A Treatise on Calico Printing, Of putting on the Block.*

A Treatise on Calico Printing, VOL. I-II
Printed for C. O'Brien, Bookseller, Islington, and fold by Bew, Paternoster-row: Richardson, Royal Exchange: Murray, Fleet-Street: And the Booksellers of Manchester, Glasgow, Dublin, &c.


* Drawing on the block is a less uncouth phrase; but it is not always proper; as some Patterns do not require any drawing on the block.

** To which may be added not allowing sufficient time in difficult cases, aņd where some consideration is required.
It is a disagreeable-truth to advance, and it will doubtless seem to many Callico Printers, a bold astertion in the writer to say, that a great number of them labour under an egregious error, which error has been the cause of many excellent: Patterns being ruined in their appearance on the cloth; and that is, by imagining the most inferior Drawers are adequate to the business of putting on the Block;** for every person in the Callico Printing business knows, that a Drawer - who is deemed only a putter on, is not held in a very respectable light, though a distinction; should be made between a good putter on and  a bad one, for a good one is a valuable acquisition to a Printer, while an indifferent one, every person will allow, is of little use; but, by a good putter on, is here meant one who is ready at contriving and adapting, under the variety of circumstances for which no rules can precisely  provide, every requisite towards the pattern appearing as it should do on the cloth; and not, as is the notion of many, in being merely able - to draw neatly and correctly; for the drawing may be very correct, and the cutting answerable to it, and yet in the end the work not fit to be seen: It must not however be inferred, that neatness and correctness is here deemed of little value; it is only considered in that light, when not combined with other estential requisites; for this may be observed in general, and will be noticed in different parts of this publication, whether speaking of Drawing, Cutting, or any other process, the operator must always be looking forward to the manner in which the work will appear when offered for sale; and it is this faculty of looking through every process to the ultimate object, that stamps the value of an artist or workman, and renders him very far superior to one, who, though excellent in his department, has not an idea beyond the general directions given him, or perhaps any further than as it is repeatedly pointed out to him in what manner to proceed.

The writer therefore prefuming the truth must be pretty evident of the observation just advanced, that putting on the block is an operation of more importance than generally deemed; he confequently thinks he cannot be too strenuous in exploding the contrary idea; for even those who have adopted it, must allow, that being the first operative or mechanical movement, according as that, is adjusted or managed, the after-processes must be more or less perfect or accurate.

Indeed when a person who, from his situation, cannot be supposed to know much of the matter, seems it a trifling performance, and easily at tained, such an idea is not to be wondered at; but when one who has been his whole life in the business, particularly if in the situation of a Principal, and has often verified and felt the consequence of errors or failures in that department, treats it in such a manner, or thinks that the mere command of the pencil, constitutes good putting-on, it is much to be wondered at: therefore the writer is also induced to enlarge on his assertion, that good putting on the block principally confifts in the contrivance and ad justment of one requisite with another, for the well finishing of the whole process; to perform which, implies the possession of judgment, and  experience in the operator, and who must necessarily be supposed to have reduced his observations to that point, which tends to some method in the performance of it.

* The writer is the more particular on this head, having been in situations with and without such accommodations, and the difference to him has been such as even to induce him to give up engagements otherwise desireable enough; however, want of time and conveniences would not be so grating, but that, unfortunately and absurdly, work is often expected to be as complete as if performed under every advantage; or at least if it is not, a dissatisfaction is rarely with helđ; as for time necessary to be allowed, that can only be comparative; but at any rate, according to the motto on the title page, there is a wide difference between expedition and hurry. Sometimes it is necessary, in all stations, to be particularly expeditious, and then of course, every nerve should be strained; but it is impossible for the tension to be perpetually kept up. As for saying as some will, that when a Drawer has to put on a pattern, he should take half an hour, or an hour to consider about it,it is but partially applicable some patterns requiring little, if any, consideration, while in others, the whole process is hardly anything else. This oeconomy in point of time, and restraint in point of convenience, has been in a great measure the cause of such general incorrectness in country work.-Of which see more further on.

** That is, in respect to engaged patterns, but with those who print for themselves, the case is: something different.
But, let every one well note, that the possession of natural and acquired abilities, combined with any set of operations, reduced into a system, can be of little help to the operator, or of advantage to his employer, unless properly accommodated in respect to time, utensils, situation, and other conveniences;* in short, no rules can be of service, any more than the greatest abilities, if the means are with-held that should give energy to them.

