Printmaking Terms

Here is an explanation of some of the terms used on this website with which you may not be familiar:

ARTIST – The person who made the original drawing. The abbreviation del or delin (for the Latin delineavit) means that the original drawing was made by the artist whose name precedes it.

The Latin word fecit (sometimes abbreviated to ‘ec. or f and meaning ‘made it’ ) after a name identifies the person who did the drawing and may imply that this artist also did the engraving.

CARTOGRAPHER – A mapmaker. Famous mapmakers include Mercator, Ortelius, Blaeu, Delisle, Coronelli, Arrowsmith, Carey and so on.

CARTOUCHE – The often highly decorative title panel on a map. May also contain scale, dedications, etc.

CELESTIAL – Showing stars and constellations.

CHART – A map of the sea, often showing land only as the coastline. A ‘map’ of the night sky is called a celestial chart.

COMPASS ROSE – Frequently a beautiful object in itself. Shows compass points.

CONDITION – The condition of a map of print depends on such factors as whether it is clean, whether the colour is bright or faded, whether there is any damage or repairs, etc.

ENGRAVER – A specialist craftsman who transfers the artist’s drawing onto the metal (or other base) plate for printing. His or her name sometimes appears at the bottom of the print followed by the Latin words sculpsit (or ‘sculp’ or ‘sc’ ).

GLOBE – A sphere that serves as a model of the earth or the heavens. Often made in pairs, one celestial and one terrestrial. Usually made of wood or another substance on which printed map sections are fixed.

GLOBE GORES – Printed lens-shaped sections of map designed to cover a globe.

IMPRESSION – The result of the printing process. A good impression is clear, even and clean. A worn printing plate will give a less good impression and the print will be less valuable.

INSET – A smaller map, plan, vignette or table set into the main map.

PLANISPHERE – A world map with the sphere spread out as a rectangle; as contrasted with a world map shown as two hemispheres.

PLATE – The wood, copper, steel or lithographic base on which the image is engraved or drawn. “Signed (or dated) in the plate” means that the signature or date was engraved in the plate.

PLATE MARK – The indentation left around the edge of the map or print from the pressure of the metal plate on the paper as the image was printed. (See ‘How Prints are Made’ ).

RE-ISSUE – A print from an old plate, taken some years after its first use, sometimes by another publisher in his or her own name. The plate may have been re-engraved.

REPRODUCTION – A copy, usually modern and usually made by a different process from that used to make the original. With practice you will see that reproductions have a very different and less attractive texture and appearance from genuinely antique prints and maps. Most reproductions are very cheap and have no resale value. There do exist high quality reproductions of some antique prints; but we do not stock them.

RHUMB-LINES – Compass lines on charts used to plan the course of ships.

STATE – The first state of a print is the one originally issued. Subsequent states (second, third etc) are prints made from plates where the original image has been altered by the artist. Rembrandt is perhaps the most notable example of an artist whose prints were issued in several states.

VIGNETTE – A small inset view or picture. Perhaps the best known are those on maps by Tallis in the 19th century.

WATERMARK – A trade-mark and/or date incorporated into the paper when it was made. The watermark is normally visible when the paper is held up to the light. Not all early paper was made with a watermark.