Wood engraving

Wood engraving (also known as xylography) is a relief printing technique developed from the woodcut in the late 18th century by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828). To produce the very finest lines possible, the block is made of hardwood such as boxwood, which has been cut transversely from the end grain. The lines are incised with gravers or scorpers from the wood. Wood engraving makes it possible to produce highly detailed prints that can even resemble photographs with the most subtle progression of shades from white through delicate greys to black. The broad range of contrasts that can be achieved with wood engraving, unlike the harsh black-and-white of the woodcut, makes it possible to create sculptural effects. The wood engraving is more economical than the copperplate, which had replaced it over the centuries as a reproduction technique. The hardness of the woods used for wood engraving makes it possible to print editions of up to two hundred thousand prints. Wood engraving became the most widely used method of reproduction in the 19th century. Honoré Daumier and Gustave Doré were the 19th-century artists who most frequently used wood engraving; they commissioned professional engravers to execute the elaborate process of transferring their works to the block.