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F. Morley Fletcher

A print is shown at the end of this book (page 95) as an example of a first experiment in co-operative printing. An actual print was needed to illustrate the method of block printing, and the number required was too great for a single printer to undertake. So the work was divided between four printers (of whom the writer was one), working together. Each of us had been accustomed to print our own prints in small batches of a dozen or two at a time, giving individual care to each print.

The few wood-block prints shown from time to time by the Society of Graver Printers in Colour, and the occasional appearance of a wood-block print in the Graver Section of the International Society's Exhibitions, or in those of the Society of Arts and Crafts, are the outcome of the experiments of a small group of English artists in making prints by the Japanese method, or by methods based on the Japanese practice.

A set of blocks consists of a key-block and several colour blocks. The block that must be cut first is that which prints the line or "key" of the design. By means of impressions from this key-block the various other blocks for printing the coloured portions of the design are cut. The key-block is the most important of the set of blocks and contains the essential part of the design.

Any colour that can be obtained in a fine dry powder may be used in wood-block printing. Some artists have succeeded in using ordinary water colours sold in tubes, by mixing the colour with the rice paste before printing; but the best results are obtained by the use of pure, finely ground dry colour mixed only with water, the rice paste being added actually on the block.

Transcriber's Note: The note stating (actual size) is no longer correct.

An original print in colour, designed and cut by the author and printed by hand on Japanese paper, followed by collotype reproductions showing the separate impressions of the colour blocks used for this print, and other collotype reproductions of various examples of printing and design.


Simple as the process is, there is, from first to last, a long labour involved in planning, cutting and printing, before a satisfactory batch of prints is produced. After several attempts in delegating printing to well-trained pupils I have found it impossible to obtain the best results by that means, but the cutting of the colour-blocks and the clearing of the key-block after the first cutting of the line may well be done by assistant craftsmen.

As an illustration of the great variety of form that may be expressed by the key-block, a reproduction is given (page 33) of an impression from a Japanese key-block. It will be seen that the lines and spots express much more than boundaries of form. In the case of the lighter tree foliage the boundaries are left to be determined entirely by the subsequent colour blocks, and only the interior form or character of the foliage is suggested. The quality or kind of line, too, varies with the thing expressed, whether tree, rock, sea, or the little ship.

A paste must be used with the colour in order to hold it on to the surface of the paper and to give brilliancy. The colour, if printed without paste, would dry to powder again. The paste also preserves the matt quality which is characteristic of the Japanese prints.

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