Glossary of Printmaking Terms


Rating the Condition of the Prints

Pristine – Print appears new or almost new; new from artist

ExcellentMaybe minor flaws in the paper texture, considering the age of the item. Usually rated at A+ to A-.

Very GoodSome minor flaws noted in the border areas only. Usually rated B+ to B-.

GoodMost areas are in average condition, given the age of the item. Rated C+ to C-

Fair– Acceptable print that may have some signs of foxing or handling but that can be perfectly presented when matted. 

PoorThe item contains major defects in the paper, etc. We don’t offer any of these on the site 

Printmaking Terms

À la poupée:  A print à la poupée uses colored ink which is applied directly to a plate's surface and worked into the appropriate area of the design using cotton daubs called dolliesor in French, poupee. The colored print is the result of a single printing operation.  Up to 10 different colors can be worked into the plate, pulling a single print from each inking.

Abbreviations: Here is a list of some of the most common abbreviations found on prints, usually at the bottom.

  1. (circa)– about
    (capitulum)– chapter
    cf. (confer)– compare
    col. – coloured
    cum privil- “Sadelerexc.“ and„Cumprivil. S.C.M.“ i.e. „Sac. Caes. Maje. [Sculptor]“
    del., delt., delin. (delineavit, delineaverunt)– drawn by; Means "drew". The name following will be the artist's who who did the drawing that the print reproduces.
    dir., direx. (direxit, direxerunt)– engraved under the supervision of
    ed. – edition
    e. g. (exempli gratia)– for example
    Eng., Engd. - Means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver. Indicated by engrav., engr., sculp., sc., sculpsit, sec., fecit., fec., incidente, incidit,
    exc., excud. (excudit, excuderunt)– printed by, or engraved and printed by
    f.– florins
    fasc.– fascicle, fascicles; a separately published instalment of a book or other printed work.
    fe., fec., F., fect., fecit, fac., faciebat (fecit, fecerunt) – made by; Means "made" or "did". Not a precisely used term, but often means the person drew the image and made the printing plate.
    fig. (figs.)– figure (figures)
    fl.– flourished
    fol.– folio
    fold. – foldedfront.– frontispiece, frontispieces

i. e. (id est) – that is (to say)
imp. (impressit, impresserunt, imprimé, imprimerie) – printed by, printing establishment; Means “printed”, usually with a rolling press. The name following will be the printer’s.
in lap (in lapidem)– on stone by
In., inc., invt., inventit, inventor– invented, inventor, or designed.
lit. (lith.)– lithographed by
no. (nos.)– number (numbers)
numb.– numbered
obl. – oblong
p. (pp.)– page (pages)
phot.– photographic
photograv. – photogravure
pinx. Pinxt., pxt. (pinxit, pinxerunt)– painted by
pl.– plate (plates)
q.v. (quod vide)– which see
sc., sculp. (sculpsit, sculpserunt) – engraved by
seqq. (sequentia)– and the following
ser.– series
s. l. (sine loco)– without place
suppl.– supplement, supplements, supplementary
text-fig. (text-figs.) – text-figure (text-figures)
uncol.– uncoloured
unnumb.– unnumbered
vol. (vols.)– volume (volumes)

Acid Burn: Brown discoloration on paper, resulting from acidic matting or mounting materials.

Acid-free Paper:  Paper made from pulp containing little or no acid so it resists deterioration from age. Also called alkaline paper, archival paper.

Acid Free Paper: Paper or paperboard product in which the acidic content of the fibres used to form the paper, has been neutralised. Paper made with cotton fibres is acid free; paper made with wood pulp is not. (Rag mat & rag board are cotton-based.)

Adhesive Failure: Occurs when the adhesive deteriorates to the point of collapse. Can be found in works on paper (e.g., prints that have been mounted or collaged).

a.f., aq., aquaforti:  Means "aquaforti" in Latin, which is nitric acid. This was used to etch metal printing plates, so the print is an etching.

After: When a printmaker uses the design (often a painting or drawing) of a previously existing painting as a basis for a print.

Albumen Print: This printing process is used in photography printing processes. Egg whites are used in the emulsion.

Antique print: All prints printed and published 100 years ago or more, are usually considered antique prints. A modern reproduction of an old print, or a restrike from an original plate, are not considered antique. Antique print. Any print printed and published prior to 1900 is considered an antique print. A modern reproduction of an old print is not itself an antique. The cut-off date of 1900 is not firmly fixed, however, and in many circumstances original prints made before World War II are also considered to be antiques.

Artist Name: The name by which the artist is known professionally.

Artist’s Proof (AP):An artist’s proof is an impression issued in addition to the regular numbered edition, and is reserved for the artist’s own use. Artist’s proofs are usually signed and are sometimes marked “A.P.”, “E.A.” or “H.C.”. Commercial publishers found that there was a financial advantage to offering so called “proofs” for sale, and so developed other types of proofs to offer to collectors, generally at higher prices.

Aquatint:  Aquatint engraving consists of an etching process where acid, not hard tools, creates hollows in the metal plate. Aquatints can be printed simple with black ink, or in one or two colored inks: olive, brown, green or red. Colored aquatints were finished by hand and the best examples are difficult to distinguish from water color.

