What Exactly is a “Limited Edition” Print?

And Gone....
Creative Commons License photo credit: SuLeS

UPDATE: As a result of the discussions from this post, I’ve written a follow-up article that addresses more perspectives on this topic. Please visit A Closer Look at Limited Editions for further reading.

A few posts back, I mentioned that I put one of my “limited edition” prints up for auction on eBay. In the comments of this post, Stephen Gray asked a very good question:

One thing that always confuses me, however, is the use of the term “limited” or “limited edition” in the digital age. There’s really no actual limiting factor when dealing with digital photos and printing. I mean, even a good negative can be scanned and then reproduced in large numbers. So how do we as photographers define this? What are our responsibilities or requirements when using such terms? (I’ll be honest, not understand this–along with a severe lack of time due to a show I’m currently working on–was a big factor that kept me from submitting to the recent Fine Art Photoblog call for entries.)

As a consumer, if I’m buying something that’s touted as “limited”, then it comes with the expectation that what I’m buying will remain scarce. After 30, you’ll not sell this photo again or is there some other caveat involved?

To be honest, I was asking the same types of questions only a few months ago. Lucky for me, I work with highly talented individuals on the Fine Art Photoblog who could lend me some pointers on the topic. And to be perfectly clear, the material in this article is based on opinion and personal experience. I don’t believe there exists an official handbook or set of rules for “limited edition” photos. Take it with a grain of salt and offer up your own thoughts if your opinion is different.

And no, the photos shown on this post aren’t necessarily limited edition prints — they’re just “prints” of some sort.

WIKIPEDIA’S DEFINITION

Frosty Triptych
Creative Commons License photo credit: kiddharma

Let’s start with the formal source and see what the Wikipedia has to say about the topic of Limited Editions. Here’s an excerpt from the topic of the Special Edition as it relates to the artistic medium.

Limited editions have been standard in printmaking from the nineteenth century onwards. There is a genuine need for the concept here, as many traditional printmaking techniques can only produce a limited number of top-quality impressions, as copies of prints are known. This can be as few as ten or twenty for a technique like drypoint, but more commonly would be in the hundreds or thousands. But here as in other fields, the use of the concept has become largely driven by marketing imperatives, and has been misused in parts of the market. In particular, lithographic, photogravure, rotogravure, and computer reproductions of prints, derived from photographs of an original print, which are most unlikely to have any investment value, are often issued in limited editions implying that they will have such value. These need to be distinguished from the original artist’s print, carefully produced directly from his work in whatever the printmaking medium is, and printed under his supervision.

So to sum that up: driven by marketing imperatives, produced directly from the artist’s work (film or digital file), and produced under the supervision of the artist or directly by the artist.

CODY REDMON’S DEFINITION

Fingerprint 3
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mr Jaded

Cody offered up his definition of Limited Editions to me first when I posed the question. You can catch Cody at the Fine Art Photoblog or on his personal photography blog.

I treat mine differently than some people, but there’s no definitive way to do this. I sell my prints at whatever size the customer wants and it counts as 1-of-X in the edition length…as long as it’s signed and numbered. I don’t usually go below 12×18″ for mine, but it’s up to you. Anything purchased that does not have my signature is not considered part of the limited edition, but some folks believe that only producing a set number is what creates the value of the print. Ansel Adams’ estate would argue against this point, though, as you can go buy poster prints of his work for a couple hundred dollars, but his originals or prints from his negatives usually start about $10K. So, I sell ‘art’ pieces, and I sell ‘signed’ pieces…the signed ones are what matter to me…the others are for hobbyists and over-the-couchers.

So to sum that up: any size counts as part of the limited edition, must be signed and numbered, and reproductions are okay too and don’t detract from the value of the limited edition.

JOSEPH SZYMANSKI’S DEFINITION

080220_1041
Creative Commons License photo credit: taivasalla

Joseph followed up comments with some of his own thoughts on the topic. You can catch Joseph at the Fine Art Photoblog or at his personal photography blog.

Again, like Cody said, there are a lot of interpretations of this. I’ve known a lot of people that do editions in one size only and that’s all they print, others that do a limited edition in one size and print others indefinitely, and those that do editions in all sizes, as in 50 in 11×14, 50 in 16×20 and so on. There is also a school of thought that believes that after the edition is printed the negative (or the digital file as it were) should be destroyed. If you ask me, thats ludicrous.

So to sum that up: there are a lot of interpretations of this topic and many are acceptable, and destroying the original negative or digital file after the limited edition is over is not necessary.

BRIAN AUER’S DEFINITION

screen printed greeting cards
Creative Commons License photo credit: ‘smil

Since doing my original research on this topic, I’ve come to define the idea of Limited Editions to suit my own needs. You can also catch me at the Fine Art Photoblog or at the PhotoNetCast.

