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3. Woodcut illustration: A general outline

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Chapter Summary

In China (as in the West) the simple traditional technique of woodcutting requires blocks of hard wood, often the wood of fruit trees, for example pear. Most of the Chinese illustrated books dating from around 1600 quoted mention not only the name of the publisher, but also the names of the blockcarvers and, sometimes, those of the illustrators and painters. Illustrators or blockcarvers, whether famous or unknown, had to think how to "translate" hand-made images onto wood-blocks to obtain a large number of similar printed copies of the models. Often blockcarvers were preoccupied with producing linear markings, geometrical or ornamental patterns or by trying to reproduce different brush strokes, especially to imitate paintings of rocks. Functional illustrations were almost invariably associated with corresponding texts, and presented in woodblock publications differing in print quality, period, place and conditions of publication, and in their authors, target readers and use.

Keywords: blockcarvers; geometrical patterns; linear markings; ornamental patterns; woodcutting

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