A Brief History of Etching
The technique of printing using hand-pulled copper plates has remained virtually unchanged for over 500 years. The earliest known signed and dated etching was produced in the 16th century. This was etched onto a steel plate with one weight of line. Three decades later an artist called Augustus Hirshvogel thought of a way to produce lines of different weights: drawing the whole image, etching the plate in acid for short periods, then stopping out the various depths of line of the image with an acid resistant varnish at intervals, thus etching progressively darker areas.
Copper plates were only one of the metals traditionally used for etching but due to increasing interest in non-toxic methods of printmaking, copper is becoming the preferred metal for modern printmakers. Modern intaglio etching methods such as Edinburgh Etch have made it possible to produce artworks without the toxicity of many of the acids and solvents that were traditionally used. Copper plates also produced a finer line and a better aquatint when etched then other metals.