Abraham Bosse, Intaglio Printing, an etching

France, AD 1642

Illustrating the printing of etched or engraved plates

Bosse (1602-76) was a prolific etcher of scenes from contemporary Parisian society, which he often published in sets. His observations of current fashions in dress and manners set in well-furnished interiors must have been studied by provincial French bourgeoisie eager to follow metropolitan trends as well as fashion-conscious Parisians.

Intaglio printing requires running the copper plate and paper through a roller press (in contrast to the vertical screw press required for relief printing). Bosse describes the process in his extended caption. In the background a youth rubs ink with a dabber into the etched grooves of a copper plate, which has been warmed on the coals in front of the window. His companion wipes surplus ink off the surface with the palm of his hand. The plate is then laid face-up on the bed of the press, and covered with a sheet of paper and blankets to ensure even pressure as it is rolled between the cylinders of the wooden press. Since the paper is dampened to achieve better transference of the ink, the finished prints need to be hung up to dry.

In this etching, Bosse is using Callot's échoppe to cut parallel lines of varying width through the etching ground. In 1645 Bosse published an influential treatise on etching, in which he wrote that etching should imitate the appearance of engraving, and the technique imitates an Italian engraving style refined and brought to Paris by Claude Mellan.

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More information


S.W. Reed, French prints from the age of (Museum of Fine Art, Boston, 1998)

A. Griffiths, Prints and printmaking: an int, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)


Height: 258.000 mm
Width: 325.000 mm

Museum number

PD R.8-15 (Blum 205)



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