Question about an antique print, map
or related book you own?
Most questions we get concern items owned by the questioner. We are happy to help where we can. However, we are a business with a small staff and there are limits, both practical and professional, as to the assistance we can offer. Please follow the links below to see if you can find the answer to your question before contacting us directly.
Telling a reproduction from an original can sometimes be very easy, and other times quite difficult. Below are some tests you can make which might tell you what you have.
The most definitive method of determining whether a print is an original or a reproduction is by examination of its production process. All reproductions are made by a different process than originals; reproductions are photomechanically produced and originals are not. This difference in process can usually be spotted by an expert and in some cases is quite obvious.
- Most reproductions are made from a dot-matrix or half tone process, which produces a lentiginous image composed of a symmetrical pattern of small dots.. If you look through a fairly powerful magnifier (e.g. 10X) and you see little dots (either black & white or color), then you have a reproduction.
- If the print is supposed to be an intaglio print (engraving, etching, mezzotint, aquatint, etc.), then if there are big enough margins, a platemark should appear. Note that fake platemarks are not uncommon, but these usually differ in character from real platemarks. Also, the ink in an intaglio print will often feel raised from the surface, so if the print surface feels absolutely smooth, this is a clue that it is not an intaglio print.
- If the print is supposed to be a lithograph or woodcut or wood engraving, then there should be no platemark. If a platemark appears, you likely have a reproduction.
- Most intaglio prints, woodcut and wood engravings, when colored, are colored by hand with watercolors. If the color is printed and the print is supposed to be one of these types, then this is another clue you have a reproduction.
As a general rule, almost all prints and maps printed before 1800 are on laid paper and almost all prints and maps printed after 1800 are on wove paper.
- Laid paper is made by hand in a mold, where the wires used to support the paper pulp emboss their pattern into the paper. This pattern of closely spaced, crossing lines can be seen when the paper is held up to light. The first example of the use of wove paper in western printing was in 1757, so any print or map made before that should certainly be on laid paper. However, even in the second half of the eighteenth century, the use of wove paper was relatively rare, increasing in instances the closer to the end of the century. Also, some modern paper has false laid lines and reproductions often add false laid lines to make the item look more authentic. Thus the appearance of laid lines in the paper is a clue to authenticity, but not proof positive.
- Wove paper, in contrast, is made on a woven belt and lacks the laid lines. Thus the paper will lack the pattern of crossing lines when held up to the light. Though laid paper was used after 1800, the use of laid paper became less and less common as the nineteenth century progressed.
- Look for any printed information which indicates the print is a reproduction, e.g. “reproduced from” or a copyright notice, etc.
- The best way to tell what you have is to try to find a reference book which features the map or print you are trying to research. This can be a collection listing, an exhibition catalogue, or a or catalogue raisonné. These references often list details about the prints or maps and you can compare these to your print or map. Among the details to check are title, measurements and the exact wording of any imprint information. Note that old prints do vary a bit in size, but the measurements should be within about 1/4″ of the recorded size. Note that none of these tests are certain, for there are exceptions to all of them. Also, even if your print passes these tests this does not mean that it is original, though failure of any indicates it probably is a reproduction. Ultimately the issue must be decided by knowing what process the print should be and knowing what the paper should be like. This often takes an expert to determine for certain.For information on the different processes and terms used above, visit the general print reference section of our on-line library.
We love antique prints and maps and are delighted to share our enthusiasm and knowledge with those interested in these wonderful artifacts. However, as we are a small shop trying to stay in business, there are professional and practical limits on how much time we can spend offering free advice. Therefore, we have tried to set up as much on-line help as possible for those seeking information about antique prints, maps and related books. If you follow the links below, you may find the answers to your questions, so please try this before contacting us directly.
Reference Library Visit our on-line reference library which contains much information on antique prints and maps and is available for everyone’s use.
Gallery We have tried to include useful information about the items listed in our on-line gallery. If you can find similar items to those you have questions about, you might find your answers here.
Links Our links page lists many sites filled with information on antique prints, maps and related books
If you have looked on-line and still cannot find the answers you seek, you are welcome to contact us directly. We will answer every email query we get to the extent we can within professional limits. As we get hundreds of questions a month, it may take some time before we can respond.
Free help We are happy to provide, at no charge, any information which we can give you “off-the-cuff,” that is, without having to do any research. And as noted below, we will not give out values without charging for an appraisal.
Research If we have to do any research to provide an answer, we must charge for our time at a rate of $175 per hour. We are a small business and cannot afford to spend the time needed to do research without charging.
You may send us an e-mail enquiry or contact us by phone, fax or mail. Please be as detailed and clear as you can when asking your question to avoid our having to write back for further information and so that we can answer your question to the point. Note: do not send digital images via e-mail unless requested to do so.
We are at all times interested in purchasing quality antique prints, maps and related books. We will purchase individual items or collections.We have established an excellent reputation amongst collectors, curators, librarians, and scholars, and we strive to maintain that reputation in every transaction we undertake. When you deal with The Philadelphia Print Shop West you get
- Prompt payment
If you have an item or items to sell, please feel free to contact us. We cannot make an offer until we see the item(s) in person, but if we see a photograph we can usually give at least a contingent, ball-park figure. Note: do not send digital images via e-mail unless requested to do so.
We are professional appraisers and therefore it is neither ethical nor fair to our paying clients to give out valuations with no charge.We are proud to have appeared regularly as appraisers of prints and maps for 20 years on Antiques Roadshow, but it is only at those events that we offer free appraisals. We are happy to offer appraisals at our shop, through the mail, or via email, but we must charge for these. Please do not ask us for free statements of value unless you come to see us at one of Antiques Roadshow stops.
If you would like further information on the Antiques Roadshow, visit their web site.
If you are seeking a value for your print/map/book, there are several ways in which you can proceed:
Look on-line If you browse our on-line gallery, you may be able to find similar items to that you are seeking a value for. Though issues of state, edition, condition, etc. do affect values, this method can provide a general ball-park value for the item in question.
Reference books There are quite a number of price guides for antique prints, maps and related books. These are based on dealer and auction prices. A good city or university library is likely to have one or two of these. Doing your own research might provide the information you are seeking.
Appraisal We are happy to provide you with an appraisal of the item in question. We offer both formal appraisals at $250 per hour, one hour minimum; or less formal, “professional opinions of value” (e-mail appraisals) for $45. Please visit our appraisal page for more information.