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The Nature-Printer, A tale of industrial espionage, ferns and roofing-lead
by Simon Prett & Pia Östlund

Limited edition of a new book inspired by Chelsea Physic Garden. On sale from 1 May

Copper plate detail Pia Ostlund The announcement in 1850s Vienna of a new method of nature-printing, one that delivered breathtaking results, captured the imagination of a young businessman Henry Bradbury who decided to discover the secret for himself. What followed, according to one reviewer, was a tale ‘worthy of Wilkie Collins’ – of ambition, ruin and death.

Copper plate detail Pia Ostlund 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.

Thomas Moore Thomas Moore, Curator of Chelsea Physic Garden, provided the text for an undisputed masterpiece of this form of nature-printing, The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland Nature-Printed by Henry Bradbury. Five years ago, while working at the Physic Garden, Pia Östlund discovered a copy of this book in the library. Overwhelmed by the beauty of the images, she set out to rediscover the lost technique of nature-printing.

In this book, Simon Prett traces her determined quest and her attempt to repair broken connections between art, science and engineering. The book also tells the remarkable story of nature-printing, explores the reasons for its disappearance, and shows how important things are sometimes lost in the rush of progress.

Lily nature printer The limited edition includes a signed bound-in copy of Pia’s first successful nature-print and one other tipped-in nature-print made by the same method. There is also a bound-in monoprint and a herbarium specimen and thirty-two pages of colour plates. The text consists of 176pp printed letterpress on Somerset Book mould-made paper. Covers are printed letterpress from woodblocks in three colours. The book is quarter-bound in leather. (Size: 160 x 250mm.)

Chelsea Physic Garden
66 Royal Hospital Road, London
SW3 4HS
Tel. +44(0)20 7352 5646
Chelsea Physic Garden

IMAGES:
Nature-printed Ferns by Die Staatsdruckerei Vienna © Michael Hayward
Thomas Moore’s Cool Fernery, Chelsea Physic Garden © Andrew Montgomery
Limited edition Nature-printed Oak leaf © Pia Östlund.
Nature-printed Bat by Die Staatsdruckerei, Vienna

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