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This collection of books with colour-printed illustrations was formed by Norman Waddleton (1916–2008). His aim was "to assemble and record all books having colour-printed illustrations or decorations up to 1893 when the processes known as three-colour half-tone and three-colour plus black were introduced". Thus the collection includes few examples of hand-colouring, which is the focus of the Harley-Mason collection.

There are essentially four methods of printing which have been used to produce colour illustrations during the period covered by the collection: woodcut, which appeared in the printing of incunabula before 1501; wood engraving, a similar technique except that the medium was the end-grain of a hardwood, typically boxwood; intaglio printing from copper or steel plates into which the image had been engraved; and chromolithography, a planographic process using specially-prepared blocks of limestone. Of these, the woodcut was the first to be used, followed by intaglio, used from the 15th century for monochrome images and developed in the late 17th century for colour work. Wood engraving and lithography were introduced at the end of the 18th century, the former by Thomas Bewick and the latter by Alois Senefelder. Examples of all these methods can be found in the Waddleton collection.

Because the raison-d'etre of the collection is the printing method employed, the subject coverage is extremely diverse: gift-books with coloured engravings stand next to a catalogue of floor-tiles, an illuminated breviary is followed by a chapbook of Tom Thumb. Nevertheless certain categories stand out; there are naturally many bird and flower books, works on the history of architecture, furniture and ceramics, pattern books for decorators, and a considerable number of children's books, mostly in English (including the so-called "toy-books"), French, German or Dutch. Some books, mainly French, are included because of the colour-printing employed on their bindings. The geographical spread is also very wide; British material predominates, but there are substantial French, German, Dutch, Spanish and American holdings, as well as lesser amounts from eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Australia & New Zealand, and Asia.

At present the majority of the non-British items in the collection have been added to the Library's online catalogue; the British material (which to a considerable extent duplicates items already in the Library's other collections) is mainly still to be catalogued.

The Norman Waddleton collection of books containing colour printed illustrations has an illustrated website where you can search the chronology by a variety of search terms. This website, which is not maintained by the University Library, is at http://www.bookartworld.co.uk/UPDATE: At the moment, the links provided in iDiscover to the website are no longer working. We hope to restore them as soon as we can.

References and further reading:

  • Waddleton, N. Waddleton chronology of books with colour printed illustrations or decorations. 5th ed. York, 1993. + Supplements 1-4. B180.1-
  • Waddleton, N. The Waddleton chronological databases. Bulletin of the Friends of Cambridge University Library, 20. Cam.c.11.91