Photo: Nasjonalmuseet / Ina Wesenberg

The process of printing illustrations in books was very different 150 years ago. For one thing, the original drawing had to be exactly the size the illustration would be in the book. The lines had to be suited to the method of reproduction. Artists generally used a pen with a nib dipped in ink. A drawing that uses ink lines can be transferred relatively easily onto a woodblock. 

The transfer to xylography, or wood engraving, could be done either manually by drawing a mirror-inverted copy of the original onto the woodblock, or photographically by covering the woodblock with a layer of photographic emulsion and exposing it to a negative image of the drawing. 

The picture (mirror inverted) was then carved into the woodblock by hand, before being printed together with the text. This engraving work was done by skilled professional xylographers. In several of the illustrations you can see the signature of the xylographer in addition to that of the artist. Frederik Hendriksen was one of the xylographers. 

Only a few of the xylographic plates, or woodblocks, have survivied. They are now kept in the book collection at Oslo Cathedral School, who have lent us three of them for the exhibition.