Wood engraving is a technique in printmaking and letterpress printing where the "matrix" worked by the artist is a block of wood. Functionally a variety of woodcut, it uses relief printing, where ink is applied to the face of the block and printed using relatively low pressure. By contrast, ordinary engraving, like an etching, has a metal plate as a matrix and is printed by the intaglio method, where the ink fills the "valleys". As a result, wood engravings deteriorated much less quickly than copper-plate engravings and had a distinctive white-on-black character.
The technique of wood engraving was developed at the end of the 18th century by Thomas Bewick, whose work differed from earlier woodcuts in two key ways. First, rather than using woodcarving tools such as knives, Bewick used an engraver's burin (graver). With this he was able to create very thin delicate lines, often having large dark areas in the composition. Second, wood engraving traditionally utilizes the end grain of wood, while in the older technique of woodcut the softer side grain is used. The increased hardness and durability that resulted allowed for more detailed images.
Wood-engraved blocks could be used on conventional printing presses, which were themselves making rapid mechanical improvements during the first quarter of the 19th century. The blocks were made the same height as, and composited alongside, the movable type within a page layout; as such, thousands of copies of such an illustrated page could be printed with almost no deterioration of the illustration blocks. The combination of this new method of making relief printing blocks and mechanized printing allowed for a rapid expansion of illustrations in throughout the 19th-century. Further, advances in stereotyping and electrotyping allowed wood-engravings to be reproduced into metal, where they could be mass produced for sale to printers.
Maurits Cornelis Escher (pron.: //, Dutch: [ˈmʌurɪts kɔrˈneːlɪs ˈɛʃər] ( listen); 17 June 1898 – 27 March 1972), usually referred to as M. C. Escher, was a Dutch graphic artist. He is known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. These feature impossible constructions, explorations of infinity, architecture, and tessellations.