Monday, February 13, 2012

burin


This is a bit different than my typical word posts, because I don't recall hearing it before. I probably have somewhere, but when I came across the mention of the word in Peter Carey's novel Parrot and Olivier in America  today, I had no idea what he was talking about. Luckily, Carey is too savvy to assume anything about his readership's vocabulary, so he has the boy Parrot be equally perplexed and then reveals it's use to all of us before too long. As the boy says:

You do not know what a burin is, and nor did I, mistaking it for a shiv, a murdering steel shaft with a hemispherical handle.

A burin, it turns out, is an engraver's tool. Can you visualize it? Good for you. I can't. I'm going to need a visual...





In the book, Parrot learns to carve into a block of exceedingly hard wood, but most of the stuff I've come across here has to do with carving into metal--or stone. Here's a very informative video I came across:



After watching this video, you may understand why Wikpedia has a picture of the Dutch artist Hendrik Goltzius's hand which was said to be particularly suitable for using a burin:

Goltzius' self-portrait




The etymology does not seem to be all that conclusive--the word comes from the French burin, and is related to the Italian bolino, and the Spanish buril, and all probably go back to the Old High German bora--to bore.

Sounds about right.

13 comments:

  1. Oh, boy will the printmakers of the world take offense at your closing line!
    ======================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
    http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

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  2. I must hope they are too industrious to read it, then.

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  3. I always associated burins with the burrs that some engraving tools would leave bordering the lines they etched on a copper plate, and with the soft, cloudy impression this would make when the inked plate was pressed to the paper to create the inal image. Whether the burin was in fact the tool that created these burrs and clouds, I don't remember. But it's nice to think it was.

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  4. The final image, not the inal image.

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  5. I watched a couple more of those videos, and I think they do create a burr if you use them in a certain way, which some engravers like and some don't.

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  6. I like the cloudlike effect that, say, Rembrandt would get because it seems like something that should be impossible in medium in which a hard tool digs into a hard surface.

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  7. I will have to look for some examples of the cloudlike effect. Probably shown on some of the same videos I was watching to learn about the basic technique.

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  8. Try this. Nothing cloudlike here, but perhaps just a bit of fuzz.

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  9. You know what the problem with that book was? Too much Parrot and Olivier and not enough America.

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  10. It shows the effect nicely, though, Peter.

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  11. I think Adrian's comment was eaten by blogger, but to quote:

    "You know what the problem with that book was? Too much Parrot and Olivier and not enough America."

    As I've reached page 100 and the idea of going to America has only just been broached, I have a feeling he may be right...

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Well, I'm not sure I could pick out the parts where he used the burin, so just take your effect of softness where you can find it.

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