A glossary of print & map makers’ terms. Terminology & abbreviations used in antique printmaking

Understanding terminology, abbreviations and credits printed on or below a print or map

Antique and vintage maps and prints almost invariably have descriptive captions and titles printed prominently below and/or above the image. However the observant collector will have noted and may have wondered about the meaning of the discreet credits printed directly below most prints. Many maps, particularly those printed up to the 18th century, also contain much information about the circumstances in which the map was published. Often consisting of names with obscure abbreviations, in a variety of European languages (especially Latin), we explain the meaning of some of these in our glossary below.

Meaning of the position of names at the bottom of an image

Conventionally, if names are printed below the image without any further terms indicative of their role in creating the work, a name printed on the left indicates the artist of the original work while that printed on the right indicates the craftsman who rendered the printed image.

A.f., aq., aquaf., aquaforti fecit. Latin for“made with strong water”, commonly meaning “etched”. In alchemy, aqua fortis is nitric acid (HNO3), which can be used to dissolve metals. Usually used by a craftsman etching another artist’s image.

A.P.  Artist’s proof

Aq: tinta, aquatinta   Used in reference to the craftsman who rendered the tonal aquatint areas on the plate.

Bon à tirer., B.A.T literally “ready for press”; printer’s proof

Cael., caelavit “engraved”. This was commonly used on early engravings up to the 17th century. A clear indication that the image was engraved.

Cartography The map maker, who sets the map’s range and arranges its elements, selects the traits to be mapped and determines the representation of the terrain

Chez A French term meaning “at the house of”, indicating the company, partnership or location at which the indicated function was undertaken.

Cum privilegio  “with privilege”indicates the authority to publish, often given by the King or other Monarch, sometimes bestowing a form of early Copyright

Del., delc., delt., delin., delineavit “drew”. Used to credit the artist from whose original drawing the craftsman (for example the engraver) created and prepared the printing surface.

Dessiné  French for “drawn”. See del.

Direxit “directed by”, indicating the person in charge of managing the overall process

Dressé  On a French map, indicates who “arranged” the layout of the map. Usually used of a decorative map in which the mapped area itself is surrounded by a combination of vignette views, a title cartouche and a decorative border.

Ecrit French for “written”. See del.

Eng., engd., engraved   Used most commonly on line engravings, which combine engraving and etching. Sometimes also used on aquatints which generally do not contain engraved lines. Usually indicates an intaglio print.

Exc., exct., excudit  “forged”. Usually used to refer to the publisher of a print, but may also indicate the craftsman who physically created the printing surface, especially if the publisher is differently credited elsewhere.

f., fec., fecit., fac., faciebat & variations   “did” or “made”. A broad, commonly use term to credit an artist or craftsman with an unspecified role in realising a print. It can be found on various print types. Often used where the original artist has also created the printing surface. Can also be used more precisely in conjunction with a specific role, eg. aquatinta fecit

Gravé   On French print refers to the craftsman who “engraved” the work, although also often used to refer to lithographs.

Imp., impressit  “printed” (literally “impressed”). Almost invariably used of the rolling press, unless followed by “litho.” (or similar) – indicative of a lithographic press.

Inc., incidebat.,  incidit  “incised”, from the Latin. A fairy reliable indication of the engraver.

In., inv., invenit, inventor   “invented”, a general term used in reference to the artist of the original work (whether a painting or a drawing) from which the print was created.

Lith., litho., lithography &c.   To credit either an artist in creating an image on stone or to the craftsman who created the print from the stone.

On stone by Indicative of the artist who produced the image on stone for the creation of a lithographic print.

Par “by” (French)

Ph., sc., photosculpsit   “photoengraved”. Used in the latter part of the 19th century in reference to the craftsman responsible for preparing the process plate. Photoengraving is a process that uses a light-sensitive photoresist applied to a metal block to create a mask that shields some areas during a subsequent operation which etches, dissolves, or otherwise removes some or all of the material from the unshielded areas.

Pinx., pinxt., pinxit, pingebat., ping &c   “painted”, from the Latin. Refers to the artist from whose original painting the print was created. If the painting was first copied down to a more manageable size, the draftsman who performed this work may also be credited.

Sc., sculpsit, sculpt., sculpebat   “carved”, from the Latin. A fairly broad term originally used to credit the engraver or etcher of the plate.  As these traditional printing making methods died out in the early 20th century, the term continued to be used instead to credit the production of line & halftone blocks, although this process involved very little physical carving.

Sumptibus “at the expense of”, indicating the person who financed the publication of the work