This process was invented by the Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Le Prince, in 1768. It is a method in which a uniform tone is produced on an etched plate by the intaglio process, the effects being similar to a wash. The surface of the plate is dusted with a porous ground such as fine rosin or asphalt powder, which when heated, adheres to the plate. The parts of the plate intended to appear white are then covered by a protective varnish. The treated plate is placed in an acid bath, which bites into the copper areas that are exposed between the grains of resin or not protected by varnish, yielding a composition marked by texture and tone. This process of protection by varnish and biting is repeated until the desired range of tints is achieved. Only an aquatint can create even tones without gradation or blending; the characteristic aquatint grain is easy to recognize (in the finest cases under a microscope). Aquatinting is often used in conjunction with the etching process.

Fine particles of acid-resistant resin are deposited on the plate and heated so they adhere to the surface. The plate is immersed in acid which bites into the plate in tiny pools around each particle. The tiny depressions retain the ink and when printed give the effect of a soft grain similar to watercolor. 

As issued: As originally published.

Backed:  The image is pasted or glued onto another material, such as cloth, to make the map stronger and more durable. (Many large maps or working maps were backed with cloth when issued. During restoration some fine maps and prints are backed for conservation purposes, usually with thin tissue. Archival quality paste and backing material should be used to prevent chemical deterioration of the image base-paper. Backing is not recommended for preservation unless necessary.)

Bird’s-Eye View (sometimes called Balloon View): Realistic view of city or town drawn from aerial vantage point.

Biological Degradation: Any interruption in the original material due to current or previous biological infestation or insect damage, such as holes or remaining dust-like material.

Blind stamp: A blind stamp is an embossed seal impressed without ink onto a print as a distinguishing mark by the artist, the publisher, an institution, or a collector.

A blind stamp (also “chop mark”) is an embossed seal impressed onto a print as a distinguishing mark by the artist, the publisher, an institution, or a collector.

Bleed-through: Refers to when ink from the text printed on the verso bleeds through onto the image side.

Block: A block is a piece of wood used as a matrix for woodcuts or wood engravings.

Bloom: Occurs when moisture penetrates a varnished surface, causing cloudy areas to appear.

Book Sizes:  In book descriptions it often describes them as folio or octavo, in the case of Audubon you see the term Double Elephant Folio attached to it. These terms actually refer to the actual size of the book. The following list gives an estimate of the size of the print or leaf size. Finished size of pages can be a little different because the trim is done at time of binding.

Size of pages (estimated) in [inches] / {cm}

  • Double Elephant folio [39 x 26,5 / {99 x 67,3}
  • Elephant folio [28 x 22] / {71,1 x 55,9}
  • Folio [25 x 19] / {63,5 x 48,3}
  • quarto [19 x 12,5] / {48,3 x 31,8}
  • octavo [12,5 x 9,5] / {31,8 x 24,1}
  • sixteenmo [9,5 x 6,3] / {24,1 x 15,9}

Size of Untrimmed in [inches] / {cm}

  • double elephant folio [40 x 28] / {101,6 x 71,1}
  • elephant folio 30 x 24] / {76,2 x 70,0}
  • folio [20 x 12,5] / { 50,8 x 31,8}
  • quarto [12,5 x 10] / {31,8 x 25,4}
  • octavo [10 x 6,3] / {25,4 x 15,9}
  • sixteenmo [6,3 x 5] / {15,9 x 12,7}

Border:  The printed area surrounding the edge of an image, usually a line or series of lines, which may incorporate scrollwork, geometric design or decorative panel with figures or views

Brayer: In printmaking, a Brayer is a roller which is used to apply ink to printing surfaces.

Broken / Separated Element: A broken element is part of an item that has been fractured into two or more parts. A separated element is part of an item that has been disconnected. 

Burin: This tool is used to engrave images on either a metal plate or a wooden block. A burin is a narrow metal tool whose cross-section is either oval, triangular, or square. It is cut obliquely at the point, and the handle is usually wooden.

Cael., Caelavit.: Means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver. This was used on engravings until the seventeenth century

Canvas Relined: When the original canvas of a painting has been damaged or weakened, the piece is removed from its stretchers, backed in linen or canvas, and placed on its original stretchers or on new ones.

Canvas Re-stretched: When the original canvas of a painting has been tightened on its original stretchers, or taken off of its original stretchers and placed on new ones.

Cartographerartistdesignerdraughtsmanauthor or composer of the work: Most often indicated by del or delin, but also by delineavit, descripsit, descript., invenit, auctore, composit.

Catalogue Raisonné:  A book listing all of the prints by a certain artist. References to it are by the author’s last name;Complete documentary listing of all works by an artist known at the time of compilation. It includes an identifying catalogue number for each work listed, as well as information such as provenance, current location and/or exhibition history.

Centrefold:  Many large images have been folded to the size of the book or atlas in which they were published. Exposure of the fold over a period of years can result in its browning. Careless  unfolding can result in weakening along the centerfold, particularly at top or bottom.

Centre line: The horizontal line halfway between the top and bottom of a work of art, or of a group arrangement, for spontaneous and balanced appreciation of the works. An off-centre focal point would be created by moving the centre line, usually either up or down.

Check: A partial split in the woods grain. Occurs when there is uneven shrinkage, which most commonly extends across the rings of annual growth. These lengthwise separations usually result from stress due to air or kiln-drying. 

Chiaroscuro woodcut: A technique for printing woodcuts in color, perfected in the early sixteenth century, and used mainly by sixteenth and seventeenth century printmakers to produce a color wash style. One or more wood blocks, in two or more colors or tones were used. It was probably the first imitation of chiaroscuro drawings, in which the design is drawn in black on toned or colored paper and the highlights are touched in with white pigment.

