The original Nonesuch Press Electro plate for Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne, 1938
Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne was printed by The Nonesuch Press’s in Glasgow in 1938. This is the original electro, (copper plated stereo) from which the illustration was printed. An electro is a plated metal block used by printers where the edition numbers were too high for printing from a woodblock. Even a stereo had a limited lifespan, (the successive printing eventually resulting in loss of definition) – copper was used to increase the usable life of the block.
Since its publication in 1789, Gilbert White’s Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne inspired generations of artists, writers and naturalists. From Thomas Bewick to Eric Ravilious and Clare Leighton, many artists’ depictions of animals, birds and wildlife have illustrated White’s celebrated book, together providing a microcosm of natural history illustration from the eighteenth century until today.
White’s magnum opus was the subject of a publication and exhibition, written and curated by Simon Martin in 2021