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News about A Brighter Vision: European Colour Printing 1450–1830, a project by Ad Stijnman

The past twenty years saw a decisive change in the study of early European colour prints. Before, focus was on 16th-century chiaroscuro woodcuts and 18th-century intaglio colour prints mainly. Recent studies have disclosed a much wider area of the use of colour in European prints and printing, challenging many earlier assumptions. The present Jacoba Lugt-Klever Fellowship, awarded to Ad Stijnman, is aimed at compiling a monograph on the history of European colour prints, book illustrations and ephemera, working title A Brighter Vision: European Colour Printing 1450 to 1830.

Discussed will be, among many others, antecedents of European colour printing, style and function of colour prints, materials and techniques, historical terminology, and developments through the ages. The study will be supported by a generous selection of illustrations of colour printed materials covering a range of subjects, passages from primary technical sources on colour printing processes, results of technical examination of objects, and quotes from historical contemporaries.

The two-year Fellowship (2024 & 2025) is supported by the Fondation Custodia and the RKD.

Updates of the project's developments

For the Contents of A Brighter Vision: European Colour Printing 1450–1830 see here (PDF, 84KB, update of 16 February 2024).

For a Glossary of Technical Terms and Expressions see here (forthcoming).

For a General Chronology of European Colour Printing see here (PDF, 149KB, update of 17 March 2024).

For a list of Primary Technical Sources on Colour Printing Processes see here (forthcoming).

For a Bibliography of Early Modern European Colour Printing see:

- Part I: Publications up to and including the Year 2000 (PDF, 682KB, update of 14 February 2024)

- Part II: Publications from the Year 2001 onward (PDF, 222KB, update of 14 February 2024)

Part I includes an introduction to the theme of the bibliography, and has Name, Title and URL indices of both parts at the end.

The separation at 2000/2001 is because research on the history of colour prints takes a new turn from the beginning of the 21st century.

Recent and forthcoming events

For earlier events on colour printing see Recent events.


Ad Stijnman, Early European Woodcuts: The Start of Relief Printing in Europe and its Antecedents, presentation on early European woodcuts as part of the interdisciplinary workshop Woodblock Printing, covering East Asia, Islamic regions and Europe. CSMC, 'Understanding Written Artefacts', University of Hamburg (Germany), 22 and 23 April 2024, see: Scroll to the bottom of the page for a PDF with the programme and the abstracts of the talks. Discussions will include the dissemination of woodblock printing processes from East to West, being antecedents of European colour printing.

Ad Stijnman, A Brighter Vision: European Colour Printing 1450–1830, introductory presentation of the project at the RKD-Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague (The Netherlands), Thursday 23 May, 12:00–13:00 h.


Contribution to the workshop on early modern printed textiles at the The Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library, Chicago IL (USA), 22–25 October 2024 (details forthcoming).

Discussion on by what sources we can research the black and red printing inks in the Latin Bible produced by Johann Gutenberg c.1452–1455 by absence of contemporaneous documentation. Presentation for a webinar on methodology in researching art technological sources organised by the ICOM-CC working group Art Technological Source Research, online 4 or 5 November 2024 (details forthcoming)

Presentation on the first European colour printing on paper in the Gutenberg Bible (B42), its forerunners and followers, developing into 16th-century chiaroscuro prints; organisation by the Städel Kooperationsprofessur Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main (Germany), November 2024 (details forthcoming).

Ad Stijnman, Trial & Ensor: Masterclass Tonal Etching Techniques, at the Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp, 24 November 2024 (details forthcoming).

Practical workshop training organised within the framework of the exhibition Staten van verbeelding: Ensor en het grafisch experiment:

Ad Stijnman, A Brighter Vision: European Colour Printing 1450–1830, summary presentation of the project for the Grafein Foundation, Utrecht (The Netherlands), February 2026 (details forthcoming).


Recent publications

For earlier publications on the subject see Recent publications, under Colour printing history.

