woodblock color print

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Kuniyoshi Utagawa 歌川国芳 (Japanese, 1797–1861, b. Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan) - Cats Suggested by the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō (東海道五十三次) (detail, left panel), 1847  Woodblocks, each sheet 14 5/8 x 10 inches

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The McLoughlin Brothers firm was one of the foremost publishers of children’s literature in 19th-century America, specializing in colored editions of children’s classics.

Before widely adopting color lithography in 1867, the McLoughlin Brothers experimented with stenciling and woodblock color printing. Earlier publications, like the library’s copy of the 1864 edition of The Three Little Crows (at top), were hand-colored by stenciling. The process was very labor-intensive as every color required its own stencil. While stenciling provided a light wash of color, the images lacked the rich, vibrant shades produced by color lithography (second image). To highlight the difference in color printing techniques, we’ve juxtaposed the hand-stenciled 1864 edition (on the right)  with McLoughlin Brothers’ later 1884 edition (on the left), printed using color lithography.

The Three Little Crows (New York: McLoughlin Brothers, 1864)
The Three Little Crows (New York: McLoughlin Brothers, 1884)

From the Children’s Literature Collection, University of South Florida Libraries