24. January 2017 · Comments Off on The History of Lithography and Lithographic Printing · Categories: Printing Methods · Tags: , ,

Lithographic printing or lithography is a young form of printing in comparison to others such as screen-printing. Little did one Alois Senefelder have a clue about what he was discovering at the time he patented lithographic printing process in the year 1799. Without a doubt, his discovery forever transformed the printing industry’s face.

How did Alois Senefelder discover Lithographic Printing?

Alois SenefelderAs a very young boy, Alois Senefelder had a strong passion for theater. After discovering some success as an actor, the young boy turned out to a relatively successful comic playwright. Nonetheless, he found out that the margins were quite minute. Therefore, he had to find an amazing way of making several copies of his songs and play them real time. Consequently, he began the endeavor, which would later become the lithographic printing process.

During those days, copper plates were utilized in the printing process. Nonetheless, coming up with images and text for printing in reverse on a plate was such a difficult process. For this reason, Senefelder chose to utilize inexpensive Bavarian limestone slabs in order to practice the reverse imaging art. In the meantime, Alois also made a liquid of rainwater, lamp black, soap, and wax to assist him to correct the mistakes on copper plates.

The correction fluid and limestone are the two materials that then became the cornerstones of Lithography.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that long before Alois realized through his experiments that utilizing the fluid to draw on limestone provided images that were highly resistant to water. Afterward, he could use water to treat the limestone and then follow it up with an oil-based ink. Anytime he applied the image to paper, it would be printed right side up.

Long story short: that is how Senefelder invented the art he termed ‘chemical printing.’ Later, he patented lithography in 1799.

The Rise of the Transfer Process and Lithography

In 1817, Alois came up with a press, which would automatically dampen as well as ink the plate. That way, the process was made even simpler. The first lithograph appeared in the United States in 1819. The demand for lithographic printing escalated tremendously in the months that followed. By the year 1971, it’s true to say that there were not less than 30 steam presses and 450 hand-operated in the United States alone.

printing press letters

Alois also takes huge credit for discovering the transfer process. Through experimentation, Alois realized that he had the capability of transferring writing and drawings from paper to lithographic stone to come up with printing images. So what this a great discovery? It allowed folks to sort of ‘copy’ the previously existing images and text. On top of that, you no longer needed to be a professional at reverse imaging.

The Rotary Litho Press and Engelmann’s Litho Color Printing

In 1837, Godefroy Engelmann discovered Lithographs or Litho color printing. What is for sure is the fact that litho printing gained popularity in the years that followed. Actually, towards the late 18th century, the premier rotary litho press was invented.

Folks used lithography to create massive quantities of prints just like what happens with letterpress printing. Sadly, the rotary machine’s abrasive action made images to wear off very soon especially when printing vast quantities. Therefore, rotary lithographic presses never turned out to be popular.

Today, metal plates replaced limestone. You can design the images or stencils by utilizing three roller offset press and photographic plates for actual printing. Lithography or lithographic printing has certainly come such a long way ever since it was invented. There’s no doubt about that.