Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Woodcut Defence League vs. Warren Kinsella

Warren Kinsella had gone too far. His vicious attack on Norm Spector (to wit: that he "has a web site that resembles a fourteenth-century woodcut, and has the mental acuity of one, too.") is an insult. To woodcuts.

First of all,
woodcuts were used in the 15th and 16th centuries, not the 14th. Secondly, they represent an outstanding contribution to literary art and were used extensively to illustrate the connection between the intangible supernatural and the liturgy of the Christian faith. Woodcuts were used throughout the Missale Romanum, the book used by priests for centuries to celebrate the Mass.

About Woodcuts:
The process of creating a woodcut has changed little over the intervening six centuries. Although the quality and shape of the knives used today are somewhat different, the action of making a woodblock is essentially the same.

Choosing wood for the block is the first step in creating a woodcut. In the fifteenth century wood from fruit trees, especially pear trees, was used because of the strength of the wood's grain. These hardwoods could withstand the pressure the printing press exerted on the block and insured that the woodblock could be used repeatedly. Hundreds of legible images could be produced before a new block had to be cut.

Once the block is planed and sanded flat, an image is either drawn directly onto the surface of the block or transferred from another drawing or print. The woodcut artist then uses the lines of the block as a guide, cutting away all the wood that surrounds the lines and leaving the lines in relief. The woodblock is then set onto the bed of a printing press along with type, and ink is applied to the lines on the block and the type. Finally paper is set on top of the block and the action of the printing press forces a transfer of ink to paper, revealing an image which is the reverse of the image on the block. The areas that have been cut away read white, and the lines in relief read black.

Given the obvious contribution of woodcuts in the development of printing throughout the ages, and their pivotal role in the beauty of the Catholic liturgy, I must insist that Warren Kinsella cease and desist immediately his continued defamation of woodcuts by associating them with something
so obviously trailing edge as Norm Spector’s website.

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