An investigation into what constitutes a reproduction in the 20th Century, through the 19th Century collotype process

Project start date: 1999-02 Project end date: 2002-01
This project challenged the notion of what constitutes a reproduction in the light of 21st Century digital technology and print output through an evaluation through visual and practical research into 19th Century photomechanical print processes, in particular the process of collotype. Whilst the contemporary half-tonal system is a commercially economical means of printing, the resulting images do not fully attain the same depth of colour or image clarity as those produced by either chemical photography or the screenless photomechanical printing processes in use at the end of the 19th century. The advent of digital technology has made it possible to emulate and improve some of the once difficult pre-press tasks conducted for the production of these early high-quality printing processes. The objective of the research was to make a thorough appraisal of the 19th century collotype process, define its position in the 21st century as a fine art reproduction or an original artwork and whether the collotype can be produced integrating 21st century technology.
Subject domains: 
Methods usedCategory
2d scanning and photographyData capture
Cataloguing and indexingData structuring and enhancement
CollatingData analysis
Content analysisData analysis
Content-based image retrievalData analysis
DocumentationStrategy and project management
General project managementStrategy and project management
General website developmentData publishing and dissemination
IndexingData analysis
Manual input and transcriptionData capture
PhotographyPractice-led research
PreservationStrategy and project management
Resource sharingCommunication and collaboration
Searching and queryingData analysis
Funding sources: 
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Software tools used: 
  • FileMaker Developer 5.5
  • FileMaker Pro Advanced 8.5
Source material used:  
Archives of collotype images at: Lichtdruck Werkstatt, Leipzig, Germany Arizona State University, USA British Museum, UK St Brides Library, UK Reijksmuseum, Amsterdam Sources of working presses: Arte Item Atelier du Liver de Imperiere National Paris Gallerie Voight Dusseldorf Fratellie Alinari Florence An evaluation was made of working conditions i.e. size of workshop, health and safety, no. staff. Technical profile i.e. types of presses, inks, generation of print matrices, glass plate, aluminium plate, pochoir, digital and continous tone, single colour, full colour separations.
Digital resource created:  
The archive is split into two main sections, the first; a reference section contains transcripts of articles taken from photographic journals contemporary with the discovery and development of the collotype process. The main sources used being the British Journal of Photography, Photographic News, Amateur Photographer and Photographic Journal. Although these journals are all British based they give a comprehensive account of both amateur and commercial use of collotype through columns from foreign correspondents detailing developments in America as well as on the Continent, especially in Germany where the process was at its most successful commercially, also included were translations of articles from foreign journals such as Photographische Correspondenz. A series of articles entitled “At Home” detailed descriptions of the working practices of European and American studios. Included in this section is a glossary of technical terms used in the articles and descriptions of certain ingredients from the formulas. As well as transcripts of full articles this section also contains a listing of publications that either include lengthy descriptions of the process, illustrations made by the process and details of articles that there is no transcript for. The second section, the technical, process based, section gives the recipes for the varying formulas used for both the substratum layer, the layer that helps cement the bichromated gelatine film to the glass plate, and for the light sensitive gelatine film which forms the printing surface. Detailed information or instructions regarding working the process, e.g., drying temperatures for the plates, have also been extracted from the articles and displayed here. Illustrated descriptions of the various stages in the contemporary production of collotype prints produced by the Lichtdruck Kunst studio in Leipzig, Germany, by the Alinari studio in Florence, Italy and also those produced by Dr. Thirkell at the University of the West of England, Bristol are also included.
Access to digital resource:  
Open Access
Data Formats created: 
Metadata standards employed: 
CD: The Collotype Archive (ISBN 0-9547025-2-2 / 978-0-9547025-2-6)

Institutions affiliated with this project: 

UK HE institutions involved:
University of Bristol
University of the West of England

Project staff and expertise: 

Principal staff member:Professor Stephen Hoskins
Other staff:Postdoctoral researcher(s) / Research assistant(s)
External expertise:

Metadata on this record
Author(s) of recordJoanna Montgomery
TitleAn investigation into what constitutes a reproduction in the 20th Century, through the 19th Century collotype process
Record created2010-07-19
Record updated2010-07-19 17:38
URL of record
Citation of recordJoanna Montgomery: An investigation into what constitutes a reproduction in the 20th Century, through the 19th Century collotype process. <> created: 2010-07-19, last updated 2010-07-19 17:38

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