There seem to be several versions of Thomas Talbot Bury's color plate (edit: likely an aquatint per the comments below) "Excavation of Olive Mount" (part of a collection entitled "Coloured Views on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway"; the 1831 release of this collection is available on Google Books).

as sold at an auction gBooks version 1831, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Coloured_Views_on_the_Liverpool_and_Manc/wFXBhjUGJTkC 'version3' described below WP, version1 Alamy, version2 (click to enlarge)

Some examples:

  • Version 1 (can be seen here): the spokes on the drive wheels of the locomotive in the foreground are well-defined, many of the people are wearing brightly-colored shirts, and there are no trees on the bridge in the background.

  • Version 2 (can be seen here): very similar to version 1, but the palette is muted (although this may be attributable to the digitization process or a deliberate choice made when the illustration was colored). There are other subtle differences as well, including:

    • The shape of the clouds near the top-middle of the image is different
    • The locomotive's smokestack is missing a ring roughly halfway up its height
    • The spokes of the locomotive's drive wheels are much less distinct than in version 1
    • The landscape visible beyond the bridge on the right side of the tracks is substantially darker than the landscape immediately before the bridge
  • Version 3 (can be seen here): very different from the versions described above; the differences include:

    • All the passenger carriages are enclosed
    • There are trees on the bridge; it's also much taller and its arch is pointed
    • There's no second locomotive in the background just before the bridge
    • A second bridge is visible beyond the first
    • The pattern of the rocks is very different
    • The tracks are not a straight line, but bending near the horizon

The site hosting the image of version 3 also has two other versions here and here (all three can be seen here) which are similar (but not identical) to versions 1 and 2.

Given that aquatint allows copies of an illustration to be produced from a master copy, why are there multiple versions of "Excavation of Olive Mount"? This site says there were six releases of the collection that contained it (between 1831 and 1834); were new versions of the work created for some of these releases?

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    google.com/books/edition/… Oct 9 '21 at 17:01
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    Version 1 looks like it was colored with pastels, version 2 with watercolor.
    – Spencer
    Oct 10 '21 at 21:33
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    Hoping this will inspire an A: these were not lithographs but aquatints, hand-coloured (among the last in that era). Some versions apparently used w/o any colour, just to get the shades. My guess: first run was finest, colour always 'a bit' variable, later on the plates degraded and were finally 'improved' for appeal? The aquatint thing might be a correction to this Q-text, or @Reign: hopefully a base for your self-answer? Oct 11 '21 at 8:37
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    Given the age of the pics: why not include the (major) versions in this Q? Talking about pics is so much better if one can see them. Oct 11 '21 at 8:38
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    Thanks for adding the images and for the correction re: aquatints; I've edited the question to incorporate the latter. Oct 12 '21 at 22:45

What you call a "master copy" in this case refers only to the shapes and lines on the plate used to do the engraving. Different inks were probably used for the different releases through the years, though as you've noticed there were different plates used to do this particular illustration (that explains the differences in the sky and background). It was fairly common to make variations of a theme in works like this.

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