The difficulties of retaining color and shape in marine invertebrate specimens preserved in alcohol led the Blaschkas to turn to book illustrations as models for their early work. The illustrations in these books were lithographed, drawn on a smooth limestone surface and printed from the stone. This process was much faster than engraving an image on a metal plate and thus lowered the cost of producing an illustrated book. Lithography enabled publishers to print affordable illustrated books, which greatly increased their popularity.
For his initial group of sea anemones, Leopold used the illustrations in Phillip Gosse's Actinologia Britannica: A History of British Sea Anemones and later used A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast by the same author as a source. An influential English naturalist, Gosse was an early popularizer of the marine aquarium, a structure made possible by the recent availability of inexpensive plate glass. In this book, Gosse describes how marine creatures can be kept alive in water oxygenated by seaweed and writes that he had successfully preserved marine animals this way for 11 months---a feat previously believed impossible. The new popularity of aquariums focused attention on marine invertebrates and doubtlessly helped to create a demand for the Blaschkas' glass models.