35. Lithography Stone

Serena Smith, Postgraduate Researcher

Cut from sedimented beds first deposited 150 million years ago, this fragment of limestone was quarried from mines near the town of Solnhofen in Bavaria.

Used for centuries in the construction industries, in 1796 when local playwright Alois Senefelder invented stone lithography it became a highly prized resource for the printing industries; consequential mining activity at Solnhofen led to the discovery of Archeaopteryx Lithographica, the flighted dinosaur that gave substance to theories of evolution.

When used as a printing matrix, Senefelder discovered that greasy marks made on the surface could be printed, provided that the stone was kept damp whilst being rolled with oil-based ink. Transforming the speed of print production, its particularly fine and even geological structure enabled detailed information to be reproduced economically. For Beethoven the invention of stone lithography was instrumental, enabling the complex configurations of his handwritten manuscripts to be accurately transcribed, printed, published, and played.

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