Deliver Us From Evil Flaxman R.A., John  (British, 1755-1826)

Mr. Bolton has just invented a process by which the powers of photography may be applied direct to the production of subjects from nature or art on wood, and from which the engraving can be made without the intervention of drawing. We annex his first specimen; others are about to appear in the illustrated edition of Miss Winkworth’s Lyra Germanica.

This specimen of Mr. Bolton’s new process is taken from the well-known relief of Flaxman, “Deliver us from evil.” It is one of the first successful photographs on wood, and was printed and engraved by Mr. Thomas Bolton, from Mr. Leighton’s negative.

Bolton had the surface of a wood block sensitized and a photograph made on it through the image thus attained. It was the first reproductive wood engravings made through photgraphic image instead of drawing on the block by an intermediary draughtsman. (Prints and Visual Communication By William Mills Ivins) See also Wakeman p. 78 and Jackson Treatisie on Wood Engraving.

Photoxylography – No single person can be pointed to as the inventor of creating woodblocks cut directly from photographic images produced on the block itself. However on April 20, 1839 a photogenic drawing was cut and printed in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction. The method was explained “To take a Photographic Copy on Boxwood. Place the smooth side of a block of boxwood in a shallow dish or plate, containing a solution of salt, twenty grains to an once of water. When it has remained in it for about five minutes, take it out and dry it, and then put the same side in another plate containing sixty grains of nitrate of silver, dissolved in an ounce of water. After the elapse of a minute, take it out, and dry it. It will then, on exposure to light, assume a fine brown color. If it be again immersed in each solution, for a few seconds only, it will become so sensitive, as to be affected by a very slight degree of light. To obtain a drawing of a view, or a copy of a picture, &c. proceed with the prepared block, precisely according to the instructions already given for using the photographic paper. In this manner, a drawing upon a block may be most expeditiously obtained, and without the services of a draughtsman. It only needs the wood-engraver.” (pg. 317 May 18, 1839, no. 949) After this date a number of individuals showed examples: Robert Langton, England 1854; J. De Witt Brinckerhoff in the US, 1855, as well as Robert Price, U.S. — whose process was commercialized in 1857. Even as late as 1861 A. Bolton, England, was credited as the inventor.

Reproduced / Exhibited

Hanson, David A. Checklist of Photomechanical Processes and Printing, 1825-1910. , 2017. p. 105.

Ivins, William M. "Photography and the "modern" Point of View: a Speculation in the History of Taste." Metropolitan Museum Studies. 1.1 (1928): 16-24. Print p. 18


Ivins, William M. "Photography and the "modern" Point of View: a Speculation in the History of Taste." Metropolitan Museum Studies. 1.1 (1928): 16-24. Print

Chatto WA Jackson J Bohn HG. A Treatise on Wood Engraving Historical and Practical; with Upwards of Three Hundred Illustrations Engraved on Wood by John Jackson. 2d ed. Detroit: Gale Research; 1969