Forthcoming publications

Ad Stijnman, ‘Not for the Feeble of Mind! Color Printed Illustrations in European Medical Literature, 1500–1850’, in (Proceedings of the conference) Placing Prints: New Developments in the Study of Print, 1400–1800, Leiden: Brill, (forthcoming 2024).

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Ad Stijnman, 'The Printshop of Jan Pietersz. van de Venne, Middelburg, 1623', in Maker Space: Creative Environments in Early Modern Europe, eds. Colin Murray, Sophie Pitman, Tianna Uchacz, New York: Bard Graduate Center Press, (forthcoming Spring 2024).

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Ad Stijnman, '"Jaune soufre & acide bleu": over Ensors etstechnieken', in Staten van verbeelding: Ensor en het grafisch experiment, exh. cat., Antwerpen: Museum Plantin-Moretus, (forthcoming September 2024).

Exhibition: 28 September 2024–18 Januari 2025.


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Ad Stijnman, 'Anatomy to Embroidery: Colour Intaglio Printed Illustrations in Books and Periodicals', in Printing Colour 1700–1830: Histories, Techniques, Functions and Receptions, eds. Margaret Morgan Grasselli and Elizabeth Savage (forthcoming 2024).

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Ad Stijnman, 'Colour Letterpress in the long 18th Century: A First Survey', in Printing Colour 1700–1830: Histories, Techniques, Functions and Receptions, eds. Margaret Morgan Grasselli and Elizabeth Savage (forthcoming 2024).


Ad Stijnman, 'Of Furm and Mulde: A Bibliography of Primary Sources on the Production of Stamping and Relief Printing Woodblocks, 1400–1700', in Printing Things, eds. Elizabeth Savage and Femke Speelberg (forthcoming 2024).

The bibliography presents in chronological order the first annotated compilation of 31 textual and visual sources that were written, drawn, and printed to detail the production and printing of woodblocks in Europe from 1400 until c.1700, including sources on stamping fabric in colour and on chiaroscuro colour printing. Texts are transcribed, translated into modern English if in a foreign (non-English) language, and annotated. Images of the production of wooden stamping and printing matrices are described and annotated.

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Ad Stijnman, 'European and Asian Typographic Printing Inks, 1200–1600: A Comparison', Chapter 12 in From Jikji to Gutenberg: The Origins of Book Printing from Cast-Metal Type, Ann Arbor, MI: The Legacy Press (forthcoming 2026).

§ The Chapter includes an Appendix with an 'Annotated bibliography on the technical examination of printing ink in incunabula', with titles from 1940 to the present.

The similarity between early Korean and early German typography is printing from loose metal type. However, there are many fundamental differences between both processes. This chapter compares the different printing ink recipes they used: a water-based ink in Korea and an oil-based ink in Germany. It also includes a discussion on European red printing ink and black/red printing processes. By absence of contemporary documentation the discussion grounds itself on observation and on modern technical analyses of the inks and printing processes in the earliest Korean and German printed books. The aim is to define these earliest inks in more detail by looking at their principal constituents: pigments, binding media and possible additives. The antecedents of these inks are discussed and what possible changes may have been necessary to adapt earlier ink recipes to make them suited to print from metal type. All together this will support the discussion in how far both typographic processes may correspond or differ.


Ad Stijnman, 'Innovation, Revival and Re-Invention: Early European Colour Printing Processes in Perspective', in Karolina Mroziewicz, Małgorzata Łazicka (eds), Rethinking Colour: Printing Colour and Painting Prints in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, Leiden: Brill (forthcoming 2026).

Colour was an integral part of printmaking from 1400, first by hand-colouring prints inked in black and from the 1450s by colour letterpress. Next followed a period of experimentation with colour printing in both relief and intaglio. This paper discusses developments of colour printing techniques in Europe until 1600, placing these in perspective by comparison with works from earlier and later periods.

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