Obscene Publication Act of 1857
The Obscene Publication Act of 1857 was a law enacted in England to keep printed material that might corrupt weak minds out of the hands of those open to immoral influences, and to deny contraceptive information to the working class. Donald McGill, a well known illustrator of saucy postcards, was prosecuted under this law in 1954. His conviction caused many postcard distributors to destroy their inventory and manufacturers to cease production of this genre out of fear of prosecution. Government agents, with the help of local watch committees, were assigned to seaside resorts to weed out and confiscate postcards they deemed indecent.
Octochrome is a trade name for a type of postcard distributed by the American News Company that was printed in black colotype over seven different lithographic tints. These German made cards are characterized by a sharp look with hard clean colors that emphasize blues and reds.
The general principals behind offset lithography are identical to that of traditional metal plate lithography except for the manner by which they print. Various offset printing presses may have different roller systems but all share three major components; a plate cylinder that holds the printing plate, a blanket cylinder wrapped in rubber that carries the image being transferred, and the impression cylinder which applies the pressure needed to print the image. A gear train attached to the press connects all three cylinders so they work in perfect synchrony with one another. Printing begins when a processed litho-plate containing an image is mounted on a cylinder, mechanically dampened with a wetting agent, and then rolled with ink. The oily ink is repelled from the damp areas and is attracted to the dry image areas. A blanket cylinder is then rolled over it, picking up the inky image onto its soft rubber surface. Paper then passed between this blanket cylinder and the hard impression cylinder, which presses (kisses) all three surfaces together, transferring the image to the paper. If a web press is used, an additional roller system will cut the paper. By using an intermediate soft roller to transfer the image, the delicate metal litho-plate never comes into contact with paper. Since the plate will suffer far less abrasion through this process, it can yield more impressions before wearing out. Color prints made from the offset process were also easier to keep in registration because the paper does not pick up any moisture from the plate that might cause shrinkage. Previously the printing plate and paper needed to make perfect contact but here the soft blanket can pick up and deposit ink much better than a hard surface, creating impressions on almost any material with greater fidelity. The concept of offset lithography dates back to 1875 with the invention of flexography, but it was around 1904 that Ira Rubel began constructing presses where a lithographic image on a plate is offset from its surface to paper by the indirect means. Shortly afterwards Charles Harris invented the first rotary offset press.
When at least one color of an image printed from multiple substrates has its superimposition out of alignment with the rest of the image it is called off register. These types of mistakes are not rare in commercial printing. Unlike stamps that have strident quality control, many postcards exhibit this flaw, which will decrease their value rather than enhance it. Few publishers were willing to lose money by discarding off register cards, so most wound up for sale.
Oilochrom is a trade name used by the publisher J. Salmon on some of his artist signed cards that reproduced oil paintings. These cards closely resemble the Oilettes issued by Raphael Tuck & Sons.
Oilette is a term used by Raphael Tuck & Sons in referring to their postcard series that reproduced scenes copied from specially commissioned paintings rather than photographs. The first Oilettes were similar in style to their early chromolithographs that captured recognizable views, only these new cards were printed as tinted halftones copied onto printing plates by photochemical means. The cards issued late in this series tended to hold more generic imagery, supported by an embossed textured surface that was added to simulate the brush strokes of paintings. These simulated strokes, sometimes referred to as oilfasism do not correspond to those found in the painting but were only added for simple decorative effect.
Even though many artists used the lithographic process during the 19th century to produce original works of art, much of commercial chromolithography by the 1880’s was employed in producing large expensive art reproductions. Prints designed to imitate the look of oil paintings were marketed toward the growing middle class that was beginning to have excess money to spend, but not enough of it to buy original works of art. To enhance this look some printers, especially those in Germany, began to emboss these prints with a texture that simulated the strokes of a paintbrush. These strokes could follow the general patterns in the composition or be completely arbitrary. A heavy coating of varnish or shellac was then added to further their painted appearance. By the early 20th century, publishers had taken up this technique and applied it to postcard production with varying success. This gimmick was largely used as a marketing novelty for these images were not mistakable for actual paintings. Today these heavy layers of varnish have often cracked or yellowed obscuring the image even more. This same process is now often used to emboss canvas or paper board in the production of factory paintings. The term oleograph was often used interchangeably with chromolithograph, especially in Europe, as there was no precise meaning to the term within the printing trades.
Open Letter (Open Post-Sheet)
An open letter was a European term sometimes used between the 1860’s and 1904 for early mailing cards. They had one blank side onto which correspondence or a picture could be placed, while the other side was exclusively reserved for the mailing address. Some examples do not contain pre-printed postage but only a stamp box. They were often larger than the American postal card counterpart.
Optical blending is the process by which the eye perceives a single color that is actually made up of a mixture of two or more different reflective colors. If Magenta is printed on a page in small dots leaving white paper showing, both will reflect back to the eye as pink. If the correct balance of yellow dots is interspersed within it, the color will then appear as orange. The effect was widely used in printing so that a limited palette could create the illusion of a full color image. This was largely accomplished through the use of primary colors, though there was often no consensus to what these colors were.