It may however be said, that this department has suffered in the common estimation of its value, from being a branch that does not appear the most conspicuously when the work is finished; as then the colours only taking the eye, and nearly excluding every other consideration, the putting on is hid, as it were, or forgotten, whatever the trouble might have been, as tending to produce that appearance which pleases, though not thought of, as owing to that operation, but in the instances of bad joinings, and other glaring faults it must strike every indifferent person as a defect in the management of it. In truth, according  to common speaking, or in a loose description of the business, putting-on the block is spoken of in this manner (which by the bye is nearly all the information the writer could procure from all the publications he has examined) "A design is made on paper, which is transferred to a block of some close grained wood, and given to a workman, who with small knives, chissels, and other instruments, leaves in relief, what was drawn on the block;" and this leads him to say, that perhaps he may be excused for the vanity of thinking, he is the first who has formed the subject of this publication into some order or arrangement, and shewn the connections and dependances subsifting between the different departments; and he ventures to suggest it has been owing to the want of some such arrangement, that many have looked at the department of putting on the block in so indifferent a light, and not having had leifure or inclination to form any set of rules, or to make minutes of observations, their memories have not been faithful when particularly needed. But, (as already intimated in the introduction) he has ventured on untrodden ground, he may of course be expected to make frequent deviations, and can therefore look on the work as little more than a sketch of a system, which probably may hereafter be moulded into a more methodical or intelligent form.

Respecting putting on, it is further observed, that Cutters, Printers, Pencillers, and Masters, have different ideas concerning it; a Cutter is. for clean drawing, without caring too often how it is to work, or even whether it can work at all. A Printer thinks little about fine drawing, so that when cut it is but a handy print, and (as. the phrase is) that it will make a good mark. A Penciller, every one knows wants a good line; the Principal (as may be supposed) cares not: how many essential requisites are combined; but chiefly, that the work be found enough to do a great many pieces; or if an engaged pattern, that it be able to do all the order well, with wanting little repair; each of these parties assume a certain 'portion of judgment, though (naturally enough) paying particular regard to their particular departments; but, after all this, perhaps the writer starts a novel suggestion, which is, that the Draper is the only judge;** for unless, (as often touched on in this work) the desired - effect is not produced, or that effect which for wards the sale, fine drawing, fine cutting, fine printing, &c. has been bestowed on the pattern to, very little purpose.

After these general hints, (adverting to what is advanced in the beginning of this section that is, the error of deeming inferior drawers competent to the business of putting on the block) it is to be observed, that a good designer may not be a good putter-on; as putting-on requires judgment only; and this necessarily impels the writer to speak of the time needful to be allowed for the contriving part of putting-on, similar, in that light, to what he has said in speaking of pattern drawing; as many thinking little done, unless they see something drawn with colour on the block, make little allowance for mental operations; but, in this case it is asserted (and will very likely be repeated) it can only be in the general run of what a person can perform that a proper deducement can be made respecting his expedition; for a person whose business is to study or contrive, is always at work, as he must be continually thinking in what manner he is to proceed; since, besides being under the necessity of proceeding cautiously himself, he has to provide for the incautiousness of others; and that at all times, (if he has the interest of his employer in view, or has any solicitude about his own reputation) is sufficient employment for his hopes of success, or his fears of mischance.

Recurring further to the intimation that the time necessary for the contriving part of putting on the block is more than some principals think needful, the writer observes, that many often conclude no work, or but very little, is done, unless they see a gradual progress of operation, probably from the very circumstance of making little allowance for the time necessary for contrivance, or else from over-looking every other circumstance but that of gain, which to be sure is excuseable, because natural; as for mere drawing, it is frequently what takes the least time, except in variegated patterns, and where the work is very fine and intricate; besides, in some instances, drawing on the block is time and trouble thrown away, particularly where gouges and other tools are used that take out certain shapes, as round holes, barlycorns, diamonds, ovals, and the like; the eye in such cases never being able, in drawing, to carry the exact shape of every object; and to have a shape cut and print it, is not always easily or accurately done.

