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Electrotyping is an application of the art of electroplating to typography, used for making duplicate plates for relief printing (letterpress). In copying engraved plates for printing purposes, copper may be deposited upon the original plate, the surface of which is first rendered slightly dirty, by means of a weak solution of wax in turpentine or otherwise, to prevent adhesion. The reversed plate thus produced is then stripped from the first and used as cathode in its turn, with the result that even the finest lines of the original are faithfully reproduced. The electrolyte commonly contains about 1.5 lb of copper sulphate and 2 lb of strong sulphuric acid per gallon, and is worked with a current density of about 10 amperes per sq. ft., which should give a thickness of 0.000563 in. of copper per hour.

Moulds for reproducing plates or art-work are often taken in plaster, beeswax mixed with Venice turpentine, fusible metal, or gutta-percha, and the surface being rendered conductive by powdered black-lead, copper is deposited upon it evenly throughout. For statuary, and "undercut" work generally, an elastic mould of glue and treacle (80:20 parts) may be used; the mould, when set, is waterproofed by immersion in a solution of potassium bichromate followed by exposure to sunlight, or in some other way. The best results, however, are obtained by taking a wax cast from the elastic mould, and then from this a plaster mould, which may be waterproofed with wax, black-leaded, and used as cathode. In art-work of this nature the principal points to be looked to in depositing are the electrical connections to the cathode, the shape of the anode (to secure uniformity of deposition), the circulation of the electrolyte, and, in some cases, the means for escape of anode oxygen. Silver electrotyping is occasionally resorted to for special purposes.


The process was first used in 1838 by Moritz von Jacobi, a German working in St. Petersburg, Russia at the time of his announcement. C.J. Jordan and Thomas Spencer, both of England, and American Joseph Alexander Adams repeated the process a year later.


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Electrotyping". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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