Print genres:
Antique natural
history prints

What are natural history prints?

Before National Geographic’s photographers were able to capture the world’s flora and fauna through their lenses, artists would render plants and animal by hand. A number of European and American printers are still remembered for their scientific illustrations of botanical and animal life. Common subjects included: birds, fish, shells, butterflies and flowers.

What artists are known for natural history prints?

John James Audubon (1758-1851) is possibly one of the most household names in natural history prints. Audubon is a famous naturalist who focused on studying birds. Audubon illustrated several books in the form of colored lithographs and engravings. His book, The Birds of America was published several times but remains a treasure. Copies of the book sell for millions at auction.

The Scottish artist, Elizabeth Blackwell (1707-1758) is well remembered for her botanical illustrations and engravings. Blackwell illustrated the publication, A Curious Herbal, as a medical plant guide.

Other botanical illustrators include Alois Auer and Henry Bradbury, who used the technique, nature printing, which involved putting plants directly onto an intaglio plate to be etched.

Are natural history prints valuable?

While natural history prints were made to be educational, many collectors now appreciate them for their artistic merit. Scientific illustrators still exist today, but their drawings are not hand-printed as lithographs, etchings and engravings. Antique natural history prints are a beautiful and valuable addition to any print collection.