Download a PDF of the timeline
220 AD

“Cai Lun is credited with inventing paper (220 CE) and refining the modern method of making paper into a consistent technique, using ingredients such as mulberry and other bast fibers along with fishnets old rags, and hemp waste.”


“After The Battle of Talas (Arab Abbasid Caliphate versus Chinese Tang Dynasty), the knowledge of paper-making was extracted from two prisoners captured during the war, and found it’s way into the Middle East.” Quraishi, Silim “A Survey of the Development of Papermaking in Islamic Countries”, Bookbinder, 1989 (3): 29-36. Print.


“A copy of the Chinese version of Diamond Sūtra, was dated back to May 11, 868. It is, in the words of the British Librar y, “the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book.”

McDermott, Joseph P. (2006). A social history of the Chinese book: Books and literati culture in late imperial China. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. pp. 10 – 11. Print.

c. 8th Century

“Water-powered pulp mills were dated as far back as the 8th Century CE in Samarkand. The people who worked in making books were called Warraqin or “paper professionals”. The Arabs were the first to bind paper into books at the start of the Islamic Golden Age.”

Lucas, Adam (2006), Wind, Water, Work: Ancient and Medieval Milling Technology, Brill Publishers, pp. 65 & 84. Print.


“‘Jiaozi’ is China’s earliest paper money issued by the government official, is also considered to be the earliest use of the world’s money, than the United States of America (1692), France (1716) and other western countries to issue paper money as early as six hundred or seven hundred years.”


“Paper-making reached Europe in Toledo, Spain and was firmly established in Xátiva, Spain by 1150, credited to creating such inventions as the first wire mold for making paper.”


“Paper mills erupted in France.”


“Paper mills were established in Fabriano, Italy; in Treviso by 1340.”

c. 1340 – 1350

“Paper mill technology reached Holland, and in Nuremburg, Germany by 1388. This was just about the time when the woodcut printmaking technique was transferred from fabric to paper in the old master print and popular prints.”

Fifteenth Century

“Printed engraving: Silversmiths and armorers begin reproduce decorative engravings from metal plates.”


“The earliest engravings were produced in Germany in the 1430s...”

“Playing card engravings in Europe.”

Mid 1400s

“Printing from a metal engraving was introduced a few decades after the woodcut, and greatly refined the results. Restricted at first to goldsmiths and armorers, it soon became the most popular form of serial reproduction. The earliest dated printed engraving is a German print dated 1446, “The Flagellation," and it was in Germany that early intaglio printing developed before passing to Italy (Mantegna, Raimondi, Ghisi) and the Low Countries (Lucas van Leyden, Goltzius, Claesz, Matsys). From makers of playing cards the metal engraving technique passed to artists where it probably reached its apex in the hands of Albrecht Dürer in the 16th century.”

“First attempts at producing maps via engravings.”

“Master of the Playing Cards, (flourished c. 1430–50), anonymous German artist who is one of the most important of the early engravers in the Rhineland. He is known for a set of playing cards (60 remain) that are distinguished for the manner in which the technique of soft-ground engraving has been handled, as well as for an exquisite use of line and the realistic observation evident in the human figures, plants, and animals that have been depicted. Some of the decorative devices employed have been stylistically related to those used by the printer Johannes Gutenberg.”

1450 – 91

“Schongauer was the first great German artist to make engravings, and the earliest engraver with a known identity. When the young Albrecht Dürer reached Colmar in 1492, he found that the master was already dead. Nonetheless, by basing his engraving style on the model exemplified in Schongauer’s prints, Dürer became the greatest engraver of all time.”

The second half of 15th century

“This time period is characterized by a humanistic treatment of subject matter and an emphasis on rational space, proportion, and perspective, the Renaissance style, which has by this time flourished in Tuscany, makes its way to northern Italy. These developments are inspired by visiting artists such as Paolo Uccello (ca. 1396–1475)—who travels to Venice earlier in the century, contributing mosaics to the Cathedral of San Marco—and Donatello, who produces among other commissions the earliest significant equestrian monument in the new Renaissance style, the Gattamelata, during his ten-year stay in Padua from 1443–53. An important school of painting develops in Padua, of which Andrea Mantegna (1430/31–1506) is the chief exponent. Mantegna is among the first artists of the Renaissance to produce images that combinemythological subject matter with a style based on the study of ancient art; his prints, accessible by a wide audience, are especially vital in the dissemination of Renaissance ideals.”


“Drypoint engravings are invented by the Germans. (Drypoint lines are simply scratched into a plate with a sharp point.)”


“The first maps known to have been printed from copper plates were two Italian editions of the geographer Ptolemy.”


“The Roman Missal, historically the first book containing scores of music was completely printed and published in 1475.”

Duggan, Mary Kay. Italian Music Incunabula: Printers and Type. Berkeley: University of California Press, c. 1992 1991. Print.

