Print

Collotype

(Fr.: phototypie; photocollographie; photocollotypie; collotypie; procédé aux encres grasses)

Not to be confused with calotype, this dichromated colloid process uses the tanning effect of light on dichromated gelatin, whereby the hardened parts retain greasy ink that can be transferred onto paper, porcelain, or a variety of other supports.

This planographic process was invented by Alphonse Poitevin (1819-1882) in 1855 and can be considered the first practical process of photolithography. Once improved, this new technology was commercialized in France in 1857 by Lemercier and in 1860, by Ferdinand Joubert, under the name phototype. Although successful, the process was apparently seldom used but was revived in 1867 by MM. Tessié du Motay, and Maréchal (de Metz) under the name phototypie. Joseph Albert, of Munich, further improved the process in 1868 under the name albertype. It is interesting to note that early collotypes examined under a magnifying glass do not exhibit a reticulation pattern that is commonly seen in variants printed after ca. 1880. The reason for this was the introduction of accelerated drying in a stove which caused reticulation at the last moment of drying.

Jakob Husnik of Prague introduced a process very similar to Albert’s and was bought out by the latter to reduce competition. The first Albertype to be made in America was produced by David Bachrach in the winter of 1868. The following year, Edward Bierstadt made his first Albertypes and exhibited them in January 1870. Autotype, of England, introduced collotype in 1872, although “Autotype reproduction” may also have meant this company’s own use of the carbon transfer process which they were also exploiting at the time. Autotype was the largest English collotype operation by the late 1880s.

Collotype became very popular for the production of high quality reproductions. It gradually displaced woodburytype, although as the latter, it could not print text at the same time as a picture. But one of the advantages of the collotype was the ability to print it on paper with any desired amount of white margin.

In 1873, Albert introduced the first rotary collotype press. About 1940, the offset press and gelatin coatings on thin, flexible metal sheets were adapted to collotype printing. The patent literature mentions improvements until at least the 1960s. (Nadeau, Encyclopedia, p. xxx.).

CollotPC957_8x6e Coloured collotype postcard

Colored collotype postcard.

Detail of collotype postcard Detail of collotype postcard

Detail of collotype postcard.

"Item" A collotype operation in Paris, 1997 "Item" A collotype operation in Paris, 1997

“Item,” a collotype operation visited by the author in Paris in 1997.

Albertype (collotype family) showing the interior of Albert's printing establishment in 1870. Original albertype was inserted in the June 24, 1870 issue of Photographic News. Under magnification this print has no visible sign of reticulation unlike later collotypes. Albertype (collotype family) showing the interior of Albert's printing establishment in 1870. Original albertype was inserted in the June 24, 1870 issue of Photographic News. Under magnification this print has no visible sign of reticulation unlike later collotypes.

Albertype (collotype family) showing the interior of Albert's printing establishment in 1870. This original albertype was inserted in the June 24, 1870 issue of Photographic News. Under magnification this print has no visible sign of reticulation unlike later collotypes.