Glossary. What Do The Words On An Antique Print Mean?

Posted by Fine Rare Prints 04/02/2015 17 Comment(s) Antique Print Tips,

If you collect antique prints, you may have wondered what the mysterious text below the image means.

In fact, the text reveals quite a lot such as the name of the artist and the printing method used.

However, the words may be difficult to understand. Often they are abbreviations of latin or foreign words, or are words we rarely use these days.

Below are explanations of the ones we often see.

Ask us in the comments if you discover mysterious words on an antique prints. We'll do our best to decipher them for you.

Read about our antique print valuation and appraisal service if you have an antique print that you'd like to know more about.

a.f., aq., aquaforti

The print is an etching. The abbreviation "aquaforti" is Latin for nitric acid. This was used to etch metal printing plates.


The print is an aquatint (a type of etching)..

Cael., Caelavit.

The print is an engraving. The abbreviation "caelavit" is Latin for "engraved". The engraver's name follows this. This was used on engravings until the seventeenth century.

Del., Delt.,  or Delin. 

Means "drew" in Latin. The name following is the artist who who did the drawing that the print reproduces.

Direxit, direx.

Means "directed by". The name following is the director or head of the printing workshop.

Eng., Engd.

The print is an engraving. The abbreviation means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver.

Ex coll.

Means "from the collection of". The name following is the owner or institution.

Ex officina

Means "from the printing house of". The name following is the name of the printing house or publishing house.

Ex typis

Means "from the workshop of". The name following is the workshop.

F., Fec., Fect., Fecit, Fac., Faciebat.

Means "made" or "did". Not a precisely used term, but often means the person drew the image and made the printing plate.

Gravure or Grave.

The print is an engraving. The abbreviation means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver. Sometimes in France it was also used on lithographs.

Imp., impressit.
Means "printed", usually with a rolling press. The name following will be the printer's.

Inventor, invenit, invt., inv., in.
Means "designed by" (i.e the original work).


Means "printed on a lithographic (stone) press". See our article "What is a Lithograph".

Pinx., Ping.
Means "painted". The name following will be that of the artist who did the painting that the print reproduces.

Sc., Sculp., Sculpt.

The print is an engraving. The abbreviation means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver.

Peoples' names.

If you see someone's name on the print, usually, the name on the left is the original artist's, and the name on the right is that of the craftsman who printed image.

Read about our antique print valuation and appraisal service if you have an antique print that you'd like to know more about.

17 Comment(s)

Jack Palmer:
21/01/2016, 10:26:33 AM

Thanks for explaining some of the terminology on antique prints. I don't have too much experience with collecting antiques yet but I was just visiting my grandma and she has a lot of Asian antiques. It gave me the desire to start collecting myself. Now I know a little more about prints, thanks to your article. Thank you for sharing.

Fine Rare Prints:
29/08/2018, 06:31:33 PM

Thanks Jack :-)

Fine Rare Prints:
23/05/2016, 01:14:19 AM,

Glad you enjoyed the article Jack! Kind regards Peter at Fine Rare Prints

Julie Arnett:
16/10/2016, 02:07:12 AM,

Re: Names on prints.....Is the craftsman/printer ever the creater as well?

Fine Rare Prints:
29/08/2018, 05:58:51 PM

Good question Julie. The answer is sometimes, but not very often. The work was usually divided up into specialisms as that was more productive. If that's the only name on the print it may be the case.

Dilip De:
31/01/2017, 02:04:45 AM

Excellent article...most informative..could you throw some light on J M W Turners engraving titled"the battle of Waterloo " with gold lines? best regards

Fine Rare Prints:
29/08/2018, 06:06:54 PM

Hi, He was an English Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist. There are many reproductions of his work. These are generally worth less than his original prints.

22/05/2017, 08:58:22 AM

What does the abb inv. mean on a print? Great article, thanks.

Fine Rare Prints:
29/08/2018, 06:11:34 PM

Hi John Any of (Inventor, invenit, invt., inv., in.) means designed by (i.e the original work)

03/09/2017, 05:00:17 PM

What does the abbreviation "R.A." between the artist's name and Pinxt or Scupt.?

Fine Rare Prints:
29/08/2018, 06:14:20 PM

Hi Amanda, it often means the person was a membr of The Royal Academy which implies they were well respected nd accomplished. See

02/02/2018, 05:16:05 AM

Excellent informative article. Thank you

Brady Kurth:
05/03/2018, 10:15:30 AM

I have a print? Of two penny whist. Below and left it only has Js Gillray ad Vivam delt. Nothing more. It does appear to be colored similar to prints I've viewed online but the color is much fainter on my piece. I was wondering if you could tell me why it says delt instead of fect and also, why there is nothing else for the engraver etc. Rsvp

Fine Rare Prints:
29/08/2018, 06:21:06 PM

Hi Brady, the terms delt and fect were somewhat interchangeable. It sounds like you might have quite a good print as it is by Gillray who is still quite famous. The engraver might not be recored as Gillray was the name that mattered.

Howard Quinn:
28/08/2018, 06:12:34 AM

I am researching a copy a print from 1739. Your Delin et sculp reference and the artist / engraver information are very useful. I am trying to translate the old english abbreviations eg Bart (Baronet). I am puzzled by nrch (it looks like) eg and then in the reign of King Edward III to the Dacres, in nrch family it continued for eight generations. The t of bart and ch of nrch are superscript. if anyone can throw any light on this I would be very grateful.

