Botanical printing began as a means of recording different plant species in nature. Farmers and various horticultural societies were the drivers of printing. Through these vividly colorful depictions, the history of science in nature is explored. Not only hailed significant by botanists, agriculturalists, and plant-lovers in general, but those with an appreciation for printing techniques have also revered botanical printing as an art form.
Short history of botanical printing
First appearing in Europe in the late 16th to early 17th century, botanical printing became a common practice in the United States over one hundred years later in the mid-18th century. Botanical prints were produced lithographically or with intaglio methods of engraving, etching or stippling onto a metal plate for printing. Earlier prints were lower quality but as printing methods improved, so did the quality.
Charles M. Hovey
Smithsonian magazine recounts the history of Charles M. Hovey's botanical illustrations in an article titled How to Trademark a Fruit, which is where the inspiration for this post comes from. Hovey was the owner and operator of a plant nursery in Cambridge, Mass. during the mid-1800s who documented the varieties of fruit crops that began in the United States as a result of natural cross-pollination with imported plants and trees from Europe.
His depictions were not only a representation of national pride - breeding created new native plants in the country - but also a protection of intellectual property. That's right. Intellectual property...of fruits. Who knew? A competitive agricultural market drove the need to identify particular crops in order to protect them from other farmers.
Charles Hovey bred his own notable fruit crop: seedling strawberry.
Uses for botanical prints
•Record of natural history
•Preservation of intellectual property
Botanical prints were often scientific in recording natural history. Identification of plants for medicinal purposes was also made easier with these graphic depictions. However, coupled with the lower quality of early images, problems arose preparing medicine because it was not clear what the plant was from its illustration.
Below is one example of the post subject that I hope you enjoy this morning.