LITHOGRAPHIC PRINTING OFFICE,
21, WELLINGTON STREET, STRAND, W. C.
Octr 17 1893
Dear Mr Whistler,
You ask us for a very difficult receipt! No less than a distillation of my father's experience resulting from his experiments during many years past. The exact chemical prescriptions (could they be given without seeing the work they are to be used on) would be valueless without the experience - To begin, do you propose to send the stone with drawing over to us to etch and prove? because the liquor with which we prepared the stone before any work is put on, and with which [p. 2] you would dilute your ink forms an integral part of the whole process as we use it, and would be likely to interfere with the action of any other acid than the one we use for etching. If you should intend to send us the stone, I will send you either some of the chemical or a prescription, and description how to use it, but we have very great fears of the result failing, and then it will be our formula which will have failed although it will have partly been out of our hands. For the etching prescription which as you know is my fathers secret[,] there are three varieties available and their respective use is determined by the actual drawing. It is most tantalizing to find you in the [p. 3] mood to do this work again and to repeat the triumphs of the Early Morning and the nocturne, and not to be at hand to second you - But even if we gave up all our secrets I dont know how they would help you without the experience -
The question as to the portrait is - did you, (just before leaving here for Venice) give my father a portrait of yourself drawn by you? It is on brown paper in black and white about 7" x 10"[,] the figure half length leaning over a table drawing with the left hand as if drawn from a looking glass, the face looking straight at you. I think it is your work, he does not. I am sorry to have had to write so unsatisfactory [p. 4] a letter as this but trust we may find a way somehow to do the lithotints.
with kindest regards from us both
Yours very sincerely
Tom R. Way.
J. McN Whistler Esqre.
Published in Spink, Nesta R., The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler, gen. eds Harriet K. Stratis and Martha Tedeschi, Chicago, 1998, vol. 2, pp. 65-66, no. 50.
Thomas Way (1837-1915), lithographic printer [more]. T. R. Way was careful to reply to JW's request for details in only general terms, thus preserving the secrets of his father's process. Way wrote: 'My father felt that he could help him best by continuing on the old lines, as his many years knowledge of the varying ways in which it is necessary to treat drawings of different characters could not be communicated in a few hours or even days instruction'. JW wanted T. R. Way to come to Paris to discuss the subject of printing and to set up a press so that Whistler could do his own printing, but both Ways, father and son, thought that this would involve a great deal of wasted time and effort, and would distract the artist too much from his painting. See Way, Thomas Robert, Memories of James McNeill Whistler, the Artist, London and New York, 1912, pp. 102-04.