Editions – For Printmaking and Art Photography

In Printmaking and Art Photography there has been a long standing tradition to “edition” the prints. There is a good reason for this which shows up in the history of printmaking and is carried on into more modern processes like photography.

Back in history, etching and other printmaking processes were one way an image could be distributed to the masses, people could see scenes drawn by Artists and Illustrators from other parts of the world for instance and thus a simple post card was born. Often these would be grouped together to form a range of scenes e.g. of a city. This was long before Photography.

Along the way Artists needed to have some measure of control over the number of prints made, as the image on a metal plate can wear down and quality lost. To ensure the integrity of their name and the quality of the image they would edition the ‘good prints’. If an assistant wanted to create more prints to sell on the ‘side’ the print would not have had the number and signature from the Artist.

Another point to add is the print often takes a number of runs through the press before the plate fully reveals the full image. The Artist should then select the best set of prints from a printing run to ensure the edition is equal in image quality. All other prints can then be discarded.

In the process the prints are numbered and signed. If their are 25 prints that were equal in final quality, then the edition would be 25 so each print is then assigned a number, ideally in the order they were printed. Therefore 1/25 – 2/25 and so forth.

In the process of printing there can be an initial ‘top quality’ print which sets the standard by which the other prints are compared to to check they match this quality. this print is then call the  “Bon å tirer” which is French for “Good to Print”. Often the initials bat are used where the edition number would go at the bottom of the print on the left hand side and can be signed as well to show they have approved it.

The Artist can also create other prints in the Edition one example is an Artists Proof, often a print the Artist keeps for their own collection, or sometimes given to an Assistant or the Publisher. This is signified as A/P in place of the number on the bottom left of the print.

The notion of creating an edition has also been used in Photography as a negative or digital image can be reproduced multiple times, to ensure the value of the finished art work using an editioning process ensure the investor/collector is assured no other ‘copies’ will be created, therefore maintaining the value of the work.

Printing studios or Publishing houses can also add a ‘chop’ to the final edition, this is an embossed symbol of the printers ‘mark’. This can add to the validity of the quality of the printed edition.


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