well stirred in with a spatula, and then the mixture is to be allowed to burn for 30 seconds; the flame being extinguished, the lac is to be added by degrees, carefully stirring all the time; the vessel is to be put upon the the fire once more in order to complete the combination, and till the materials are either kindled or nearly so. After the flame is extinguished, the ink must be suffered to cool a little, and then put into the moulds.

With the ink crayons thus made, lines may be drawn as fine as with the point of the graver, and as full us can be desired, without risk of its spreading in the carriage. Its traces will remain unchanged on paper for years before being transferred.

Some may think it strange that there is no suet in the above composition, but it has been found that ink containing it is only good when used soon after it is made, and when immediately transferred to the stone, while traces drawn on paper with the suet ink become defective after 4 or 5 days.

Lithographic paper. - Lay on the paper, 3 successive coats of sheep-feet jelly,
1 layer of white starch,
1 layer of gamboge.

The first layer is applied with a sponge dipped in the solution of the hot jelly, very equally over the whole surface, but thin; and if the leaf be stretched upon a cord, the gelatine will be more uniform. The next two coats are to be laid on, until each is dry. The layer of starch is then to be applied with a sponge, and it will also be very thin and equal. The coat of gamboge is lastly to be applied in the same way. When the paper is dry, it must be smoothed by passing it through the lithographic press; and the more polished it is, the better does it take on the ink in fine lines.

Transfer. - When the paper is moistened, the transfer of the ink from the gamboge is perfect and infallible. The starch separates from the gelatine, and if, after taking the paper off the stone, we place it on a white slab of stone, and pour hot water over it, it will resume its primitive state.

The coat of gamboge ought to be laid on the same day it is dissolved, as by keeping, it becomes of an oily nature; in this state it does not obstruct the transfer, but it gives a gloss to the paper which renders the drawing or tracing more difficult, especially to persons little habituated to lithography.

The starch paste can be employed only when cold, the day after it is made, and after having the skin removed from its surface.

A leaf of such lithographic paper may be made in two minutes.

In transferring a writing, an ink drawing, or a lithographic crayon, even the impression of a copper-plate, to the stone, it is necessary, 1. that the impressions be made upon a thin and slender body like common paper; 2. that they may be detached and fixed totally on the the stone by means of pressure; but as the ink of a drawing sinks to a certain depth in paper, and adheres pretty strongly, it would be difficult to detach all its parts, were there not previously put between the paper and the traces, a body capable of being separated from the paper, and of losing its adhesion to it by means of the water with which it is damped. In order to produce this effect, the paper gets a certain preparation, which consists in coating it over with a kind of paste ready to receive every delineation without suffering it to penetrate into the paper. There are different modes of communicating this property to paper. Besides the above, the following may be tried. Take an unsized paper, rather strong, and cover it with a varnish composed of : -
Starch - - - 120 parts
Gum arabic - - - 40
Alum - - - 20

A paste of moderate consistence must be made with the starch and some water, with the aid of heat, into which the gum and alum are to be thrown, each previously dissolved in separate vessels. When the whole is well mixed, it is to be applied, still hot, on leaves of paper, with a flat smooth brush. A tint of yellow colour may be given to the varnish, with a decoction of the berries of Avignon, commonly called French berries by our dyers. The paper is to be dried, and smoothed by passing under the scraper of the lithographic press.

Steel pens are employed for writing and drawing with ink on the lithographic stones.

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