Past Event

Columbia Material Texts Seminar: Ad Stijnman

October 16, 2018
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Butler Library 523

Ad Stijnman (Independent Scholar, Royal Historical Society in London), "Cut Brightly: Colour Intaglio Printed Illustrations 1475–1850"


Over the past two centuries research into colour prints has largely been limited to single-leaf art prints, such as sixteenth-century Italian chiaroscuro woodcuts and eighteenth- century French crayon engravings. Colour intaglio printed illustrations in monographs, serial works and periodicals have largely escaped attention, except for a small group of eighteenth- century anatomical works. This talk sketches an historical overview of colour intaglio illustrations from the technical developments to their graphic styles, from the decorative use of colour to its functional realism, from the middle ages to the mid-nineteenth century, through a wide range of genres.

The first book with colour printed engravings was published in Cologne (Germany) c.1476. Gradually more colour intaglio illustrations appeared until science and art blossomed during the Enlightenment, with scientific knowledge developing in parallel with new colour printing processes. Especially authors of books on botany or medicine appreciated their publications being illustrated in colour. For good reason, because colour added strongly to the determination of species and the diagnosis of diseases by their morbid symptoms. Other subjects with colour intaglio printed illustrations are studies on paleontology and mechanics, archeology and paleography, fashion magazines and ladies’ monthlies, books on travel and novels, artists’ manuals and explorers’ reports.

The printing trade professionalised further and around 1800 appeared some of the most beautiful books on birds and plants ever, especially on the French market. Their folio editions printed in intaglio in multiple colours on voluminous white paper became highly prized collectors’ items, until replaced by illustrations in chromolithography from the 1840s.

The presentation is followed by an object viewing of early modern books and journals with colour printed illustrations from the collections of Columbia University



If you would like to attend the seminar, please email the seminar rapporteur, Sierra Eckert ( for a copy of the paper.  

We will be having dinner afterwards at Pisticci at 7:20pm. Dinner attendees will be responsible for the costs of their own meal.  If you would like to attend, please make sure to RSVP at least one week in advance to the seminar rapporteur ( It is necessary to RSVP even if you are attending the talk only, since rooms are assigned based on the expected number of attendees.