Alois Senefelder, German inventor of lithography, c1810.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 23cm x 32cm

Alois Senefelder, German inventor of lithography, c1810.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Lithograph by Maclure & Macdonald, 1874, copied from a portrait from life. Senefelder (1771-1834) invented lithography in 1796 while attempting to devise a cheap method for printing his plays. He discovered that Kilheim lime-stone, a highly porous stone, would absorb markings made with a greasy substance. After sketching a design, he washed the surface with water, which soaked into the stone but was repelled by the marked areas. He then applied a printing ink made of soap, wax, oil and lampblack which adhered only to the marked areas. By presing a sheet of paper against the stone he gained a clear copy of the design. He called this proces chemical printing, making various modifications and improvents to it, before publishing his findings in 1818.

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