The Egyptians used the art of illumination in one of the first books known: The Book of the Dead, written in 1310BC. Illuminated manuscripts included combined illustration with elaborate and intricate lettering. The use of gold leaf enhanced the beauty of these manuscripts for many of the letters and the illustrations, making them "reflect the light and appear to glow." Gold leaf lettering is an art requiring much practice and there are three main ways to do it.
Albumen or Egg White Method
One method of gold leaf lettering is to incorporate albumen or egg white. Draw the letter to which you wish to apply gold leaf with a pen or pencil. Separate the white from the yolk of an egg and beat it thoroughly. Apply the beaten egg white to the letter you have outlined with a brush. When the egg white dries, heat the area until it's nearly 93.3 degrees C and transfer the gold leaf to it with a brush. The heat creates a bond between the gold and the albumen, so the gold leaf will stick. Remove any excess gold leaf by dabbing it gently with a cotton ball.
Gold Leaf Printing
Pin the paper you wish to print with gold leaf to the type pan of your hand press. Print all the other colours before applying the gold leaf. If you prefer, you can even apply a coat of varnish. Cover the type with paper, then lay the gold leaf on the paper and apply pressure. The pressure must have enough force to make the gold leaf adhere to the paper. Remove any excess gold leaf by dabbing it gently with a cotton ball.
Apply varnish to the area where you wish to apply gold leaf. Outline the letter to gold leaf as you would with the egg white method. Apply a coat of varnish within the outline. Allow the varnish to get tacky but not completely dry. Carefully shake the powered gold leaf onto the varnish.
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