05 October, 2005

Johannes Teyler & Johannes van Call

TEYLER, Johannes (1643 - before 1709)

A bouquet in a black urn

Etching printed in colors. Inscribed upper right: 138. Image size (including text): 6½ x 5 inches; on a sheet 14¼ x 9 inches (uneven). Sheet size: 16 3/4 x 11 3/4 (mount).

Johannes Teyler (1643 - before 1709) was born and lived in Nijmegen, Holland, where he was an engineer, draughtsman and mathematics teacher. He must have been well thought of since his career entailed extensive and extended journeys all over Europe, including tutoring at several courts.

Additionally, he was an experimental printmaker specializing, with spectacular success, in developing a technique of printing line etching in colors. This quest was at the time at the leading edge of printing development, with many printers in England, France, Italy and elsewhere experimenting and publishing treatises. Teyler's prints are distinguished by their delightfully bright palette, which contrasts with the murkier achievements of his rivals. In 1688 he was awarded a 25-year patent on his technique by the States of Holland and West Friesland.

Teyler's prints are extremely rare and known principally through albums in public collections: an album of 185 prints in the British Museum; 142 prints in Amsterdam, and collections in Berlin and Washington, DC (Library of Congress: Lessing Rosenwald Collection). He appears to have printed very few impressions from each plate, and not all the plates were etched by him; Teyler was content to print from plates made by others, which he either borrowed or purchased.


The volume of engravings ‘Fourfold spectacle of wonders’ by Johannes van Call consists of 71 plates, preceded by a title and the dedication to Friedrich August of Saxony, and his portrait.

The four parts have their own titles (views along the river Rhine; of Het Loo and other palace gardens; of The Hague; of Amsterdam). Comparison with the other copy in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek shows that the dedication, the portrait and the four sub-titles are missing from the copy discussed here.

On the other hand this copy is far more appealing, because it is printed in colour. Engravings from this period, coloured by hand after printing, are by no means rare. But here another technique has been used, invented by Johannes Teyler in 1688, because the colouring of engravings for the whole edition of a book after it had been printed, was time-consuming and expensive.

Teyler (1648-after 1697), a man of many parts: philosopher, scholar, military man, artist, and inventor, developed a process for colour printing, which was later on named after him. It started with the copper plate in which the required picture was engraved in the usual way, but instead of inking it in black before starting to print, he used all sorts of colours: blue for sky and water, green for trees, brown for houses, red or blue for roofs, etc.

This did not, however, mean the end of colouring by hand, as the Teyler Method involved too many operations and was not very artistic, although a skilful artist could achieve attractive results, as may be learned from the view of The Hague reproduced on the opposite page.

It is an engraving by Johannes van Call (1656-1705?), born in Nijmegen, like Teyler, and his pupil for some time. Like the work of another of Teyler's pupils, Mattheus Berckenboom, his work was usually produced in Amsterdam by printers of artworks and maps such as Petrus Schenk or Gerhard Valk. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek copy was acquired in 1993; on the front fly-leaf is the signature of A. Loosjes Pz (1761-1818), the Haarlem poet, author and bookseller.


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