Coloured Cards

Coloured Trade Cards (nos. 67-75)

The trade card is essentially a black and white medium. However, some attempts were made to introduce colour.

Elizabeth Cluer’s advertisement of 1728 (no. 83) refers to ‘labels for surgeons chests, apothecaries, grocers, &c. may be had there, painted or plain’, a reference to colouring ephemera by hand.

Many of the early examples of hand-coloured bill headings or trade cards (the colouring often being confined to the border) come from provincial towns, possibly done by the tradesman’s family, rather than by the printer.

Even as early as 1784, colour printing was advertised by printers of trade cards. This would have meant printing with coloured inks. Examples are shown at nos. 69-71. The technique does not seem to have been popular, however, as most of the extant examples from this time are black and white.

The beautiful card of Samuel Hayward (no. 72), engraved by Ludmore, is an unusual example of a coloured trade card, combining printing in coloured ink à la poupée with a little hand colouring.

In the 19th century, colour was sometimes provided by printing on coloured paper (see nos. 47, 50 and 260). In Belgium in the 1840s, iridescent lithographed trade cards were produced using metallic dust. Examples can be seen at nos. 73-75.

Chromolithography in the second half of the 19th century barely made an impact on trade cards in Britain, although the art printers of the 1870s-1890s introduced two-tone and occasionally colour printing.

Case 2 Supplementary Images

Back to top