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Principally known as the inventor of lithography, b. at Prague, 6 Nov., 1771; d. at Munich, 26 February, 1834. His father, an actor at the Royal Theatre of Munich, was playing at Prague at the time of the birth of his son. The young Senefelder studied at Munich, and received a scholarship of 120 florins a year for his diligence, which enabled him to study jurisprudence at Ingolstadt. The death of his father in 1791 forced him to cease his studies in order to help support his mother and a family of eight sisters and brothers. After attempting to become an actor, he took up dramatic writing, at which he was at first fairly successful. Because of difficulty in finding a publisher, he tried to devise means for printing his productions himself, and began a series of experiments with etching and copper-plates until he discovered, in 1796, that Kilheim lime-stone could be used for the purpose. He soon found that etching was not necessary, owing to the fact that grease and water do not mix. By his method the marking is done upon the stone with a greasy composition of soap, wax, and lamp-blark, and then the plate is washed over with water, which soaks into the unmarked parts of the stone. The printing ink is I then applied and | adheres only to the marked places, while the water protects the rest of the plate; a number of impressions can then be obtained. This process he called "chemical" printing. The numerous improvements and developments of the art made by him were rewarded in later years by the gold medal of the "Society of Encouragement" of England, the highest medal of the "Polytechnische Verein fur Baiern", the gold honorary medal of the order for Civilverdienst of the Bavarian Crown, and various other prizes.
In spite of great financial difficulties, continued discouragement, and repeated disappointments, he remained unselfishly devoted to high ideals. In his autobiography (introduction to "Lehrbuch") he expresses the desire that his invention "may bring to mankind manifold benefits and may tend to raise it upon a nobler plane, but may never be misused for an evil purpose. May the Almighty grant this! Then blessed be the hour in which I made my invention!" His principal publication was "Vollstandiges Lehrbuch der Steindruckerei" (Munich and Vienna, 1818). This was translated into French (Paris, 1819), English (London, 1819), and Italian (Naples, 1824).
ENGELMANN, Lithographie (Leipsig, 1843); NAGLER, Aloys Senefelder and Simon Schmidt als Rivalen (Munich, 1862); SCHLOTKE, Senefelder Album (Hamburg, l871); PFEILSCHMIDT, Aloys Senefelder (Dresden, 1877); RICHMOND, Grammar of Lithography (London, 1885); HOLLAND, Allg. Deutsche Biogr. XXXIV (Leipzig, 1892), 8-23: PENNELL, Lithography and Lithographers (London, 1900); CUMMINGS, Handbook of Lithography (New York, 1904).