When I started my career in graphic design, it was before the digital revolution. One of my first jobs in the business was learning how to do color separation by hand for Sunday circulars that ran in regional newspapers. Color separation was done with an exacto knife, rubylith, stat cameras, and sheets of film with “Ben Day” dot values burned into them. The process was tedious but it paid really well so I learned that part of the craft. When I see illustrations like the ones below, it makes me think about how much work went into producing these. The book illustrations date to the 1930’s when getting the gauche paintings from artists boards to printed pages was even more taxing.
This series of beautiful illustrations by Benjamin Rabier, represent the characters from Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian’s poems in Fables de Florian volumes 1 and 2. They illustrations are bright and colorful executed with a mastery of draftsmanship that is hard to find these days. I love how Rabier tells a story with the images even if you don’t speak the language. The layouts are wonderful, almost like a precursor to modern graphic novels. It’s just great stuff.
On closer inspection it looks as though the images were reproduced with engraving which is not an easy task, or inexpensive. This would have been a pricey children’s book back in the 1930’s, but the engraving process did such a great job of transferring the original art to the printed page. This is truly a lost art form.