A limited edition print is almost always marked with an edition, which delineates the total number of copies of the print and can signify how rare the work is. Editions are numbered, for example, 1/50 and a print with a shorter edition length can be understood as rarer than a print with a longer or 'open' (meaning unlimited) edition length.
At times however, the artist can label a print with a range of other symbols that denote prints outside of the numbered edition, such as AP, CP, TP, PP, WP, HC and BAT. These markings describe the testing process that the artist and printer go through to get to a satisfactory final product. There are some collectors that seek these pieces out because they signify a part of the process undertaken by artist and printer towards their final product.
To wrap your head around print editions, see our Glossary below.
AP – Artists Proof
An artist will usually assign approximately 10 percent of a print run as Artist Proofs. Often these are for the artist's personal use, but in some circumstances will be released onto the open market. Having a print marked as an AP generally does not increase or decrease the value of the piece. Although there is a possibility that it can be argued to have more significance, as it is more closely related to the artist’s personal collection.
BAT – Bon a tirer
This notation on a print indicates the standard to which all other prints will be held to. The expression is French for ‘good to pull’, and it is the print that meets all the standards dictated by the artist. It is often seen as a ‘sign off’ piece, that shows that the artist is happy with the print. There is usually only a single print denoted as the BAT.
CP – Colour Proof
A Colour Proof is used by the artist to test out different colours to see which best expresses the intention of the piece. These prints are usually done prior to signing off the BAT, and are really a way to test out the colour characteristics of the medium.
HC – Hors d’Commerce Proof
This marking denotes a print that has been destined for promotional use. They may be signed by the artist, and were originally intended to be used as samples for galleries and dealers. Again there are collectors who prefer this marking, and endeavour to make these a part of their collection. There is no advantage to purchasing these prints, other than the ‘journey’ that the physical work has taken.
E/V – Edition Variable or Variée
Refers to an edition that uses a common plate throughout, but introduces additional elements (such as a hand-painted background) that are unique to each individual print in the edition.
Any print that is not part of a regular edition. Types of proofs include the Trial Proof (TP) and Working Proof (WP), detailed below. There are also Artists Proofs and Printers Proofs (PP), which do not differ from the regular edition and are sold as part of the edition, but are not part of the regular numbering sequence.
TP – Trial Proof
A trial proof may be signed by artist, and is generally created so that the artist can examine and perfect small details in the print before any larger run commences.
PP – Printers Proof
This impression is usually held by the printer in their archives as a record of the print, and is usually signed by the artist as a gesture of appreciation.
WP – Working Proof
Working proofs are trial proofs that the artist has altered by hand, usually through drawing or painting for the purpose of working out subsequent changes to the composition on the printing plate.
US – Unique State
Also known as a ‘unique print’, Unique State refers to prints that are produced as singular entities, rather than a part of an edition.
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