Chine appliqué: A method of adhering one sheet of material, often thin paper, to another with glue under pressure.CHINE APPLIQUÉ (CHINE COLLÉ)

A chine appliqué or chine collé is a print in which the image is impressed onto a thin sheet of China (or other similar) paper which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet. China paper takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, so chine appliqué prints generally show a richer impression than standard prints. Proof prints are often done as chine appliqués.

Chine collie print: A chine colle is a print in which the image is impressed onto a thin sheet of paper, originally China paper, which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet, and at the same time, printing it. This can be accomplished by both intaglio and lithographic printing methods. China paper takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, so chine appliqué prints generally show a richer impression than standard prints.

Chromolithograph:  The first true color printing method introduced in the 1830s. The process was based on lithography printing on stone, but extended so that a separate stone, each with its own color, was laid on top of the previous one. Thus, the paper sheet was printed on several times before the print was finished. This required both a number of stones and a very precise method for laying the stones.

As the century progressed Chromolithography became more intricate and as many as fifteen stones were employed and some wonderful and highly artistic results obtained. Usually such a lithograph is printed in at least three colors.

Cibachrome: A process where a photographic print can be made directly from a color transparency.

Color relief print and color woodcut: It is unusual to ink a wood block in more than one color, and so a color relief print often uses as many blocks as it has colors. The usual method is to make a key block.

Colouring:  Whilst the earliest illustrations were published in black and white, watercolour was added by hand to embellish many important early works, especially with regards the cartouche of a map destined for presentation to the person who had funded the voyage of discovery depicted, or in the case of natural history prints. Later, a more economical method of printing in colour was devised.

Condition Report: Notes any damage or unusual characteristics relating to an item or work of art. The type and location of damage are explained in detail to ensure a complete examination.

Contemporary Colour:  Indicates the colour was added at the time of publication. This is always preferable to modern colour. The earliest colouring, composed of natural ochres, can sometimes by detected on the reverse of an image by its oxidation through the paper. Colour was an inherent indication of a natural history subject so was usually contemporary. Views on the other hand were usually published in black and white. The decorative quality of maps and prints is greatly enhanced, even when colour is added later, as long as the “later” colouring is sympathetic to the style of the work. 

Conservation framing: A readily reversible framing method using archival materials to protect and preserve valuable art from the natural aging process. Museum glass is available to protect artwork from harmful ultraviolet rays that cause fading of colour and aging of paper.

Copperplate Engraving: A copper engraving is an image taken from an engraved copper plate. A plate of bright, burnished copper that is usually 16 or 18 gauge, is used. The copper plate is first coated with a ground, then the image is traced with a sharp point or needle. Once the image is traced, the ground is removed. To ensure accurate engraving, the copper plate oftentimes is rested in sand. Using the traced lines, an artist uses a burin to engrave onto the copper plate. Metal shavings are cut away by the burin. These shavings, known as “burr”, while removed from the plate must still be detached by a “scraper,” a cutting tool. The deeper the burin cuts, the stronger the engraved lines are when printed. Once the plate has been engraved, it is ready to be used for printing by warming it, inking it, and then passing it through a press with the sheet of paper that is to be printed. Copper engraving developed as early as the fourteenth century. Some early examples of copper engraving from Italy and Germany date around 1440. The process used for copper engraving may have come about by armourers using metal engraved patterns to decorate their armor. The first uses of copper engravings were for religious images and playing cards. During the 1600s and 1700s, copperplate engravings were used in a widespread fashion for illustrated works, particularly in France and England. Copper engraving remained the standard up until the l770’s, when wood engraving was developed.

Corrosion / Pitting: Corrosion is a chemical reaction between a material (usually metal) and its environment, which produces a deterioration of the material's properties. In some instances, corrosion can occur in a small or confined area in the form of pits on a metal surface. Pitting is an extreme, concentrated attack on a material which may take months, or even years, to become visible.

Counterproofs: In printmaking, when a sheet of paper is laid over the top of a wet print and passed through a press while the ink is still wet, it will produce an impression that is reversed and a little fainter. This impression can be used by the artist to make corrections and changes to the work. Termed a counterproof, it is produced the same way round as the matrix, that is, back to front. 

Crackle: The network of fissures or cracks in a finish layer such as varnish, lacquer, or shellac, due to age degradation, expansion and contraction from climate changes, and other causes.

Crazing: In ceramics, a mismatch in the thermal expansion between the glaze of an item and its physical body often causes small hairline cracks of the glazed surface, which can potentially compromise the pieces structural integrity. 

Craquelure: A network of fine cracks on a paintings surface, typically due to elemental expansion, contraction , and age.

Creases: Occur when a material has been folded or bent, creating a line or ridge on the surface without breaking or tearing.

Cumprivil: “Sadelerexc.“ and„Cumprivil. S.C.M.“i.e. „Sac. Caes.Maje. [Sculptor]“

Date: The date identifies when the printing surface(e.g. the plate) was produced. In most cases this is also when the print was printed. Prints taken long after the printing surface was created are known as late impressions or re-strikes. 

Deckle: The detachable wooden frame around the outside edges of a hand mould used in making paper. 

