Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Alois Senefelder: An Actor, Playwright…and Inventor

The man behind the printing technique of lithography is Alois Senefelder. Initially, Senefelder was an actor and playwright. He had a love for theater, but acting wasn’t really his forte. He did, however, become successful as a writer. His most notable play was the Connoisseur of Girls.

Senefelder discovered lithography when he encountered problems in printing his play Mathilde von Altenstein. He was in huge debts at that time that he was forced to look for an alternative way to cut down the printing cost. He tried experimenting using a greasy, acid resistant ink to etch the play on a fine-grained Solnhofen limestone. Instead of using copper, which is much costly than limestone, he practiced his engravings on slabs of Bavarian limestone. To correct his mistakes while engraving, he used a mixture of soap, wax, lampblack, and rainwater. Limestone and the “correction” mixture then became the primary components of lithography.    

Senefelder preferred to call his invention chemical printing primarily because the process is based on a chemical principle. Since he discovered lithography, he devoted his entire life to it to further develop and refine the process. In 1817, he created the working model of a lithographic printing press and developed the paper printing plates which replaced the bulky limestone. His remarkable invention earned him the Bavarian Royal Inspector of Lithography title given to him by the King of Bavaria in 1809. He died in 1834, but he was able to see his invention become successful as it was adopted both in art print making and pictorial reproduction before he passed away.

1 comment:

  1. I see. So he's the man behnd it. Although I had wished he didn't left his writing carreer, I'm still greatful he did. We could not have experienced the benefits of his works in the industry.