Baxter, George

SUBJECT AREA: Paper and printing
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b. 31 July 1804 Lewes, Sussex, England
d. 11 January 1867 Sydenham, London, England
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English pioneer in colour printing.
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The son of a printer, Baxter was apprenticed to a wood engraver and there began his search for improved methods of making coloured prints, hitherto the perquisite of the rich, in order to bring them within reach of a wider public. After marriage to the daughter of Robert Harrild, founder of the printing firm of Harrild \& Co., he set up house in London, where he continued his experiments on colour while maintaining the run-of-the-mill work that kept the family.
The nineteenth century saw a tremendous advance in methods of printing pictures, produced as separate prints or as book illustrations. For the first three decades colour was supplied by hand, but from the 1830s attempts were made to print in colour, using a separate plate for each one. Coloured prints were produced by chromolithography and relief printing on a small scale. Prints were first made with the latter method on a commercial scale by Baxter with a process that he patented in 1835. He generally used a key plate that was engraved, aquatinted or lithographed; the colours were then printed separately from wood or metal blocks. Baxter was a skilful printer and his work reached a high standard. An early example is the frontispiece to Robert Mudie's Summer (1837). In 1849 he began licensing his patent to other printers, and after the Great Exhibition of 1851 colour relief printing came into its own. Of the plethora of illustrated literature that appeared then, Baxter's Gems of the Great Exhibition was one of the most widely circulated souvenirs of the event.
Baxter remained an active printer through the 1850s, but increasing competition from the German coloured lithographic process undermined his business and in 1860 he gave up the unequal struggle. In May of that year, all his oil pictures, engravings and blocks went up for auction, some 3,000 lots altogether. Baxter retired to Sydenham, then a country place, making occasional visits to London until injuries sustained in a mishap while he was ascending a London omnibus led to his death. Above all, he helped to initiate the change from the black and white world of pre-Victorian literature to the riotously colourful world of today.
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Further Reading
C.T.Courtney Lewis, 1908, George Baxter, the Picture Printer, London: Sampson Lowe, Marsden (the classic account).
M.E.Mitzmann, 1978, George Baxter and the Baxter Prints, Newton Abbot: David \& Charles.
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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