HMS Blenheim Royal Navy Cruiser seen off Dover antique print. HMS Blenheim was a Blake-class first class protected cruiser that served in the Royal Navy from 1890–1926. She was built by Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company at Leamouth, London. The ship was named after the Battle of Blenheim. Antique chromolithograph by W. Fred Mitchell from ‘Her Majesty’s Navy,’ by Lieutenant Charles Rathbone Low, F.R.G.S. Published by J.S. Virtue & Co, Ltd, c.1890.
Chromolithography is a unique method for making multi-colour prints. This type of colour printing stemmed from the process of lithography, and it includes all types of lithography that are printed in colour. When chromolithography is used to reproduce photographs, the term photochrome is frequently used. Lithographers sought to find a way to print on flat surfaces with the use of chemicals instead of relief or intaglio printing. Chromolithography became the most successful of several methods of colour printing developed by the 19th century; other methods were developed by printers such as Jacob Christoph Le Blon, George Baxter and Edmund Evans, and mostly relied on using several woodblocks with the colours. Hand-colouring also remained important; elements of the official British Ordnance Survey maps were coloured by hand by boys until 1875. The initial technique involved the use of multiple lithographic stones, one for each colour, and was still extremely expensive when done for the best quality results. Depending on the number of colours present, a chromolithograph could take months to produce, by very skilled workers. However much cheaper prints could be produced by simplifying both the number of colours used, and the refinement of the detail in the image. Cheaper images, like advertisements, relied heavily on an initial black print (not always a lithograph), on which colours were then overprinted. To make an expensive reproduction print as what was once referred to as a “’chromo’”, a lithographer, with a finished painting in front of him, gradually created and corrected the many stones using proofs to look as much as possible like the painting in front of him, sometimes using dozens of layers.