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Deutsches Technikmuseum - March

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

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Exhibit of the Month March 2014

Photo: On the white stone is the image of the four-storey railway station, seen from the front. The name "Potsdamer Bahnhof" is written in mirror-reversed lettering.

Lithographic Stone made of Solnhofen limestone © SDTB / C. Kirchner

Lithographic Stone with a Potsdam Train Station Motif

The piece displayed this month is a Solnhofen limestone that was used in the production of lithographs. The image is of the now defunct Potsdamer Bahnhof (train station) in Berlin which was located at the present-day Potsdamer Platz.

"Printing with stone" has been called lithography since 1805 – although its inventor, Alois Senefelder (1771-1834), initially called the process "chemical printing".

Stone Printing - the first Planographic Printing Process

Invented in 1797, the technique of stone printing joined letterpress and intaglio printing as a further method and is known as the first planographic (flat) printing process. It is considered to be one of printing technology’s three greatest inventions alongside Johannes Gutenberg’s movable type (ca. 1450) and Friedrich Koenig’s high-speed printing press (from 1812). As early as the middle of the 1830s, its importance as a reproduction technology began to wane as zinc plate printing and, later, offset printing superseded it. In planographic printing, the positive image and the negative image of a template are on the same plane and are only distinguished by physicochemical properties.

Photo: Portal of the historical Berlin Potsdamer Bahnhof, designed in Italian style with an avant-corps in the middle. Right in front biedermeier fashioned sauntering pedestrians.

Detail of the Lithographic Stone / Zoom

The image or text is drawn mirror-reversed with a fat or oil-based medium on a polished, moist and chemically prepared stone. Because of the mutual repulsion of oil and water, only the areas of the once again moistened stone that were treated with the original fatty medium will accept the oily printer’s ink as it is rolled over the stone. The final print is produced by pressing a sheet of paper on the stone.

Lithography made the uncomplicated reproduction of texts and pictures possible for the first time. For this reason, Senefelder is sometimes described as the “second Gutenberg”. Germany was the European centre of lithography from 1797 till the end of the 19th century and served as the original source of its spreading popularity. Nowhere were more printing shops and downstream processing establishments to be found than in Berlin.