I think I have to agree with both Cody and Joe in their thoughts on this. I consider a limited edition print to require a signature and number at a minimum. The print should be produced directly by the artist, or under direct supervision of the artist (such as working with a professional print maker). Any size is okay with me (but no smaller than 12″ at the longest dimension), and any size counts as part of the same limited edition. Reprints, such as those from ImageKind, are perfectly fine during or after the limited edition and they shouldn’t devalue the signed prints. Limited edition prints are collectible pieces of art and their value should increase over time.

So to sum that up: need a signature and number, produced by the artist, sizes don’t matter much, and reprints are okay.

SO TO SUM THAT UP…

Like I said before, there are no hard set rules on this topic. But after doing a little research and talking with some experienced photographers/artists, I think we can say the following about Limited Edition prints:

  • Produced directly from the artist’s original work (film or file).
  • Produced directly by the artist or under direct supervision.
  • Limited to some pre-defined number of prints.
  • Signed and numbered (X of N) by the artist.
  • Sizing of prints is up to the artist.
  • Unsigned reprints are acceptable and don’t devalue the limited edition.
  • The original work doesn’t need to be destroyed at the end.
  • WHAT ELSE?

What other rules or guidelines do you have for Limited Edition prints? Do you disagree with anything here? Have you found other resources that address this topic? Leave some comments and discuss!

UPDATE: As a result of the discussions from this post, I’ve written a follow-up article that addresses more perspectives on this topic. Please visit A Closer Look at Limited Editions for further reading.

25 thoughts on “What Exactly is a “Limited Edition” Print?

  1. John Milleker

    Brian, great article. I have always had a few criteria in my mind when pondering a limited edition. A limited, numbered and signed print. Matted, framed and sealed. I wouldn’t produce something that I put so much care into to create a limited edition and let the client use a hideous mat and frame combination. I feel the creativity of the print needs to be complimented by the hardware and that should come from my own vision. If the customer wants to re-frame fine, but will a broken seal devalue the print if it should happen to be up for auction at Sothebys in the future? I hope!

    Next is a morality call. When you shoot are you going to take one image and pack it all up? No. What if you make image IMG_4455.CR2 the limited edition print to be printed N amount of times and then guaranteed to never print again. Chances are that IMG_4454 and 4456 are darned similar in nature and ultimately value. That’s a call for the photographer – me? I’m not so sure.

    Other prints devaluing the work.. I feel that the major value of a print at this point in my career is to limit how many times it is reproduced. Be it on Print, Coffee Mugs or Mouse Pads. Do you tell your customer that you are limiting all reproductions or just prints? Would you consider anything beyond a basic print ‘a print’? For example, postcards? I think the major factor here is that the Mona Lisa has been reproduced a billion times from t-shirts to postage stamps. I’m no Da Vinci so I need all the edge I can get. If I ever become a big name in photography this philosophy may go out the window.

    Lastly, the comment ‘Produced directly by the artist or under direct supervision’ just seems like a no-brainer to me. If you are sending an uncorrected file straight out of the camera to Walgreens without profiling information or even a general care as to colors and tonality, you shouldn’t be calling it a limited edition print. Any photographer who has slaved over white balance, exposure, profiles no matter if you print it yourself or have your lab print it, is producing that print under crucial direct supervision.

  2. My Camera World

    A good article Brian explaining the views of the Fine Art Photo Blog groups on heir views on limited edition prints.

    If I remember correctly within the USA there are legal rules to define what is constitutes and limited edition print.

    While I don’t have the ruling in front of me, I should try and dig it up again, Limited edition prints means that the artists will only produce x number of prints.

    They do not need to be signed or numbered, but this is ordinarily the practice.

    Therefore you would not able to sign and number x prints and then sell more unsigned if I am correct.

    There is provision when producing limited edition prints to have a very small number that will be used a promo pieces and they are identified as such.

    Niels Henriksen

  3. Damien Franco

    On the thoughts of limited edition prints I’ve always felt that a particular size chosen for that particular image, say 11×14 as an exaple, would be held to the most basic standards of limited edition:

    Numbered
    Signed
    Matted and Framed

    While all other sizes able to be sold en masse.

    Just a thought.

