ArH Internship Week 9: A Brief History on Printing

Bleh. So, I wrote two blog posts yesterday, yet still it took me this long to get this blog post done for my school. I don’t why this is happening, it’s really dumb. I should just get all my school projects done at the beginning of the week before doing other projects like the Van Gogh or Lenten projects.


So, this week, I wrapped up more print works. I realized that in my blog post last week, I talked about the prints I’ve been preserving, but not anything about the history of lithographs, prints, or anything like that. I figured, since I got caught up in all my other classes, that this would be as good of any time to do this.

Even though printing has been around for centuries and believed to have originated from Ancient China with the earliest known print piece found in Shaanxi, China created back in 618-907.(1) This was a woodblock printing. More famously, in Germany, Johann Gutenburg invented a complex typing printing machine in 1455. I actually remember as a small child doing a presentation on Johann Gutenburg. As interesting as Gutenburg’s invention was, Alois Senefelder’s story was moving.

Alois Senefelder, also from Germany, was an artist who lost his funding and support after

Alois Senefelder (1771-1834)

his father’s death. He tried, with no success, to gain a living as an actor, then he finally got a job in a printing workshop. He worked hard on a play he wrote and, again, found little success in getting it published. At this time, printing plates were very expensive, so he tried to make his own printing blocks to publish the play himself with little success.

It just so happened that he was writing his laundry list on a piece of paper on a lithograph stone, but when he looked under his list, he found the impression and discovered that by continuing to etch on the stone he could create a new, much cheaper form of printing. Finally, after failing again and again, he found a way to not only publish his own play on much less expensive level, but was asked to teach lithograph printing to musicians and other people seeking to print their works for a much cheaper price.

Yes. This man is my new hero.

Now, here are the things I wrapped up today:


Above are prints of animals, but the prints here below are a little closer to home. According to the information page in the Old Days portfolio, these were a series of prints that were made in the 1980’s during Willamette River crisis and the prints inside were reimaginings of the wilderness before it was inhabited by humans.

(1)Pan, Jixing. “On the Origin of Printing in the Light of New Archaeological Discoveries,” in Chinese Science Bulletin, 1997, Vol. 42, No. 12: 976–981. ISSN 1001-6538. Pages 979–980.


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