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Uncommon Sense


By oieahc · January 17, 2018

From the OI Archives: Our Copper-and-Wood Printing Blocks

WMQ 3 min read

Our thanks to Laurel Daen for researching and writing this series of posts in preparation for the Omohundro Institute’s 75th anniversary while she was the Lapidus Initiative Communications Coordinator in 2016.

A Look at Printing Illustrations in the WMQ in the Mid-Twentieth Century

By Laurel Daen

Part I

In 2018, the OI celebrates its 75th anniversary. At this momentous occasion, it only seems fitting to look back at our own history by delving deep into our institutional archives. One of the most compelling items we’ve uncovered so far is a collection of 92 copper-and-wood blocks used to print illustrations in the WMQ from the 1940s through the 1960s. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be displaying these beautiful items to you in a series of posts that trace the process of printing images in the WMQ in the mid-20th century. Starting from the moment that an author first requested an illustration, we’ll see how the original work was located, photographed, etched into copper, mounted onto wood, and finally printed and distributed.

Today, though, we’ll simply whet your appetite by displaying some of the copper-and-wood blocks and corresponding illustrations from Lucy Martin Donnelly’s article, “The Celebrated Mrs. Macaulay,” published in the WMQ in April 1949.

To see full versions of the illustrations below, laid out as they appeared in the WMQ, click on these links:

Page 2 Page 19 Page 21 Page 26 Page 27

“Mrs. Macaulay as a Roman Matron frontispiece to Volume III of her History” (plate 9, page 2)

“On Every Printseller’s Counter” (plate 8, page 19)



“Reform: Association Meeting at York, December 30, 1779” (plate 6b, page 26)




“Classic Whig Doctrines” (plate 12, page 27)

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