nicholas nicola etchings


editions   (before artists proof)

Before I consider Artists Proof the subject of editioning should be considered.

1. From my reading it seems that print editions (re: limited editions) became a common procedure to create 'artificial rarity' only in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Previously, a print was available to be reproduced until the plate wore out.  

2. When a printmaker produces - lets say - twenty etchings from the same plate - we call this an edition of twenty. Underneath the print it is recorded which etching was printed first out of the twenty; then the second; then the third and so on; thus you will see 1/20; 2/20; 3/20 until you arrive at 20/20. 

3.The art market will generally place a higher value on the  first registered print and least value on the last. Apart from being uniquely the first print in the edition the first print is also produced when the plate is in its most pristine state; the twentieth print will be produced from a plate which may have some wear and tear; be a little worn down etc; although this is usually very slight, still the plate is not as perfect as when the first image was made. However, the commercial value of all the prints is markedly increased if the plate is ruined and no more prints can be done.  20 unique prints will each have a value much higher than say an edition of 200 prints from the same plate. 

scoring the plate - cancellation

To assure the high unique value of the 20 prints the plate is ruined by scoring i.e. premeditatively inscibing a scratch across the plate so there is no way the image can again be reproduced. This is the cancellation of the plate.  Personally, I view the plate itself as a work of art so if there is to be any exclusivity it would be preferable if the plate was simply stored in a secure place rather than permanently scarred. I do not score my plates.

artists' proof A/P


1. A/P refers to the practice that before a printmaker actually does an edition he or she may do a few prints to see what it is like and perhaps make a few changes. When an individual print is made and is kept the printmaker will usually scribe A/P under the etching to say it is a 'one-off'' rather than being one of an edition. An official edition deliberately restricts the number of available prints. 

3.In any case most etchings can often be  printed many times before any real difference in the uniform quality of them can be detected by the naked eye.  

print state/s

Each time the plate is changed it is called a new state; thus a plate may go through a few states before the printmaker is satisfied that the plate is ready for editioning. Although some printmakers may also make an edition of each state before working further on the plate. (In fact, a plate may never even 'arrive' at a final state).   


Further remarks on editioning

Consider the following paragraph. (The source follows):

Limited edition              

                                        The practice of limiting the number of impressions of a print in order to create an artificial rarity for the benefit of the collector. Often the impressions are signed and numbered by the artist; a number such as 6/20 indicates that the impression was the sixth in an edition of twenty impressions. In the early days of printmaking editions, were not limited: so long as demand continued the plate was used until it wore out. The limited edition is a relatively recent development, dating only from last quarter of the nineteenth century. When the edition is complete the plate or block is often destroyed or defaced. The scratching of lines across a plate to indicate the end of its use is known as cancelling.*


*Page 6. Paul Goldman. Looking at Prints  A GUIDE TO TECHNICAL TERMS. 1981. The Trustees of the British Museum.


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