Botanical drawings first appeared in print in the form of illustrated manuscripts, with the oldest surviving example dating from the sixth century. Because these were laboriously drawn and painted by hand, the manuscripts were limited in number and available to a very few; but with the advent of woodblock printing and the printing press, many more people were given the opportunity to view botanical art.

Over a span of centuries printing techniques improved, increasing the distribution of herbals, florilegia, horticultural and botanical magazines and periodicals, field guides, flora, and botanical scientific publications. Advances in printing techniques made it economically feasible for many more people to become exposed to botanical art and botanical information.

The methods for bringing botanical art into print prior to the 20th century fall into three categories:  relief, intaglio and planographic printing (the terminology refers to the physical surface on which the art is created).

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