Extract from : The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
In principle, the work of art has always been reproducible. What man has made, man has always been able to make again. Such copying was also done by pupils as an artistic exercise, by masters in order to give works wider circulation, ultimately by anyone seeking to make money. Technological reproduction of the work of art is something else, something that has been practised intermittently throughout history, at widely separated intervals though with growing intensity. The Greeks had only two processes for reproducing works of art technologically: casting and embossing. Bronzes, terracottas and coins were the only artworks that they were able to manufacture in large numbers. All the rest were unique and not capable of being reproduced by technological means. It was wood engraving that made graphic art technologically reproducible for the first time; drawings could be reproduced long before printing did the same for ht written world. The huge changes that printing (the technological reproducibility of writing) brought about in literature are well known. However, of the phenomenon that we are considering on the scale of history here they are merely a particular instance – thought of course a particularly important one. Wood engraving is joined in the course of the Middle Ages by copperplate engraving and etching, then in the early nineteenth century by lithography.