Deckle edge: The rough untrimmed edge of paper left by a deckle (see above)orhand-made paper (a desirable characteristic), often trimmed off during binding or publication. 

Del., Delt.,  or Delin. : Means "drew". The name following will be the artist's who who did the drawing that the print reproduces.

Deterioration: Any reduction of quality, use or aesthetics due to physical impairment.

Dissected:  The cutting into rectangle sections of a large work (usually a working map), and gluing it onto cloth, to assist in folding for ease of transportation and storage.

Drawing: A classification consisting of watercolors, gouache, charcoal, pastel, pencil, pen and ink, crayon, or a mixed media of any two or more of the above mediums used together.

Dry Point Etching:  Engraving with an etching needle upon a plate without the use of any acid. The needle used has more of a cutting edge than the rounded point used when upon the etching ground. In drypoint the etcher starts with a bare copper plate without any ground. In drawing the design the needle tears up the copper and leaves what is known as a burr- a ridge of copper on either side of the engraved line. It is called a burr which gives the impression of velvet or deep black fuzzy line to the first few images pulled from the plate.  The burr is not taken away as in line engraving, and therefore it retains the ink. When printed, a very delicate, velvety shading occurs around the edges of the lines. This is characteristic of the dry point technique, but it wears off quickly in the printing, often times only lasting for twenty to thirty

impressions. Dry points are often still made in the traditional manner onto a copperplate. This process can easily be confused with etching. 

Edition: An edition of a print includes all the impressions published at the same time, or as part of the same publishing event. A first edition print is one which was issued with the first published group of impressions. First edition prints are sometimes pre-dated by a proof edition. Editions of a print should be distinguished from states of a print. There can be several states of a print from the same edition, and there can be several editions of a print all with the same state;Set of prints, photographs or sculptures, made from a single image of one plate,

negative, or mold, and numbered consecutively. For example, a piece marked 20/100 is the 20th print out of 100 prints which were produced. These editions vary in size, and artists often choose to duplicate impressions on different types of paper or color states.
Until the late nineteenth century prints were neither routinely signed nor numbered, nor in most cases were edition sizes ever recorded. The convention now is for each print to be numbered in series, shown with the total number of the edition (e.g. 64/100). In many cases there are additional impressions reserved for the artist and collaborators, identified by various abbreviations.

Embossing:  Any process used to create a raised or depressed surface, sometimes without ink.

Engraver, Eng., Engd.:  Means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver. Indicated by engrav., engr., sculp., sc., sculpsit, sec., fecit., fec., incidente, incidit,

Engraving: Engraving involves the use of a metal plate (usually copper or steel) or wooden block. Upon the surface of this incised metal plate or wooden block, an image or text has been either etched or cut with a graver or sharp burin. In the case of a metal plate, the plate is placed on a leather, sand-filled bag during cutting to allow the cutter easier movement. The action of the graver on the plate produces a groove in the metal plate; at the edges of this groove, a characteristic raised shaving of metal occurs called a burr. In an engraving, the burr is usually removed with a triple-edged scraper and burnished. The process of transferring the image/text from the plate to the print involves a few steps. First, the plate is inked, then using a wringer-washer type press, it is printed on dampened paper. The heavy pressure of the press pushes the paper into the engraved lines, which forces the ink onto the paper off of the plate. In relief engraving, the lines engraved are negatives to leave the design in relief. Relief printing, or surface printing, transfers ink from the lines left on the surface of a plate.

Estimate: An approximate calculation of degree or worth. When quoting the value of a piece, appraisers often take into consideration specific characteristics such as date, medium, size, technique, style, condition, and/or rarity.

Etching:  An etching requires a highly polished metal plate, usually copper, that is covered in wax or a varnish-like substance (known as the “ground”) that is impervious to acid. The artist draws the design directly into the wax using a sharp instrument known as an etching needle. The idea is to expose the metal along the lines he draws. The plate is dropped into a bowl of acid, which eats into the exposed metal, known as the area that is “bitten.”   When the design is complete the plate is inked and then the surface is wiped with a cloth, cleaning the plate and leaving ink lodged in the lines that have been etched into the surface of the plate.

The first dated etching was made in 1513. In this process, one of the oldest of the indirect intaglio techniques, the depths or different levels of a metal plate are created by the chemical action of an acid, instead of by the mechanical action of an engraving tool. The artist paints his design on a clean plate, usually copper, with an acid-resistant substance (usually a mixture of resins and waxes) called a ground. If the plate is totally covered, it can be worked into to reveal some of the metal beneath in the form of lines made, for instance, with a wooden-handled round needle. An oval needle known as an echoppe is sometimes used as well. Turning the tool while drawing, the characteristic width of the line is altered. The unprotected metal is “eaten” or “bitten” when the plate is left in an acid bath. The depth of the bite depends not on the pressure exerted by the hand, but rather on the duration of the immersion in the acid. This is one of the processes that allow the artist the freedom of drawing marks by hand. For printing, the ground is removed, ink is introduced into the incised lines, and the plate is wiped clean. The plate is covered with dampened paper and run through a press under great pressure in order to force the paper into the lines, resulting in the raised characteristic of etching.

Exhibition: The public display of a work of art. Artists can have a solo exhibition, retrospective exhibition, or be part of a group exhibition. Solo exhibitions consist of a single artist and may include a variety of works. Retrospective exhibitions typically look historically at the career of an artist or summarize the artist's works to date. Group exhibitions are usually created around a specific theme or idea, or composed of a variety of works from multiple artists, and embody many different mediums.

