Quadruple Spectacle of Wonders


Admirandorum Quadruplex Spectaculum (Quadruple spectacle of wonders) is a book of cityscapes and landscapes by Jan van Call (1656−1703), an engraver and draftsman from the Dutch city of Nijmegen. Produced circa 1700, the book is one of the earliest experiments involving multicolor printing. Van Call had undertaken a long journey to Rome, in the course of which he traveled up the Rhine from Amsterdam to Schaffhausen, Switzerland. He made drawings of landscapes and cityscapes, which attracted the attention of Amsterdam-based publisher and engraver Pieter Schenk (1660−1718). Schenk selected 71 of the most beautiful prints for publication. Until well into the 19th century, printing processes allowed the use of only one color (usually black) at a time. Illustrations were colored by hand upon request of the buyer. This approach was time-consuming and costly and led to extensive experimentation with new methods of multicolor printing. In 1688, Jan Teyler of Nijmegen applied for a patent for a new method for printing in several colors at once. It was called the à la poupée technique; the French word poupée being the term for the linen rollers used to apply the ink to the plates. In this method, the engraving on the copper plate was filled in with various colors according to a predefined pattern: blue for sky and water, green for trees, brown for houses, red or blue for roofs. Once the areas were colored in, the plate could be used to make a single print. This method was almost as time-consuming as hand coloring. The technique had been around for some time, but Teyler developed it more fully and promoted greater awareness of its possibilities. He also made new color prints from many older copper plates. Schenk used Teyler’s method to produce the book presented here. The images clearly show an improved quality over other prints from the time; the brown buildings, red roofs, and green trees contrast beautifully with the blue of the sky and water. The book contains illustrations of scenes along the Rhine in Germany and the Netherlands, Het Loo Palace, Honselaar’s Dike, The Hague, and Amsterdam. The captions are in Latin and Dutch.

Last updated: August 19, 2015