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Thomas Moore (1821-1887)

Thomas Moore (1821-1887) (author)
John Lindley (editor)
Nature Printed Ferns from The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland
Henry Bradbury/Bradbury & Evans, London: 1855-57
Nature printed
From the early fifteenth century onwards experiments with making prints from pressed leaves and flowers were conducted.  The first ventures into this technique were relatively simple with the specimen inked and paper laid upon it.  Pressure was then applied by hand to gain an impression.  This rather crude method was advanced and perfected during the nineteenth century by the Imperial Printing Office in Vienna.  Plants were now passed under pressure between a lead and a steel plate and an electrotype made, on the lead plate, from the impression.  It was this innovative technique that Thomas Moore chose for the creation of the plates in his splendid book, Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland.

Henry Bradbury was the eldest son of William Bradbury of Bradbury & Evans, and had learnt of nature-printing (the technique of taking impressions from leaves, plants, or other life-forms and manufacturing a printing-plate from this impression) whilst studying at the Imperial Printing Office in Vienna, where Alois Auer, the director, had patented the process with his associate Andreas Worring in October 1852. Bradbury returned to London where he patented an improved version of the process (without, according to Auer, sufficiently acknowledging his indebtedness to Auer and Worring; Lindley does, however, record their contribution in his preface to this work).

The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland was first issued in 17 monthly parts between June 1855 and September 1856. The text by Thomas Moore (curator of the Chelsea botanic garden and co-editor of Gardener's Chronicle) was edited by the eminent botanist and horticulturist Lindley. Although The Fernswas preceded by Bradbury's A Few Leaves from the Newly-Invented Process of Nature-Printing (1854), which he considered an advertisement, The Ferns was the first substantial nature-printed books published in Britain, and is described in Lindley's preface as 'the first English attempt at applying Nature-Printing to Botanical Science'.

The plates were produced for Moore by Henry Bradbury and are the finest example of nature-printing available.  Indeed, Thomas Moore's book heralded a craze for ferns during the nineteenth century perhaps because of the exquisite delicacy of the images projected.