Printing Green

‘Nature Printing’, not counterfeiting money as the title may have led some to think, is a process in which perfect prints of organic materials can be reproduced in colour in exquisite detail.

To carry out this process, a flat piece of subject matter, for example a fern leaf or seaweed, is left to dry. Next, the dried organic matter is passed through a set of rollers onto a piece of lead, leaving an impression. A printing plate would then be made from the intaglio impression left, with colours carefully applied.

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Unsurprisingly, this process only works with certain leaves or flowers. Putting a cabbage or a strawberry through a set of rollers is liable to be messy, and unlikely to result in a particularly effective print.

German Alois Auer accused Henry Bradbury, the British inventor of this process, of patent theft, as he had registered it before Bradbury discovered the process. Feeling shamed and humiliated Bradbury, at the age of thirty, retired to his drawing room and drank a glass of water and cyanide – a sad end to a tale of beautiful images.

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