Alsace fashion print from Auguste Racinet’s ‘Le Costumes Historique’ published 1888. Racinet’s ‘Le Costume Historique, published 1876-1888, is the most comprehensive and detailed study of the history of fashion ever published. Covering the history of clothing and hair-styles from antiquity to the 1880s, it contained nearly 500 folio lithograph plates. In 1888 the various images were brought together in a six volume set. This chromolithograph is from the FRANCE, Alsace, section. On 21st. November 2012, Christie’s London auction house sold a complete set of Racinet’s ‘Le Costume Historique’ for £10.000.
Lithography (from Ancient Greek λίθος, lithos, meaning ‘stone’, and γράφειν, graphein, meaning ‘to write’) is a method of printing originally based on the immiscibility of oil and water. The printing is from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a ball grained surface. It was invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical works. Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material. Lithography originally used an image drawn with oil, fat, or wax onto the surface of a smooth, level lithographic limestone plate. The stone was treated with a mixture of acid and gum arabic, “etching” the grease content of the drawing material into the pores of the stone and chemically creating grease reservoirs. The open stone (without drawing) was affected by the gum arabic creating a thin gum layer that would then attract water. When the stone was subsequently moistened, these gummed areas retained water; an oil-based ink could then be applied with a roller sticking only to the original drawing. The ink would finally be transferred to a cotton fine art paper sheet, producing a printed page. This traditional technique is still used as a fine art medium today.