Excerpt from Print Quarterly, XXVI, 2009
TAMARIND AND LITHOGRAPHY. This Journal does not usually
give notice of newly published manuals for print-makers. There are many
of these, published in some quantity to meet the demand (perhaps now diminishing)
for textbooks from schools of art. Some are better than others. I remember
reading with certain disbelief one such book that had emerged from Central
Europe, where the section on woodcut began with advice on how to recognize
a suitable tree in a forest and cut it down. A new manual on lithography
from the Tamarind Institute of the University of New Mexico is, however,
something that does require acknowledgement. It is not just that Tamarind
has exercised such a huge influence over the history of lithography; it
is also because this publication is more than a cookbook of recipes.
Clinton Adams died a few years ago and is much missed.
I am sure that he would have cast a wry historian's eye over the changes
between these two editions. Some things have just plain changed. The first
edition told us that limestone from the Solenhofen quarries in Bavaria
was no longer obtainable except second-hand. Now it is freely available
again, newly quarried - albeit at a high price - and there are some excellent
photographs to show us this. Zinc lithography has become obsolete, completely
replaced by aluminum. A more subtle change has taken place with chine
collé. In the first edition, this was to be affixed to the backing
sheet in the course of printing the edition. Now the instructions are
to fix the sheet of chine onto the support sheet before printing takes
The biggest changes, and the ones that most interested
me, are in the first two chapters. In 1959 we began in the middle of things
with 'Drawing a Lithograph' and 'Processing the Stone'. In 2009 we are
offered instead, 'The Lithography Workshop' and 'Health and Safety'. The
latter section (pp.19-80, nearly a fifth of the whole book) speaks for
itself and for our times. The first chapter is subdivided. After some
general statements about the physical aspects of a workshop, we move onto
'Workshop Models', 'Legal Structures', 'Business Models', 'Public Relations',
'Marketing' and 'Fund-raising'. In 1959 the nearest parallel to these
is in chapter three, on 'The Artist and the Printer', where the closest
we get to business advice is a column on 'The Economics of Collaboration'.
In this we are told that 'it is imperative that the printer's schedule
of charges be established at a level high enough to take account of difficult
projects and unforeseen events'. The unspoken assumption is that the only
relationship possible is that the printer is the employee of someone else.
Compare that with 2009, where we are offered five types
of legal structures for a workshop and two models of printing. One is
'Custom or Contract Printing' and is the same as in 1959. The other is
where the printer is involved in publishing, and four different possible
financial relationships between the printer/publisher and the artist are
offered. The section on 'Marketing ' goes into this further, and the paragraphs
on 'Pricing' offer some fascinating insights into a matter rarely discussed
in public. We are offered a rule of thumb: 'Usually, a price equal to
approximately ten times the production cost provides sufficient profit
for the artist, the studio, and the sales representative'.
It may seem ignoble to end on this note, but historians,
of the print of earlier centuries (I speak for myself) would love to get
information of this kind, and historians of the modern print are often
curiously reluctant to enquire into these matters. Prints, after all,
are not just works of art, sometimes even great works of art; they are
also objects of commerce.
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Last updated: 7/20/09