  4. Janne

    Any “Limited edition print” which isn’t actually _limited_ is basically fraud in my view. That includes doing more copies of the same image that aren’t signed; whether different size or not signed is beside the point; just call it “signed edition” or “signed print” if you want to be honest. And “limited” does imply a _small_ number of prints; below a thousand, certainly. Destroying the negative afterwards sounds like a good idea – that is the order of the day for other media that produce limited prints after all (stones are broken; copper plates repolished)

    I mean, according to those definitions above there is actually nothing limiting any of you. You can run off numbered prints under your direct supervision in the millions; just rent some time on a newspaper press. And if that is not enough you seem to argue that a slight size difference, or a somewhat different crop, or just not put your signature on it makes it suddenly “not count”.

    There’s two points to having a limited print: one is that the buyer knows there really is a _limited_ number of images out there. The other is the concept of the artist actually limiting themselves, and not selling all they could do, in preference of creating a smaller number of pieces with individuality.

    Anybody trying to push a “limited print” on me with the kind of definition above is someone I would consider a borderline fraud. If you don’t want to limit yourself, don’t pretend that you do.

  5. Brian Auer Post author

    @John I see your point of view about the matting, framing, and sealing. Personally, I like to leave it up to the buyer. If they’re willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the print, my bet is that they aren’t going to half-ass the frame job. Good point about very similar or identical files — I would consider them to be the same if they print the same. The pixels (or grains) might not be exactly identical, but if you can’t see a difference when printed then it’s the same piece of work in my mind.

    @Niels I actually had no idea that there are legal definitions of such things. I’d be really interested in seeing this.

    @Janne I’d say “fraud” is a bit strong, but you’re certainly entitled to call it what you want. I’m not sure that I can get on board with the limitation of all prints, signed or not. In my eyes, the real value of these limited edition prints comes from the print itself, knowing that the artist produced the print directly, and the signature on the print. And obviously, a lower number of limited prints should demand a higher value — printing in the millions (as you’ve suggested) basically devalues all of the signed works. I typically limit between 20 and 50 — and each one is printed individually rather than in mass production. Without that signature, the work could be a scanned reproduction by a less-than-moral buyer. It could also be a print coming from a place like ImageKind or RedBubble. For those prints I’m not working directly with the printer, reviewing test strips, working out the print settings, etc. If you order a print of mine from ImageKind, I never see it. That print is basically a poster printed on photo paper (but that’s not to say that the quality isn’t good). A print without a signature and indication of the limited nature of that work holds absolutely no more value than the paper it’s printed on or what somebody is willing to pay for a nice looking photo. There is a major difference between an unlimited reproduction and a limited work. As Cody mentioned Ansel Adams as an example, do you think those poster reprints are devaluing his limited works? Certainly not. How many other artists out there offer unlimited reproductions of limited work? Probably more than one.

  6. Brian Auer Post author

    @Niels I saw a reference to those 14 state laws at “The Online Photographer” but the link is dead.

    On a side note, I’m digging a little deeper and I’m finding some references to certificates of authenticity when selling multiples, but the sources aren’t great. I tried navigating the California state laws, but no luck. Anybody out there good at that kind of stuff?

  7. Janne

    Brian, don’t call it “limited” then. Call it a “signed print”; that’s what it is. “limited” implies receiving something you are not willing to give.

  8. Brian Auer Post author

    Agree to disagree then. My signed prints are limited no matter how you slice it. If I didn’t place a “1 of 30″ at the bottom of the signed print then I’d call it a “signed print” and I’d be free to produce and sign any number of them.

  9. Janne

    Litography makes a difference between “signed and numbered” and “limited”. And the difference is precisely that the “signed and numbered” are not exclusive; the total number of the image in question is not limited, and the print run is not done all in one go with the plates destroyed at the end.

    If you want to aspire to borrow the cachet that “limited print” gives fine art, then you should follow the restrictions as well.

  10. Brian Auer Post author

    Historically, limited editions were out of necessity or by the physical limitation to reproduce a work. Yes, the edition was run at the same time. Yes, it was limited to ONLY those prints (unless the plate was reworked and a second edition run). Yes, they were all the same size. But only because the quality of the plate would not allow for infinite reproduction and the cost of reproduction didn’t accommodate multiple sizes. The value of these prints came from the actual scarcity of the work. In the digital age, you can produce an infinite number of prints at the same quality. The value from these prints is more perceived than actual unless you destroy the original and if that digital image has never been reproduced in any manner. By strict definitions, placing a photo on the internet automatically excludes you from calling a print of that photo “limited”. If I have the ability to grab one of my photos (and let’s say I destroyed the original) off of a website (even if it’s at a smaller scale) and make a print, I’ve essentially broken my “limited” boundaries of that particular work.

    Imposing a limit on something doesn’t make it fine art by default. Just as fine art doesn’t have to be limited.

  11. Uwe Mayer

    Very interesting article indeed.
    Only regarding numbering the final prints (x of n) I tend to disagree. If the print says “17 of 50″, does that mean it was print 17 and there are 49 other prints or that there may be at max 49 prints somewhere in the future. Isn’t it likely that most limited editions never reach the maximum number of prints?

