• Botanical History: Patents or Plagiarism?

    Kimberly Glassman

    Henry Bradbury (1829-1860) was an English writer on printing techniques and is best known for bringing nature printing to England. The nature printing technique he ‘introduced’ into from Vienna consisted of pressing a leafy specimen onto a thin, soft lead plate, leaving an intaglio impression with very fine detail.

    Unlike with relief printing (where the work is printed from the raised parts of the surface), intaglio prints are printed from the recessed areas of the printing surface. The item would then be placed between two metal plates and an enormous pressure exerted upon it. This force impressed an exact copy of the object into the metal plate. Reproductions of this metal plate would then be made by electrotyping, from which finely detailed prints of the original item could then be produced.
    Peppermint plant prints.
    Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria): flowering stem. Colour nature print by H. Bradbury.
    In the early 1850s Bradbury spent some months studying at the Staatsdruckerei, the Austrian Imperial Printing Office in Vienna, whose director at that time was printer and illustrator Alois Auer (1813-1869). While Auer patented the nature printing technique in 1852, upon Bradbury’s return to England, Bradbury made some enhancements to Auer's technique which he then patented.
    Dog's mercury (Mercurialis perennis): flowering plant with roots. Colour nature print by H. Bradbury.
    Tilia x vulgaris 4 leaves, printed in black and two shades of green.
    As Bradbury’s work came out in 1854, Auer accused Bradbury of plagiarism and called him a liar and a dishonest drunk. Reaching a dark end, after being accused of plagiarism by Auer, Bradbury took his own life by drinking acid.