Eye level: The horizontal line directly in front of a person, where the person's view focuses easily. Actually about 6 inches lower than a person’s eye level.

F., Fec., Fect., Fecit, Fac., Faciebat.:  Means "made" or "did". Not a precisely used term, but often means the person drew the image and made the printing plate.

Fading / Bleaching: Loss of brightness and/or brilliance of color. Occurs when excessive ultra-violet light exposure causes the surface of the piece to become discolored and loose brilliance.

Fine Art and Historical prints: Prints can be separated into two general types, fine art prints and historical prints. These types can be be understood through a differentiation of their emphasis. The distinction between the two types of prints is not clear-cut, nor is it understood by all experts in the same way. Generally, a fine art print is one conceived and executed by an artist with as much or more concern for the manner of presentation of the print as for its content, whereas the concern of the maker of an historical print is focused more on the content of the image than on its presentation.

Fold-out print: Refers to a print that has been folded in order to fit the folio or book that it was published in. A fold-out can be issued as a double, triple, or quadruple, depending on the size of the image. Therefore, these types of prints have a natural, as-issued, fold line or crease through the image. 

Folio:The book size resulting from folding a sheet one time, giving leaves half the size of the sheet. In modern practice double-size paper folded twice, or quad-size paper folded three times would be used, thus producing the requisite folio size but in sections convenient for binding.

Foundry: A workshop where cast metal sculpture is created. 

Foxing:  (Stains, specks, spots and blotches in paper. The cause or causes of foxing, which usually occurs in machine-made paper of the late 18th and the 19th centuries, are not completely understood, but in all likelihood, it is fungoid in nature. Fungi, however, are not necessarily visible on foxed areas, nor does prolific growth necessarily imply excessive discoloration, and vice versa. This has been attributed partly to the fact that action may have been initiated before the examination of the paper.Can consist of light through dark spotting/mottling, and can also appear as large patches of discoloration on the paper. Foxing affects the paper in different degrees; while slight or light foxing is not usually offensive in Antique artwork, in some cases dark or heavy foxing can be detrimental to the artwork. Technical definition would be: stains, spots, specks, and/or blotches in paper. While the cause of foxing is not completely understood, it is most likely fungoid in nature. Foxed areas of paper have a higher proportion of acid and iron than clean areas of

the paper. Although there does not seem to be a definitive relationship between iron and foxing, as far as acid is concerned, it is not clear whether the acid is produced chemically or if it is a by-product of the life function of organisms. The other factor which controls foxing is relative humidity, since fungi will not develop if the relative humidity falls below 75%. Air borne organisms, or organisms that are natural to the paper, may occur if the conditions, and especially the relative humidity, are favourable, resulting in growth and the generation of fox marks. The acid subsequently renders any iron in the paper soluble, and therefore visible, with it’s color being intensified by the presence of organic matter.

Genre prints: Prints depicting scenes from everyday life, such as farm life, motherhood, children, etc.

Giclee:  Pronounced ‘jee-clay’ is a French term used to describe a specialized process in which pigmented inks are applied to canvas or paper to reproduce a fine art reproduction. Highly trained technicians spend countless hours in spectrophotometry, matching color hues and textural effects of original pieces of art.  Using high-resolution digital photography and scanning equipment exceeding tens of thousands of dollars, a fine art reproduction is then created picking up every nuance of the original painting.

Glazing: A protective layer of transparent glass (these days available with ultra-violet screening) or plastic/acrylic sheets, in front of an image, usually held in place by a frame.

Gold leaf: A sheet of gold 3 1/4 inches square of an even thickness of 1/200,000 to 1/250,000 inch, and used in lettering and decorating bookbindings, and in other artistic work. The gold leaf used in bookbinding is generally 23 to 23 1/4 karat, the remaining 1 to 3/4 karat being silver and copper.

Grave:  Means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver. Sometimes in France it was also used on lithographs.

Gum Arabic:  A water-soluble gum obtained from several species of the acacia tree, especially Acacia senegal and A. arabica , and used in the manufacture of adhesives and ink, and as a binding medium for marbling colors. Historically, gum arabic was used to increase the viscosity of ink, or to make it flow well and to prevent it from feathering by suspending the coloring matter. It was particularly important in the days of the reed or quill pen. Solutions of gum arabic have long been used as adhesives for paper, but they are little used today. The properties for which they are valued include ready solution in water following drying, readiness for immediate use, cleanliness and ease of application.

Hand coloring: Hand coloring is a recognized technique, as some of the oldest prints produced were colored by hand. However, the hand coloring process is not a printmaking process and may raise questions of connoisseurship. It should be noted that hand coloring may vary considerably within the same edition. 

Hors de commerce(HC):  These prints in addition to the regular edition but are the same as the edition and are used as gifts or payments to those involved in the production of the edition. They are marked “HC” and are usually numbered but not always. They may also be released to the market.

Imp., impressit.:  Means "printed", usually with a rolling press. The name following will be the printer's.

Impression: An impression is a single piece of paper with an image printed on it from a matrix. The term as applied to prints is used in a manner similar to the term “copy” as applied to a book.

Imprint: Information when printed on a map or print give some indication to the work’s artist, engraver or lithographer, publisher, place or publication, and date of publication.

