by Ernest Thompson Seton
Maybe this is the oldest form of flat printing, for the leaves can print
themselves if they happen to fall on a flat rock during a wet day.
I remember the joy I had as a child in making these prints --for any one can
do it. I only wish I had kept some of them, they would seem treasures to me now.
But that was before the day of Tally Books.
This is how they are made-take a sheet of ordinary paper and grease it very
well with butter or lard. Then hold this over a candle grease side down so that
the flame touches the paper-move it about quickly to keep the paper from burning
until it is everywhere smoked black.
Now lay this black paper on a flat surface, black side up, and the leaf on it--usually the under side of the leaf prints better than the
upper--cover this by
laying a clean sheet of paper on it and press or rub all over this with the
finger tips till every part of the leaf has been pressed against the black
paper. Then lift the leaf and lay it, black side down, on a clean white
sheet with a clean sheet over it. Hold it steady with one hand and press or rub
all over with the finger tips as before. Lift the leaf up by the stem and, lo!
you have a beautiful print of the leaf in permanent black ink. Add the name
and date and your trophy is ready for the Tally Book.
The easiest to print are the brambles, elm or dogwood. Ferns are always
successful. Flowers rarely so.
In making the black smoke paper it is wise to make it very black, but
there should still be enough grease to make it shiny. If there is too little
smoke the print is gray--if too much grease it smears. The same black paper will
do for many leaves, especially if the black be evened up between times by
rubbing it with the finger tips. A soft pad or sheet of blotting paper under the
leaf makes a better print.
A little practice enables any reasonably careful person to make the most exquisitely beautiful
prints--the illustrations above give some idea, but are lacking in the delicacy and' detail of the
smoke print itself.
Birch Bark Roll