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Large Format Imaging – THEN
A hundred years ago when someone needed a BIG copy of something, it was usually a plan for an engineering or architectural design. These were drafted on large sheets of transparent material (linen, vellum, etc.) so that they could be copied onto a sensitized paper. The translucent original was placed in contact with the paper and exposed to a bright light source (originally sunlight, then carbon arc or intense electric light) to burn away the chemical on the receiver paper everywhere that it wasn’t blocked by a line on the original drawing. The latent image was developed in a chemical bath and the copy was a white line on a deep blue background — a blueprint. Fifty years ago the sensitivity of the paper changed, and the receiver paper was exposed to dry development in an ammonia filled chamber and a blue line on a white background was the result. Smaller sheets could be “Photostatted” – a paper negative image was made with an overhead camera and, if necessary, a positive paper image could be made from that reversed image
Large originals in color could be reproduced by inked plates or offset presses in the mid twentieth century — lithographs. Lesser quality copies were made using the rotogravure process on newsprint paper. For vivid color limited run reproductions silk screening became the preferred method of copying. Fine photography evolved the copying process by pulling color separated negatives from the original and re-imaging them.
Photography also introduced the ability to reproduce an image in a different size from the original. Both color images and technical drawings used photography to resize and, in some cases, precisely rescale the original material. Eventually photo film negative images ran from microfiche to full sheet size negatives for contact printing.
But in the last thirty-five years or so everything has changed. Scanning originals, creating documents with software applications, and imaging from a digital file have changed the meaning of the words themselves: original, duplicate, copy. That is why we have moved full force into a new paradigm as printers.