Technique of intaglio printmaking in which an image is cut with tools into a plate from which multiple impressions may be made; the term is also applied to the resulting print, which has characteristic lines created by the tools and techniques of cutting. The incised image, which lies below the plate’s surface, is filled with ink, and then pressure is used to force the paper into the inked lines, creating a slightly raised three-dimensional line and an embossed platemark.
The printing of images from engraved metal plates began in the 15th century and spread to Asia from the 16th. Woodblock engraving had been used in Japan from the 8th century to make prints of religious texts under the auspices of Buddhist temples and the aristocracy, but the earliest copperplate engravings in Japan date to the 16th century. In China the influence of European graphic art spread as early as the Ming period (1368–1644), continuing in the Qing (1644–1911). Western engravings were the model for the Chengshi moyuan given to Cheng Dayue by Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), and the Jesuits were involved in printmaking activities in China in the 17th and 18th centuries. The technique of copperplate-engraving was introduced into South-east Asia in the 16th century by Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch colonizers. The history of engraving is based predominantly in the West, however, and it is on this that this article concentrates.
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