Chromolithography is the art of producing colored prints from lithographic stones. There were several stages in its development during the 19th century, but the technique was not often used in ornithological publishing until the 1850s. Hand-colored lithography continued to dominate bird book art throughout the century.

The process of chromolithography allowed a wide range of colors to be used, from delicate to deep shades. A separate stone had to be drawn for each color, and as many as twenty stones were used at times. After the illustration was drawn, each stone was inked in an appropriate color on a press. Then the print paper was passed from stone to stone to pick up the varied colors. Of course, the paper had to be aligned exactly right on every stone or the resulting print was spoiled.

Chromolithography was an expensive process and seldom produced the quality or sheen of color achieved by hand.. By the end of the 19th century, however, the comparison became moot. Photographic processes were taking the place of all hand lithographic methods, meeting the popular demand for less expensive illustrated books.

prev  continue tour next

See all the chromolithograph plates online