Goltzius had a malformed right hand from a fire when he was a baby, which turned out to be especially well-suited to holding the burin; "by being forced to draw with the large muscles of his arm and shoulder, he mastered a commanding swing of line".
When young Hendrik was a child of 3, his right hand was severely burned, causing a deformity that that later was to severely handicapped his ability to hold and manipulate the all-important burin. Despite this, over the course of the first 42 years of his life, Goltzius is credited with having created some 388 prints, with a further 574 more etched by other printmakers after his designs. His engravings cover the whole range of common subject matter of his time from religious works to mythology, portraits, history, and genre, even household pets. The complex, time-consuming etching and printing process dictated that artists made prints the emerging Dutch middle-class could and would buy. Although engraving was a highly respected artists' profession, painting was considered the ultimate art. So, around 1600, at the age of forty-two, Hendrik Goltzius gave up printmaking in favor of painting.