In the early 18th century, the American colonials were awash with both paper currency and its twin: counterfeit bills. Benjamin Franklin became a proponent of using leafs prints in currency as an anti-counterfeiting measure. Duplicating a leaf print is difficult not just because the resulting patterns are so complex, but because the original leaf is destroyed in the process. Franklin’s innovation, then, is that he shifts the burden of counterfeiting from copying the content of a note to discerning and iterating the process of its reproduction—even as that very process prevents the thing, the leaf, from ever being reproduced in the same way again. In this, we can see a kind of environmental nationalism: authority inheres not in the material substance of the paper itself but rather in the land that prints it and it printed upon it.
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