  12. My Camera World

    Great discussions Brian on this subject of limited edition – what ever that really means.

    I am no expert in the field and I only provided my thoughts on previous articles I read and then again these may have been wrong or even written for other jurisdictions.

    I believe as an artist, unless there are legal definitions within your jurisdiction, it is important to clearly define your use of limited editions and any other prints runs you might be making for different sizes, posts cards, unsigned etc.

    You have clearly stated your methods which will go along way to make any buyer of your fine art prints comfortable with their decision to purchase.

    Niels Henriksen

  13. Brian Auer Post author

    @Uwe I suppose that depends on how the prints are created. If the artist makes a complete run of 30 prints, signs, and numbers all of them, then there are 30 prints. In a case such as my own, the total number indicates that there will be a maximum of that many signed prints.

    @Niels I agree — great discussions all around. We’ll definitely continue this topic in another article. I agree that whatever the artist decides to offer in terms of signature, limits, editions, runs, etc, they should make that clear to the buyer. Like you said, if the customer sees value in the print, they’ll pay what they think it’s worth regardless of the terminology used. But with educated buyers, I think we need to be careful which terminology we use to describe our offerings (as Janne has made me completely realize).

  14. Cody Redmon

    Wow, this is quite a discussion. It proves yet again how different people can look at the same item/issue and see different meanings and implications. I’m somewhat intrigued by Janne’s adamant views, but have to say politely that they seem rather of antiquated. I agree, the term “fraud” is unnecessarily strong – fraud implies intentional trickery or deceit, whereas I disclose my policy for ‘limited’ and ‘reproduction’ pieces quite clearly to those interested in my works. There are no secrets or ill intent, no attempts to pass something off as something it is not. For my workflow specifically, each ‘limited’ print is produced 1-off using Kodak Endura light-sensitive silver halide paper, processed in a chemical bath and hung to dry. I produce no more than the edition length (typically 50 pieces) and once they’re gone, they are only available on the secondary market via one of those 50 owners. Brian, you’ve made some stellar points and I commend you for your broad, yet focused approach to all of this. One point that stood out to me was the comment about how even posting an image online once its ‘limited’ run length has been reached violates Janne’s definition of the term. I can’t imagine the impact of this practice if anyone actually applied it…and I’m putting that kindly. Consider this scenario – Sally Mann has a show at a museum. The images being displayed are all limited edition works, all of which are sold out – the run length has been reached. When the museum, a respected institute, produces a small booklet/handout to promote the show and they include several of those images in the document itself, by Janne’s definition, are they not again violating Sally Mann’s run length constraints themselves? It just doesn’t make sense. I think I’ll stick to the way the Masters do it and call it good.

    I’m really curious about what Niels presented regarding specific state laws. I was unaware that such existed and will be doing a bit of research to find out. My brother’s a lawyer here in Montana, and though I doubt we’re one of the 14 states with such guidelines, I’ll ask him to see what he knows.

    Again, thanks for the great post, Brian, you’ve got some people thinking on this one…

  15. Pingback: A Closer Look at “Limited Editions”

  16. stritzel

    all.

    just for interest.
    some of these questions can be answered within particular state law,
    especially in california. .. but questions of digital reproductions in addition to limited series reproductions….ie. those used for promotions, t-shirst etc. are still grey areas. here is an excerpt from california law pertaining to same.

    CIVIL CODE
    SECTION 1740-1741

    1740. As used in this title:
    (a) “Fine art multiple” or “multiple” for the purposes of this
    title means any fine print, photograph (positive or negative),
    sculpture cast, collage, or similar art object produced in more than
    one copy. Pages or sheets taken from books and magazines and offered
    for sale or sold as art objects shall be included, but books and
    magazines shall be excluded.
    (b) “Fine print” or “print” means a multiple produced by, but not
    limited to, engraving, etching, woodcutting, lithography, and
    serigraphy, and means multiples produced or developed from
    photographic negatives, or any combination thereof.
    (c) “Master” is used in lieu of and has the same meaning as a
    printing plate, stone, block, screen, photographic negative, or mold
    or other process as to a sculpture, which contains an image used to
    produce fine art objects in multiples.
    (d) “Artist” means the person who created the image which is
    contained in, or constitutes, the master or conceived of, and
    approved the image which is contained in, or constitutes, the master.

