Cuts/ Printing blocks

I am looking for some historical perspective on the manufacture of cuts. I have many that are bronze plates attached to wood that come up to type high or bronze seemingly electroplated to a base metal (probably lead)? Most all of these have a base the same shape as the bronze itself.
Additionally I have some where the base (lead) is hollowed out. Most of these seem quite older with many themes of mythology or symbols used during the founding of this country.
In a nutshell, can someone give me a history of the process including the approximate time frames each method was in use.
I also have some other cuts that appear to be wood only…where do these fit in historically?
Photos below show various examples mentioned.
If anyone knows of reference material regarding the manufacture of cuts please advise as well.
Thanks to all for your help!

image: image.jpg


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Electrotypes invented by a Russian in the 1840’s
Have a look at the Wiki entry for Electrotypes, this gives the full History.
The last time I got involved with Electro’s was in the 1960’s and we were printing full colour pages for a mail order catalogue on Large 2 colour Miehles (run 2 in tandem)
and I was cutting interlays to put between the plates and the honeycomb base. the Electro’s were chrome plated to give a longer run length.

You will find that the metal surface is not bronze, but rather copper. If the copper shell is backed with type metal, the plate is an electro type. If the entire thickness of the plate is copper, then it is etched copper.

John Henry

Before photoengraving, end-grain wood engraving was a common method of illustration, and for commercial runs, these blocks were duplicated by the electrotype process. You can tell a wood engraving intended for electrotype when there is a margin cleared around the image but the rest of the block surface is intact.

In addition to the situation where electrotypes were made of a very valuable original, a wood-engraving or a vastly expensive four colour process set, some were available in the ranges of ”stock blocks” of say a national flag, or a Royal crest (caution using these in the UK) or maybe Masonic symbols and things for menus and invitations. Adana’s ones were mostly cast but a few larger were electros and also of course Garrat & Atkinson in the UK and most of the Typefoundries US and UK also sold a lot of this sort of thing.

I ‘ll try to address the dating of your cuts.

I concur with all that was said above. Electrotyping and stereotyping came into use in most big cities in the U.S. by the 1850s. Probably not many of those very early cuts remain, but there certainly are a lot of them from the, say, 1890s on. The type foundries supplied foundry cast cuts and often electrotyped cuts. Every big city had several electrotypers and stereotypers making cuts and plates for printing. Sometimes you see their name stamped into the base. Hand carved wood-cuts have been around for centuries, but many large shops in the 19th and 20th centuries had someone skilled enough to cut an image for a special use. Wood engravings were widely used before half-tones came into use at the end of the nineteenth century.

Electros were mounted on both wood and metal until the mid-twentieth century and later. You would have to study the image and the condition of the base to make a good guess of its age. Don’t assume an old image is an old electro—it could have been made in 1990. I have a number of the hollowed-out metal-mounted electros like the one you pictured (I like to call them tunnel-cuts) that all seem to date to the late nineteenth century, or possibly early twentieth. Plastic and hard rubber cuts, usually mounted on wood, are mid-twentieth century creations.

I’m sure there is more to say about this subject, but this is a start. Here are two links to more detail:


Thanks to the entire Briarpress community for all of your help with answering my questions.