Publications on Western Colour Printing until 1920

Ad Stijnman


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This working bibliography represents most monographs and many exhibition catalogues, auction and sales catalogues, dissertations, articles, chapters, and passages that contribute to the early history of Western colour printing up to the beginning of the twentieth century.

Excepting Adam von Bartsch’s first catalogue of Italian chiaroscuro woodcuts of 1811, the serious study of historical colour printing techniques began in the late nineteenth century. In 1910, Robert Burch published the first comprehensive survey of colour prints and colour printing from the fifteenth century until his days. It waned in the 1930s and was (slightly) revived from the 1960s, but with a narrow focus on Italian chiaroscuro woodcut. The literature focuses on four themes:

  • Letterpress work in the first years of printing by Johann Gutenberg (1390/1400–1468) and his immediate followers Johann Fust and Peter Schöeffer, c.1455–1457
  • Illustrations printed by Erhard Ratdolt (1442–1528), especially in the 1480s and 1490s
  • Italian chiaroscuro woodcuts, 1516–c.1600
  • French colour prints from the later eighteenth century.

Although interest in these themes continued, especially concerning chiaroscuro prints, new and broader research strands in the use of colour in print research began developing in the twenty-first century. Interest in colour on prints more generally was spurred by Susan Dackerman’s exhibition catalogue of hand-painted prints of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which was the first scholarly assessment of the topic, in 2002. In 2011, Ad Stijnman and Elizabeth Savage organised the first forum to discuss the history of colour printing pre-1700, when most such histories began, and the Printing Colour Project took root. As the history of printed colour is growing into an interdisciplinary field of enquiry, the number of publications is increasing quickly, and their scope is broadening.

Click here to download the Bibliography of Western Colour Printing until 1920 (PDF 0.5MB)