Optical brighteners are chemicals similar to dyes that absorb high energy light in the violet and ultraviolet wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum and reflect it back as blue light. A surface treated with an optical brightener emits more visible light than shines on to it, making it appear brighter. This increase in blue wavelengths also creates a whitening effect by making materials look less yellow. Brighteners are used in a variety of paper types including modern photo papers.
Optical tones are the different values of gray as perceived by the eye when looking at a series of different sized markings, usually dots of one single value against a lighter value. When the individual marks fall beneath the size where they can be perceived by the naked eye they take on the illusion of a solid tone. By varying the proportions between the printed dark ink marks and a lighter backdrop an entire optical tonal range from black to white can be simulated in either subtle transitions or solid hard edged shapes. Most optical tones are derived from the employment of line screens during the reproduction process to create halftones.
Ordinance Map Card
Unlike other types of postcards displaying maps, an ordinance map card is based on an official government survey and often displays topographical features. Ordinance maps began being drawn in the mid-18th century to aid the military in both defense and in campaigning. While the term Ordinance specifically refers to maps made in Great Britain, it can be applied to any European map card. Most of these postcards seem to have been made in Germany. In the United States, these types of maps produced by the U.S. Geographical Survey are referred to as Topographical. This should not be confused with the European use of the term topographical card, which refers to any card containing a view.
Orientalism is an exotic mannerism by which the people, culture, and land from the Levant have been represented in Western culture. This approach was widely employed in the arts and literature in the latter half of 19th century. As Islam spread beyond the Arabian peninsula, so did the definition of the Orient to include all Muslim lands. The Russian seizure of Central Asia, Austria’s dominance of the Balkans, France’s move into North Africa, and the British conquest of Egypt provided greater access to these places for both European and American artists. In their ever increasing efforts to generate sales, artists began to travel to Muslim lands in search of new themes; and cultural differences, whether real or imagined needed to be stressed in order to present something unique. In depicting a foreign culture artists also had license to paint topics that were totally unacceptable to express in a Western context. While Orientalist painting was often overtly erotic in nature, it was also used to present a more fanciful exotic setting for illustration and advertising. No one style dominated this art movement; its cohesiveness was derived from being drawn from a limited geography. Orientalism has additional meanings when applied to writing or cultural studies. It can be said that the concept of Orientalism created a false image of the Muslim world in order to rationalize European exploitation. While the arts may have reinforced these ideas, they did not share the same goals; Orientalism in the arts was largely used as a marketing ploy to increase sales, and whether a falsehood or not it provided the inspiration for new types of imagery in the fine and graphic arts.
Ivan Orloff, Chief Engineer of the Russian Government Printing Works developed a unique offset printing press in the late 1890’s that worked off a central rubber composition cylinder (forme) that could pick ink off of multiple line block plates, and then transfer all the colors to a single sheet of paper in just one rotation. If initially set up correctly, the finished prints would all be in perfect registration without exception. While the Orloff process could conceivably be used with a large number of line block plates, it was primarily adopted for tricolor printing. In 1899 the Printing Arts Company in England was the first to use this type of press outside of Russia. While these presses are still used in parts of Europe, usually to print checks or money, they never really caught on, which was probably due to their expense since the results are indistinguishable from cheaper color line block prints.
An Orotone is a positive photographic image placed onto a glass plate with a metallic backing. They may have been made by contact printing one glass negative to another. The image is exposed to a photosensitive silver emulsion in a collodion or gelatin base. Afterwards the back of the glass plate is coated with a mixture of bronze (copper and zinc) in an oil base, to provide the image with a golden luminous glow. These images were sold framed due to the fragile nature of glass and the painted back that is easily scratched. This uniquely American process is sometimes called Curt-tone after its first practitioner Edward S. Curtis.
Orthochromatic film, invented by Herman Vogel in 1873 is sensitive to all wavelengths of the visual spectrum except red. This allows it to be processed under red safety lights despite its fast speed. Orthochromatic film was eventually adapted to graphic work with process cameras.
An overprint is information or an image printed onto a card that was never part of its original design. Overprints were sometimes used with or without strikethroughs to make corrections in a cards title, correct a mistake in printing or to acknowledge a change in place name. Most often overprints were used to add advertising or holiday greetings to a card long after it was initially printed. This type of addition might be placed on the front or back of a card. It was a cheaper alternative than going through the expense of designing a whole new postcard for a product. These are not to be confused with stock cards that were designed to have additional information place on them. While some advertisers found imagery to match their product, others bought whatever inexpensive cards they could find and printed over them in an arbitrary fashion. Overprints were usually in one color so they were easy apply through a hand press without fears of bad registration.
An overrun refers to the excess printed material manufactured above the original order. This often occurs when more acceptable prints are made above the margin allocated to be lost due to error. Overruns can also occur when small and large orders are printed off of the same plate or at the same time. This is often done because the cost in paper and ink are far less that the cost of labor in resetting a press for a new job. These excess prints might be added to the customerÕs order for free or sometimes used by the printer as samples to advertise his workmanship.