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This most expensive and satisfactory method of photo-mechanical printing was introduced in 1879. In this process a copper plate is chemically etched to different depths in proportion to the darkness of the image in the original print. The darkest tones are etched the deepest, and thus hold the most ink. A photogravure could be produced with much softer, glowing tones than were possible from a hand-engraved plate, and was the chosen medium of many early "art photographers" such as Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz. Curtis chose to illustrate his twenty-volume masterwork, The North American Indian, with photogravures. To create the photogravures, each copper plate was individually inked and run through a hand press. To be consistent with the high quality of the plates and printing, Curtis selected three handmade papers on which to print the images: a Japanese vellum, a Dutch etching stock called Holland Van Gelder, and a fine Japanese tissue paper.
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Copper plate for photogravure
Canon de Chelly-Navaho, 1906