Feature September 2014

Baxter’s Colour Printing Methods

The printing of ‘Butterflies’, Baxter’s first colour print that we know, was very little different from the simple colour printing of the early printers in the 15th century, a plain colour here and another plain colour there.

Next came his ‘Lovers under a Tree’, ‘Norfolk Bridge’, and ‘Parsonage at Ovingham’; all simple prints in one colour in chiaroscuro like those of the 16th century, just as the printers of that period copied the studies in sepia of the old masters. They used white for the highlights, and so did Baxter.

George Baxter's Lovers under a Tree

Then we find Baxter producing ‘The Welsh Harper’, ‘Cattle Drinking’, ‘Caroline Mordaunt’, and others by multi colour chiaroscuro printing, the same methods as J. B. Jackson used in his book published in 1754 and Savage in his book of 1819.

George Baxter's Caroline Mordaunt

Baxter said, in his evidence before the Privy Council when the renewal of the patent was being applied for: “Whilst engaged on The Cabinet of Paintings, the advantages of combining steel plate with block printing was made apparent to me.”

George Baxter was contracted to produce The Cabinet of Paintings for Christmas, 1837, and it was perhaps because of his change in method that publication was delayed resulting in that book’s financial failure. This is why on so many of the title pages of The Cabinet of Paintings, the date has been erased.

George Baxter's Title Page to The Cabinet of Paintings

This new method of printing from a combination of both metal and wood blocks formed the basis for George Baxter’s patent.