Flags of All Nations—and then some

Note the sphinx was still buried-- it wasn't fully excavated until 1925!

A close up of Sicily showing the layers of color and wonderful tiny stippling detail.
The smokestacks of the Northeast
Scenes of Old Dixie and slaves abound, unfazed by Emancipation
A repost with updates: Flags of All Nations-- a keen bit of chromolithography I picked up years ago. Ganged together across several disbound pages, the flag tableaux are small, approximately 1.5" x 2.75" each, but surprisingly detailed. (I am particularly fond of the otherworldly view of Iceland: ice-bound ship, two gratified seals.) The inclusion of a flag for "Washington Territory" tells me, with a little help from Google, that this collection is from before 1889. The Statue of Liberty, which appears elsewhere, indicates it's after 1886.

My small cache of pages doesn't even remotely cover "All Nations" but I do have regalia for a good many territories, states, principalities, and parcels of land that would give even a cartographic historian pause. There are surprises, to me at least, like flags for Tuscany and the Ionian Islands. There are the expected instances of 19th century exotica such as Zanzibar and the Transvaal. And then there are the complete mysteries, like the Heligoland and
the Society Islands. (George Plimpton and Brooke Astor didn't die, they retired to the Society Islands! National staples: petit fours and Champagne )

was a wildly popular color reproduction process in the 19th century. I can't understand how it became so common because it sounds like an almost unfathomably cumbersome and complicated process. An image is drawn onto a stone slab– in reverse–with a grease-based crayon. A separate stone was drawn for each color, and as many as twenty stones were used at times. Each stone was inked in an appropriate color on a press and imprinted onto the paper. (A glimpse at engravers drawing on the stones, below. The fellow on the left, Leonetto Cappiello, is working on, I believe, the tremendous poster you see in the background)

Paper would be passed through for each color – each pass having to be aligned and registered exactly. A good example of what progressive proofs in the process of printing looked lik
e here. Perhaps the work ethic was stronger in the 19th century. Or the tolerance for tedium higher.

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