Plate 12 Naturselbstruck Auer, Alois  (Austrian, 1813-1869)

Die Entdeckung Des Naturselbstdruckes oder Die Erfindung (1854) is a virtuoso display of Alois Auer’s nature printing process, with over 40 separate nature-printed objects, including flowering plants, fossil with fish skeleton, bat wing, snake skin, leaves, fern, mosses, algae. Auer is generally regarded as the man who invented the intaglio form of “nature printing,” using actual specimens of objects to act as a matrix for the printing plate. This volume was printed in answer to Henry Bradbury’s claim to have invented nature printing before Auer.

Nature printing is a printing process, developed in the 18th century, that uses the plants, animals, rocks and other natural subjects to produce an image. Originally nature prints were made by inking items such as fish or leaves with a roller, then printing them onto paper through a process of light controlled rubbing, much like one would print a woodcut. The “Auer Nature Print” however, began with an impression of the object into soft led which rendered a detailed continuous tone photographic likeness of an object without the use of a camera. It is likely that Walter Woodbury utilized a key concept inherent in this process as the basis for creating the popular Woodburytype. Alois Auer of Vienna invented the process in 1852, and Henry Bradbury patented his version of the process in England in 1853. Within ten years the technique was made obsolete by improvements in the photomechanical printing industry, and essentially “Nature Printing” disappeared from use.

Alois Auer named his process “Naturselbstdruckes”, which translates into “Nature-printing”, and then logically the end product of this process would be referred to as a “Nature Print”. However, the popular contemporary use of both of these terms confusingly refers both the original pre-1850’s process of “Nature Printing” and Auers’s. [1]


[1] Nicolai Klimaszewski Cited 1/23/23

DiNoto, Andrea, and David Winter. The Pressed Plant. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2000.