    (e) Whether a multiple is “signed” or “unsigned” as these terms
    are used in this title relating to prints and photographs, depends
    upon whether or not the multiple was autographed by the artist’s own
    hand, and not by mechanical means, after the multiple was produced,
    irrespective of whether it was signed or unsigned in the plate.
    (f) “Impression” means each individual fine art multiple made by
    printing, stamping, casting, or any other process.
    (g) “Art dealer” means a person who is in the business of dealing,
    exclusively or nonexclusively, in the fine art multiples to which
    this title is applicable, or a person who by his or her occupation
    holds himself or herself out as having knowledge or skill peculiar to
    these works, or to whom that knowledge or skill may be attributed by
    his or her employment of an agent or other intermediary who by his
    or her occupation holds himself or herself out as having that
    knowledge or skill. The term “art dealer” includes an auctioneer who
    sells these works at public auction, but excludes persons, not
    otherwise defined or treated as art dealers herein, who are
    consignors or principals of auctioneers.
    (h) “Limited edition” means fine art multiples produced from a
    master, all of which are the same image and bear numbers or other
    markings to denote the limited production thereof to a stated maximum
    number of multiples, or are otherwise held out as limited to a
    maximum number of multiples.
    (i) “Proofs” means multiples which are the same as, and which are
    produced from the same master as, the multiples in a limited edition,
    but which, whether so designated or not, are set aside from and are
    in addition to the limited edition to which they relate.
    (j) “Certificate of authenticity” means a written or printed
    description of the multiple which is to be sold, exchanged, or
    consigned by an art dealer. Every certificate shall contain the
    following statement:
    “This is to certify that all information and the statements
    contained herein are true and correct.”
    (k) “Person” means an individual, partnership, corporation,
    limited liability company, association, or other entity, however
    organized.

    1741. This title shall apply to any fine art multiple when offered
    for sale or sold at wholesale or retail for one hundred dollars
    ($100) or more, exclusive of any frame.

    CIVIL CODE
    SECTION 1742-1744.9

    1742. (a) An art dealer shall not sell or consign a multiple into
    or from this state unless a certificate of authenticity is furnished
    to the purchaser or consignee, at his or her request, or in any event
    prior to a sale or consignment, which sets forth as to each
    multiple, the descriptive information required by Section 1744 for
    any period. If a prospective purchaser so requests, the certificate
    shall be transmitted to him or her prior to the payment or placing of
    an order for a multiple. If payment is made by a purchaser prior to
    delivery of such a multiple, this certificate shall be supplied at
    the time of or prior to delivery. With respect to auctions, this
    information may be furnished in catalogues or other written materials
    which are made readily available for consultation and purchase prior
    to sale, provided that a bill of sale, receipt, or invoice
    describing the transaction is then provided which makes reference to
    the catalogue and lot number in which this information is supplied.
    Information supplied pursuant to this subdivision shall be clearly,
    specifically and distinctly addressed to each of the items listed in
    Section 1744 unless the required data is not applicable. This
    section is applicable to transactions by and between art dealers and
    others considered to be art dealers for the purposes of this title.

    (b) An art dealer shall not cause a catalogue, prospectus, flyer,
    or other written material or advertisement to be distributed in,
    into, or from this state which solicits a direct sale, by inviting
    transmittal of payment for a specific multiple, unless it clearly
    sets forth, in close physical proximity to the place in such material
    where the multiple is described, the descriptive information
    required by Section 1744 for any time period. In lieu of this
    required information, the written material or advertising may set
    forth the material contained in the following quoted passage, or the
    passage itself, if the art dealer then supplies the required
    information prior to or with delivery of the multiple. The
    nonobservance of the terms within the following passage shall
    constitute a violation of this title:

    “California law provides for disclosure in writing of information
    concerning certain fine prints, photographs, and sculptures prior to
    effecting a sale of them. This law requires disclosure of such
    matters as the identity of the artist, the artist’s signature, the
    medium, whether the multiple is a reproduction, the time when the
    multiple was produced, use of the plate which produced the multiple,
    and the number of multiples in a “limited edition.” If a prospective
    purchaser so requests, the information shall be transmitted to him or
    her prior to payment, or the placing of an order for a multiple. If
    payment is made by a purchaser prior to delivery of the multiple,
    this information will be supplied at the time of or prior to
    delivery, in which case the purchaser is entitled to a refund if, for
    reasons related to matter contained in such information, he or she
    returns the multiple in the condition in which received, within 30
    days of receiving it. In addition, if after payment and delivery, it
    is ascertained that the information provided is incorrect, the
    purchaser may be entitled to certain remedies, including refund upon
    return of the multiple in the condition in which received.”

