John Jānis Šteins

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Q&A ~ Why are prints numbered?

What is the idea behind numbering prints? Does it have to do with value?

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  1. John Steins January 28, 2011

    Originally, editions were limited to how many quality impressions could be pulled from a plate such as an etching or especially fragile drypoints. Obviously the artist and publisher wished to preserve the integrity of each print in the edition, so that the last one looked exactly like the first one.

    From a collector’s point of view, a 1/50 print is more collectable than 10/50. Also, the knowledge that only 50 are in existence adds value in the mind of a collector.

    In terms of durability, a wood engraving block, if treated properly, can withstand thousands of impressions without degrading. There are Thomas Bewick blocks from the 1700’s that produce impressions today that are as fresh as the day they were first printed.

    The question of wether to limit an edition is sometimes a constraint which can be perceived as being artificial, contrary to the populist idea of producing multiples for the masses to enjoy.

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