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Natural History Prints
Natural history prints involve the study of animals, plants, insects, geology and other observations of the environment and its inhabitants. Natural historians have been recording their observations since ancient Greek, Roman, and medieval times, but it was not until the European Renaissance that printmaking and natural history subjects became linked.
Scientists began studying directly from nature, and the rise of engraving and woodblock printmaking for book illustration was useful for this practice. The symbiotic relationship between printmaking and the natural sciences continued for practical purposes well into the 19th century with the illustrations of scientists like the ornithologists John Gould and John Audubon, and the naturalist Edward Lear.
John and Elizabeth Gould travelled to Australia and Tasmania, observing birds in nature, collecting specimens and publishing extensively collections of hand colored lithographs. In 1832, at the age of 19, Edward Lear published his first book on parrots in lushly hand-colored lithographs, and a lifetime of scientific illustration and printing followed. Today, artists create natural history prints in the distinctive style of Audubon, Gould, and Lear for decorative purposes.
The most notable illustrated book on botany, a natural history subject involving the study of plants, was illustrated and printed from woodcut prints by the German scientist Leonhard Fuchs in 1542
Between 1551 and 1558, Conrad Gessner published Historiae Animalium, a four-volume work featuring hand-colored woodcut prints, and the first attempt to dispel erroneous information about the natural animal world
John Gould's illustrations of bird specimens brought back from the Galapagos islands were published in the late 1830s, containing hand colored lithographs of birds that Gould determined were a new species of finch