View single post by OnePotato
 Posted: Sat Oct 26th, 2019 05:23 pm
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Joined: Sun Sep 9th, 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 325
Hi Peter.

Hard to say what's going on here.
With just the photos to go on, it's impossible to judge the effects of wear & tear on the right hand deck, versus variations in the print qualities.


Early stone-based lithography is very different from modern automated offset litho printing from plates.

Printing from stone involves a lot of hand work, and as a result, it is not at all consistent.
The basic idea is that the image area is greasy, and grabs the ink as it is rolled on the stone with a rubber roller, and the clear background areas are porous stone that holds water which repels the oil in the ink so that it doesn't transfer from the roller. Once the ink is on the greasy parts of the stone surface, the paper is placed on it & it's run through the press under tremendous pressure, so that the ink transfers onto the paper. And this process is repeated separately for each color of ink. As you can imagine, all of this is a pretty delicate balancing act, over the course of many, many repetitions over a period of time.

Variations in the amount of ink on the roller, density of the ink, the tack (stickiness) of the ink, the amount of moisture on the stone, the temperature & humidity in the air, the pressure of the press, and any number of other factors all contribute to the final image quality. Some of these effects are very subtle, or nearly imperceptible, but sometimes they will add up & become visible, or sometimes they will take a sudden drastic turn for a few prints before settling back to consistent ink coverage.

What I see here looks like skipping in the red plate, where it has printed too light overall & is all but invisible in some areas. So a variation like this is not necessarily due to there being two entirely different 'printings" (editions), but may be a portion (of unknown quantity) of the run where the red was not fully covering. It could be a "progressive" problem, where there are other copies that are less severe, but get worse as it dried out little by little, or it could be a one-off, where something went bad & was immediately corrected on the next copy.

This sort of thing happens all the time in various forms of hand printing, like etching & woodcut & litho. It's an expected part of the process, so you typically print 10% over the desired quantity. One of the things a good printmaker does is judge the print quality of every image, and only release those that are deemed acceptable. Little flaws and variations in the image are acceptable, and a big part of the charm, but when they get too noticeable, they belong in the scrap pile. (This is how a lot of very early playing card images survived: uncut rejected sheets were used as stiffeners inside book covers.)

Anyway, as I said, I can't be sure, but this is probably a pretty good guess. These days I mostly stay out of the ongoing discussion about early "Pam" editions but I appreciate seeing this and it looks like you're not getting any other bites...

Last edited on Sat Oct 26th, 2019 05:29 pm by OnePotato

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