Steel engraving

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Steel engraving

The steel engraving , also Siderographie called, is a graphical gravure printing process , which is primarily for the production of banknotes , postage stamps , and for printing photographs was used (and is used for bank notes today). A major advance over copperplate engraving was the ability to create an almost unlimited number of copies.


The drawing is engraved into a softened steel plate with a grave or - as with etching - etched. The steel plate hardened after the piercing is transferred to a soft steel roller by unrolling, in order to stamp a new soft steel plate with this subsequently hardened roller, which is then hardened again. The process is also suitable for very fine, small representations, but does not reach the full depth of the copper engraving .


The steel engraving was developed in the succession of the copper engraving . The American Jacob Perkins developed the process and used it for the first time in 1820 to print banknotes ('intaglio'). The Englishmen Charles Warren and Charles Heath , Perkins business partners, used it for the first time for artistic illustrations. The technique was introduced in Germany by the Karlsruhe painter Carl Ludwig Frommel . Steel engraving later lost its importance when it became possible to steel copper plates .

During the 19th century, steel engraving found its main task in book illustration and reproduction technology and was only replaced by photography and chemigraphy as an automatic copying process.

In the 20th century it was not only used in the production of postage stamps and banknotes , but also for exclusive letterheads, business cards , bookplates and much more. Even today, steel engraving is still produced in a few mints that have become as rare as bell foundries.

Well-known steel engraver


  • Hans E. Gaudard: The noble art of steel engraving: Franko stamp pictures from 1949 to 1963. Bern: General Directorate PTT 1965
  • Nora Keil: The Austrian stamp engraving: Its history from the early days to the present. Vienna, Austria. Bundsverl. 1965
  • Walter Koschatzky : The art of graphics: technology, history, masterpieces. Munich: dtv 1999. ISBN 3-423-30742-0
  • Joseph Heller, Andreas Andresen , Joseph Edward Wessely: Handbook for copper engravers or lexicon of 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 “, first volume, TO Weigel, Leipzig 1870

Web links

Commons : Steel Engravings  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Romantic journey through old Germany, 1969 ISBN 3-7632-2035-6