Mid 15th Century

“The preference of metal and intaglio processes in general arose in the mid fifteenth century (Gascoigne 5c). Gascoigne suggests that the reason for the rise was artistic. As designs became more complex, artists tired of constantly carving away the white areas of the print. Metal engravings are black line, meaning the line one carves is the line that will be black in the printed page. In this respect, black line engraving, which is all intaglio engraving, is much closer to the process of drawing. In relief engraving, the artist/engraver has to think in reverse of the drawing process. Gascoigne's position is intriguing. Though I am inclined to think engravers were not so lazy as he suggests. All engraving processes are highly labor intensive whether black or white line. The decline of wood engravings may have been more of a decline in illustration at this time, and a changing aesthetic sense in the market. Before the big workshops and illustration boom one printer noted at the end of the eighteenth century that “illustration was so seldom used that the preparation of even a small woodcut was of much moment to all concerned. ...the printer, designer, and engraver talked over the matter with as much deliberation as if about to produce a costly national monument" (De Mare 42). With illustration a rarity, intaglio printing, with all of its practical problems, was preferred because it could yield more detail than wood cuts. Those who wanted illustration could afford to use a more difficult printing method, but that was about to change.”

1480 – 1533

“Geoffroy Tory, publisher, printer, author, orthographic reformer, and prolific engraver who was mainly responsible for the French Renaissance style of book decoration and who played a leading part in popularizing in France the roman letter as against the prevailing Gothic. His important publications include a number of “Books of Hours” and his famous philological work Champfleury (1529). In this work Tory put forward the idea of accents, the apostrophe, the cedilla, and simple punctuation marks. He was appointed imprimeur du roi (“printer to the king”) by Francis I in about 1530.”

c. 1480

“Marcantonio Raimondi (ca. 1480–before 1534) is born near Bologna. His successful career as an engraver includes a close partnership with the painter Raphael, whose works Raimondi reproduces. He also copies many of the graphic works of the great German master Albrecht Dürer, and after Raphael's death in 1520, the works of his follower, Giulio Romano.”


“The first recorded paper mill in the United Kingdom was Sele Mill near Hertford owned by John Tate.”


“Painter, printmaker, and theoretician Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) leaves his native Nuremberg for the first of two journeys to Italy, where he admires works of classical antiquity as well as that of contemporary masters such as Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini. Dürer's sensitivity to Italianate form, his attention to classical proportion and perspective, and his prolific output as both a painter and graphic artist make him the most influential German artist of his time. An intimate of humanist scholars and court painter to emperors Maximilian I and Charles V, Dürer plays a vital role in the dissemination of Italian Renaissance ideas in central Europe, and advances the notion of the artist as creator rather than mere artisan.”

Sixteenth Century

“Altdorfer's skill as a graphic artist entitles him to a place among the so-called Little Masters, a group of 16th-century German engravers noted for their expert execution of designs on a small scale. His prints include an outstanding series of 9 etched landscapes and a set of 40 engravings collectively called The Fall and Redemption of Man.”

ca. 1510

“Engraver Marcantonio Raimondi (ca. 1480–before 1534) is active in Rome, where for the next decade he reproduces the works of Raphael. The close collaboration of the two masters results in some of the finest prints of the period, many of which promote a revival of mythological subject matter derived from the study of ancient art and literature.”


“The overwhelming majority of maps produced between the mid-sixteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries are engravings, normally on copper [plates].”

ca. 1543

“The first school of painting is established at the Convento Grande de San Francisco in Mexico City by the friar Pedro de Gante (1486–1572). The friars, many of whom are trained artists, use engravings, woodcuts, and other images brought from Spain, to teach painting to the Indians.”

seventeenth century

“The maps in the 'Maps, Atlases, Charts, and Globes from the Lawrence H. Slaughter Collection at The New York Public Library' exhibit (from the late 1990s) were printed by copper engraving in the 17th and 18th century.”


“Antonio Tempesta (1555–1630), an artist of Florentine birth, creates 150 etched [Intaglio] illustrations for the Metamorphoses of Ovid. The series is one of several that Tempesta produces between the last decade of the sixteenth century and the end of his life. His oeuvre, including over a thousand prints, is characterized by the strong influence of Netherlandish masters encountered during the artist's stay in Rome.”


“Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), a painter and printmaker of Valencian birth, is active in Italy, where he remains for the entirety of his career. He is greatly influenced by Caravaggio and his Northern followers in Rome, and several years later settles in Naples, where his patrons include the ruling Spanish viceroys. Though Ribera's style reflects the artistic events of his adopted home, the artist remains aware of his Spanish origins, often signing his works with his place of birth, as in a fine late work, The Holy Family with Saints Anne and Catherine of Alexandria (34.73).”


“British nobleman Thomas Howard, second earl of Arundel, discovers Anthony van Dyck(1599–1641), a precociously gifted young painter, at work in the studio of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp, and shortly thereafter brings him to London. Van Dyck's stay, though brief, wins him great acclaim among the English nobility. The artist then travels to Italy and France before returning in 1627 to Antwerp, where he works until late 1631. He settles permanently in England in the following year, with a short return to Flanders in 1634–35. Religious works—such as the early altarpiece Saint Augustine in Ecstasy (1628) for the Church of Saint Augustine in Antwerp—are well represented in van Dyck's oeuvre; however, it is as a portraitist of consummate skill, sensitivity, and unrivaled refinement that he is chiefly famed. Also a gifted etcher, he compiles aseries of prints, called the Iconography, depicting his most illustrious contemporaries.”


