A Few Notes On Engravings

People love pictures. Most people love pictures more than print, and so the early guidebooks and promotional pieces that Milwaukee bookshops produced were lavishly illustrated. One thing you will notice, however, is that the books of the 19th century used engravings more than actual photographs. So did businesses when they sought to develop their trademark image on their stationery, checks, bills of sale, and invoices. Why engravings instead of actual photographs?

I imagine the simple answer is technology. Getting crisp and clear photographs was hard enough in the 19th century, and getting a photograph to appear crisp and clear on the printed page was even harder. Engravers could portray a business’s street façade in the most advantageous way. Since they were essentially black and white drawings, they did not have to grapple with getting half-tones to come out beautiful. Engravings simply reproduce better. The demand for quality engravings produced a generation of superbly talented artists who have left behind a fabulous body of work illustrating the way our city looked in the Victorian era.