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Prints

Lisa Pon


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Printing, strictly defined, is the process by which ink is transferred from a prepared matrix to another surface; prints are the material objects that bear the ink transferred by this process (→  Printing, History of ). From the mid-fifteenth century until the early nineteenth century in the west, a printing press powered by hand was most commonly used to effect the transfer. As a result, the surface receiving the ink, often a sheet of paper, was usually relatively small in scale in order to fit into the press. The matrix was routinely inked and printed repeatedly, producing hundreds or thousands of prints that were identical in content. Although, by the late sixteenth century, collectors were able to discern qualitative differences between prints made from a new or much used matrix, and were willing to pay substantially more for the former, print scholar William Ivins was correct to point out that the fundamental importance of printed images was their status as “exactly repeatable pictorial statements” (1953). Physical portability, existence in large numbers, and low cost in comparison to drawn or painted pictures have made prints a powerful means of bringing largely identical images to many people in many places (→  Painting ). By the end of the fifteenth century, some thousand years after printing on paper began in China, printing in Europe was producing pictures faster and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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