Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Maathaus Merian's Copperplate Engravings

          Matthaus Merian was born in Basel around 1593. As a young boy he was taught the craft of glass-painting but soon switched over to copper-plate engraving. This is the trade that he is known for today. During the years of his apprenticeship he moved to Zurich and traveled through many places in Germany, Switzerland, and France.
          In 1616, Merian began working at a publishing house in Frankfurt under Johann Theodor de Bry. One year later, Merian married de Bry's daughter and had 3 children. Both sons went into the publishing business and his daughter became an acclaimed naturalist and illustrator. Following the death of Johann, Merian was given control over the publishing company and thus became a citizen of Frankfurt.This is where he spent most of his time.
Although he spent most of his life as a Publisher, Merian is best know for his copperplate engravings.To make a copperplate engraving, Merian would start with a sheet of copper and coat it with a waxy substance. He then used a hardened steel point to cut a design into the waxy surface and onto the copper. All metal shavings and wax were removed and the plate was heated. Ink as poured over the hot copper sheet until all of the ridges were filled with ink. Now the plate could be wiped clean and placed in a printing press to be printed onto a damp piece of parchment. Copperplate engraving was a very time-consuming and meticulous practice.
Topographia Germaniae is a 21 volume produced and published by Merian. These volumes included views of towns and cities along with maps of major cities of the world. Collectively, the volumes include over 2,000 copperplate engravings completed by himself. The dedication he had to his craft helped him slowly become the most recognized copper plate engravers in Europe at the time and today.

No comments: