When I started posting the Mesta Memories series, one of the first questions asked was how those striking pictures were made. Were they photographs or drawings? They resembled photographs at first glance, but the tonal scales were off in a way that was hard to put your finger on. They didn’t appear to be drawings either, especially when examined closely. My thought at the time was the effect was from the process used to transfer photographs to plates for printing and the printing process itself. I have seen many of these types of images from that period, the late 1800s to the early 1900s, and I wanted to know how they were made, so I started looking into it.
I did a lot of looking, too. I searched everywhere I could think of and I couldn’t find anything that answered my questions about how images like that were produced. So I decided to email my cute niece Holly, who has studied publishing at college (has a degree in it, I believe) and works for the audiobook publisher Blackstone Audio, and see if she could give me any references. She put the question to her graphics guy, James, who is knowledgeable about these sorts of things, and he looked at the images and had this to say: