Janet Turner Print Museum

Educational Resources

What is An Original Print?

Taken from studio1617.com(opens in new window)

Definition of Original Print

An original print is a work of art created by hand and printed by hand, either by the artist or by a professional assistant (often called an artisan), from a plate, block, stone, or stencil that has been hand created by the artist for the sole purpose of producing the desired image.

The plates or stencils it is printed from bear no resemblance to the finished work of art, which means it is not a copy or a reproduction of anything.


In fact, in all print media but two, the image on the matrix (what the print is produced from) is mirror image or backwards from what the finished work will be. The image reverses in the printing process so the artist has to think and draw backwards.


Each print produced is technically a unique work although produced as a signed and numbered multiple. The technical term for this is monoprint.


The original print is usually produced as a limited number of impressions, another word for print. The term for this group of prints is the edition.

Although there are many of the same image in an edition, each print is an individual part of the whole, the whole being the edition. An original print is actually one piece of a multiple original work of art.

Signed Original Prints and Edition Numbers

Original prints are traditionally signed in pencil by the artist. They are numbered to indicate how many prints there are in the edition and to identify the individual print. This number appears written as a fraction, for example: 34 / 75. This is called the edition number.

The number to the right of the slash (in this example, 75) indicates the size of the edition: 75 prints have been produced. The number to the left is the actual number of the print.

How to Read Edition Number

34 / 75
This number is read: "print number thirty four of seventy five". There are other types of identifying marks as well.

Artist's Proofs

The artist traditionally keeps a separate group of prints aside from the edition marked as artist's proofs, normally about ten or less. These are marked A / P, sometimes with an edition number after (such as: A / P 2 / 5) to indicate how many A / P's there are.

State Proofs, Trial Proofs, Or Color Proofs

During the course of developing the image an artist may pull many experimental images before modifying the plates to achieve the finished product. These are referred to as state proofs, trial proofs, or color proofs.

Printer's Proof Or Bon-a'-tirer

When the image is finally perfected the printer's proof or bon-a'-tirer (signed B.A.T.) is pulled. This is the image that the rest of the edition is matched to and there is only one of these. The artisan printer traditionally gets to keep the printer's proof.