Trial by Jury -the “Tenniel” style

Just getting to the point where the judge can be coloured.

The 19th Century woodcut illustration industry was very peculiar. So while Leech, Tenniel, Phiz (Halbot Knight brown), Dore and co produced very fine and very quick drawings, these were then copied by craftsmen called “woodpeckers” and turned into prints. In the case of the Punch cartoons, this process must have been accomplished in a matter of days and some of it is astoundingly complex. The best “peckers” in the business seem to have been the Dalziel brothers who worked on the Tenniel Alice illustrations of 1865 and 1871 as well as Moxon’s Tennyson poems of 1857.

 

Sir John tenniel by Tim.jpg

The wood engraving process was different to that used in the late middle ages. The woodcut used the plank wood or side grain, and tend to be larger using bigger tools, but for Tenniel and co, the end grain was used on very hard wood (boxwood/ Buxus sempervirens, though lemonwood is also used) and the quality of detail compared favourably with copper and steel engraving or even etchings. The wooden blocks are often worked on stuffed leather pads which allow the craftsman to work at almost any angle, a bit like a modern Cintiq and the resulting block could be printed with ordinary letter-press rather than using a special printing press as in the case of steel, copper or etchings.

The wood engraving process was expensive and labour intense. Gustav Dore, for example, could not find a publisher prepared to cough up the funds to print his illustrations to the Inferno, so in 1855, he self-published the book which not only continues to be reprinted but both made him a household name and a tidy profit.

There were cheaper and quicker processes available. The Voltaic press (electrotyping) allowed for a greater print-run but the same woodblock seems to have been the starting point and litho-prints allowed for colour but until the late 19th Century had very limited print runs. The photomechanical systems introduced by 1893, the year Tenniel was knighted,  pretty well destroyed the woodprint industry overnight.

Our “Trial by Jury” images try to nod towards the style of the “woodpeckers” and accordingly I have been “inbetweening” crosshatching effects. It demonstrates how time-consuming and effective was the original craft.

 

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