essentials about Prints...

Interprétations prints
Trial proofs


[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 to home page

[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 to home page

[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.
More 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.
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[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 page

[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. | back to home page

[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. | back to home page

[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.
Professionnal associations | back to home page

[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 to home page

[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. The watermark 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.

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