Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nature printing

In 2010 I started a research on the arrangement and reproduction of plant specimens at the Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden. The library posses a large collection of rare books and herbariums, produced in many early methods of reproduction. It was there that I got introduced to nature printing, a technique that intrigued me through it’s potential to depict not only the appearance but also the physical surface of plants. The nature print technique was already used by Leonardo da Vinci, who printed the impression of an inked sage leaf in his notebook (Codex Atlanticus 1505). In 1830 printer in the Wiener Staatsdruckerei in Austria began to imprint plants on lead plates and use these as print forms. This was in a time when photography was still in its beginning and of no competition. The images remind on photographs as they are very precise in reproducing physical flat objects. I like how the printers where trying to the arrange the whole plants on the printing plates, as they where 1:1 reproductions in size. "Physiotypia plantarum austriacarum. Der Naturselbstdruck in seiner Anwendung auf die Gefässpflanzen des österreichischen Kaiserstaates, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Nervation in den Flächenorganen der Pflanzen", Constantin von Ettingshausen & Alois Pokorny, Viena, 1855–1873 This work consists of 12 volumes and depicts a total of 1000 plant specimens. You can look at this work in real at the Mertz Library of the The New York Botanical Garden. Its hard to find good reproductions of this books on the internet, so far the best once I saw where on ebay or just use google.

Another book produced in the nature print technique: "The ferns of Great Britain and Ireland" by Henry Bradbury, 1855. You can see scans of the book here.