Bartholomew's lithographic artists

Alex Elder describes the work of Bartholomew's lithographic artists.



'I started in April 1962 as an apprentice writer — lithographic writer. Initially, lithographic writers were the people who drew on the litho-stones, so litho-stones were used in printing presses to produce the image on a paper.

'When I started, that process had almost died out. They weren’t being used but there were one or two stones still around. The process that I started an apprenticeship learning involved working on glass negatives and positives. The image was transferred to the printing plate photographically from a negative or positive and then developed on the printing plate, and the printing plate was then wrapped on the press and the image was transferred to the paper in that way.

'So we were working on glass plates and some of the plates could be small, say maybe eight inches by eight inches, but others could be the size of a Bartholomew half-inch sheet, which would be three foot by three foot.

'These glass plates were, if you like, the storage media for the maps, and these were updated directly, so any changes to the map for a revised edition were carried out on these glass plates by the litho-writers. Mostly it involved road changes or name place changes.

'Occasionally you would add new reservoirs, change the shape of a coastline or add a new town that was being developed — the normal kind of cartographic changes. And you would do that by using a very fine brush and a kind of a liquid — it wasn’t an ink, it was kind of an opaque liquid that when you painted a shape, a line or a letter onto the glass plate, it would dry very quickly into an opaque image.'


Go to Litho Artists' Room page