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Woodcut Illustrations

Using this Guide

Welcome to the research guide for locating resources which may be of use to the students and faculty who are interested in woodcut illustrations.

Use the tabs across the top of the page to navigate between lists of resources and services available to assist researchers.

Woodcuts, Woodblocks, and Wood Engraving

Woodcut, also know as xylography, is an artistic technique of relief printing in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood using various tools such as a knife or chisel. The part that remains level with the surface is the printing surface while the part that is carved away does not come in contact with the printing surface. Usually with woodcut printing, the areas that show in black are at the surface level, and the areas that show in white are the places where the wood is cut away.


Closely related to woodcut are woodblock printing and wood engraving. These printing techniques are mostly interchangable when talking about using a block of carved wood to print text, images, or patterns. However unlike a woodcut, with wood engraving the artist cuts the design on the end-grain of hardwood rather than the side grain of soft wood. The print's design can therefore be more intricate than the typical woodcut.


Also used to describe woodcuts are the terms block books and single-leaf woodcut. Block books are short books comprised of up to 50 leaves and are associated with religious texts from Europe in the 15th century whereas a single-leaf woodcut is simply a single page. Both can have images and words printed on the paper.


For the purposes of this guide, the term woodcut illustration will encompass any wood that was carved and then used to make a printed picture.

Searching, Subject Headings, and Subtopics

There are a number of ways to find information about woodcut illustrations. Below lists a few search terms, subject headings, and Library of Congress call numbers that may be useful. Search terms are linked to FSU's University Library's search box but can be typed into any search engine. It would also be effective to search by a particular artist's name. Subject headings are linked to FSU's University Library's search.

Useful Search Terms

woodblock printing
wood engraving
block books

Useful Subject Headings

Wood engraving

Wood engraving -- Technique

Wood engraving -- History

Wood engraving, German

Wood engravers -- Netherlands

Wood engraving, Chinese

Wood engraving, Japanese


Block books -- Facsimiles

Library of Congress Call numbers

NE1000-1352 Wood engraving

NE1000-1027 General

NE1030-1196.3 History

NE1220-1233 General works

NE1310-1326.5 Japanese prints

Other useful LoC call numbers are

NE1330-1336 Linoleum block prints

NE1340 Fish prints

NE1344-1345 Potato prints

NE1350-1352 Other materials used in relief printing

Guide Editor

Katie McCormick's picture
Katie McCormick
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