formerly the Archives and Collections Society  

Researching your old prints, engravings, etchings and lithographs

The Naval Marine ArchiveThe Canadian Collection cannot research your print for you, and will not appraise the value of your print without actually seeing it on our premises. If you cannot visit our premises, the best place for information on your print is your own local library, a reputable antique print/rare book dealer, or a large print collection such as the Royal Ontario Museum and the Library of Congress.

Resources to look for at your local library or online may include:

General information:

Turner, Jane, ed. (Grove) Dictionary of Art. 34vols. New York: Macmillan, 1996. This may also be available online at your local library.

For identifying the type of print you have, ie. engraving, etching, lithograph, etc.:

Ross, John, 1921- The complete printmaker: techniques, traditions, innovations / John Ross, Clare Romano, Tim Ross; edited and produced by Roundtable Press, Inc. Rev. and expanded ed. New York: Free Press; London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, c1990.

Martin, Judy (Frances Judy) The encyclopedia of printmaking techniques / Judy Martin. Philadelphia, Pa: Running Press, c1993.

Griffiths, Antony Prints and printmaking: an introduction to the history and techniques / Antony Griffiths. [2nd ed.] Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, c1996.

Gascoigne, Bamber. How to identify prints: a complete guide to manual and mechanical processes from woodcut to ink jet / Bamber Gascoigne. [London]: Thames and Hudson, c1986 (1995 printing)

Hults, Linda C. The print in the Western world: an introductory history / Linda C. Hults. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, c1996.

For information about artists:

Illustrator biographies and covers 18th-20th century American artists and illustrators whose work may have been reproduced as prints.

Grove, George and David Wallace. The New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860.New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957.

Williamson, George. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers.London: George Bell & Sons, 1904.

Learning about historical context, period of a print.

Prints for the collector; British prints from 1500 to 1900. New York, Praeger [1971]

Mayor, A. Hyatt (Alpheus Hyatt). Popular prints of the Americas, by A. Hyatt Mayor. New York, Crown Publishers [1973]

Watrous, James, 1908- American printmaking: a century of American printmaking, 1880-1980 / James Watrous. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Dept. of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. Lithography's first half century: the age of Goya and Delacroix: artists' lithographs in Europe: 1801-1851 / Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; [edited by Cynthia M. Purvis]. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1996.

Clayton, Tim. The English print 1688-1802 / Timothy Clayton. New Haven [Conn.]: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, c1997.

For the history of the printer/maker:

Currier and Ives- several sites are devoted to Currier and Ives such as The Currier & Ives Foundation, Currier and Ives Lithographs and Currier

For determining value:

Davenport's Art Reference and Price Guide. Ventura, CA: Davenport's Art Reference, annual.

Gordon's Print Price Annual. New York: Martin Gordon, published annually.

Mayer, Enrique. International Auction Records.Paris: Edicions Mayer, published annually.

Fine prints: collecting, buying, and selling / by Cecile Shapiro and Lauris Mason; with glossaries of French and German terms by Joan Ludman. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, c1976.

E-bay might also give you an idea what similar items are selling for.

Although these sources may be helpful, one must remember that various factors such as condition, size, subject, scarcity, medium, age, etc., all determine value.

To find reproductions,, and have many print reproductions for sale.

How to care for your print

The Northeast Document Conservation Center and The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts have helpful online advice for caring for artifacts such as prints.

Dolloff, Francis W. How to care for works of art on paper, by Francis W. Dolloff and Roy L. Perkinson. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts [1971]

Ellis, Margaret Holben. The care of prints and drawings / Margaret Holben Ellis. Nashville, Tenn.: AASLH Press, c1987.

Note: This is not a definitive guide or endorsement of any particular publication, source, or internet site. It is intended solely as a research aide.


Revised: 31 March 2012