    This requirement is not applicable to general written material or
    advertising which does not constitute an offer to effect a specific
    sale.
    (c) In each place of business in the state where an art dealer is
    regularly engaged in sales of multiples, the art dealer shall post in
    a conspicuous place, a sign which, in a legible format, contains the
    information included in the following passage:

    “California law provides for the disclosure in writing of certain
    information concerning prints, photographs, and sculpture casts.
    This information is available to you, and you may request to receive
    it prior to purchase.”

    (d) If an art dealer offering multiples by means of a catalogue,
    prospectus, flyer or other written material or advertisement
    distributed in, into or from this state disclaims knowledge as to any
    relevant detail referred to in Section 1744, he or she shall so
    state specifically and categorically with regard to each such detail
    to the end that the purchaser shall be enabled to judge the degree of
    uniqueness or scarcity of each multiple contained in the edition so
    offered. Describing the edition as an edition of “reproductions”
    eliminates the need to furnish further informational details unless
    the edition was allegedly published in a signed, numbered, or limited
    edition, or any combination thereof, in which case all of the
    informational details are required to be furnished.
    (e) Whenever an artist sells or consigns a multiple of his or her
    own creation or conception, the artist shall disclose the
    information required by Section 1744, but an artist shall not
    otherwise be regarded as an art dealer.

    1742.6. Any charitable organization which conducts a sale or
    auction of fine art multiples shall be exempt from the disclosure
    requirements of this title if it posts in a conspicuous place, at the
    site of the sale or auction, a disclaimer of any knowledge of the
    information specified in Section 1744, and includes such a disclaimer
    in a catalogue, if any, distributed by the organization with respect
    to the sale or auction of fine art multiples. If a charitable
    organization uses or employs an art dealer to conduct a sale or
    auction of fine art multiples, the art dealer shall be subject to all
    disclosure requirements otherwise required of an art dealer under
    this title.

    1744. (a) Except as provided in subdivisions (c), (d), (e), and
    otherwise in this title, a certificate of authenticity containing the
    following informational details shall be required to be supplied in
    all transactions covered by subdivisions (a), (b), and (e) of Section
    1742:
    (1) The name of the artist.
    (2) If the artist’s name appears on the multiple, a statement
    whether the multiple was signed by the artist.
    If the multiple was not signed by the artist, a statement of the
    source of the artist’s name on the multiple, such as whether the
    artist placed his signature on the multiple or on the master, whether
    his name was stamped or estate stamped on the multiple or on the
    master, or was from some other source or in some other manner placed
    on the multiple or on the master.
    (3) A description of the medium or process, and where pertinent to
    photographic processes, the material used in producing the multiple,
    such as whether the multiple was produced through the etching,
    engraving, lithographic, serigraphic, or a particular method or
    material used in photographic developing processes. If an
    established term, in accordance with the usage of the trade, cannot
    be employed accurately to describe the medium or process, a brief,
    clear description shall be made.
    (4) If the multiple or the image on or in the master constitutes,
    as to prints and photographs, a photomechanical or photographic type
    of reproduction, or as to sculptures a surmoulage or other form of
    reproduction of sculpture cases, of an image produced in a different
    medium, for a purpose other than the creation of the multiple being
    described, a statement of this information and the respective
    mediums.
    (5) If paragraph (4) is applicable, and the multiple is not
    signed, a statement whether the artist authorized or approved in
    writing the multiple or the edition of which the multiple being
    described is one.
    (6) If the purported artist was deceased at the time the master
    was made which produced the multiple, this shall be stated.
    (7) If the multiple is a “posthumous” multiple, that is, if the
    master was created during the life of the artist but the multiple was
    produced after the artist’s death, this shall be stated.
    (8) If the multiple was made from a master which produced a prior
    limited edition, or from a master which constitutes or was made from
    a reproduction or surmoulage of a prior multiple or the master which
    produced the prior limited edition, this shall be stated as shall the
    total number of multiples, including proofs, of all other editions
    produced from that master.
    (9) As to multiples produced after 1949, the year, or approximate
    year, the multiple was produced shall be stated. As to multiples
    produced prior to 1950, state the year, approximate year or period
    when the master was made which produced the multiple and when the
    particular multiple being described was produced. The requirements
    of this subdivision shall be satisfied when the year stated is
    approximately accurate.
    (10) Whether the edition is being offered as a limited edition,
    and if so: (i) the authorized maximum number of signed or numbered
    impressions, or both, in the edition; (ii) the authorized maximum
    number of unsigned or unnumbered impressions, or both, in the
    edition; (iii) the authorized maximum number of artist’s, publisher’s
    or other proofs, if any, outside of the regular edition; and (iv)
    the total size of the edition.
    (11) Whether or not the master has been destroyed, effaced,
    altered, defaced, or canceled after the current edition.
    (b) If the multiple is part of a limited edition, and was printed
    after January 1, 1983, the statement of the size of the limited
    edition, as stated pursuant to paragraph (10) of subdivision (a) of
    Section 1744 shall also constitute an express warranty that no
    additional multiples of the same image, including proofs, have been
    produced in this or in any other limited edition.
    (c) If the multiple was produced in the period from 1950 to the
    effective date of this section, the information required to be
    supplied need not include the information required by paragraphs (5)
    and (8) of subdivision (a).
    (d) If the multiple was produced in the period from 1900 to 1949,
    the information required to be supplied need only consist of the
    information required by paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (9) of
    subdivision (a).
    (e) If the multiple was produced before the year 1900, the
    information to be supplied need only consist of the information
    required by paragraphs (1), (3), and (9) of subdivision (a).

