Appendix to “A Manual for Printing Copper Plates Predating Abraham Bosse’s Treatise of 1645”

Read an English translation of the manual, with an introduction by Anja Grebe and Ad Stijnman, here.

Read the original German text of the manual here.


The following is a list of early manuals on printmaking.

‘Instructive’ relates to workshop practice, the kind the Rules are assorted with.

‘Descriptive’ texts enumerate materials and make observations on the process and later studies of older sources. Such references are found in inventories, juridical texts and works of an encyclopaedic character. Reference will be made to the documents where convenient.

1) Anonymous, (Collection of Recipes), Gaeta, c. 1570.1
Manuscript in: Venezia, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Ms. IT. III–10.
Language: Italian.

Fol. 157v–158r: recipe for making black intaglio ink from charred peels of pumpkins and oil-varnish; and describes inking, wiping and intaglio printing without a press. The manuscript was written in Gaeta, northwest of Naples, around 1570, but many of its recipes go back to 1520 and to a more northern provenance. This particular recipe may date back to the late 15th century, given the rather primitive working manner described.

2) Anonymous, (Collection of Recipes), Southern Netherlands, 1500–1525, perhaps later.2
Manuscript in: Antwerp, Museum Plantin-Moretus, Ms. 64.
Language: Netherlandish.

Fol. 22r: recipe for making black printing ink, likely for intaglio printing because the black pigment is made from the charred soft outer peels of walnuts, while relief printing ink would be made with lampblack.

3) Anonymous, Ertzney unnd Kunstneri, Germany, 1546.3
Manuscript in: Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Library, Cod. Guelf. 38.14 Aug. 2º.
Language: German.

Fol. 119r summary recipe for the preparation of intaglio ink from black, blue and green pigments mixed (with an oil-varnish?), inking and wiping the plate. No details on printing are given, which supposedly is by press, but could also have been performed by means of rubbing.

4) Alessio Piemontese, Secreti (etc.), Venetia: Sigismondo Bordogna, 1555.4

P. 188–189: recipe for the preparation of a powder iron-gall ink, which can be made into an intaglio ink by mixing with oil-varnish and linseed oil.

5) Vittorio Zonca, Novo teatro di machine et edificii (etc.), Padoua: Bertelli, 1607.5

P. 76–78: with an illustration of a plate printing shop, details on the construction of a roller press, printing ink and intaglio printing. The identical second (1621) and third editions (1627) were also published before the Rules were written.

6) Henricus Zeisingk (Heinrich Zeising), Theatrum machinarum, 2nd ed., Leipzick: Henning Grössen der Jüngern, 1612–1614, 6 vol.6

Vol. 4, p. 17–20, pl. 6: the text about the construction of the roller press and intaglio printing is a translation of Zonca’s text and plate 6 is derived from his illustration.

7) Gerard ter Brugghen, Verlichtery kunst-boeck (etc.), Amsterdam: Herman Allersz. Koster, 1616.7

Fol. D3v-D4r: recipe on preparing black pigment from wine lees, boiling linseed oil with colophony resin to make an oil-varnish, grinding pigment and oil-varnish to printing ink.

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  1. Ad Stijnman, Engraving and Etching 1400– 2000: Historical Developments of Manual Intaglio Printmaking Processes, (London: Houten: Archetype, Hes & De Graaf, 2012): Appendix 4, no. 253.1. []
  2. Ibid, no. 199.1. []
  3. Ibid, no. 093. []
  4. Ibid, no. 007. The Secreti was highly popular with over 250 editions, translations and reworked versions, many of them given the ink recipe again; Ad Stijnman, ‘A Short-Title Bibliography of the Secreti by Alessio Piemontese’, in: Technology and Interpretation, Reflecting the Artist’s Process, London: Archetype, 2012, p. 32–47. []
  5. Stijnman 2012: Appendix 4, no. 368.1. []
  6. Ibid, no. 368.9. []
  7. Ibid, no. 050.1. []