It’s official: Sea-Weed is Not Dull. Impediment to swimming I know thee well, but how little I knew thee till I saw thee nature-printed.
Johnstone, William Grosart & Alexander Croall. The Nature-Printed British Sea-Weeds: A History, accompanied by figures and dissections, of the algæ of the British Isles. Four volumes. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1859-1860.
Nature-printing is transacted by placing a flattish specimen (sea-weed, fern, lace) between a steel plate and a lead plate, rolling the two together and stereotyping the lead plate. The result: detail and fidelity, especially to the size of the original specimen (which can hardly be helped). As a result, the plates are raised in the exact proportion of the specimen itself.
Henry Bradbury at the age of twenty-four adapted (adopted?) the process from Alois Auer, who was forever bitter that he was plagiarized (though there are XIIIc examples of nature-printing…). At twenty-nine, in the year the final volumes of The Nature-Printed British Sea-Weeds appeared, Bradbury committed suicide, despairing of the stain to his name. The death of its prime mover and the huge cost of the process limited the number of books printed with the technique to perhaps half a dozen within England. The polychromy and the range of textures in the prints is staggering. Sit Bradbury terra levis.
Quarto (9 7/16” x 6 3/16”, 240mm x 156mm).
Vol. I: a4 b4 B-AA4 BB2 [$1]. 102 leaves, pp. i-ix x-xii xiii xiv-xv, blank, 1 2-188 [= xvi, 188]. 71 plates.
Vol. II: a4 b2 B-CC4 DD2 [$1]. 108 leaves, pp. , blank i-vii viii-ix, blank, 1 2-203, blank [= ii, x, 204]. 69 plates.
Vol. III: a4 b2 B-CC4 [$1].106 leaves, pp. i-vii viii ix x-xi, blank, 1 2-200 [= xii, 200]. 54 plates.
Vol. IV: a4 b4 B-SS4 TT2 [$1]. 170 leaves, pp. i-vii viii ix x-xiv xv, blank, 1 2-324 [= xvi, 324]. 26 plates.