Posted by on 2 August 2012 in General

As a long-time illustrator, I’ve been commissioned to do a huge variety of work for books, magazines and advertising. Most recently, I was asked to create a series of images to represent parish records on You may have seen them around the site, or on emails.

For all my work, I use a method called relief print. This is a traditional style that involves printing from an engraving on a block, usually wood or lino. It’s perfect for creating a period look and feel.#

The first step in the process is the research, finding images from the relevant period. For this job it involved looking at manuscripts in books and on the internet. I try to find images that have a very strong feel of the period; the way the faces are portrayed, the stylized architectural detail as well as the design and composition. The fact that these illustrations were usually produced as woodcuts is crucial and influences how I complete my illustrations. It’s a process of gathering the right information,reminding myself of the look required, but instilling it all with my own personal style, which has developed over a long career.

Once the drawing /design is approved,I then reverse the image onto the block and engrave it in exactly the same way that images would have been engraved 500 years ago, with the same tools and
technique of engraving. The final stage is to print from these blocks on my Columbian Press , which was made in about 1840. This method of printing creates a genuine feel and style of the printed image that has no pretentions, it is a very basic and simple method of producing an image.

– Hannah Firmin

Hannah has worked as a freelance illustrator and printmaker since leaving the Royal College of Art in the 1980s . In 2004 she won ‘The Best Book Cover of the Year’ at the British Book Awards for her cover of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. As well as working on commissions, Hannah creates prints from her own work, which she regularly exhibits and sells.

See her latest work and exhibition information at

About Kelly

Kelly Godfrey is Senior Manager, Digital Marketing for Based in Ancestry's London office in Hammersmith, Kelly regularly tweets and posts on Ancestry's Facebook page as well as here on the blog.