    1744.7. Whenever an art dealer furnishes the name of the artist
    pursuant to Section 1744 for any time period after 1949, and
    otherwise furnishes information required by any of the subdivisions
    of Section 1744 for any time period, as to transactions including
    offers, sales, or consignments made to other than art dealers, and to
    other art dealers, such information shall be a part of the basis of
    the bargain and shall create express warranties as to the information
    provided. Such warranties shall not be negated or limited because
    the art dealer in the written instrument did not use formal words
    such as “warrant” or “guarantee” or because the art dealer did not
    have a specific intention or authorization to make a warranty or
    because any required statement is, or purports to be, or is capable
    of being merely the seller’s opinion. The existence of a basis in
    fact for information warranted by virtue of this subdivision shall
    not be a defense in an action to enforce such warranty. However,
    with respect to photographs and sculptures produced prior to 1950,
    and other multiples produced prior to 1900, as to information
    required by paragraphs (3), (4), (5), and (6) of subdivision (a) of
    Section 1744, the art dealer shall be deemed to have satisfied this
    section if a reasonable basis in fact existed for the information
    provided. When information is not supplied as to any subdivision or
    paragraph of Section 1744 because not applicable, this shall
    constitute the express warranty that the paragraph is not applicable.

    Whenever an art dealer disclaims knowledge as to a particular item
    about which information is required, such disclaimer shall be
    ineffective unless clearly, specifically, and categorically stated as
    to the particular item and contained in the physical context of
    other language setting forth the required information as to a
    specific multiple.

    1744.9. (a) An artist or art dealer who consigns a multiple to an
    art dealer for the purpose of effecting a sale of the multiple, shall
    have no liability to a purchaser under this article if the
    consignor, as to the consignee, has complied with the provisions of
    this title.
    (b) When an art dealer has agreed to sell a multiple on behalf of
    a consignor, who is not an art dealer, or an artist has not consigned
    a multiple to an art dealer but the art dealer has agreed to act as
    the agent for an artist for the purpose of supplying the information
    required by this title, the art dealer shall incur the liabilities of
    other art dealers prescribed by this title, as to a purchaser.

    CIVIL CODE
    SECTION 1745-1745.5

    1745. (a) An art dealer, including a dealer consignee, who offers
    or sells a multiple in, into or from this state without providing the
    certificate of authenticity required in Sections 1742 and 1744 of
    this title for any time period, or who provides information which is
    mistaken, erroneous or untrue, except for harmless errors, such as
    typographical errors, shall be liable to the purchaser of the
    multiple. The art dealer’s liability shall consist of the
    consideration paid by the purchaser for the multiple, with interest
    at the legal rate thereon, upon the return of the multiple in the
    condition in which received by the purchaser.
    (b) In any case in which an art dealer, including a dealer
    consignee, willfully offers or sells a multiple in violation of this
    title, the person purchasing such multiple may recover from the art
    dealer, including a dealer consignee, who offers or sells such
    multiple an amount equal to three times the amount required under
    subdivision (a).
    (c) No action shall be maintained to enforce any liability under
    this section unless brought within one year after discovery of the
    violation upon which it is based and in no event more than three
    years after the multiple was sold.
    (d) In any action to enforce any provision of this title, the
    court may allow the prevailing purchaser the costs of the action
    together with reasonable attorneys’ and expert witnesses’ fees. In
    the event, however, the court determines that an action to enforce
    was brought in bad faith, it may allow such expenses to the seller
    as it deems appropriate.
    (e) These remedies shall not bar or be deemed inconsistent with a
    claim for damages or with the exercise of additional remedies
    otherwise available to the purchaser.
    (f) In any proceeding in which an art dealer relies upon a
    disclaimer of knowledge as to any relevant information set forth in
    Section 1744 for any time period, such disclaimer shall be effective
    unless the claimant is able to establish that the art dealer failed
    to make reasonable inquiries, according to the custom and usage of
    the trade, to ascertain the relevant information or that such
    relevant information would have been ascertained as a result of such
    reasonable inquiries.

