Conté’s Engraving Machine
Image gallery - click on the images below to enlarge
Details of the engraving machine, from Description de l'Égypte, État Moderne.

When the scientists returned from Egypt, Nicolas Jacques Conté was appointed Secretary of the Egypt Commission, in charge of overseeing the publication of the Description de l'Égypte.
Without his invention of a machine to automate and speed up the engraving process, the whole publication might never have been completed. Conté's machine mechanized the engraving process, allowing long, straight, even lines to be engraved more precisely and much faster than humanly possible.



Examples of the types of effects that were possible show forty-two different possibilities, all of which were used throughout the volumes of illustrations in the Description de l'Égypte.
Sahduf raising water
Shaduf raising water, from Description de l'Égypte, État Moderne.

The lines engraved by the machine could be varied in depth and width to change the tone and darkness, allowing the finished engraving to represent the cloudless Egyptian sky — dark blue at the top and very pale at the horizon — with a series of lines that gradually changed from bold at the top to extremely fine at the bottom. Similar techniques were used to create the effect of water and architectural backgrounds.

See also: Learn more about Conté's engraving machine

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This exhibition is made possible with the generous support of the J.E. Dunn Construction Company.