Limited Edition Prints

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Limited edition prints 

Limited Edition Print is a often a confusing term, Printing has always been associated with mass production so what is a limited edition print? In any type of printing, an edition is a number of prints available.

This is a limited edition, with a fixed number of prints produced on the understanding that no further prints (copies) will be produced later, or an open edition, limited only by the number that can be sold or produced before the plate wears. Most modern artists produce only limited editions, normally signed by the artist in pencil, and numbered as say 67/100 to show the unique number of that impression and the total edition size.

The terms ‘Limited Edition Print’, ‘Original Print’ and ‘Reproduction Print’ are sometimes used. Limiting something which can be mass produced also attracts a certain amount of suspicion. So, why do artists produce limited edition prints? In the early day of printing artists gratefully adopted various printing techniques to produce multiple images of their work, publicise their efforts and increase their income. These techniques developed separately from the technology of mass production printing.
Engraving, etching, woodcuts, lithography and screen printing were originally cutting-edge technology but are now almost solely the preserve of artists who have become known as “printmakers”. Durer and Rembrandt probably would not have recognised the distinction between “printer” and “printmaker”. They produced multiple images the best way they could – using the best technology of the day.
These early techniques by their very nature limited the quantity of images which it was possible to produce. The physical constraints of the media used, the patience of the individuals involved and the amount of time required to print each image were all reflected in the price. Technology however moved on – and with the development of photography came the ability to reproduce images accurately and with relatively little need for the intervention of the “artist’s hand”. At the same time the industrial revolution, the blossoming of Capitalism and the appetite for mass produced goods left the individual artist and antiquated technology behind.
Within the lifetime of the Impressionists (mid 1800s) the art world had changed dramatically.
‘Printmaking’ as a means of expression for the artist became distinctly separate from ‘printing’. Consequently artists started to Limit their editions to differentiate their work form the mass produced images and the the question: what is a limited edition print? had to be answered. The term limited edition print became synonymous with hand crafted, labour intensive, and rarer artworks of consequently of greater value.

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