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The E-Sylum:  Volume 3, Number 39, September 24, 2000, Article 10

EARLY NATURE PRINTING REFERENCES 

   In response to last week's question, George Kolbe, who 
   always seems to know everything about anything in numismatic 
   literature, sent the following note in response to the question 
   about references on nature printing: 

   "Lot 447 in Bass 3 provides, I think, some interesting information. 
   Incidentally, it sold for $2100. The lot description follows: 

   Bradbury, Henry. NATURE-PRINTING: ITS ORIGINS 
   AND OBJECTS. A LECTURE AS DELIVERED AT THE 
   ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN, ALBEMARLE 
   STREET, ON FRIDAY EVENING, MAY 11, 1855. SIR 
   CHARLES FELLOWS, VICE-PRESIDENT, IN THE 
   CHAIR.  London: Printed by Bradbury and Evans, Whitefriars, 
   1856. 28 pages. 

   (bound with) Bradbury, Henry. NATUR-SELBST-DRUCK: 
   SEINEN URSPRUNG UND ZWECKEN.  EIN VORTRAG 
   VOR DER ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN, 
   ALBEMARLE STREET AN DEM ABENDE VON FREITAG 
   DEN 11TEN MAI, 1855, VORGELESEN. SIR CHARLES 
   FELLOWS, VICE-PRÄSIDENT, VORSITZENDER. London: 
   Verlag von Bradbury und Evans, Whitefriars, 1856. 20 pages. 

   (bound with) Bradbury, Henry. ON THE SECURITY AND 
   MANUFACTURE OF BANK NOTES. A LECTURE AS 
   DELIVERED AT THE ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT 
   BRITAIN, ALBEMARLE STREET, FRIDAY EVENING, 
   MAY 9, 1856. HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF 
   NORTHUMBERLAND, PRESIDENT, IN THE CHAIR. 
   London: Printed by Bradbury and Evans, Whitefriars, Printers 
   and Bank Note Engravers, 1856. (6), 30 pages, 3 superbly- 
   engraved bank note facsimile plates, one printed in two colors. 
   Quarto: 28 x 21.5 cm. Original dark maroon-brown full 
   morocco, sides intricately paneled in gilt and blind, flat spine 
   lettered in gilt, board edges decorated in gilt, gilt inner 
   dentelles, recased at some time, with new endsheets, 
   extremities a trifle worn. Fine.     (1,500.00) 

   The author was the son of William Bradbury, of the firm of 
   Bradbury & Evans, who were the proprietors of Punch, 
   founder of the Daily News and other major periodicals, and 
   publishers for Dickens and Thackeray.  Born in 1831, he entered 
   as a pupil in the Imperial Printing Office of Vienna in 1850, where 
   he became acquainted with the art of nature printing. He 
   subsequently employed the process in London.  He also paid 
   great attention to bank notes and the security of paper money. 
   Bradbury wrote several works of considerable merit, 
   culminating in 1860 with his magnum opus, Specimens of Bank 
   Note Engraving . The above works are prominently cited in the 
   complete title of that volume. 

   Tragically, as noted in the Dictionary of National Biography, 
   "He died by his own hand 2 Sept. 1860, aged 29, leaving a 
   business he had founded which was carried on under the name 
   of Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co." Up to the present time, the 
   Bradbury firm continues as a major banknote printer. 

   The first title is dedicated by Bradbury to Alois Auer, Director 
   of the Imperial Court and Government Printing-Office at Vienna, 
   "in memory of his sojourn at Vienna, and studies in the 
   establishment over which he resides." Nonetheless, Bradbury 
   boldly chastises Auer in the text for improperly claiming to have 
   discovered the process of nature-printing, though he credits the 
   Imperial Printing-Office at Vienna for bringing it to "a practical 
   state of perfection." Bradbury cites a 1572 work as containing 
   "the first recorded hint as to taking impressions of plants" and 
   mentions that instructions are given in de Moncoy's 1650 Journal 
   des Voyages. He also notes that "Linnaeus, in his Philosophia 
   Botanica, relates that in America, in 1707, impressions of plants 
   were made by Hessel." 

   The dénouement comes on pages 26 et sequentia, where 
   Bradbury excoriates the dedicatee of the work, Alois Auer, 
   and accords high praise to this volume's recipient, Paul Pretsch: 
   "First, it is evident, that, in more circumstances than one, 
   Councillor Auer, who has arrogated to himself the sole discovery 
   of Nature-Printing, has given proof of a selfish and unfair desire 
   to aggrandise himself at the expense of others: his passion for 
   fame has led him even beyond the warrantable bounds of 
   propriety " 

   And, of working manager Pretsch, Bradbury writes that Auer 
   owes to him "much of his present high position by reason of 
   energetical and practical and even scientific capability." 

   The German translation, "Natur-Selbst-Druck," appears to 
   confirm the success of his linguistic studies in Vienna as well. 
   The final title present here is of special interest to numismatists. 
   It is a very detailed account of the technology at the time and 
   the author's recommendations to curb the counterfeiting of 
   bank notes. 

   Though "beautiful as their execution is," he is critical of 
   American bank notes and also relates the following: "Whilst 
   making reference to the American Notes, I will allude to a 
   circumstance that would most puzzle the ingenuity, in 
   reference to the prevention of forgery. The fact of America 
   being divided into so many States, and each State being 
   represented by a different note, the forgers did not think it 
   worth their while to imitate any one, and therefore concocted 
   a note of their own." 

   All three of these publications appear to be extremely rare - 
   it is the first time we have handled any of them. The author's 
   presentation inscription coupled with the patently inappropriate 
   dedication in the first two titles makes this volume all the more 
   desirable as the combination may provide insight into the 
   mental instability leading to their brilliant author's regrettable 
   early demise." 

   [Editor's note: the lot description has been edited for inclusion 
   in The E-Sylum; refer to the catalog for full details. 

   That "Bradbury wrote several works of considerable merit" 
   before his death at age 29 is quite an accomplishment, and 
   enough to make the rest of us feel like slackers.  As the 
   satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer once said, "When Mozart 
   was my age, he'd been dead for two years..."] 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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