Reference Entry


Leo John De Freitas

in Oxford Art Online

Published online January 2003 | e-ISBN: 9781884446054 | DOI:

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[Fr. gravure sur bois debout ; Ger. Holzstich

Type of relief print related to the Woodcut , and the process by which it is made. The two processes are, however, quite distinct (see §1 below), despite the terms ‘woodcut’ and ‘wood-engraving’ having been used synonymously to refer to any image printed from a wooden surface. Although it was probably used first in the 17th century, it was not until the 18th that wood-engraving could be identified confidently as a distinct engraving process.

The wood-engraver’s block is made from a hardwood, preferably boxtree (Buxus sempervirens). The boxwood block is made from roundels cut across the grain, so that the closely formed growth rings of the tree are clearly apparent on the surface of the prepared block. By working against this grain the wood-engraver is able to execute very fine work. The disadvantage of boxwood is its generally small girth; for a print or illustration bigger than 150–200 mm, several separate pieces of boxwood have to be joined together. Tongue-and-grooved blocks, glued and/or screwed together, were used before the invention in the mid-19th century of the bolted block, a multiple boxwood block held together by nuts and bolts located in grooves cut into the back of the individual blocks. In the late 20th century multiple blocks were once again of the glued kind. Blocks are conventionally supplied ‘type high’, that is at a thickness that allows them to be locked in a printing press ready for printing....

Reference Entry.  2263 words. 

Subjects: Prints and Printmaking

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