8 Dec 2011 - 9 Dec 2011 All day Room 1, Mill Lane Lecture Rooms, 8 Mill Lane, Cambridge









Ad Stijnman (University of Amsterdam)
Elizabeth Upper (University of Cambridge)
Assistant convener:  Emily Gray (Courtauld Institute and British Museum)



Conference Summary 

The absence of colour has been long been considered a defining characteristic of early modern printmaking. Colour printing from the hundreds of years between the invention of the printing press and 1700, when Jacques Christophe Le Blon developed the three-colour method we use today, has been thought of as rare and extraordinary. However, new research has revealed that bright inks added commercial value, didactic meaning and visual emphasis to subjects as diverse as anatomy, art, astronomy, biology, cartography, medicine, militaria and polemics in both single-sheet prints and books.

Despite the significance and scale of these discoveries, the bias against colour continues to dominate print scholarship; the colour in colour prints is often ignored. As the technology to disseminate images in their original colour has spread, much important material has suddenly become available to scholars. Now that techniques that were thought to have been isolated technical experiments seem to have been relatively common practice, a new, unified history of, and conceptual framework for, early modern colour printing has become necessary, and significant aspects of early modern print culture now must be reconsidered. This conference aims to explore new methodologies and foster new ways of understanding the development of colour printing in Europe through an interdisciplinary consideration of the production.

The conference will feature a demonstration of early colour printing techniques in the Historical Printing Room, a display of books with early colour printing at the University Library and a display of early colour prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum.


Accommodation for delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.




The conveners are grateful for the support of The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the Bibliographical Society, Hes & de Graaf publishers, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, and King's College.

Image: Detail from Agostino Veneziano, Madonna Adored by Saints of the Dominican Order, ca. 1525, engraving printed à la poupée in red and blue ink. Sheet: 39.8×22.0cm. Courtesy of the Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Anonymous Fund for the Acquisition of Prints Older than 150 Years, 2007.32.  

Administrative assistance: Helga Brandt (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk