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Nature printing is the name given to the print-making technique in which natural objects provide the surface from which prints are taken - without the interpolation of artist's interpretation. This technique was developed in the Middle Ages to assist those gathering medicinal plants (the earliest datable nature print dates from 1228) using relatively simple impressions taken from leaves and fruit. By the 17th and 18th centuries, nature printing had developed into a serious scientific process of reproducing plants and was used in building up systemised collections made by and for botanists.
During the 19th century the technique also drew on the new photographic technology. Nature printing was not limited to the West: the Polynesian people ornamented bark cloth with simple prints and the Japanese tradition, probably derived from Chinese stone rubbings, developed the technique into a means of taking prints direct from fish, some being very beautiful works of art. These delicate prints are both unusual and beautiful, and "Impressions of Nature" will intrigue anyone with an interest in the history of zoological and botanical printing.
Roderick Cave has been a Visiting Professor at UCLA and has a background in printing history. He has studied nature printing for many years and his Typographia Naturalis: A History of Nature Printing was published in a limited edition in 1967.