Wood engraving of two men standing in an excavated field.

Very few people saw the original paintings done by artists in the 1800s, but the paintings were frequently used to create prints for newspapers and book illustrations. People were interested in learning about the new British colonies and by printing versions of these sketches, it allowed the British and colonial governments to publicise idealised visions of a welcoming land burgeoning with opportunity and wealth. PR is nothing new, and art has always played an important role in helping to sell a particular vision.

The prints were a great tool to advertise the new prosperity gleaned from Nova Scotia's gold fields, and captured the interest of investors and miners worldwide.

An engraving is made by cutting a design into the surface of a metal plate, or block of wood. The block or plate is then inked and printed on a page. During the 1800s an artist would submit drawings or sketches and the newspaper would give those originals to an engraver - frequently an ocean apart!

An engraving showing gold miners walking up between a 'street' of wooden shaft houses and tents in Tangier, NS.

A wood engraving of New Gold-diggings in Nova Scotia: Gold-Street, Tangier, published in the Illustrated London News, September 14, 1861. An unknown engraver based this print on a drawing by Captain Campbell Hardy.

AGNS: 2009.135

This separation between the original artist and the engraver, as well as the needs of the different mediums, means that the original watercolour and the engraving are rarely identical.

 A hand-coloured engraving showing the view of forested hills and lakes from Laidlaw's Farm near Waverley, Nova Scotia.

A hand-coloured wood engraving, Laidlaw's Farm, near Halifax, published in the London Illustrated News December 6, 1862. An engraver -"Smyth" - based this engraving on an original drawing by W. D. Thompson.

AGNS: 1995.462

The demand for published illustrations meant that larger papers often had several engravers working on multiple blocks of wood that could be combined to create one image very quickly. On some prints you can see "join" lines where the two blocks were placed together but may have slight alignment issues from the printing process. Once printed, it was not uncommon for engravings to be hand-coloured to give a more realistic look.