    1745.5. (a) Any person performing or proposing to perform an act in
    violation of this title within this state may be enjoined in any
    court of competent jurisdiction.
    (b) Actions for injunction pursuant to this title may be
    prosecuted by the following persons:
    (1) The Attorney General.
    (2) Any district attorney.
    (3) Any city attorney.
    (4) With the consent of the district attorney, a city prosecutor
    in any city or city and county having a full-time city prosecutor in
    the name of the people of the State of California upon their own
    complaint, or upon the complaint of any board, officer, person,
    corporation, or association.
    (5) Any person acting in his or her own interests, or in the
    interests of the members of a corporation or association, or in the
    interests of the general public.
    (c) Any person who violates any provision of this title may also
    be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars
    ($1,000) for each violation, which may be assessed and recovered in a
    civil action brought in the name of the people of the State of
    California by the Attorney General or by any district attorney or any
    city attorney, and, with the consent of the district attorney, by a
    city prosecutor in any city or city and county having a full-time
    city prosecutor in any court of competent jurisdiction.
    If the action is brought by the Attorney General, one-half of the
    penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the county in
    which the judgment was entered, and one-half to the General Fund. If
    brought by a district attorney, the penalty collected shall be paid
    to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment was entered. If
    brought by a city attorney or city prosecutor, one-half of the
    penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the city in which
    the judgment was entered, and one-half to the treasurer of the
    county in which the judgment was entered.
    (d) Any person who violates any provision of this title may also
    be liable for a civil penalty surcharge not to exceed one thousand
    dollars ($1,000) for each violation which shall be assessed and
    recovered in the manner provided in subdivision (c). Any penalty
    surcharge collected shall be applied to the costs of enforcing this
    title by the prosecuting officer.

  17. Brian Auer Post author

    WOW! Thanks for digging this stuff up! I’m guessing that California is one of the more strict states on this type of stuff. I think I’m going to have to read this about 10 times… I hate trying to understand legal-speak.

  18. Pingback: Making Fine Art Prints: Introductions

  19. Pingback: Making Fine Art Prints: Signing

  20. Cicero J. Gilreath

    This is really great information, I was considering selling some of my photographs of President Barack Obama, which were taking when he was a senator campaigning for president Oct 2008. I have a few exceptional photographs I wanted to offer for sell as limited editions, but after reading these comments I think it’s best to review the laws in the state of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland before I make a move.

    I have a great deal of reading to do before they are available, but I’m grateful for the information provided here, thanks all.

  21. C.Hopkins

    My husband recently passed away. I have re-prints of his work that were produced under his supervision. My question is, how should I mark the prints. I have been told to use his initials. Do I include any notations such as Estate and the date issued? Please advise, thank you.

  22. Anonynous

    This has been a really interesting article, and I felt compelled to add to the comments.

    I am an artist/illustrator myself and I am keen for purchasers of my ‘soon to be printed’ limited editions to feel they have bought something of value, that will, with any luck, appreciate in value with time.

    There should be a clear distinction between prints made for sale and printing used for promotional/advertising purposes. They are not the same. It is ridiculous to think that promotional printing of a work is the same as a limited edition run, where time, thought and careful decisions are made by the artist to ensure quality and standards are met.

    However, I do agree with some of the points Janne has put forward. =O

    Prints made by the artist with the clear intention of selling to others as ‘Limited Edition Prints’ should, in my view, be strictly limited to a number. The idea of selling casually non-signed prints to customers does seem to undermine the value of the limited signed prints, particularly if they are printed in the same way. I also think that changing the print size or paper used does significantly reduce the perceived value of the edition. Personally I would want to make a limited edition, where each print was identical in size/paper/ink/printer used. I’m not saying that producing limited editions as well as ‘reproduction’ prints is wrong, but putting myself in the shoes of a purchaser, the value of the limited edition does seem diminished. The purchaser is investing in something with almost blind faith that the artist has spent more time and taken more care in producing the ‘signed limited’ print rather than the ‘unsigned reproduction’ print. Whereas in the past, with pressure-printing processes, the purchaser knew that the artist couldn’t reproduce a print in its millions, and hence scarcity was assured.

    I think people buying prints want a sense that the artist has set strict guidelines on the printing of their artwork. Setting of guidelines or rules are now more necessary than ever because technology has allowed the unrestricted potential for artists to print in the millions. Perhaps a certificate of authenticity that is bought with each ‘limited’ print should have a signed statement by the artist to assure the purchaser what guidelines they are following for the edition. So at least then the purchaser has some direct reassurance of exactly what they are buying/investing in.

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