“Florentine etcher Stefano della Bella (1610–1664) dedicates an early print, the Banquet of the Piacevoli, to Prince Giovanni Carlo de' Medici. This wins the artist a stipend with which he travels to Rome in 1633, remaining there (with occasional visits to Florence) for six years. Della Bella's many drawings of this period illustrate his lively and naturalistic approach to a wide range of subjects: public events and festivities, urban views and landscapes, architecture and ancient ruins. He resides in Paris from 1639 to 1650, returning to Florence in the 1650s to work once again at the Medici court. In their inventiveness and freedom of expression, his prints—over a thousand of which are known—and countless drawings influence Italian as well as French artists.”


“Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) leaves his native Leiden and settles, for the remainder of his life, in Amsterdam. Already prolific as a painter, draftsman, and etcher of many subjects, Rembrandt secures his fame in Amsterdam with the dramatic appeal of his portraits and tronies, bust-length figural compositions—usually incorporating elaborate or exotic costume—drawn or painted from life but not intended as portraits. Rembrandt's greatest aspiration—the depiction of historical scenes—bears abundant fruit in compositions that fuse his gift for narrative with a virtuosic sensitivity as a portraitist. Foremost among these are the group portraits of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp (1632, Mauritshuis, The Hague) and the so-called Night Watch (1642, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), painted at the peak of the artist's fame. From this point onward, Rembrandt's works are increasingly pensive and painterly in their execution. The artist's preoccupation with life drawing may be seen in the many studies and self-portraits he executes throughout his career. In addition to portraits and histories, Rembrandt produces genre scenes and landscapes; his rounded mastery of several media, combined with extraordinary descriptive ability, make him the greatest Dutch artist of his century, a title acknowledged in his own lifetime in the Low Countries and beyond.”


“Graphic artist and native of Nancy, Jacques Callot (1592–1635) produces Great Miseries of War, two print series depicting the carnage and suffering he witnesses during the Thirty Years' War. Of less emotional intensity but lacking none of the immediacy of this series are works he produces between 1612 and 1621 for the Medici in Florence. Callot's directness and descriptive abilities over a wide range of subject matter—from witty depictions of court festivals and scenes from the Italian commedia dell'arte to frank and often moralizing portrayals of human brutality—influence many Northern artists, including La Tour, Watteau, and Rembrandt.”

1683 – 84

“George Bickham the Elder was a writer, draughtsman, ornamental engraver, illustrator and publisher, notably of The Universal Penman, issued in 52 parts from 1733 to 1748, a joint work with his son George (q.v.) and with John Bickham (perhaps his father, otherwise a son or brother): it contained examples of calligraphy by 25 writing-masters on 212 folio copperplates.” aspx?bioId=132296


“The first paper mill in America was established by William Rittenhouse near Germantown, Pennsylvania.”


“The Roman du Roi is commissioned by Louis XIV. The Romain du Roi is often referred to as Grandjean’s type, but the designs were produced by a committee* set up by the French Academy of Science. One of the committee members, Jacques Jaugeon — at that time better known as a maker of educational board games — in consultation with other members, produced the designs constructed on a 48×48 grid (2,304 squares). The designs — also known as the Paris Scientific Type — were engraved on copper by Louis Simmoneau, and then handed to the punchcutter Grandjean (not to be confused with the earlier Granjon of course), who began cutting the type in 1698. Interestingly, Jaugeon also designed a complimentary sloping roman (often referred to today as an oblique) as an alternative to a true italic**. However, Grandjean himself was to produce the italic from his own designs.”
* Under the presidency of the Abbé Bignon. The table of the proportions of the letters was drawn up by Truchet. Page 25 of Stanley Morison’s Letter Forms.
** An italic does not need to be ‘sloped’ or inclined to be an italic; in fact an italic type can be upright (and some of the early italics were).

Chappel, Warren, and Robert Bringhurst. A Short History of the Printed Word. 2nd ed. Hartley & Marks Publishers, Incorporated, 1999. Print.

1692 – 1766

“William Caslon was born in the village of Cradley, in Worcestershire, England. He was taken in as an apprentice engraver in London at the age of 13; by age 24 he had become a successful independent engraver. In 1720, Caslon began his career in type design by accepting a commission to create a typeface for the New Testament in Arabic. His subsequent roman typeface was an instant success, and set an example for beauty and readability for all later type.”


“Nationalism and scientific enterprise fuel new artistic undertakings in Sweden. Erik Dahlberg compiles and publishes a volume of copperplate engravings depicting old buildings and other national antiquities. Also published around this time is an album devoted to the plants of Sweden, issued by Olof Rudbeck and poetically titled Campus Elysii (i.e., The Elysian Fields). Rudbeck is active in the great university city of Uppsala, where he designs a famous anatomy theater crowned with a distinctive cupola in addition to bridges and houses.”

18th Century - Engraving Today >