We often get asked, what do the numbers and letters on a print mean? And more pertinently, how do they relate to a print’s value? Fair enough. From AP, CP, TP, PP, HC through to BAT, the world of prints is one of abundant acronyms.
Across the next two newsletters, we will be delving into the stories behind a print's marginalia. Traces of the artist's process, what lies in the space between an image and paper's end is a story unto itself. Here’s our breakdown on the elusive relationship between prints, editions, acronyms and their relative desirability.
John Olsen’s ‘Proof for Bondi’ comes from the thick of the artist’s process. It is pre-proofing, still in the creation phase; a raw representation of Olsen’s humour, intuitiveness and verve.
Limited and Open Edition Prints
In printmaking, an edition is the total number of prints struck from one plate. There are typically two types of print editions: limited and open. Limited Edition, like the name suggests, denotes that a fixed number of prints or impressions are produced from a substrate. This finiteness is what makes the print valuable and collectable.
A print from a Limited Edition is typically inscribed with the edition’s size and where it sits in that run. 1/20 for example, means that that work is the first of twenty impressions in that edition.
In contrast, Open Editions have no cap on the number of prints produced and are generally not as valuable as limited edition prints.
In the margin of John Peart's 'Reflection VII' sits an empty space for its edition number. Why is it empty? Because this work is a monotype, meaning a unique print. No multiple editions here.
Editions and Values
The value of a print is shaped by factors like quality, notoriety and rarity. The collectability of a print for example, will increase if the image is desirable, the artist is acclaimed or if the edition length is limited. If a print run is small, then a print’s value is also enhanced by its relative rarity.
When it comes to resale, the impression number does not make a substantial difference to market value. After all, each impression is largely identical, perhaps with only fractional differences due to quirks imparted by the printmaking process.
The Chop Mark
A Chop Mark is a mark or seal made with an embossing tool in the margin of an etching or lithograph. It signifies that a print has come from a particular publisher, either the printmaker’s own studio press or a separate master printmaker.
Chop Marks hold particular meaning for the printmaker and publisher. In addition to the artist’s signature, it reinforces the work’s authenticity.
'Visage II' is adorned with both a chop mark from Port Jackson Press (the work's publisher) (see right) and a stamp that read the artist's name in Japanese. The stamp was obtained in Japan during Charles Blackman's successful 1973 exhibition at Tokyo's Fuji Television Gallery.
Impressed with Charles's initials, stamp and Port Jackson Press's chop mark, 'Visage II' has been verified three-fold. Not only a sign of authenticity, these marks also indicate that Charles was satisfied with the finished print – it was signed off on.
Charles signing and stamping a collection of his works. Photograph courtesy of Auguste Blackman.
AP: Artist Proof or E.A
Artist’s Proofs are often marked ‘A.P’ or ‘E.A’ (or E. d’A meaning ‘épreuve d'artiste’). Approximately ten percent of a print run are assigned as Artist Proofs. These prints are usually kept by the artist as a record of the print’s progression, but can also be released to market. While there is no clear correlation between a print’s value and its status as an AP, some collectors relish APs because they are tied to an artist’s personal collection.
Pasquale Giardino - 'Leapard Man' (left), the linocut which bore the print (right) and the artist's title, edition and signature (below).
Astute collectors may notice that Pasquale Giardino has not only misspelled Leopard as 'Leapard' but also inscribed the print with 'OP – he meant AP. A child of punk, Giardino creates outside the bounds of art and the English language.
What was an error now lives in the bones of 'Leapard Man'. After all, when you're jamming to your own beat, there's no need for spell check.
BAT: Bon a Tirer
Deriving from the French phrase meaning ‘good to pull’, Bon a Tirer prints delineate the standard to which all other prints will be held to – this print has met the artist’s standards. Bon appetit!
The acclaimed Rick Amor is a deeply considered artist. Before creating a screen print, he produces a painting study. As a BAT, ‘The City’ is a perfect proof – an intensely evocative cityscape drenched in golden light.