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Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Ghost of Victorian Christmas Past...Is Present!

An engravers plate discovered over the summer reveals a beautiful message and challenge to restore.

1900s engravers plate John Sellers and Sons

The back story is missing, unfortunately. The only identification of this piece is a faded word on the back “Sellers.” This is enough to tell me that the steel plate was sold to an engraver  by John Sellers and Sons in either England or New York. 

1900s engravers plate John Sellers and Sons mark

John Sellers manufactured, among other things, cutlery and razor blades and plates for engravers made of steel and copper. They expanded to America in the 19th century by opening an office in New York in 1840. There were members of the Sellers family still involved with the business through the 1980s. 

This engraving’s exact age is anyone’s guess. The style of clothing and the overall design looks to be Victorian era. It could also have been printed as a quaint retro look back at a simpler time any decade after that.
1900s engravers plate John Sellers and Sons scanned

The process to print this plate proved to be more work than I expected. I scanned the image and then adjusted the light levels to get as sharp a contrast on the lines. What I found was that this process revealed a thousand tiny scratches and some fading across the lettering.
1900s engravers plate John Sellers and Sons stain

There was also an acid-like stain across both lines in one section of the text that blurred a few words, important words. Using photo-editing software, I was able to magnify the image and work a pen in between each etched mark. 

I sometimes found it was hard to discern between a scratch and an etch. 

Once satisfied that I had removed all the worst marks I could then invert the image and make a positive, essentially a black line image on a white back ground. 

Just looking at this plain image I knew I needed to color it in. I could only guess at the colors and shades in order to provide some depth and dimension where possible. 
1900s engravers plate John Sellers and Sons restored and published
The result was definitely worth the effort, though my regret is that I couldn’t find more about the engraver and I couldn’t finish this before christmas. It still is a nice holiday message 100 years later. 

Thanks for joining me on this journey and thank you for a great 2014. There are bigger discoveries coming in the year ahead, I can feel it.  

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