(Fr.: lithographie; impression sur pierre; impression chimique)

A mechanical planographic printing process that relies on the antipathy of oil and water. Designs are drawn or painted with greasy ink, or crayons, on (in the original process) specially prepared stone. The stone is well moistened with water, which the stone accepts in areas not covered by the crayon. An oily ink is then applied with a roller, which only adheres to the drawing, being repelled by the wet parts of the stone. A print can then be made by pressing paper against the inked drawing. The original process is often referred to as stone lithography to distinguish it from more modern methods which use aluminum (algraphy), zinc (zincography) or other materials.

Lithography was invented by J. Alöys Senefelder (1771–1834), a native of Prague, then residing in Munich, in 1798. The process was imported to France ca. 1806 to 1808 by colonels Lejeune and Lomet, and by Vivant Denon and André Offenbach, but their experiments were not very successful.

After a study trip in Germany, Charles-Philibert de Lasteyrie created in France a printing establishment in 1814, which became a school and a standard by itself. His students included Vilain, Langlumé, Motte, Brégéant, Paulmier, etc. In 1818, the French government fully supported lithography, which became very important.

The first lithograph published in the United States was by Bass Otis, and appeared in the Atlantic magazine of August, 1819. The magazine also published a relatively detailed description of the process. Only a handful of people were active in this field in the 1820s and 1830s. The first American lithographers were Barnett and Doolittle who opened shop in New York in 1821. The most important early American lithographers were two brothers, William S. and John B. Pendleton, who added lithography to their printing shop in Boston in 1828. The first American color lithograph was produced by Duval, in 1835.

Senefelder seems to have been the first to attempt color lithography. In 1817, he is said to have published The Fair of Bulgaria, a print in eleven colors. Others, like Hippolyte Moulin, in France, in 1838 worked on improving the color technique, but the main difficulty —color registration— was overcome to a large extent in 1837 by Godefroy Engelmann with the invention of a registration frame for his new process of three-color printing (based on J.C. LeBlon’s use of three primary colors) called chromolithography. The same name was also used in 1839 by the English lithographer and printer Charles Joseph Hullmandel for a different process based on color tints, with which he produced Thomas Shotter Boys’ Picturesque Architecture in Paris, Ghent, Antwerp, Rouen. Boys’ lithographs for this publication are the first significant achievements using a fully evolved system of color lithography.

In 1855 Alphonse Poitevin found a better way to apply photography to lithography, and thus photolithography improved significantly. (Nadeau, Encyclopedia, p. xxx).

Two-color lithograph, 1844. 50x76 mm Two-color lithograph, 1844. 50x76 mm

Two-color lithograph, 1844. 50 x 76 mm.