This glossary provides a summary of terms commonly used in the catalogue entries on our web site. It is adapted from the following sources:
American Historical Print Collectors Society "Dictionary of Terms" (www.ahpcs.org)
Geoffrey Ashall Glaister, Encyclopedia of the Book. Second Edition. Delaware & London, 1979.
International Fine Print Dealers Assn. "What is a Print" (www.ifpda.com)
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Frequently Cited References
We have compiled a list of the most frequently cited references used in our catalogue entries.
Our researchers consult these works in order to write accurate descriptions about our books,
prints, and maps.
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à la poupée print: A print created when colored ink is applied directly into a separate area of a plate's surface and worked into the appropriate area of the design using cotton daubs called dollies, or in French, poupée.
Allegorical print: A print representing a universal truth by using imagery. Often using a classical theme.
Antique print: All prints printed and published before 1900 are considered antique prints. 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.
Aquatint: An etching process in which the artist is concerned with tone rather than line. For this technique, a plate is covered with particles of acid-resistant material such as resin and heated to make the particles stick. The treated plate is then placed in an acid bath, which bites into the copper that is exposed between grains of resin, yielding a composition marked by texture and tone.
Bird's-eye view prints: Prints showing their subject as viewed from above at an oblique angle.
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.
Block: A (wood) block is a piece of wood used as a matrix for woodcuts or wood engravings.
Catalogue raisonné: A catalogue raisonné is a documentary listing of all the works by an artist which are known at the time of compilation.
Chine applique (chine collé) print: A chine applique or chine collée 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. China paper takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, so chine applique prints generally show a richer impression than standard prints. Proof prints are often done as chine appliques.
Chromolithographs: Lithographs printed in at least three colors.
Chromoxylograph: A chromoxylograph is an image printed in color from a wood block.
Cityscape prints: Prints depicting cities or towns.
Counterproofs: In printmaking, impressions taken from a print or drawing by passing it through a press against a damp sheet of paper. The image appears in reverse.
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.
Engravings: Prints taken on paper from incised plates. The two main classes of engravings are intaglio and relief. In intaglio engraving, the line engraved has a positive value. The line which is engraved on the plate is the line which appears on the print. Heavy pressure is applied to the plate to extract the ink from the plate to the paper. 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 (like printing from type).
Etchings: A favored technique for artists for centuries, thanks largely to the ease with which an etched image is created. An etching begins with a metal plate (usually copper) that has been coated with a waxy substance called a "ground." The artist creates his or her composition by drawing through the ground to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, which "bites" or chemically dissolves the exposed lines. 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.
Fine Art & Historical Prints: Prints can be separated into two general types, fine art prints and historical prints. These types can best 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.
Genre prints: Prints depicting scenes from everyday life.
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.
Intaglio: An intaglio print is one whose image is printed from a recessed design incised or etched into the surface of a plate. In this type of print the ink lies below the surface of the plate and is transferred to the paper under pressure. The printed lines of an intaglio print stand in relief on the paper. Intaglio prints have platemarks.
Lettering: 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 relatively 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. German printmaker Adam von Bartsch, in his 1821 Anleitung zur Kupferstichkunde, estimated the maximum number of quality impressions it was possible to pull using different print media.