Limited edition refers to the number of prints that are available for that particular artwork. The number of prints in an edition is determined by the artist, printer and when applicable, the publisher. A hand printed print is an original work of art and is an image that does not exist in any other form. People get confused by reproductions which are sometimes marketed as original prints. Reproductions are mechanically reproduced prints of paintings and drawings that have been photographed. Sometimes they may even be copies of original prints that have been photographed. Reproductions are not original works of art. In South Africa, most limited editions consist of less than a hundred prints. The print number of a limited edition is usually written in pencil in the bottom left-hand corner of the print. It is written with the number that that print is in the edition followed by a slash and then the number of the full edition. For example, 17/25 would be the seventeenth print out of an edition of twenty-five. It does not mean that the print has got 17 out of a total of 25 marks!
In a limited edition print you will get the following: numbered prints (1/25 to 25/25 for e.g), artists proofs (A.P 1/3 for example, where the 3 indicates the number of artist's proofs), workshop proofs (W.P) and printers proofs (P.P). There will also be a Bon a tirer print, which is the approval to print. The printer usually keeps the B.A.T. The tradition of limited edition prints is to have the numbered prints and then the various proofs editioned in addition to the numbered ones. This means that the artist will have a copy or copies of the print and that the workshop and printer will also have a collection of the limited edition work that they have done. Collectors will often approach the printer directly to try to buy their printer's proof once the numbered prints are sold out.
The limited nature of the limited edition is ensured by the original plate, block or stone being defaced or destroyed to ensure that no "second" editions can be printed. It is important to check whether the studio and printer that printed a print you may be interested in, have integrity prior to investing in any artwork. All prints produced at The Artists' Press have documentation sheets that anyone may look at which detail the exact amount of prints produced.