Litho artists at Bartholomew

An apprentice lithographic artist would begin by practicing their hand lettering every day, sometimes for several years.

To start with, they would work with a pencil on paper. They would rule guidelines on the paper and practice their upper and lower case alphabets. They also had to be able to recreate the assortment of typefaces Bartholomew would use on their maps.

Once an apprentice had mastered this they graduated to working in pen and eventually, would move on to the brushes they would use once qualified.

To make matters more complicated, apprentices would begin by working the right way round, but would then be asked to work in reverse, as most of a lithographic artist's work would be done in reverse.

Litho stones and glass plates

In the early days, lithographic artists would work directly on a lithographic stone. For example, if an 'n' needed to be replaced by an 's' they would scrape the ink off the stone and then make the amendment with their brush using a substance called litho ink.

As technology changed so did the litho artists' techniques. When Bartholomew adopted photo-lithography in the 1920s, their work moved to glass plates.

Using Keil paper

To make amendments to a map, the lithographic artists used a medium called Keil paper. Keil paper is similar to carbon paper, but it has a chalky surface. Keil paper was used to transfer amendments to a glass plate.

The lithographic artist would then make the necessary amendments using a brush and a type of ink called 'opaque'. Mixing the opaque for the department became one of the apprentice's jobs, as it dried out overnight.

Litho tools at NLS

At the National Library of Scotland we have a collection of litho artist's tools, donated by Alexander Coventry, one of Bartholomew's former employees. You can access the record for these tools through the NLS main catalogue.


Go to Litho Artists' Room page