The term derives from the greek works xylo, meaning wood, and graphia, meaning writing. This technique consists of creating cuts and incisions in a wooden plate.
Xylography originally emerged in China, where the first stamps were made stamped on paper in the VIII century AD. In Europe, the first xylographic stamps were created in the XIV century. Being that it is a relief print technique, in the 15th century it became the primary method to illustrate the first stamped books at the time, as the technique allowed the wooden matrix in the typographic forms which allowed for both text and image to be simultaneously stamped.
Depending on the type of wood used for the xylography, softer or harder, will also depend the engraving procedure. For a softer type of wood, gouges and knives are preferred, whereas for a harder wood, burins will be the most efficient. Once stamped, the differences of the effects are significant.
One of the characteristics of this technique that sets it apart from chalcography is the fact that, where the incision is made a white will be created, and where the wood is left untouched there will be a black. The chiaroscuro is achieved through a balance of white and black, but greys cannot be created.