What is an Edition?

An edition refers to an original work of art (a print, photograph, sculpture, video etc.) that an artist creates in a limited or unlimited/open series rather than as a single, unique piece.

Editions are created from an original matrix (in the case of a print), negative or digital file (in the case of a photograph), or mould (in the case of some sculptures), and do not include copies of artworks done in other mediums.

An edition is usually signed and numbered by the artist, indicating its specific number and the total edition size (for example the notation 1/10 on an edition indicates that it is the first artwork made in a series limited to ten pieces). In limited editions, the matrix or mould is usually destroyed after the desired number of prints or sculptures have been made.

Read more about limited edition prints in our Printmaking Guide.

For information on specific terms, browse our Art Glossary.

Here are a few terms related to editions that you might find useful:

A print using the same technique as etching, but where the areas between the etched lines are protected from the acid by a layer of resin powder, which results in a granular effect.

Any material like ink or paper that meets certain criteria for durability. These criteria include light-fast and water-resistant (for ink), and acid-free, lignin-free and alkaline-buffered (for paper), etc.

Archival Reproduction
The process of digitally and photographically reproducing art prints, with archival inks on archival photo paper, art paper, or canvas.

Artist's Proof
An additional print, outside of the edition number usually retained by the artist for personal use.

Blind Stamp
A blind stamp or chop mark as it is also known, is a seal imprinted or embossed onto a print. It serves as a distinguishing mark of the artist, institution, publisher or collector.

The process of making a sculpture by pouring a material like clay or metal in its liquid form into a mould. On hardening the material takes the form of the mould.

Chine Colle
A printmaking process where the image is is impressed onto a thin sheet of China paper (other similar surface), which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet. China paper was originally used because it takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, enabling the visibility of greater detail. Also known as Chine Applique.

In printmaking, sculpture and photogrophy the number of images or pieces that the artist authorizes can be made from a single plate, negative or mould.

A printmaking process in which a burin or other sharp tool is used to scratch lines into the plate from which prints are made.

A printmaking process where acid is used to etch lines into the plate from which prints are made. The plate is covered with acid-resistant coating into which the desired design is scratched by a needle or other tools. The acid only affects the scratched parts, and the depth of the etched lines is related to the strength of the acid bath and duration for which the plate is immersed in it. The term also refers to the images created by employing this process.

Inkjet Print
A print created by a class of digital printers known as inkjets, which have very small nozzles that deliver precisely coloured, exact prints of the original image.

Any printmaking technique where the image is created from a design scratched into a metal plate, including etching, drypoint, and aquatint. When the plate is inked, the ink remains in the created grooves and is transferred to moist sheets of paper during printing.

Limited Editions
Prints that are only produced in a fixed number under the artist's supervision, due to the limitations on the quality of impressions with some printmaking techniques and also because of market forces.

A printmaking technique where a greasy material is used to make a drawing on a zinc plate or limestone block. The plate is then wet and a greasy ink is applied to it. The ink sticks only to the lines that have been drawn. A moist paper is applied to the plate and a special press is used to make a print. The term also refers to the images created by employing this process.

The single original surface from which any process of printmaking is initiated. The matrix varies from process to process - blocks of wood for woodcut; linoleum for linocuts; metal plates (usually copper or zinc) for engraving or etching; stone for lithography; and fabric for screenprinting.

The shaped, hollow container used in sculpture casting to give its form to the molten substances like bronze that are placed within it. Moulds can either be in one single piece and used only once, or in several pieces that can be taken apart and put together again to cast another sculpture.

An image created when light falls on a photo-sensitive surface, either film or an electronic chip. Most photographs are created using a camera that focuses visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction of what the eye sees on such a surface.

A natural or synthetic colouring substance that is mixed with various mediums and binders to create different kinds of paints, inks, or pastels.

The surface used as a matrix for intaglio prints and some lithographs. It is a flat metal plate usually made from copper, zinc or steel.

The rectangular impression left on the paper caused by the edge of the plate used for intaglio prints. Unlike other printmaking techniques, intaglio prints are printed under extensive pressure.

An image of which many copies are present. The image is typically made from one of several printmaking processes including lithography, serigraphy and woodblock, or developed from the negative of a photograph.

A category of fine art processes in which single or multiple impressions are made from the same plate or screen. These processes include lithography, serigraphy, woodcut, aquatint, etc.

An initial impression of a print, often referred to as working proof in the case of unfinished prints.

Silver Print
A general term for any print made on paper that is coated with silver compounds or salts.

A printmaking process where relief prints are made using a piece of carved wood instead of a plate.

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