The Nature-Printer

The Chelsea Physic Garden announced the release of The Nature-Printer: a tale of industrial espionage, ferns and roofing lead by Simon Prett & Pia Östlund, a limited edition book about a lost technique of nature printing first announced in Vienna in the 1850s.

Prett and Östlund’s book was inspired by a book Pia Östlund discovered while working at the Physic Garden five years ago. Overwhelmed by the beauty of the images, she set out to rediscover this lost technique of nature-printing. The book that launched her journey was The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland Nature-Printed (1855) by Henry Bradbury. The text for this book was provided by Thomas Moore, Curator of Chelsea Physic Garden. Botanist John Lindley was the editor.

The Physic Garden explains: The quality of the nature-prints was astonishing. The botanist Joseph Hooker announced the results were so good that ‘the plates seem to surpass the specimens themselves in elegance and in colouring’. According to The Times it was ‘as if the original specimens were pasted on paper’. But for mysterious reasons the process was abandoned and the method, lost. The few nature-prints that were made this way are rare, sought-after and extremely valuable.