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Engraver working on a printing plate

The engraver is an artist or craftsman who works with the technique of copper engraving . Using cutting processes, he transfers images onto plates made of copper , which serve as printing plates. To reproduce the illustration, the lines worked into the copper plate are colored. Today, copper engravings are only made by a few artists.

A similar graphic occupation is that of the engraver , who incorporates writing and decorations into everyday objects, decorative objects and jewelry . In the manufacture of banknotes , engravers still use the technique of steel engraving , which developed from copper engraving.


Depiction of the engraving technique in the Encyclopédie , around 1760

Numerous artists of the 15th and 16th centuries such as Albrecht Dürer , Lucas Cranach , Meister ES , Martin Schongauer and Meister der Spielkarten produced not only the panel paintings but also reproducible graphic sheets for the new market, which was available due to the emerging, prosperous bourgeoisie. The technique for this was copper engraving until the invention of etching . Often the artists - for example Dürer - employed their own workshops for the production of printing blocks and only engraved part of the printing block themselves, while the engraver in the workshop completed the template according to the specifications.

Because copper engraving allows for higher editions than etching and allows more detailed representations than woodcuts, copper engravers were in demand as artists and craftsmen or printing block manufacturers until the first half of the 19th century, when lithography replaced copper engraving and wood engraving as a means of illustration.

Theodor de Bry , Johann Theodor de Bry and Matthäus Merian are famous illustrators who were featured in travel and city descriptions that they illustrated in front of the text authors. Copper engravers were employed in large numbers in painting workshops and publishing houses in the 16th to 18th centuries in order to copy paintings as copper engravings or to transfer illustrations ready for printing.

Most of the time, they were not creative themselves, but transferred the work of others, which nevertheless placed high demands on their drawing and technical skills. Hence the quality statement "as if razor" for an excellent graphic representation.

One of the most famous engravers with an extensive work in the 18th century is Giovanni Battista Piranesi . In the 19th century, copper engraving experienced a new heyday under the Nazarenes .

Proverbial saying

Portrait of an Engraver , oil painting by Ferdinand Tellgmann (1834)

The proverbial address “my dear (or old) friend and engraver” is considered confidential with an ironic undertone. Some interpret them as pejorative. This could be due to the fact that engravers, with the advent of paper money, brought with them the necessary prerequisites to work as counterfeiters. It also happened that an engraver converted a painting into a print without mentioning the author of the painting in the legend - it was common to include both the name of the painter ( ... fecit '... did it' ) and the name of the Stechers ( … sculpsit '… it stung' ). An engraver could therefore be someone who adorned himself with strange feathers and was suspicious of whom.

As evidence, the poet Friedrich Rückert is cited, who used this address in the letters to his friend, the engraver Carl Barth . Maybe it was just a slightly suggestive teasing among friends.

Lutz Röhrich considers the origin of the expression to be unclear. Rückert's private letters are out of the question, and Rückert's poem To the Gevatter Kupferstecher Barth was not generally known. The salutation was common in central and northern Germany, especially in Berlin and Saxony. Röhrich refers to the 8th chapter in Theodor Fontane's popular novel Frau Jenny Treibel (1892): “It should be like that, friend and engraver; sometimes Easter and Pentecost fall on one day. ”In addition, there are similar phrases in Upper Saxon:“ old friend and picture man ”(the picture man was a showman who sold copperplate engravings at fairs) and“ old friend and seal engraver ”.

Well-known engravers (selection)

Note: The allocation depends on the current country in which the place of birth is located. Important places of activity are named after the name.


Estonia - Lithuania






Czech Republic

For other engravers see lists at Wikipedia Commons .

See also


  • Joseph Heller, Andreas Andresen , Joseph Edward Wessely: Handbook for copper engravers or lexicon of copper engravers, painters, etchers and form cutters of all countries and schools according to their most valued sheets and works. Based on Heller's pract. Handbook for engravers, reworked and doubled by Dr. phil. Andreas Andresen . tape 1 . TO Weigel, Leipzig 1870 ( limited preview in the Google book search).
  • Rudi Palla : falconer, charcoal burner, copper engraver. A compendium of the lost professions . Goldmann, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-442-72120-2 .
  • Erich Mulzer : The Nuremberg engraver Johann Alexander Boener and the Mostgasse . In: Altstadtfreunde Nürnberg (Hrsg.): Nürnberger Altstadt reports . No. 3 , 1978 (determination of his house).
  • Erich Mulzer: Alt-Nürnberg live . Delsenbach engravings as a cultural and historical source. In: Altstadtfreunde Nürnberg (Hrsg.): Nürnberger Altstadt reports . No. 9 , 1984 (The staffage figures on the copper engravings by Johann Adam Delsenbach as a source of cultural history).
  • Martin Mende: Johann David Schleuen (1711–1771). In: The history of Berlin. Association for the History of Berlin, November 2010, accessed on February 18, 2017 .

Individual evidence

  1. Lutz Röhrich : Lexicon of the proverbial sayings . 4th edition. tape 3 . Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-451-04800-0 , p. 911 (with further references).

Web links

Commons : Engravers  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Kupferstecher  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations