letterpress from electroplated images

A friend is working on an exhibition of Winslow Homer’s illustrations for Harper’s magazine. He has seen statements that the engraved wood blocks were replicated using electro-deposition of metal. Can anyone confirm this? Does any one have a photograph or illustration of this process?

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The process is called electrotyping, and was a coomon means of producing reproduction plates of wood engravings and type forms to be used for long runs.

I have an instruction book published by the Inland Printer Company in 1908m which has wood-engraved illustrations of the equipment used in the process, but not of the process itself.

It was pretty simple: The material to be reproduced was, in the early years, pressed into a sheet of warm wax, and in later years into a sheet of plastic with heat and quite a bit of pressure. The mold was sprayed with graphite to make it electrically conductive, and placed in a copper plating tank, where a thin coating of copper was plated onto the image surface. Then the copper was peeled off the mold, laid on a flat surface printing side down, and the back filled with molten lead to some thickness. After the lead cooled the plate went through a router or planer that milled the lead backing to a precise thickness, after which the plate was mounted to a wood base, and high unwanted portions of the printing side were routed off. Electrotyping made very precise copies of plates or type forms that were much more durable than the originals, and additional copies could be made for multiple-up runs or multiple copies of ads could be sent to different publications.