Mystery Intaglio Copper Plate

I have a question concerning a intaglio copper plate I own, here are the facts I have gathered so far:
Size: 6in.x81/4in.
Subject: Gibson Girl.
Original Artist: Charles Dana Gibson.
Published: The Social R.H. Russell- New York 1902.
Notes: This is also the image on the U.S. postage stamp.
Why is the engraved image not in reverse?
Thank you for any input.
Sandy Manning

image: Picture 1282.jpg

Picture 1282.jpg

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Offset printing is not just for lithography. It has been used with some success in intaglio printing as well, and that could be why the image is right reading.

Do you have a proof from it?
Do the lines appear ‘raised’ as if pressed into a plate via direct printing, or do they seem rather flat?

Either that, or photoengraved copies of the plate could have been produced for litho-transfer.

The other thing is, before offset printing was invented, some artists would work in intaglio and then pull what is known as a ‘counter impression’;
meaning they would draw forward on the plate- pull a print to soft paper that was the reverse of their drawing- then, while the ink on this print was still wet, they would run it through the press with a FRESH piece of paper beneath it- no plate involved- and transfer the impression from one sheet of paper to another.

This was not always as crisp as the original print, but was a crude way to transfer information in forward/right reading fashion.

Oh, and because the printers were using an oily substance, I should mention that people who wanted to mass produce intaglio prints using stone litho on a rotary powered hand fed flatbed press would actually just transfer the impression from a fresh intaglio print to a stone using the same ‘counter impression’ method, chemically process the stone to print, and- print…

Thank you so very much for the most interesting comments posted. The lines in the plate are incised at varing depths and match up exactly to the lines in the various prints I have seen including the illustration in the book which is printed on the inside left page of the book. The comment about the “counter impression” I had half way guessed at but makes much more sense having read the explanation.
The most iconic Gibson Girl is the beautiful profile of the girl with the poneytail and bangs but this one comes in a close second and was chosen by the U.S. Post because of the full face. The original pen & ink was sold by Heritage Auction for over $8,000!

Congratulations, you have a very nice plate. But it is just that, a plate engraved by mechanical processes and not “original art” by any stretch of the imagination. Charles Dana Gibson was an unbelievably talented pen and ink draughtsman and his ‘Gibson Girls’ are iconic and gained international fame.

If you are interested, do a little research on the pen and ink drawings of his contemporary James Montgomery Flagg, who is more famous for his paintings and war posters (Uncle Sam). Flagg’s pen and ink work is every bit as good as Gibson’s and his drawings of the fairer sex will probably astound you. In fact, you would have a very difficult time telling the work of the two apart.

Both men were titans of illustration in the early 20th century.


it would be easier for the artist/engraver to draw in the positive/sketch on the new plate checking out with a photo or the model directly for authenticity, as faces may not be assymetrical, then an internegative could be made to make a reduced positive for printing perhaps, reducing machines used to exist too.

Oh yes, there were also complex pantograph options available as well but those results come out looking somewhat mechanical in nature.

Photographic is a possibility, but he’s already stated the lines look to have been etched to various depths which makes me thing hand working/stage biting.

Or stopout with a photo-resist to emulate, but could be either really and we don’t have much to go on here not having the plate in front of us.

I am an art broker and do quite a bit of work in the antique mezzotint, etching & engraving genre. That’s why it’s so great to have a site like this with so many outstanding comments. I have looked at, touched & examined a few thousand prints of these types in my time. It is important to have a working knowledge of the best artists & engravers as well as the best publishing houses back in history.
Having said that I have looked at this plate under a loop and find it hard to believe the engraving in this plate was done mechanically. I also have looked at the original pen & ink and every line in this plate matches up perfecty.
Once again, you are the experts and I know that C. D. Gibson was a pen & ink artist not an engraver. This is a talent I find so amazing as well as the publishing aspect.

The delicacy and precision of Gibson’s pen strokes could not be duplicated by any other method than some sort of photo-chemical acid etching process. I am not versed at all in this technique but do recall that light lines would have been shallowly etched and darker/heavier lines were more deeply etched. This harkens back to the days when even those process were an ‘art.’


Sanford- I’d love to be a fly on your wall. But this site, being mostly dedicated to letterpress, is an interesting place to look for expertise in a field you seem to already be acquainted with pretty well!

Haven Press,
Not to long ago I recieved a beautiful historical letterpress greeting card produced by Briar Press, so I pulled it up. At that time I thought the question I had about the plate was related but in an indirect way but posted anyway. I was very surprised at the number and quality of responses. Some of the most informative postings coming from you.
Quite often when researching an engraving it comes down to the letterhead & front type especially in Europe. I’ve gotten some of my best answers from sorces in “left field”.
I’ve got way to much to learn to short change any site like this or Haven Press.