Alois Senefelder

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Aloys Senefelder, drawn by Lorenzo Quaglio the Younger (1818)
Alois Senefelder 1834

Alois Senefelder (born November 6, 1771 in Prague , † February 26, 1834 in Munich ) is the inventor of lithography . He was also a theater writer, singer, musician and composer.

Family and youth

Upper part of the stele bust on Marsplatz in Munich

Senefelder was the son of the Munich court actor Franz Peter Sennfelder from Königshofen in Franconia and his wife Katharina, née. of people. Senefelder was born in Prague because his parents were guests there.

He completed his school years at the Jesuit high school in Munich (today: Wilhelmsgymnasium Munich ) and also received piano and singing lessons from recognized musicians, such as the court organist Anton Ferchl. From 1789 to 1793 Senefelder studied law at the University of Ingolstadt , which he graduated with honors. In addition to his studies, he enjoyed acting and tried his hand at writing. After completing his studies, he temporarily joined a traveling group of actors, but became increasingly active as a writer. His first major play, the comedy “Die Mädchenkenner”, was successful. It was premiered in the Munich court theater and was published in 1792.

Invention of lithography

The Alois Senefelder monument in the center of Solnhofen
The monument to Alois Senefelder on Senefelderplatz in Berlin. Note the reversed name of the putto : as necessary for a lithograph, the other putto is holding a hand mirror

During a walk on a rainy day in 1796, he noticed that a leaf had been depicted on a limestone. This observation made him think of etching stone. Due to a lack of drawing skills, the trained musician tried to use this technique to reproduce sheet music. “A piece of extremely poorly printed sheet music from an old hymn book immediately sparked the idea that with my new type of printing I could also deliver music much more beautifully than leaden letters.” Senefelder's first work was published in July 1797, “XII Songs with Accompaniment of the Piano by Franz Gleißner ". The new printing technique quickly attracted "attention at home and abroad because of the beauty and clarity of the writing, because of the smoothness of the print on the paper and the surprising cheapness".

Solnhofen limestone ( Upper Jurassic ), an extremely fine-grained limestone , was well suited as a basis for the printing process. Senefelder first drew the areas to be printed on the smooth stone slab with greasy ink or chalk, reversed, which made these areas water-repellent. He then moistened the printing form with an aqueous solution of gum arabic and dilute nitric acid , which meant that the areas that were not written on held water and became grease-repellent. The greasy printing ink applied with a roller in the third step only adhered to the water-repellent areas. Finally, a sheet of paper was placed on the stone and the printing ink was transferred by pressing on it vigorously.

The invention of lithography was a major technical innovation, as these prints could also be made at a significantly lower cost. The creation of sheet music in lithography only cost a fifth of the copper engraving used until then .

Professional background

In 1796 Senefelder met the court musician Franz Gleißner in Munich , with whom he found free board and lodging. In return, he gave his daughters piano lessons. Gleißner and his wife, both of whom believed in the applicability of the new printing technology, supported him financially and encouraged him to “give up”. In 1797 Senefelder built a usable bar or gallows press for the new printing process and made experiments in multi-color printing. He called his invention chemical printing or stone printing . In 1797 12 sheets of "Poisonous Plants for Schools" were published. In France it was called lithography since about 1803. His brothers Theobald, Georg, Karl and Clement assisted him. The first commercial application of lithography took place in Offenbach am Main in 1799 , after the music publisher Johann Anton André von Senefelder had acquired the patent right for the "... ability to print secrets, notes and pictures on stone ..." in order to use the new method for printing notes use. Senefelder himself set up the first five lithographic presses in Offenbach and personally instructed the employee André on the use of the machines. André recognized the importance of the invention and shortly afterwards, in 1800, had his brothers set up branches of the publishing house - while safeguarding the patent rights there - in Paris and London. Mozart's piano concertos appeared as the first lithographic sheet music prints from 1800.

These earliest lithographic workshops were soon used to print artist graphics after the benefits of lithography - for example for reproducing drawings without falsifying the respective artistic handwriting - had been recognized. Senefelder himself called his first lithographs polyautographs . The original of his bar press is in the Deutsches Museum in Munich . In the House of City History in Offenbach am Main there is a working replica of the bar press, numerous early lithographic plates, mostly from the stock of the Andréschen Manufactory, and early lithographic products from the same printer.

The land surveying offices recognized the importance of an inexpensive and precise printing process like lithography very early on. In 1809 Senefelder was appointed inspector for the specially founded lithographic institute in Munich. Similar institutions arose under his guidance in Berlin, Paris, London and Vienna.