Incunabulum: This term covers printed books before 1501, and also is a generic term describing documents relating to the history of anything. In printmaking in particular, it is the generic term for any relief or intaglio print found in the early books of woodcuts, which often had illustrations and text printed on the same page.

Indentations: Any chip, dent, gouge, tear, abrasion, or loss occurring from force.

Inpainting: Application of paint to re-establish an item's visual continuity. Can be used to replace paint loss or disguise craquelure.

Inset:  A small image within the border of a larger work; usually surrounded by a separating line.

Instaining: Application of stain, typically to a wooden surface, in the area of a loss to re-establish an item's visual continuity.

Intaglio:  The method of printing used for metal plates worked as Engraving, Etching, Drypoints, Mezzotints, Stipples and Aquatints. The paper receives the ink from the incised lines and not from the surface of the plate. The ink is pressed into the lines with a pad called a "dabber". Anything left on the surface is removed by wiping muslin across the plate and the process is usually complete with the palm of the hand. Paper is dampened and passed through a press on a board that slides between one or two rollers. The pressure must be strong enough to force the damp paper into the lines and lift the ink out onto the paper.  Considerable varieties of effect can be obtained by wiping so as to leave a film of ink on the surface of the plate.  

An Intaglio print can be normally recognized by the plate mark and by the fact that the ink stands up from the paper in a very slight relief, which can be often detected by touch.

Laid Paper:  Handmade paper with thick and thin lines at right angles to each other.

Laid down, or Lined:  As with backed, this is sometimes done to provide stability when a work is damaged, or for framing, in which case only conservation materials should be used.

Late Additions: When an artist authorizes a print re-strike with or without changes to the original plate.

Later hand coloring: Hand coloring applied to the print at a later date than originally published.

Lettering or Letterpress:  The lettering of a print refers to the information, usually given below the image, concerning the title, artist, publisher, engraver and other such data.

Limited edition: A limited edition print is one in which a limit is placed on the number of impressions pulled in order to create a scarcity of the print. Limited editions are usually numbered and are often signed. Limited editions are a relatively recent development dating from the late nineteenth century. Earlier prints were limited in the number of their impressions solely by market demand, or by the maximum number that could be printed by the medium used. The inherent physical limitations of the print media and the relative small size of the pre-twentieth century print market meant that non-limited edition prints from before the late nineteenth century were in fact quite limited in number, even though not intentionally so. The estimated maximum number of quality impressions it was possible to pull using different print media as follows:

1) Engraving: 500 (and about the same number of weaker images)
2) Stipple: 500 (and about the same number of weaker images)
3) Mezzotint: 300 to 400, although the quality suffers after the first 150
4) Aquatint: Less than 200

5) Wood block: Up to 10,000

It was only with the development of lithography and of steel facing of metal plates in the nineteenth century that tens of thousands of impressions could be pulled without a loss of quality.

Linoleum cut (or linocut):  A relief technique like woodcut but using linoleum rather than wood.

Lith.: Means "printed on a lithographic (stone) press".

Lithograph:  Lithography is based on the resistance properties of oil and water. Originally, limestone was used as the surface of the drawing – made by lithographic chalk or crayon. The surface of the stone is smoothed, washed and dried, then ink is made directly on the stone. Both the chalk and ink are greasy. A solution containing gum Arabic and diluted nitric acid is washed on the stone (or plate). This solution fixes the design in place. The entire plate surface is washed with water and then inked with a roller. Print paper is applied and sent through a press, transferring the image of the stone (or plate) to the paper.This ink affixes to the greased image but is repelled by the remainder of the wet stone. The image can then be taken off on a sheet of damp paper.

In 1840 the Lithotint process was patented; in this process, another stone, known as a tint stone, was used so that the effect of a wash drawing could be obtained. The tint was usually buff or gray. By using several stones, fully colored impressions were obtainable.

Lithotint: A tonal lithograph printed from two stones or plates.

Loss of printed surface: A portion of a map or print is missing, usually through damage. This section is sometimes restored by adhering paper over the missing section and drawing the missing design.

Manuscript: Hand-written notations or whole maps or other illustrations drawn by hand.

Markings: Any identifying features found on an item for sale (e.g., signature, stamp, manufacturers mark, silver mark).

Margin:  A wide margin is the desirable blank area outside the border of a map or print. The border around the paper, outside of the platemark or image, depending on the medium.

Mat Burn: Improper use of acidic wood based matting materials will cause a "burn" or discoloration of the print where the acidic mat material contacts it. The acids will leech into the print causing the paper to turn brown or gray and to deteriorate.

Matrix: A matrix is an object upon which a design has been placed, and which is then used to make an impression on a piece of paper, thus creating a print. A wood block, metal plate, or lithographic stone can be used as a matrix.

Medallion:  A circular or oval bordered illustration usually containing a portrait or symbol of importance to the subject. In painting it is usually called a “tondo”.

Medium: The substances used to create the work of art (e.g. paint), while the medium base is the paper; The material/materials an artist utilized in creating a work of art, such as oil paint, acrylic or bronze. The material that a work was created on, such as canvas or wood, is also considered part of the medium. For example, one might say that the medium of an oil painting is "oil on canvas."

Meridional: Meridional, -ale. adj, Southern.

Mezzotint:  A mezzotint is easy to recognize because of the distinctive manner in which the design emerges from the black background. The copper mezzotint block yielded only a few superb prints, no more than fifty and perhaps another fifty of lesser quality. The engraver was aware that the quality depended entirely on the quality of each contributory factor - copper, ink and paper.It is an intaglio image-making technique in which the plate is worked from dark tones to light with a special tool.