As Cutters very often affect to determine on the merits of putting-on, it is intimated respecting them, if the drawing be ever so excellent, it is generally half destroyed by damping or scraping, though the stroke of the pencil may however still be clear; but if a Cutter has not some idea of air or gracefulness, or what the intention of the design is, he will, very likely, produce a stiff or aukward piece of work from the most exquisite drawing on; but, on the contrary, if a Cutter be a master of his business, he does not always deem this or that little nicety very essential, and in many cases needs little more than a sketch for his guide; further, it sometimes happens by incautiousness or accident, that many parts of the putting-on are obliterated; hence if a Cutter absolutely need such formality of direction, he will often, be at a stand, and his deficiency will be greatly to his disadvantage and discredit.

* A word or two respesting mistakes, or imperfections, either as tending to prevent them, or how to treat them when they happen, would not be improperly inserted in this section; but being of general application, they are reserved for another part.

** While work sells well with very capital faults, which sometimes happens, a Draper does not always concern himself much about them; but when work of such a complexion cannot be disposed of, then he may be expected soon to point them out; and then no Callico-Printer need be informed of the use of a Draper’s damage-book. It may be even said, for true enough it is, that when tolerable or good work does not go off, some few Drapers are pretty ready at discerning faults, or even magnifying those that are trifling

*** Of late the aspect of some country-work has improved, but this is a point that will be spoken of in another place.
The writer now more immediately addresses himself to the Drawer, respecting the operation,* though in a general manner, (the particulars being contained in the following rules) supposing, for form sake, as those matters have been spoken of, that he is accommodated in every  shape, and that he has a capability naturally of profiting by instruction, or his own experience; otherwise, every body knows, all that can be said or exhibited, must be to no purpose in any particular; this - allowed, it is observed, that there are two species of faults or errors, which should always be distinguished by the operator, and though no fault is too small to be disregarded, yet some are more to be guarded against than others: one species of the faults alluded to, is that which must strike every person as such, the other is what would only appear as such to a Drawer, or other person well-acquainted with the business; or (more briefly) one kind is what only can be seen on searching for it; the other is what will force itself to be seen.

 The kind easily distinguished by every body; as far as relates to putting on, is, when a joining is very badly managed, or when the face of the drawing, exclusive of the joinings, is very uneven, of course, in putting on a pattern, these are of the first consideration, for a failure in either of these cases, must, in a greater or less degree, hurt the sale of the work; people being displeased with something that is faulty, though - they  may not be able to specify why it is so;** for if indifferently executed in these material points, no cutting, no colour, nor any operation that is to follow, can ever make work appear as it should do, cover the faults just specified, or compensate for others less likely to be publicly noticed; and to point out more particularly the consequence of these circumstances not being at tended to, how many prints that have been ex ecuted in the country, as well as many that have been executed in town, have been thrown by, from the circumstances of not joining well, or having an uneven face, though perhaps nicely drawn, and excellently cut.***

From all this, the attention of every one is pressed to what has been advanced, as well as to what will be displayed further on, and the more it is attended to by a Drawer, he will be the abler to add many articles as he proceeds, which only his own observations and experience can produce; and which every fresh pattern that he may have to put on will furnish him with; for mechanical as it may feem to some to put on well, it is very far from being so, as in many instances the judgment must be employed, and judgment can only result from ex perience or close observation: as for the rules which follow, if ten times as many could be displayed, they would not be much more than general ones, almost every pattern (as just hinted) requiring something to observe, which no rule nor precept can thoroughly supply; and, let it be re membered, that if a person with all the advantages - acquired from genius and general experience, be liable to err, how much more so is he who has paid but little attention to what ought to have been his immediate concern; especially, if he considers, that in every stage of it, something may occur from causes too difficult and numerous to explain or exhibit, which the utmost precautiọn cannot prevent, nor the greatest experience account for whenever they do appear.

* See Rule 34 for putting onAs a word of advice, the writer adds, that as much as possible to provide against inaccuracies, a Drawer should not rely on his own judgment in cases out of the common way, whatever he may think of his fagacity, or faculty of preventing mistakes; for let him remember, if he errs, his mortification will be in proportion to the value he fets on himself; and so likewife will be the triumph of those who can detect him in an error; but by taking the opinion of others,* if a failure happen, his own mortification, and the triumph of others, will be proportionably decreased: In few words, absurdly vain and arrogant indeed must that artist or workman be, who will take on him to conduct an operation without failing in any respect; and proportionably weak must that employer be, who ever looks for it from an operator the most reputably perfect.

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