Old books and ship in a bottle by Luisa Fumi.

Yes, scanning a fine old engraving, even at a very high resolution, takes less than a minute. And doing it without cracking the venerable leather binding of the book you found it on doesn’t take much longer – once you know how to 🙂

…and care

But bringing the scan back to its original dignity without mangling it badly is quite another story. Time is seldom kind to old books: the paper ceased being white long ago – if it ever was. The dust of centuries piled up mercilessly on it, and here and there the ancient ink faded away. Sometimes a pencil note (that time has made as indelible as India ink) carelessly scribbled by someone who’s now dust extends over part of it, or an accursed mold stain spoiled the fine hatching…

The greatest challenge

But that’s not all: most of the times whatever you find in the old print around the engraving (once you decipher it, of course) is barely more than a clue to find out all the image is about, and getting the full story requires some luck, a good library and plenty of skills with Wikipedia and the search engines. That’s the real challenging work, and it may take long hours.

The reward

Still it’s well worth the while: the reward is a clean shiny engraving that reflects as closely as possible whatever the original engraver might have had in mind while he was patiently scratching his incredibly fine lines on the matrix. It makes you feel almost as if you had done the engraving yourself – from scratch, literally 🙂