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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knowledge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

Manual Graphic Printing
Traditional craftsmanship throughout Austria, inscribed 2021

Manual graphic printing encompasses the techniques of relief printing, intaglio printing, planographic printing, screen printing, and mixtures thereof. The development of these techniques began during the Late Middle Ages with the spread of possibilities for replicating graphic media (print). Today, there are numerous methods for producing printed graphics. It is primarily artisans who still employ such manual techniques, thereby continuously safeguarding and further developing these crafts in collaboration with various galleries and workshops.

The development of graphic printing techniques was amongst the greatest achievements of the Late Middle Ages. The emergence of the woodcut shortly after 1400, copperplate print in the mid-15th century, etching shortly before 1500, and finally lithography in around 1800 led to the development of a craft which is now 500 years old and is employed mostly by artisans. ‘Printed graphic’ is the collective term given to a primarily artistic product created by means of printing, which is replicable and can thus suitably be reproduced. The production of such a graphic requires a great deal of knowledge and various skills. For example, in intaglio printing, the image is engraved, scratched, or etched deep into the printing plate (e.g., metal). This method involves the ink being applied to the plate and wiped off again so that it only remains in the grooves and the image is displayed on the medium (e.g., paper). Examples of this technique include dry point, etching, aquatint, and copperplate print.

Besides these, there are different kinds of manual graphic printing which are assigned to the categories of relief printing, intaglio printing, planographic printing, screen printing, and mixtures thereof. Each of these categories has an array of specific procedures, and achieving the desired representation requires special handling of the material as well as technical and artistic comprehension. Thanks to blending and overlapping, the impact of modern inventions/replacements on the techniques, new ways of printing are consistently developed. Extensive knowledge about the individual procedural techniques, dedication to this method, and inexhaustible possibilities to create pictorial works by applying knowledge, which is partly centuries old, all contribute to cohesion amongst the craftspeople. The community primarily consists of individuals, often artisans and galleries, printing workshops, and associations, some of whom or which are somewhat specialised in one of the techniques.

The current risk factors for manual graphic printing include the disappearance of graphic printing training in schools and the academic environment on the one hand, and the tremendous development of digital media on the other. The community attempts to safeguard and make the many forms of manual graphic printing accessible to everyone by offering further training, courses, and seminars. Moreover, symposia like those in Wels, exchange with experts/artisans, and summer academies also play an important role in the safeguarding and continuation of the practice.


4673 Gaspoltshofen



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