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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1903 (made)
    ca. 1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Horsehair and cotton-wool, kid, twine, printmaking tool

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room 514a, case 19, shelf DR 13

A dabber is used during the etching printmaking process to prepare the printing plate. The printmaker uses the dabber to spread an acid resistant wax-like subsatnce called the 'ground' over the metal plate. The lines of the image are scratched through the ground with an etching needle exposing the metal underneath. The plate is then placed in an acid bath and the corrosive action of the acid bites into the metal where it is unprotected by the ground, creating grooves beneath the surface of the plate that correspond to the lines scratched in the ground. The longer the plate remains in the acid, the deeper the groove that is bitten into the metal and the stronger the printed line.

To make a print, or impression, from the etched plate, ink is applied and forced into the grooves where it is held while the surface of the plate is wiped clean. Paper is then laid over the plate and together they are submitted to pressure (usually in a roller press) so that the paper draws the ink out of the grooves in the plate. The printed image is in reverse of that on the plate.

Physical description

Dabber used to spread etching ground. Ball of soft material (horsehair and cotton-wool) covered with kid and bunched together at the top with twine to form a knob by which to hold the dabber. The base is covered with etching ground

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


ca. 1903 (made)
ca. 1900 (made)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Horsehair and cotton-wool, kid, twine, printmaking tool


Diameter: 10 cm, Height: 8 cm

Descriptive line

Dabber used to spread the etching ground, made of kid.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum. Catalogue of the loan exhibition of British engraving and etching held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, 1903. London: H.M.S.O, 1903. p. 131

Production Note

Part of a collection of printmaking materials prepared in the Engraving School of the Royal College of Art by the Assistant Teacher C. M. Pott, under the direction of Frank Short for the Loan Exhibition of British Engraving and Etching held at the V&A in 1903.


Horsehair; Steel; Cotton; Kid; Twine


Tools & Equipment; Printmaking techniques; Prints


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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