These are the working proofs (W.P.) that Lynn Woodward, the book’s graphic designer, made during the development of the Warriors of the Wildlands cover image. The image is of Frederick Russell Burnham’s weapons, including a Burnham’s Lee-Metford rifle and Remington revolver. More about these firearms and the image in this Frontier Partisans post.
These are hand-pulled original prints made from intaglio plates — the type of plate that would have been used two centuries ago to print a book cover. Each is unique and printed with archival inks on archival papers. These are about the same size as they appear on the cover of the book. They will be shipped directly from Lynn’s studio for cost, about $6.
Intaglio is an old style of printing
The word “intaglio” (pronounced “in-TALL-ee-oh”) is Italian for “engrave.” This is how newspaper images were printed, first they were drawings and later, photographs. Stone and other objects are also used to print with by engraving them.
Here, a metal plate with a layer of photosensitive ground (gum-like solid) on one side, with a positive (not a negative) transparency laid atop, is exposed to light. Where the light is blocked by darkness of the image on the transparency, the ground doesn’t harden. Where the transparency is clear, the light hardens the ground completely. The middle tones are hardened relatively.
The result is that the plate is carved or etched, and the ink is wiped all over the plate into the engraved areas of the plate, and then the smooth surface on the face of the plate is wiped clean. The etched areas in an intaglio plate are shallower than a relief plate (e.g. woodblock or linocut) where it’s the opposite: only the raised areas are inked and printed. When the intaglio plate is put through the press at pressure, the ink squeezes out of the etched areas onto the paper (and the paper gets slightly squeezed into the etched areas of the plate) to make the print.
Now we have “solar” plates which have a non-toxic ground on a metal back. Once the image has been “burned” into the plate, the plate is developed in water instead of acid, the ground is hardened by further exposure to light and stays on the metal plate.