Updated: Mar 23, 2022
You may see a little number under an art print. It’s usually (ALWAYS) in the lower left corner under the image. It could look like 1/9 or 88/100 or 145/1000. It could even be AP.
What does that mean?
What is it?
It’s the edition number. What the heck is an edition number?
In art print world, the value of an art print is directly related to how many copies are made. Just think, everything else being equal, a print that has 9 copies in the world is worth a lot more than one that has 100, or a million. You get the idea.
Let’s take the example of 1/9. That means there are only 9 copies of that print being made in the whole world. Once the 9 prints are sold, that’s it. No more. The number 1 means it’s the first one made in the edition of 9. If your print is 9/9, that means you got the last one.
**For giclee or digital prints, the edition number refers to the exact print of the same colour and the same size. That means, there may be more of this image of a different colour or different size. More on the difference between giclee and hand-pulled prints in the next post.
✵✶✺AP? Is that Even a Number? ✵✶✺
No matter how you look at it, AP does not look like a number…
What does it stand for?
AP stands for artist proof. It’s the prototype for the entire print edition.
In order to get the desired final effect, the artist has to make numerous tests. She may need to test the colour, test the amount of ink, test the amount of printing pressure, revise the block multiple times before she gets the right effect. Sometimes she may be lucky to get that in the first go. Sometimes she needs to make 10 tests. (For more, revisit my post “Four Years of Printmaking Journey...So Far.”)
Let’s say in the second scenario, there are 10 different test prints, all varying in colours and pressure. She has to decide on one.
The one she chooses becomes the prototype “Artist Proof”—all the prints in the edition will follow it. The other 9 will become wrapping paper, sketching paper or brush-wiping paper. You get the idea.
The artist usually keeps the artist proof. Once the entire edition sells out, she may also decide to sell the artist proof. Typically there is no more than 1 or 2 artist proof prints per edition of 10.
Therefore, if the edition number says 9+1, that means the print has an edition of 9 and 1 artist proof.
✵✶✺What if there is NO number on the Print? ✵✶✺
It means it’s an open edition.
What is an open edition?
In short, it’s unlimited edition. As long as someone wants to buy it, the artist will print it. There is no way to know how many prints are actually made. If 10 people want to buy it, there may be 10. If a million people want to buy it, there may be a million.
Open editioned prints are usually priced competitively. They’re great for very young collectors just starting to buy art. You can often get open editioned prints for USD100 or less. That’s a GREAT deal!
Open editioned prints can be a hand-pulled print or a giclee/digital print.
What the heck is the difference?
I will explain in the next post.
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