I should have seen it coming when the Art History professor and the English professor started talking with each other about “print culture” (names omitted to protect reputations). It soon became clear that one had been talking about the circulation of printed pictures, the other had been talking about the circulation of printed words, and neither wanted to let on that they hadn’t been talking about both all along. Full disclosure: when I first came to the library world from the art world, I had no idea that familiar picture-printing terms have different and sometimes contradictory meanings in word-printing. This post is for anyone else who didn’t know that they didn’t know this.
My intention is to use bold when a shared word appears in its book sense, and bold italics when a shared word appears in its picture sense. Let’s see if I can avoid getting them mixed up. If I do get mixed up, or if you can think of other examples, please speak up in the Comments. 1
In the picture world, an edition is the number of copies in a print run. The term usually only comes up when the number is artificially capped—for instance, “printed in an edition of ten” or “number fourteen of an edition of twenty-five” (which would be written simply “14/25” in pencil on the print). [Updated to include the following image] See, for instance, the Folger’s copy of J.W. Winkelman’s 1994 etching “Early Stage,” which is number eighteen of an edition of one hundred:
For book people, an edition isn’t a number, it’s the collective noun for all of the copies resulting from (roughly) a single setting of type. 2 Deliberate changes to the settings of type constitute different editions (second edition; revised edition; annotated edition; etc.) and the publisher usually proclaims the difference on the title page.
So how do picture people describe deliberate changes to the same work? Simple. Each visually identifiable stage in the life of a picture’s printing surface is a different state (second state; state 1 of 3; early state; etc.). Prints from the early modern period frequently exist in more than one state, since the printing surfaces were often touched-up as they wore out, or altered to replace one printseller’s name with another’s when the plate (metal printing surface) or block (wooden printing surface) changed hands. The earliest state of this print by Martin Droeshout says “Sold by Roger Daniell at the Angell in lumbard Streete” in the oval near the bottom:
In a later state, the text in the oval has been changed to “Are to be sold by Thomas Johnson in Brittaynes Burse.”
On the other hand, a state in bibliography is a copy or group of copies within the same impression (i.e., print run) that differs from the others in some way that the publisher does not want to proclaim as different. 3
However, an impression in picture printing refers to a single copy of a print.
And a copy in picture printing refers to a reproduction of a pre-existing picture. Sometimes a copy reproduces a picture in a different medium. The etching below is Wenceslaus Hollar’s copy of a painting by Hans Holbein:
The original picture is a much larger, and very colorful, oil painting.
Other times, a copy in the picture world is a replica. This plate 4 of Boscobel House was removed from a copy of the second edition of Sir Thomas Blount’s Boscobel, or, The history of His Sacred Majesties most miraculous preservation after the battle of Worcester, which was published 1769. It is a close copy of a Wenceslaus Hollar print from the first edition of the book, published in 1660.
Why was a copy used rather than additional impressions from the original plate? Presumably, the plate etched by Hollar was no longer available, so the plate in the book was made from a new plate.
Speaking of metal printing plates, sometimes picture terms are simply misunderstood in the book world. You know how an engraving is printed from a sheet of metal with lines cut into it, and how a woodcut is printed from a piece of wood with spaces between the lines cut out of it? (See Woodcut, engraving, or what?.) Long ago, a policymaker at ESTC assumed that if early modern prints from wood are woodcuts, then early modern prints from metal must be metal cuts:
But in fact, prints made from metal or wood by cutting out the spaces between the lines are metal cuts and woodcuts, respectively (with metal cuts being quite rare, especially after the 16th century). And prints made by cutting lines into metal or wood are engravings – copper engravings, steel engravings, wood engravings, etc. (with wood engravings being quite rare until the 19th century).
And THEN there’s the too-common assumption that “book” is synonymous with “codex of printed words,” despite the fact that bound manuscripts, bound prints, and bound hybrids of all three are also books… [Erin wanders off down the hall, muttering to herself. Again.]
- On the assumption that most Collation readers are already familiar with the the book-world meanings of the terms, and because this post is overdue, I’m only illustrating the picture-world meanings.
- Philip Gaskell describes an edition as “all the copies of a book printed at any time (or times) from substantially the same setting of type, and includes all the various impressions, issues, and states which may have derived from that setting.” He goes on to describe “substantially the same setting” as meaning, roughly, that less than half the type has been reset. (Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography, Second Impression, Oak Knoll Press, 2006, p.313.
- Again, here’s Gaskell for more nuanced definitions of impression—“all the copies of an edition printed at any one time” (p.314) which, in the hand-press period, essentially is the same as an edition—and state—“all other variants from the basic form of the ideal copy” (p.315) including stop-press corrections, inserting or removing preliminaries, adding errata leaves, inserting or removing text during the process of printing.
- The standard manual for cataloging rare materials (commonly known as “DCRM(B)”) provides the following definition of plate: “A leaf that is chiefly or entirely non-letterpress, or a folded leaf of any kind, inserted with letterpress gatherings of text. A plate usually contains illustrative matter, with or without accompanying text, but may contain only text, e.g., an engraved title page or a folded letterpress table.” (Association of College and Research Libraries, Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials: Books Washington (DC: Cataloging Distribution Services, 2007), p. 203.