[Definition] What do we call a "print"?
[from the Italian, stampa and stampare = to print]
A print is an image printed on paper by means of an engraved plate
(the matrix). The material of the plate may be copper, wood or
stone, the latter only for lithographs. After inking the plates,
proofs are printed, usually with a hand press. | back
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[Reproductions] Is all the art that we see around, such as posters,
reproductions, etc … worthy of the name print?
No of course - Only those images that fit the above definition
may be considered prints. Offset, industrial and any reproductive
images do not belong to this category. | back
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[Original prints or Interpretations] What is the difference?
An original print is the artifact of one and only one artist who
transposes and engraves on a plate his own creation. But not all
artists such as painters, designers and sculptors were able to
act in both capacities. Nevertheless, their work could still be
spread around by means of prints - thanks to other artists who
"interpreted" their works. The latter then acted as "interpreters".
Read the definition of Chambre
Syndicale de l'Estampe
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[Tools] What tools are being used?
Chisel, metal point, drill, lithographic pencil, etc … only to
mention the most important.
information | Reference
books | back to home page
[Printing] Is it possible to print a large number of copies?
Generally speaking , no. The pressure developed by the press
during printing usually ends up blunting the intaglio and relief
of the plate. After a certain number of copies, the quality
of the proofs is impaired, and they turn dull and drab. However,
during the 19th century steel plating and electrolysis technologies
were developed to make the plates more resistant and therefore
enabling an increase in the number of good prints.
to Print techniques | back to home
[Number] Exactly how many copies
can be printed?
An average edition can be anywhere from 50 to 350 copies.
[Signature and numbering] Should all prints be signed and numbered
by the artist?
This is a modern notion. Prints started to be signed and numbered
(with a pencil or a quill) by the artists, in the 1850s or early
1900s. This practice progressively became standard. It is now
the general rule. The old prints issued prior to that period were
never signed or numbered.. However, as far as specific proofs
are concerned (épreuves d'essai, d'atelier, d'artiste), hand written
annotations, such as dedications, technical notes, etc… were a
possibility.| back to home
[Margins] Should prints have margins?
In general, yes. Margin provide room for the impression, it shows
the print at its best. However, over the years, margins of some
prints may have been reduced or cut. Nowadays, regarding antique
prints from the 16th, 17 th and some 18th century , print collectors
are less demanding and may be satisfied with margins the size
of a mere rule. Except for exceptional prints, you would hardly
ever see any impressions with wide margins from artists such as
Dürer, Rembrandt or Callot. Most of the time , the margin size
is only 0.5 to 2.5 centimeters (about 1/4 to 1 inch). On the other
hand, for 19th century pieces and a fortiori for 20th century,
it is advisable that the margins remain the size they were at
the time of printing. A print cut inside the composition or at
the edges is in most cases only of value as a document. |
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[Preservation] Should prints be in good state of preservation?
Yes, it is highly desirable. The state of preservation, the freshness
of a print play a large role in its price. An item that is crumpled,
torn or stained has very little interest except if you consider
a restoration that in most cases would turn out to be very expensive.
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[Price] Are prints expensive?
The price of a print, as for any artifact in general depends on,
the artist's fame, the subject matter, the size, the state of
preservation, but also - and this is specific to prints only -
the state of impression. As usual , the law of supply and demand
regulates the market. Thus prints from little known regional artists
may be bought for a few hundred French Francs. Small prints often
extracted from travel books, botanical dictionaries, etc… may
be found for 200 to 500 FF (30 to 70 US$). On the other hand,
prices will be much more substantial for artists who, in their
own way influenced the history of printing or belonged to schools
or art movements. From 10.000FF to 50.000FF ( 1,350 to 6,650 US$
) for an original print from Dürer or Rembrandt, much more if
it is a major piece. From 50 to 100.000FF (6,650 to 13,500 US$)
for a Picasso - just as an exemple of different periods. If you
want to figure out the value of an artist's work, you need to
use valuable tools such as public auctions and print galleries
catalogues as well as price listing directories - the latter usually
available in main public libraries.
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[Professionnal associations] Are there any professional print
dealers associations ?
Yes, of course. There are two, made up of some dealers who accept
and share the same deontology codes. They agree on a common charter
to protect the printing business and they commit themselves to
providing their customers with exhaustive information regarding
prints for sale.
associations | back
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[Epreuve d'état / Trial proofs] What do we mean by trial poofs?
The trial poofs are in some way the memory of the different stages
in the making of the print. The artist, while working on a matrix,
from modification to modification, and after each successive bite
of acid can at any time, pull one or many trial proofs from the
plate to judge the results. Those "in-between" proofs before the
final edition are called trial proofs. It is obvious, since they
are only printed in a limited number, that they are much scarcer
than those from the final edition. Besides they also represent
the artist's first drafts and as such are highly sought after
by collectors. Those Epreuve d'état are also more commonly called
Epreuve d'atelier or Epreuve d'essai. | back
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[Papers] Are they different depending on the period?
How can we distinguish them? To provide a short definition about
papers, we'll simply group them into two categories:
Antique laid papers
, made on a frame, from vegetal fibers
( flax, hemp,..) or textile fibers (rags,.). Their main characteristic
is an irregular woof of criss-crossed lines (called vergeures
and pontuseaux) . This woof , due to the brass threads stretched
on the frame where the paper paste dries up, can easily be seen
through transparency. To make it easier, we can say that that
sort of paper has been used right from the beginning of printmaking
(mid-15th century) until the end of the 18th century, when the
first modern paper appeared. Modern, or industrial papers
are made out of wooden paste. Among them, we can mention vellum
paper / wove paper (vélin )
which main characteristic is to
be regular and rather smooth. Modern laid paper of which the woof
(criss-crossed lines can be seen through transparency) resembles
that of antique laid papers, except that it is very regular and
sharp. In closing this brief summary, just a word about watermarks.
was the manufacturer's brand name for the
paper mills. It is still used by today's big papermakers. It often
is a valuable tool for establishing date and identification.