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Awoiska Van Der Molen in the Benrido Atelier

Collotype and Its History

The collotype was originally invented in 1855 by the Frenchman Alphonse- Louis Poitevin, who developed a process of printing continuous-tone photographs using pigment ink. Especially suited for printing in books, the process became the first choice for photographic reproduction in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The process arrived in Japan through Kyoto in the 1880’s, where Benrido began producing in 1905.  Collotypes we frequently used to reproduce historical images and documents, most notably the 12 full-color wall paintings from Horyu-Ji.

The collotype print is a perfect union of photography and printmaking, quality and versatility.  Since the invention of the process approximately 150 years ago and through countless technological advancements, it has stood as the standard of excellence that every printed image strives to attain.

Collotype Process

Combining the light sensitive qualities of the photographic process with the plate and relief processes of printmaking, collotype printers are able to attain incredibly fine resolution and layered, nuanced detail. 

Collotypes yield an astonishingly rich depth and range of tonality, as well as the ability to print color and monotone images on a variety of substrates.  This allows the specific aesthetic goals of each artist to be expanded and realized, while achieving the highest possible accuracy with historical reproductions.

The adaptability of the process as well as the incorporation of digital technology have allowed for the collotype to return from the fringes of printing techniques and become the method of choice for discerning artists and clients.

Benrido Atelier

After establishing itself as a bookshop and publisher in 1887, the Benrido Atelier quickly developed the legacy of quality printing that it continues to uphold today.  Nestled in the heart of Kyoto, the atelier produces work that reflects the natural beauty and rich history that surrounds it.

For years reproductions of valuable historical works have been the backbone of the atelier, protecting their legacy for the rest of the world to enjoy.  This, along with Benrido’s rich catalogue of artists books and portfolios, has cemented their place in Japan’s history.

Now combining traditional and digital components, the Benrido Atelier has been able to expand its collotype production and complete ever more ambitious and high quality projects both for historical preservation and contemporary creation.

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Prints and Portfolio Box, "Samurai" Guimet Photographic Collection