Codex Auratus
1425
Working many years
before the invention of
the printing press, Conrad
von Butzbach, a German doctor,
created this print by coating
paper with oil and blackening
it with soot from a candle
flame. He then set the specimen
between sheets of paper and
rubbed them to leave
an impression.
“Physicians...were interested in
gathering plants which would be useful
in preparing their medicines.”
(00:47)
Codex Atlanticus
circa 1508
Leonardo da Vinci
coated a sage leaf with oil
and lampblack and pressed
it onto one of the 1,119 pages
of his Codex Atlanticus, a
collection of original manuscripts
that now resides in a vault
in Milan, Italy. In the margin
Leonardo wrote a recipe
for nature prints.
“He was experimenting with
different techniques, and his print
of sage is remarkably accurate.”
(00:55)
Herbal
circa 1520
Sixteenth-century
Florence perfumer Zenobio
Pacini printed both sides of
his specimens by inking them,
folding a sheet of paper around
them, and passing a roller
over the sheet. The prints were
collected in an herbal others
could use to identify plants
used for making perfumes.
“It's quite possible that
other herbals still remain to be
rediscovered in old libraries.”
(00:50)
Botanica in Originali
1733
Johann Hieronymus
Kniphof illustrated his Botanica
in Originali with nature prints.
Specimens were laid on the
bed of a press, inked, and
then paper and pressure were
applied. More colors were
added by hand.
“They could take direct
prints from plants using
the ordinary letterpress.”
(00:44)
Albrecht Durer's
“Rhinoceros”
16th Century
An Irish collector
likely inked his flower and
plant specimens and then
pressed them on the borders
of this print of an Indian
rhinoceros mde from a
woodcut created in 1515
by artist Albrecht Durer.
“He was presumably thinking
of wallpaper, in a sense.”
(00:43)
A Few Leaves
from the Newly
Invented Process of
Nature Printing
1854
Henry Bradbury learned
the painstaking method of
electrotyping, which produces a
metal facsimile of an object--
in this case a water mint--that is
used to create a print. He learned
the process in Austria, then
patented the process in the
United Kingdom, an act of
industrial espionage.
“It was a very laborious process,
but when they did it well, the
results were magnificent.”
(00:50)
The Phantom Bouquet
1862
A magnolia leaf
pressed on a woodblock
treated with photographic
emulsion created a negative;
the woodblock was used to
make prints for a growing
domestic market.
“Parrish produced a
print here which was
extraordinarily high quality.”
(00:44)
New Zealand Ferns,
148 Varieties
1880
Herbert Dobbie made this
print of a fern by a process
named cyanotyping. He coated
paper with chemicals sensitive
to ultraviolet light, flattened
the plant on the paper, and
exposed the paper to sunlight.
The covered parts stayed
white, while the exposed
areas turned blue.
“As an engineering
draftsman, he would have known
all about making blueprints.”
(00:12)

  • UNIVERSITY LIBRARY SALZBURG, MANUSCRIPT M 136

  • BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA, MILAN

  • BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE, PARIS, BN EST. RÉS. JD. 50

  • BRITISH LIBRARY, C. 192.C.1 (1) 55

  • TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

  • BRITISH LIBRARY, BL1257.1.12 PLATE 2

  • BRITISH LIBRARY, C11114-02

  • BOARD OF TRUSTEES, ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW
UNIVERSITY LIBRARY SALZBURG, MANUSCRIPT M 136
BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA, MILAN
BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE, PARIS, BN EST. RÉS. JD. 50
BRITISH LIBRARY, C. 192.C.1 (1) 55
TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM
BRITISH LIBRARY, BL1257.1.12 PLATE 2
BRITISH LIBRARY, C11114-02
BOARD OF TRUSTEES, ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW
Codex Auratus
1425
Working many years
before the invention of
the printing press, Conrad
von Butzbach, a German doctor,
created this print by coating
paper with oil and blackening
it with soot from a candle
flame. He then set the specimen
between sheets of paper and
rubbed them to leave
an impression.
Codex Atlanticus
circa 1508
Leonardo da Vinci
coated a sage leaf with oil
and lampblack and pressed
it onto one of the 1,119 pages
of his Codex Atlanticus, a
collection of original manuscripts
that now resides in a vault
in Milan, Italy. In the margin
Leonardo wrote a recipe
for nature prints.
Herbal
circa 1520
Sixteenth-century
Florence perfumer Zenobio
Pacini printed both sides of
his specimens by inking them,
folding a sheet of paper around
them, and passing a roller
over the sheet. The prints were
collected in an herbal others
could use to identify plants
used for making perfumes.
Botanica in Originali
1733
Johann Hieronymus
Kniphof illustrated his Botanica
in Originali with nature prints.
Specimens were laid on the
bed of a press, inked, and
then paper and pressure were
applied. More colors were
added by hand.
Albrecht Durer's
“Rhinoceros”
16th Century
An Irish collector
likely inked his flower and
plant specimens and then
pressed them on the borders
of this print of an Indian
rhinoceros mde from a
woodcut created in 1515
by artist Albrecht Durer.
A Few Leaves
from the Newly
Invented Process of
Nature Printing
1854
Henry Bradbury learned
the painstaking method of
electrotyping, which produces a
metal facsimile of an object--
in this case a water mint--that is
used to create a print. He learned
the process in Austria, then
patented the process in the
United Kingdom, an act of
industrial espionage.
The Phantom Bouquet
1862
A magnolia leaf
pressed on a woodblock
treated with photographic
emulsion created a negative;
the woodblock was used to
make prints for a growing
domestic market.
New Zealand Ferns,
148 Varieties
1880
Herbert Dobbie made this
print of a fern by a process
named cyanotyping. He coated
paper with chemicals sensitive
to ultraviolet light, flattened
the plant on the paper, and
exposed the paper to sunlight.
The covered parts stayed
white, while the exposed
areas turned blue.
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