Inventions and Product Development - Halftone Reproduction

Scope and Content

A collection of experimental halftone reproductions, originally held by the Swan family, which are presumed to date from Joseph Swan's experiments with halftone reproduction (1860s-1890s).

History of Swan's Development of Halftone Reproduction

Halftone is the reprographic technique that simulates continuous-tone imagery through the use of dots, varying either in size or in spacing, thus generating a gradient-like effect.

As early as 1865, Swan had patented a halftone reproduction screen and by the 1890s the techniques he pioneered had been refined to a level where they became commercially viable and aesthetically desirable. Halftone engraving techniques duplicated photographs, paintings, and wash images while line methods were widely used for the printing of pen-and-ink drawings. By the end of the century, process reproduction techniques replaced the wood-engraving methods that had dominated printed illustration up to this point.

In 1885 Swan founded the Swan Engraving Company based in Lambeth, South London. In 1893 the business was renamed the Swan Electric Engraving Company and relocated to Charing Cross Road in London’s West End. Swan’s eldest son, Donald Cameron-Swan (1863 - 1951), became a partner and took over the running of the firm, although Joseph Swan continued to be involved until his death in 1914.

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Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


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No further accruals are expected.