Nature self print

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bracken as a natural print from Thomas Moore, The ferns of Britain and Ireland, 1856

The natural self-printing ( Latin Typographia naturalis ), also physiotype, less often autoplasty, is a printing process in which natural objects, e.g. B. leaves of plants can be used as printing forms . With a thin application of paint, even fine structures are reproduced very precisely. Whole pressed plants, bird feathers, insect wings, flat fossils, etc. can also be used. In addition to decorative or artistic use, natural self-printing was further developed in botany, as it allows detailed images of flowering plants, ferns and algae.

Botanical illustrations

The plant as a printing block

Sage leaf printed by Leonardo da Vinci in Chapter IX, 616 of the Codex Atlanticus (c. 1505)

A board covered with leather or paper is coated with a mixture of soot and binding agent or oil paint, the plant is placed on it and lightly pressed so that raised areas in its surface, e.g. B. veins that absorb color. Then the plant is placed with the print side up on waste paper and covered with a thin, but tear-resistant, dampened sheet of printing and pressed.

An early example of this simple technique is the imprint of a sage leaf in a Leonardo da Vinci sketchbook (Codex atlanticus). The artist also left notes on the same page about the use of soot, oil and white lead as printing inks.

Girolamo Ruscelli provided a first detailed description under the pseudonym Alessio Piemontese (or Alexius Pedemontanus) in his book De 'Secreti , Milano 1557.

Title page of Kniphof's Botanica in original from 1758

Several herbal books and picture collections with nature prints have come down to us from the 16th century , for example 1517 by Johann Jacob Baier, 1557 by Hieronymus Rosello and 1583 by Theophilus and Johannes Kentmann . However, it is unclear whether the technology was traditional or rediscovered several times.

The first botanist to use natural self-printing on a large scale and to develop it decisively was Johann Hieronymus Kniphof . In collaboration with the Erfurt printer Johann Michael Funcke , he published two editions of the Botanica in original from 1733 , each of which comprised several hundred plates. A third edition, which he produced with the printer Johann Gottfried Trampe from Halle between 1757 and 1767, contained another 1,200 illustrations.

Kniphof kept its preparation and printing technology secret. It is not known how three-dimensional objects, e.g. B. succulent shoots, tubers or cabbages. What is certain, however, is that he often only made the prints softly and in one color and then colored them by hand.

The prints were particularly precise when the plants were macerated beforehand so that the vein network emerged more clearly. A pioneer of this technology was Christoph Jacob Trew .

Since most of the plants were already too badly damaged after just a few passes and details could no longer be reproduced with high contrast, the images were only created in small numbers.

Plant prints as printing plates

In the 19th century, several famous illustrations on flowering plants, ferns and seaweed, which were produced using new methods of natural self-printing, appeared. Behind this was the desire to produce larger editions and to market the books more successfully. Attempts were therefore made to transfer the objects to more durable printing plates.

The Frenchman Ch. D'Aiguebelle used the still young technique of lithography in 1828 : He pressed blackened plants onto prepared stone slabs and then treated them by etching. Under the title Homographie, ou Choix de 20 plantes indigenes et coloniales , he published a selection of twenty such lithographs in 1828.

Example of a natural self-print (ordinary thistle) from Ettingshausen & Pokorny

Since 1830, dried plants have been pressed into lead plates and used as printing forms. By applying different colors to a printing plate, particularly lifelike images can be created. From an aesthetic and scientific point of view, they were far superior to the early photographs. The production of metallic printing plates on the basis of real plant prints was consistently further developed in the following years and perfected by Alois Auer Ritter von Welsbach (1813–1869), director of the Vienna State Printing House since 1841 . Auer made a high plate from the lead impression by galvanic means . By electroplating again, he then produced a printable copper gravure plate. The printing process itself hardly differs from that of an engraving . Auer's printer Andreas Worring applied for a patent for the process in 1852 at the kk Privilegienarchiv.

This method was used by the paleobotanist Constantin von Ettingshausen and the botanist Alois Pokorny . Between 1855 and 1873 they published a twelve-volume set of illustrations with the title Physiotypia plantarum Austriacarum . In its first edition it comprises 500, in the second edition 1,000 plant illustrations from the territory of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy . The copper plates, including some previously unpublished pictures, are preserved in the Institute of Botany at the University of Vienna.

Famous illustration works with nature self-prints

Fingertang (Laminaria digitata) from Johnstone & Croall, The nature printed British Seaweeds 1859
  • Constantin von Ettingshausen & Alois Pokorny: Physiotypia plantarum austriacarum. The self-pressure of nature in its application to the vascular plants of the Austrian imperial state, with special consideration of the nervation in the surface organs of the plants . Vienna, 1855–1873.
  • David Heinrich Hoppe : Ectypa plantarum ratisbonensium, or imprints of those plants that grow wild around Regensburg . Regensburg, 1787–1793.
  • William Grosart Johnstone & Alexander Croall: The nature printed British Seaweeds . London, 1859.
  • Johann Hieronymus Kniphof : Botanica in originali seu Herbarium vivum . Halle and Magdeburg, 1757–1767.
  • Christian Gottlieb Ludwig : Ectypa vegetabilium, usibus medicis praecipue destinatorum ... Halle and Leipzig, 1760–1764.
  • Thomas Moore (Botanist) : The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland . London, 1855-1857

See also

Commons : Nature_printing  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


  • Alois Auer : The discovery of nature self-printing. Imperial and Royal Court and State Printing Office, Vienna 1853.
  • Wilfrid Blunt, William T. Stearn: The art of botanical illustrations. New edition, revised and enlarged. Antique Collectors' Club in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens et al., Kew et al. 1994, ISBN 1-85149-177-5 .
  • Constantin von Ettingshausen : Report on recent advances in the invention of natural self-printing and on the application of the same as a means of representing and investigating the surface skeleton of the plant. Imperial-Royal Court and State Printing House, Vienna 1863.
  • Ernst Fischer: Two hundred years of self-printing by nature. In: Gutenberg yearbook . Vol. 8, 1933, pp. 186-213.
  • Armin Geus (Ed.): Nature in print. An exhibition on the history and technology of natural self-printing. Basilisken-Presse, Marburg (Lahn) 1995, ISBN 3-925347-36-4 .
  • Peter Heilmann: Nature as a printer. Nature prints by the kuk Hof. and Staatsdruckerei Wien (= The bibliophile pocket books. Vol. 330). 2nd Edition. Harenberg, Dortmund 1985, ISBN 3-88379-330-2 .
  • Friedrich Kittler : Optical media. Berlin Lecture 1999 (= International Merve Discourse. Vol. 250). Merve-Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-88396-183-3 .
  • Kerrin Klinger: Ectypa Plantarum and Dilettantism around 1800. On the naturalness of botanical plant self-prints. In: Olaf Breidbach, André Karliczek, dies. (Ed.): Nature in the box. Photograph, silhouette, drawing and self-printing of nature around 1800 , Jena 2010, pp. 80–96.
  • Claus Nissen: The Botanical Book Illustration. Your history and bibliography. 2nd edition, revised and improved impression of the first two-volume edition, supplemented by a supplement. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1966.
  • Carl August Franke: Handbuch der Buchdruckerkunst , Verlag Bernhard Friedrich Voigt, Weimar, 1855, p. 257, ( online )

Web links

Commons : Nature Self-Print  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Exhibition on natural self-printing

Giant horsetail as a natural self-print