Copper Impressions - The 18th Century Printmaking Revolution

Christ Church Upper Library - New Exhibition

Opens on 16 April 2021 at 6 pm

To complement the copper plate rolling press and the printing workshops scheduled in the Upper Library for Trinity 2015, the new exhibition (opening on Thursday, 16 April 2021) focuses on engraving and printmaking during the 18th century.

During this period (before the dawn of photography and colour printing presses), engravings, made from copper plates, were among the few ways allowing the transfer of images to the printed page. The beginning of the 1800s was the last great age for line engraving, with many superb works of art being produced by now almost forgotten engravers. Sales of prints were very much in fashion and so were books illustrated with plates after artists such as J.M.W. Turner and engraved by highly skilled master craftsmen. There were topographical and ‘picturesque’ publications such as Finden’s Ports and Harbours of Great Britain, annuals containing prints of all types of subjects, volumes reproducing famous paintings, portraits such as those found in Lodge’s Portraits of the Illustrious Personages of Great Britain etc.

The exhibition in the Upper Library presents works by some of the most famous engravers of the 18th century. On show are prints (by masters such as Hogarth) in various states (finished, working proofs and printed proposals), a selection of preparatory drawings, a copperplate, and bits of ephemera, to show how publishers went about their marketing.

The exhibition will open with Michael Phillips’ talk about 18th century engraving, followed by a workshop on printing from relief-etched copper plates made from William Blake’s illuminated books. For this we have a working replica of a wooden copper plate press such as that used by Hogarth, Gillray, and many others before the advent of the cast iron rolling press in 1820s.  The design is based upon the diagrams for constructing a rolling press in the third edition of Abraham Bosse, De La Maniere de Graver a l’Eau Forte et au Burin, et de la Gravure en Maniere noire. Avec la facon de construire les Presses modernes, & d’imprimer en Taille-douce (Paris, 1745).

Copper Impressions - The 18th Century Printmaking Revolution is curated by Nicholas Stodgon and Cristina Neagu and will be open from 16 April to 29 May 2015. Visiting hours Monday-Friday: 9.30 am - 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm - 4.30 pm (provided there is a member of staff available in the Upper Library). For more information, please see the Christ Church Library website:

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