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Etching techniques in modern graphics

The story of the bookplate gives us an example of an amazing, but fairly common metamorphosis. Born as an ordinary utilitarian owner’s signature, the bookplate turned into an independent section of artistic printed graphics, as well as into a collectible. Something similar happened with postcards, stamps, labels, posters …

The first books were unusually expensive, their possession was comparable by today’s standards with the possession of a representative car, so leaving the owner’s signature in the book was absolutely natural. Conventional signatures gradually evolved into font compositions, and began to grow into various decorations. And since the owners of the books were mainly titled people, instead of the owner’s signature, his coat of arms appeared. To reproduce complex compositions, it became necessary to create printed forms, either in the form of seals and put them directly on the pages of the book, or to make an independent engraving, print it on a separate sheet and paste it into the book. Actually, the classic bookplate appeared. By the way, the tradition of putting the owner’s stamps was very common in China, where they were placed not only on books, but also on calligraphic compositions and paintings, however, I did not see stamps with images, this is usually a hieroglyph.

Books became cheaper, libraries grew, it was no longer possible to provide all books with ex libris, and the book sign began to gradually turn into an independent prestigious bibliophile toy. And from the 19th century, leading graphic artists began to play bookplate. The signs they created could already cost more than the books themselves, for which, theoretically, they were intended. In addition, the design of the book has changed a lot. Imagine a modern chicly published photo album with an ex libris glued into it – it will look, at least, wildly …

So bookplates became an independent type of graphic art.

About a hundred years ago, they began to collect them as graphic miniatures, because the bookplate of the work of Dürer or Tabor is not just a book sign, but a full-fledged work of art. There were books, catalogs on this topic. Now collecting book signs has become a massive hobby around the world. After all, their charm is that it is a visiting card of both the artist and the customer, and at the same time takes up very little space.

A good collection of bookplates can be a miniature museum of graphics, where a variety of artists and art movements are represented, as well as be a full-fledged guide to graphic techniques and artistic manners. Experienced collectors put special cards on their book signs, which indicate information about the owner, about the artist, performance technique, year of creation, bookplate size.

Historically, the modern bookplate inherited several features that distinguish it into a separate type of graphic art. There are very few of them:

1. circulation;

2. size up to 15 cm;

3. the mandatory inscription “Ex Libris” (may be: “from books”, “ex biblioteka” or “collection of books”) and the name of the owner.

Everything else is on the artist’s conscience.

Ancient bookplates, as a rule, consisted of coats of arms and monograms, and modern ones are most often plot stories. The plots can be very diverse – from heroic and philosophical to comic and even abstract, while the image in concentrated symbolic form should tell about the circle of interests and tastes of the owner of the book.

The technique of performing bookplate can also be different. These are: wood engraving, face or longitudinal, on linoleum, on metal; lithography; etching; zincography; silk-screen printing, and recently, ex-libris made in computer techniques and printed on a printer began to appear at exhibitions, and this is also permissible according to international rules.

Etching techniques are closer to me, and I want to talk a little about how bookplate is made using etching technique. Fundamentally, work on the bookplate is no different from working on any other graphic composition. Several main stages can be distinguished. It usually begins with acquaintance with the future owner of the bookplate, with the clarification of his interests, hobbies, passions and, of course, wishes. Thus, the theme of the future work is grope. The next stage is the search for the image, it is the most incomprehensible and unpredictable. Despite the fact that in my life I have drawn countless compositions, how the image arises, I do not understand and cannot explain. In any case, an attempt to tell the plot in words, that is, what needs to be drawn, and then done, most often leads to a dreary, protocol result. A visual image is something completely different, it is not always a specific object, it can be a spot of a certain form of contrast, it can be a texture or some kind of rhythm about an image object, or even without it. When the image arises, it is necessary to determine the size of the image and the choice of the most suitable technique for transmitting the image.

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