(Lily of the Valley) Convallaria majalis


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Vienna: Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, (1855-1856). 'Nature printed' in brown ink, with titling and imprint in black, by the Vienna Hof- und Staatsdruckerei. Plate mark: 17 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches. Sheet size: 22 1/4 x 15 1/2 inches. A beautiful example from "most important work produced by nature printing ever published" (Stafleu).To the modern eye this plate has an almost photographic beauty to it, which, in aesthetic terms, foreshadows the work of the great early-20th century photographers such as Man Ray. However, this achievement is almost certAine incidental as von Ettingshausen's intention was to present a detailed anatomical portrait using the highly exacting method of nature printing. John Lindley writes "Attempts were long since made to obtain Botanical portraits by printing from the plants themselves, flattened and otherwise prepared for the purpose... The process of the Imperial Printing Office (Hof- und Staatsdruckerei) at Vienna, to which the name of Nature-Printing has been happily applied.. is a great improvement upon the old method, inasmuch as it represents not only general form with absolute accuracy, but also surface, hairs, veins, and other minutiae of superficial structure by which plants are known irrespective of the hidden details of their hidden organization. Moreover, an exact copy in copper of the part to be represented being employed by the printer, instead of so fragile an object as the plant itself, we obtain the means of multiplying copies to the same extent as in copperplate engraving; and hence the method becomes suitable for purposes of publication." (Preface of 'The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland... Edited by John Lindley... Nature-printed by Henry Bradbury') .The present plate was printed under the supervision of Alois Auer, the inventor of the nature printing process, at the Vienna state press.