A negative process, the mezzotint technique consists of first roughening the surface of the plate with a very fine toothed tool called a mezzotint “rocker” or “roulette”, so that if the plate were to be printed directly the resulting print would be totally black. The artist then does his drawing by making white lines and marks by scraping or burnishing out areas so that they do not hold ink, yielding the mezzotint’s modulated tones. The smoother the area is the less ink it will hold, creating an image in a range of tones. One of the special qualities of a mezzotint is the very sumptuous, rich, dense black created by the action of the rocker. 

Missing Element: Part of an item that has been lost.

Mixed method intaglio prints: A mixed method print is one whose design is created on a single matrix using a variety of printmaking techniques, for example: line engraving, stipple, and etching.

  • An artist with many different intaglio techniques at his disposal often incorporates several intaglio methods in one plate; etching, engraving, soft or hard ground, burnishing, dry point, gouging holes in plates, deep biting, and so on.
    2) Mixed method can also refer to mixed printing processes; for instance relief and
    intaglio in one work.
    3) In color printing, mixed method can also refer to one plate whose depths are printed
    intaglio, and whose top is rolled (as in relief) for surface tones.

Monotype, Monoprint:  Ink or paint is applied to a smooth plate. Because there is no fixed matrix, only one strong impression can be printed.The monotype/monoprint incorporates both printmaking and painting, producing a single impression by using pressure to transfer a painted image to paper.

Mount (sometimes Matt or Mat or Passepartout): A protective housing for a flat work of art, usually a plate of cardboard, comprising a support base (backboard) to which the artwork is fixed, and a front matt with a window cut so that the work can be viewed within it. 

Numbered print: A numbered print is one which is part of a limited edition and which has been numbered by hand. The numbering is usually in the form of x / y, where y stands for the total number of impressions in this edition and x represents the specific number of the print. The number of a print always indicates the order in which the prints were numbered, not necessarily the order in which the impressions were pulled. This, together with the fact that later impressions are sometime superior to earlier pulls, means that lower numbers do not necessarily indicate better quality impressions. As with signed prints, the numbering of prints is a development of the late nineteenth century.

Octavo:  The book size resulting from folding a sheet of paper with three right angle folds, which produces a leaf, one-eighth the size of the sheet and forming a 16-page section. To define fully, the paper size must also be stated. The typical book paper, for example, which is 25 by 38 inches, will give an untrimmed book size of 12 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches. Also called 8vo or 8°.

Offsetting:  When an image is pressed against another surface over a period of years, as in a book that is stored tightly in a bookcase, the printer’s ink is sometimes transferred onto the adjacent surface, producing a mirror image.

Offsetting: Plate or Image Offsetting: When a print is originally published with the platemark or image offset to the right or left of the paper edge. At times the platemark or image can be at, or actually off, the paper’s edge. These prints can appear to be trimmed, but knowledge of the specific publication usually reveals the offsetting.

Offset lithography:  A printing process based on the same principle of the repulsion of water by grease as lithography. However, the inked image is transferred to a drum before being printed on the paper which allows the final image to be printed in the same direction as the original.

Oleographs: Chromolithographs printed on a textured surface. Popularly used to produce inexpensive reproductions of oil paintings in the late nineteenth century.

Original print: An original print is one printed from a matrix on which the design was created by hand and issued as part of the original publishing venture, or as part of a subsequent publishing venture. It is a finished composition and an end product of an artist’s creative process, with the artist being the author of the concept of the work, and involved with the production of the matrix, and with the artist’s direct involvement in the printmaking process. An original print does however utilize a medium that allows more than one copy to be made. The term original print is also used as a way of distinguished it from a reproduction, which is produced photomechanically, as well as from a restrike, which is produced as part of a later, unconnected publishing venture. There can be multiple original prints made.

Original:  A map or print is considered to be original if it is published from the original engraved or lithographed plate or block.

Overpainting: Occurs when a restorer does not possess the correct skills to retouch a damaged area on an item and extends beyond the confines of a loss into undamaged areas.

Painting: A technique consisting of oil paint on canvas or board.

Paint Loss: The absence of paint in areas where it was previously located, due to age and other influences.

Painting Varnished: During the restoration process, the restorer will often varnish the surface of an oil or acrylic painting to protect the image from dirt, dust, smoke, grease, or other pollutants. 

Panorama or Panoramic View: Realistic depiction of town, village or landmass, usually wide angle, from a point at ground level, usually to provide a slightly elevated angle.

Paper: Paper is often identified by its manufacturer's name, which appears as a watermark, a design in the paper easily seen by holding the sheet against the light. The type of paper can also be determined. The main categories are:

 1) Laid paper is made by hand in a mold, where the wires used to support the paper pulp emboss their pattern into the paper. This pattern of closely spaced lines can be seen
when the paper is held up to light. Laid paper often has a watermark.
2) Wove paper is made by machine on a belt and lacks the laid lines. False laid lines can be added to machine-made paper. Though wove paper was invented in the eighteenth century and laid paper is still produced, the majority of prints made prior to 1800 are on laid paper, and the majority of prints made subsequently are on wove paper.
3) Chine or China paper is a very thin paper, originally made in China, which is used for chine appliqué prints.