His first lithographic masterpieces were in 1807/1808 the " marginal drawings in the prayer book of Emperor Maximilian " copied from Albrecht Dürer's original drawings , and in 1808/1809 as lithographic copies " Albrecht Dürer's Christian-mythological hand drawings" (together with Johann Nepomuk Strixner ) and in addition, lithographic copies from drawings by Lucas Cranach. These were particularly enthusiastically recognized by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe . In the “ Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung ”, Goethe's friend Heinrich Meyer wrote reviews of these works in 1808 and 1809 under the label “WKF” (Weimar Art Friends).

Grave of Alois Senefelder on the old southern cemetery in Munich location

In 1808/1809 Senefelder, together with Franz Gleissner, published the “ sample book on all lithographic art manners: which the royal, sole privileged stone printing shop owned by Aloys Senefelder, Franz Gleissner & Comp. working in such in Munich, so imitating the art of engraving, die-cutting and letterpress printing, is able to deliver ”, although only the first of the announced four issues actually appeared. During that time, the lithographer Franz Seraph Weishaupt (1785–1866) worked in his workshop.

In 1818 (2nd edition 1821) Senefelder wrote a complete textbook on stone printing . For his expanded invention of using metal plates for printing instead of stone plates, Senefelder received on January 22, 1818 from “Sr. royal Majesty von Baiern ”a six-year“ privilege ”, ie a patent. In 1818, based on the Munich model, the lithographic institute of the land tax cadastre was founded in Vienna . Senefelder was called to Vienna for this purpose and he took over the construction.

In 1826 Senefelder succeeded in printing colored motifs and in 1833 in printing oil paintings on canvas transferred onto stone. His metallographic attempts to print from steel, zinc, brass and copper plates later became the basis of offset printing .

Another field of application opened up in 1802 for lithography in fabric printing. In a cotton spinning and weaving mill in Pottendorf near Vienna , which was run by the Englishman Johann Thornton , Senefelder also succeeded in using his more cost-effective printing process for calico printing .

The grave of Alois Senefelder is located in the old southern cemetery in Munich (grave field 5 - row 2 - place 1) location .


Depiction of Alois Senefelder on a share of the printing company "Imprimerie et Publicité Charles Verneau" from February 1, 1899
  • On May 17, 1808, the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and his sister Charlotte visited the Senefelder workshop and had their new invention shown. There he was given the title of primus auctor .
  • His bust was made around 1808 and placed in the Hall of Fame in Munich.
  • The International Senefelder Foundation was established in 1971. It awards the International Senefelder Prize .
  • In Berlin a square with a monument is named after him.
  • Various streets were named after him a. a. since 1871 in Vienna - Favorites the Senefeldergasse , in Bremen in over 50 other cities in Germany. In Offenbach, where lithography was first used commercially, a street was also named after him
  • The comprehensive school in Treuchtlingen is called the Senefelder School .
  • The vocational school center for printing and media technology in Munich bears the name Vocational School Center Alois Senefelder Munich
  • A stele bust, created in 1877 by Julius Zumbusch , stands on Marsplatz in Munich- Maxvorstadt near the vocational school named after him
  • The plant genera Senefeldera Mart are named after Senefelder . and Senefelderopsis Steyerm. from the milkweed family (Euphorbiaceae).


  • Complete textbook for stone printing. Containing correct and clear instructions on the various types of manipulation of the same in all their branches and manners, accompanied by the necessary sample sheets, together with a preceding detailed history of this art from its origin to the present time . Thienemann / Gerold, Munich / Vienna 1818.


Web links

Commons : Alois Senefelder  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Max Leitschuh: The matriculations of the upper classes of the Wilhelmsgymnasium in Munich . Volume 3, Munich 1973, p. 183.
  2. Alois Senefelder: Complete textbook of the lithography , 2nd edition 1821 (new edition 1909), p. 15.
  3. ^ Franz Maria Ferchl: History of the establishment of the first lithographic art institute at the holiday school for artists and technicians in Munich . Munich 1862, p. 104.
  4. ^ "Leaflet of the State Office for Surveying and Geography Bavaria" ( Memento from April 27, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Kaiser Maximilian, Albrecht Dürer (ed.): Oratio ad suum proprium angelum. Augsburg, 1514 ( digitized versionhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/ 26pdfseitex% 3D ~ GB% 3D ~ IA% 3D ~ MDZ% 3D% 0A ~ SZ% 3D ~ double-sided% 3D ~ LT% 3D ~ PUR% 3D ).
  6. About the invention of stone printing . In: Weekly display for art and craft industry in the Kingdom of Bavaria . tape 3 , no. 6 , February 8, 1817, p. 87 ( ).
  7. ^ Message in the Augsburgische Ordinari Postzeitung dated February 4, 1818.
  8. ^ Franz Dickinger: The tree in the middle of the world on the Gusterberg near Kremsmünster. Starting point f. Landscapes u. Triangulations. In: Upper Austrian homeland sheets. Born in 1883, issue 1, p. 41, online (PDF) in the forum
  9. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names - Extended Edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .