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Engraving is a type of Intaglio printmaking where lines are furrowed into a metal plate with a sharp angled tool known as a burin. The plate is then inked and pressed to create the image. Though forms of engraving have existed since the Stone Age, this painstaking technique was refined in the mid-1400s in Germany, and was used extensively for mapmaking, mass-produced illustrations for books, and even for the printing of currency.
Engraving reached its zenith in the mid-1500s, when artists began to create prints of monumental size and minute detail. The versatility of the technique allows for a tremendous level of detail, while still showing subtle tonalities, depending upon the length and width of the furrowed lines.
Artists often vary the width of parallel lines by using a burin with a wider angle, or incise crosshatched lines to create shading and tone. This technique was pioneered by the Italian master artist Andrea Mantegna, who is known for creating astonishing three-dimensional effects.
The bible references the engraving technique several times within the Old Testament, in reference to religious garments and articles
Several bible passages also indicate that the role of engraver was considered specialized and required significant training
Before being elevated to a high art form by artists such as Andrea Mantegna and Albrecht Dürer, engraving was the exclusive technique of metalsmiths