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Feature August 2014

Colours used for Baxter Prints

Mr Fred W. Seeley who for many years superintended the production of colour prints from the press of Messrs. J.M. Kronheim & Co., who were licensees of George Baxter, gave us an insight into some of the colours used by Baxter and his Licensees.

The range of pigments which were available in Baxter’s time, was limited.

Aniline dyes, that became the base of a vast majority of colours in use a century ago, were unknown almost up to the time when Baxter colour prints ceased to be produced.

Carmine was a colour most of the printers used in the mid 19th century but by the early 20th century it was rarely used. This colour was made from the cochineal insect, a native of Mexico, and is found on a species of cactus. Carmine is a rich, deep, and most intense lake, but it is not permanent, although fairly stable under favourable conditions especially when protected by oil and varnish. (Seeley thought the cochineal insect was “Coccus Cacti” but it now appears the correct name is “Dactylopius coccus.”)

Madder Lakes are prepared by precipitating the colouring matter of the root of the Madder plant “rubia tinctorum”, upon a base of alumina.

Vermilion was then a sulphide of mercury, and occurs native as cinnabar in California, Spain, China etc. It was the most permanent of all reds and when reduced to a very pale tint made a beautiful flesh tone and was used for this purpose by all the printers of Baxter Prints.

Cobalt blue, another colour often found in Baxter Prints, especially in sky effects, was obtained by calcining a mixture of alumina and basic phosphate of cobalt. It was discovered in 1802. Cobalt blue dries well, does not adversely affect or suffer adversely from other pigments.