Plate 2 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 “nature printing,” i.e., the use of actual specimens of an object to act as 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. The subject undergoes several stages to give a direct impression onto materials such as lead, gum, and photographic plates, which are then used in the printing process. The “Auer Nature Print” can render 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 that 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 refer to a very different process wherein images are produced 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 original 1850’s process of “Nature Printing” used an entirely different technique, producing an image that possessed a photographic quality and a remarkable delicateness of tone. Nicolai Klimaszewski

Reproduced / Exhibited

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


Nicolai Klimaszewski Cited 1/23/23