4) Deckle edge paper:  The edge of certain papers has a thinner, uneven finish. Far from being a defect, this is a sign that the sheet has not been trimmed.

5) Japan paper:  A fibrous paper, often characterised by a faint surface lustre.  Rice paper.

Important things to consider for paper: The traditional way to make paper is to beat rags into a liquid pulp. The hand papermaker scoops a tray of crossed wires into this mixture of liquid pulp and water, and a thin layer of fibers settles onto the wires. This is then turned out onto felts, the water pressed out, and the sheet dried. To turn a sheet of paper into printing paper, it often has to be sized or sealed (though not for all processes). One of the qualities of paper that allows it to exist over centuries is its degree of purity. This is the quality most often discussed by artists, conservators, and museums alike. So many factors can contribute to the deterioration of a sheet of paper that it seems essential, if it is to be the only support of a piece of art, that it start life in as pure a form as possible. The presence of acids in paper has been shown to seriously contribute to its deterioration; consequently, a paper claimed to be “acid-free” has become desirable.

Paper size

- usually in metric and imperial measurements


- repairs along centrefold

- light soiling/creasing along centrefold 

- discolouration from binding glue, dust in string binding, stains from metal staples

- centrefold reinforced/backed (weakened from frequent folding or stitched inclusion in atlas). 

- folds to fit atlas (from inclusion in atlas or journal) 

Paper thickness and quality

- heavy and strong

- show-through/fine paper with verso text/map showing through (reverse printing visible)

- backed/lined/laid down (pasted onto cloth or thin tissue to make more durable)

- brittle (some less porous old paper is quite fragile)

- printer’s crease (from compression of wrinkled paper during printing process)

- worming/wormholes/worm tracks (holes in paper eaten by tiny insects)

Plate size

- intaglio: area inside plate mark indentation (large plate size may exclude mark)

- relief or surface: within border (e.g. woodblock or lithograph)

Borders/Margins (space around edge of map)

- generous or wide

- cropped/loss of printed surface (portion of paper missing)

- light soiling/stain/crease, not affecting the image

Paper colour and condition

- light toning throughout image/age toning (browning as the paper transforms chemically)

- over-bleached (over-cleaned when removing soiling)

- offsetting (printer’s ink has been transferred from opposite page after years of pressure)

Style of colouring

- outline colour (of the coastlines, borders, boundaries)

- solid colour (of the countries, provinces)

Age of colour

- contemporary colour (colour from around the date of publication) 

- authentic colour (map coloured as published)

- colour expertly applied (later or modern colour suiting the style of map)

- colour a little faded but authentic/ light fading in places (contemporary colouring)

Verso (reverse side)

- text or map showing through (thin paper/heavy printing on reverse)

- light soiling not affecting the image on the front    

- light paint show through (usual oxidization with early paint colours)


- repairs/light soiling - along folds/ in margins/to edges    

- repairs are Neutral ph Gummed Linen tape/with conservation materials

Overall Quality

- Perfect/Excellent/Very Good/Good/Fair/Mediocre/Poor

Patina: The result of natural or artificial oxidation on a surface, which produces corrosion, texture, or a thin layer of color that can range in hue. In bronze sculpture, patina specifically refers to the alteration of the surface by the sculptor with acid or other chemicals.

Photomechanical Reproduction: Any of a variety of printmaking processes in which the imagery is established photographically Prints made from photographically prepared printing surfaces. A distinctive dot pattern is usually visible.

Pinx., Ping.:  Means "painted". The name following will be that of the artist who did the painting that the print reproduces.

Peoples names:  If you see someone's name on the print, usually, the name on the left is the original artist's, and the name on the right is that of the craftsman who printed image.

Planographic:  A planographic print is one whose image is printed off a flat surface from a design drawn on a stone or plate using a grease crayon or with a greasy ink. In this type of print the printing ink is absorbed by the greasy design on the stone and is transferred to the paper under light pressure.

Plate Tone:  Tone created in intaglio prints by leaving a film of ink on the plate when it is wiped before printing.

Platemark:  A platemark is the rectangular ridge created in the paper of a print by the edge of an intaglio plate. Unlike a relief or planographic print, an intaglio print is printed under considerable pressure, thus creating the platemark when the paper is forced together with the plate. Some reproductions have a false platemark;  The mark by the edges of an Intaglio Print marking the paper placement when run through the press.

Plate ink: Ink residue that appears in the white areas of a print due to the plate not being cleaned thoroughly prior to printing the image.

Pochoir: Defined as "stencil" in French, a pochoir print is hand-colored and created with a series of carefully cut stencils. This method of printmaking was most prevalent during the early part of the 20th century in Paris and frequently used for fashion plates during the Art Deco period.

Print: A single print is a piece of paper upon which an image has been imprinted from a matrix. In a general sense, a print is the set of all the impressions made from the same matrix. By its nature, a print can have multiple impressions 

Print / Casting Year: Works of art produced in an edition, such as prints, sculpture, and photography can have a second applicable date. For example, a photograph might have been taken in 1932, but printed or re-printed in 1975 from the original negative.

Printer’s crease: When paper is unintentionally folded or creased while being passed through the printing press.  A wrinkle is permanently caused by compression of the paper or printing surface during publication.

Printer’s Proof (PP):Printers Proofs are impressions exactly the like the edition and is the property of the printers responsible for pulling the edition. They are marked “P

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