Johann Konrad Gessner Swiss
Publisher Georg Jacob Vollweiler German
Not on view
"Specimens of Polyautography" contains examples of some of the first lithographs published in Britain. The process had recently been invented in Munich by Alois Senefelder, a dramatist turned printer who sought an inexpensive means to reproduce texts and music. In 1796 he experimented with relief printing from stone blocks, then discovered in 1798 that marks made on limestone with greasy inks or crayons could be printed by purely chemical means. He found that treating the surface with gum arabic and nitric acid, dusting it with resin and talc, and finally moistening it with water, allowed oily printing ink to adhere to applied marks but not to the stone. Senefelder visited London in 1800 to obtain British patents for his revolutionary process, then sold the rights in 1801 to Johann Anton André, a printer of musical scores from Offenbach am Main. Johann's brother Philipp, who lived on in London, was enlisted to set up a press and develop the new method's artistic potential. He contacted local artists and supplied them with materials to draw on lithographic stones. With the help of James Heath, sets of twelve "polyautographs" were printed and published in 1803. Two years, G. J. Vollweiller moved to London from Germany and took over the patent and press. Expanding the initial set to thirty-six prints, he issued a second edition in 1806–7. Gessner's "Cavalry Charging" was first published in 1803, but its yellow mount identifies this copy as part of Vollweiler's reissue.