Collotype is one of the “best” printing processes we developed. To the naked eye a collotype print is indistinguishable from a photographic print made from a negative. Collotype doesn’t break the image into dots as the halftone process we are all used to does. Fiddly and labor intensive, it is obviously no longer a viable option in our profit-obsessed business world.

The graphic representing the printing process in the middle of this film is slightly misleading in that it implies that collotype is an intaglio method: that the ink pools in pits engraved from the plate. This is not the case. Actually the image area in the collotype gelatin plate has a flat surface and is “developed” by light. The ink adheres to the unexposed areas and not to the exposed glycerine-coated gelatin. To the extent that this gelatin has cracks and fissures there will be a little bit of ink absorption, but collotype is a planographic process, like offset.

It would appear that Benrido, Kyoto is the only collotype plant still going. My luck in seeing a collotype operation in Britain at Cotswold Collotype of Wotton-under-Edge, back in the seventies looks greater and greater.

This video comes from Open Culture, which provides a bit of background. For addicts who crave more, this Getty PDF provides huge amounts of detailed fact about the process.

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