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Coats of arms of the lithographers, lithographers and offset printers

Lithographer or lithographer (from ancient Greek λίθος lithos 'stone' and γράφειν grafein ' to write') is a former occupation in printing technology . The job of a lithographer, was one of a master as accurately as possible corresponding reproduction on the lithography stone to transfer. A lithographer was someone who produced the texts and images to be printed on a lithographic stone, manually and reversed. To print from the stone was the task of the lithographer ; the print itself was called lithography.

Requirements and Techniques

Chromolithography in spring point style
Engraving lithography

In the 19th century, stone printing was the only printing process that allowed larger editions of colored printed matter and was based on an invention by Alois Senefelder from 1798. A limestone slate stone that was broken in Solnhofen in Bavaria was used as the printing medium .

The apprenticeship usually lasted three to three and a half years, at the end of which was the journeyman's examination . The prerequisite was that the budding lithographer was able to draw and had good color perception .

After his apprenticeship as a journeyman, the lithographer was employed as a font , chromo or engraving lithographer according to his skills and the needs of the company . With lithography, it was not possible to copy texts from letterpress printing; instead, they were drawn manually, reversed, on the stone with a pen and lithographic ink. This task was carried out by type lithographers who meticulously transferred pre-drawn letters onto the stone.

Often texts were combined with colored images, so that the chromolithographer had to take action. A painted picture served as a template. Before the invention of the screen , so-called halftones could only be created using manual techniques. The best-known technique in chromolithography is called Berliner Manner , in which the lithographer placed small dots together in a semicircle. The colored lithographs often consisted of twelve or more colors printed one on top of the other, which differed greatly in brightness. The lighter colors were roughly dotted and the tones were even underlaid over the entire surface. The darker, drawing colors were carried out by special lithographers who could set particularly fine points.

The engraving lithographer scratched the drawing into the stone surface with a needle or an engraving diamond. The technique of stone engraving was particularly used for business cards, letterheads, maps and securities because of its fine line drawing. Engraving lithographers were only the best specialists and were highly regarded.

In the first half of the 20th century, elements of photography were increasingly adopted and the name photolithograph was formed . In photolithography, a distinction is made between three process steps, namely the photographic recording or creation of the color separations by the repro photographer, the manual correction of the color separations and the transfer of the recording to the stone by the stone copy, both tasks of the photolithographer. The stone was often reworked manually by a chromolithographer. After lithography had been superseded by offset printing in the 1950s , all that remained was the misleading job title of photolithography , although this job no longer had anything to do with a lithographic stone . In English-speaking professionals working in this area is still hot lithographer , so lithographer .

History and today's situation

Alois Senefelder, lithograph

Alois Senefelder is considered to be the inventor of stone printing, which he developed between 1796 and 1798. He discovered the repulsion reaction of fat and water on the stone and developed flat printing from it . Senefelder called his new process Chemische Druckerey and worked on the further development of stone printing until he died in 1836. Since 1803 the new technique was called lithography in France . In 1804, an agreement was reached in Munich on the name lithography. Initially, stone printing was only used for non-artistic purposes such as printing text and music .

Artists soon discovered lithography as an autonomous art form that allowed the painter and draftsman to preserve the original character of the drawing. Before photography was discovered, it was also a suitable medium for the press to depict current affairs.

In 1837, the Franco-German lithographer Godefroy Engelmann (1788–1839) from Mulhouse patented a colored variant of lithography under the name Chromolithography (color stone printing , color lithography). After the introduction of the lithographic high-speed press around 1871, large quantities of color lithographic printed matter were produced, as larger print runs were now possible. Until the 1930s, chromolithography was the most common method for high-quality color illustrations and a correspondingly large number of lithographers were trained and employed in the lithographic art institutions . Qualified lithographers were paid relatively well compared to other professions and the training was very popular.

After the invention of photography and the glass engraving grid by Georg Meisenbach in 1881, there were attempts to use the new technology in lithography as well. Due to the differentiated reproduction of tonal values, this new technology enabled printed reproduction in six or four colors instead of twelve or more, making it far more economical than conventional chromolithography. At the beginning of the 20th century, the profession of the photolithographer developed. However, around 1906, with the invention of offset printing by Ira W. Rubel from the United States and Caspar Hermann from Germany, lithography became a serious competitor. Up until the 1950s, both processes existed side by side, with the more economical offset printing continuously taking over more and more shares in the printing volume. The apprenticeships lithographer and lithographer were deleted from the apprenticeship roles of the chambers of industry and commerce in 1956 . Since then there has been no commercial training in these professions. Interested parties can acquire basic knowledge by studying at technical colleges or art colleges.

The subsequent professions were called master copy maker and applied to all printing processes. The names were partly different between the Federal Republic and the GDR . In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, there was a master copy manufacturer in the fields of repro photography , repro retouching and repro preparation . In the GDR these professions were called skilled workers for typesetting technology, reproduction technology and printing form manufacture . As of 2008, the current apprenticeship, which includes all printing processes, is called media designer , specializing in consulting and planning, conception and visualization, as well as digital and print .

There were almost no female lithographers, although it was physically easy work. The first female apprentices were not trained until the 1950s, above all in the GDR. The proportion of women who worked as manufacturers of print templates grew continuously in the following decades. Today, as media designers, they make up around 57% of all professionals in this industry. With this proportion, this profession differs significantly from the other professions in the IT sector .

Individual evidence

  1. a b Development of repro technology, accessed on January 10, 2010 ( MS Word ; 64 kB)
  2. a b c Jürgen Zeidler: lithography and stone printing. Ravensberger Buchverlag, 1994, ISBN 3-473-48381-8
  3. Professions in the field of printing and media, accessed on January 6, 2010 ( Memento of the original from April 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ↑ Share of women in media designers, accessed on January 10, 2010 (PDF; 3.3 MB)


  • Michael Twyman: History of chromolithography: printed color for all . London [u. a.]: British Library [u. a.], 2013. ISBN 978-1-58456-320-4 , ISBN 0-7123-5710-6 , ISBN 978-0-7123-5710-4 .
  • Helmut Kipphan (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Printmedien. Technologies and production processes. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-540-66941-8 (+ 1 CD-ROM).
  • Michael Limburg: The digital Gutenberg. Springer-Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-540-61204-1
  • Ulrich Paasch and Roland Golpon (eds.): Spread information. Design and manufacture media. 3rd edition. Verlag Beruf und Schule, Itzehoe 2006, ISBN 978-3-88013-660-1 .
  • Jürgen Zeidler: Lithography and stone printing in trade and art, technology and history . Ravensburger Buchverlag, Ravensburg 1994, ISBN 3-473-48381-8 .
  • Walter Domen: The lithography. History, art, technology (Dumont paperbacks; vol. 124). 2nd edition Dumont, Cologne 1982, ISBN 3-7701-1431-0 .