Fine Rare Prints:
29/08/2018, 06:29:30 PM,

Hi Howard, decoding old abbreviations is quite a tricky challenge on so may levels, especially without seeing the print! I think you are right about Bart. I'm wondering whether the nrch may be something to do with Naworth Castle which was home to the Dacre family at one time.

Christy Davis:
12/09/2018, 09:32:14 AM

Hello, I have acquired a print by James Pollard of which I cannot find another of this particular title,"Hunters on their way to the Hunting Stables". In the lower lft corner it says James Pollard pinrit and the lower rt corner H.Pyall sculpsit (I think, it is so tiny). I'm not sure what the prinrit or the sculpsit mean, hope you can help. Also, is it unusual not to find another of this title or how do I dig deeper? Thankyou so much! Christy Davis

20/09/2018, 04:34:39 PM

Hi Christy, We've seen a print by Pollard like that before. It's a good one! The words you don't understand sound like they refer to the original artist (prinrit )and the engraver (sculpsit) who made the printing plate. There were quite a few variations in how those abbreviations were spelled and the letters can be hard to read as the font is often very small and old fashioned. It can be tricky to track down similar prints but often you can try either google image search or google the title including the quotes and being careful not to misspell words. If you'd like us to take a closer look and help you decide if it's an original antique etc you might want to use our appraisal service, for which there is a link in our Customer Service menu. Kind regards, Peter

22/11/2018, 08:13:23 AM, None

Hi, I have the lithograph you are offering View of the Village of Holme's Hole, Martha's Vineyard, Mass.", and the artist's name appears in the plate on the left side (as on the version on your website), but there is nothing written on the right side - no lithographer name. The one you are offering has the name Buffort - why doesn't mine have Buffort's name on the right side? Could it have been printed by someone else? Thanks!

26/11/2018, 02:27:58 PM

You are probably right, it was probably printed by someone else. Yours may not be a lithograph. It may be a more recent reproduction. Antique lithographs are comprised of tiny speckles in irregular patterns. You can see these with a magnifying glass. That will help you eliminate reproductions made from about 1900-1990. They were made with mechanical methods which have regular patterns. Very recent reproductions made by scanning and printing with a digital printer will still look like a litho. However, the paper will not look like antique paper. This takes a bit of experience to assess. We have some articles that may help you try and assess that yourself - see Articles on our main menu. You may also wish to use our appraisal service here: Kind regards Peter

16/03/2019, 07:23:26 AM

I have what may be lithographs or maybe photogravure? The dots don't seem uniform. Honestly, I'm not sure what kind of print it is..... After the artist's name is the abbreviation del. (I learned what that meant on your website. Thank you!! However, right after the word del. is a tiny number that is offset upwards (like a footnote would be placed) I'm wondering if you have any insights on this. Thank you. Website is great!

04/04/2019, 08:50:00 PM

Hi Noelle, Thanks for asking about your print ! If the dots are irregular, you probably have a lithograph. I'm glad we helped you discover that "del" means "drew" in Latin and that the name following is the artist who who did the drawing that the print reproduces. As there is usually only one artist who created the artwork, the number you can see after "del." is a bit of a mystery! We are intrigued. Are you sure it is a number and not a letter? If it was a letter, that may be an abbreviation for the artist's name. If it is definitely a number, what number is it? If you'd like us to take a detailed look we recommend using our appraisal service. Click on the Customer Service menu to find the appraisal link. Kind regards Peter

07/04/2019, 02:43:49 PM

Hi Peter, Great page! Quick question. I've seen a Claude Randon print where the CPR is preceded by - P.V 2 Massiliae. I would think the end refers to the city of Marseille, France, perhaps where the lithograph was printed. What about the meaning of P.V 2? Thanks for your comment! Gilles

Peter at Fine Rare Prints:
14/05/2019, 12:56:33 AM

Hi Gilles, Your print sounds interesting! We don't think we've seen the abbreviation P.V 2 before. It may be the abbreviation of a road name or place in the print, but that's a bit of a wild guess! We'd really need to see photos of the print to help us make a better guess. Please contact us via our customer service menu, Facebook or Instagram if you'd like us to take a closer look. Good luck with your detective work on your print.

Rebecca Breadon:
05/05/2019, 01:28:38 AM

I have some churchill prints with letters at the bottom and I can't figure out what they mean. K.G. O.M. C.H. F.R.S.

Peter at Fine Rare Prints:
14/05/2019, 01:05:47 AM

Hi Rebecca, I'm guessing your print shows either Churchill or Churchill and some other people. Assuming this, I expect the initals refer to awards and honours he was given. F.R.S. = Fellow of the Royal Society. K.G = Knight of The Garter. O.M = Order of Merit. C.H. = Order of the Companions of Honour. What top-notch chap! Kind regards, Peter

01/06/2019, 12:16:36 PM

What would the abbreviated letters--ex.c.R.-- following the name--NDePoilly-- who appears, from some little research, to be the publisher of a botanical print, maybe by Jean Monnoyer? The print is glued solidly to quite old flaking, obviously not acid-free, cardboard. Any ideas how to remove ancient glue . . .

Customer service at Fine Rare Prints:
12/06/2019, 07:50:46 PM

Hi Clare, The letters "ex C.R." may mean "from the collection of C.R." The C.R. may be someone's initials or a place (e.g. a museum or college). It is tricky and risky to unglue a print. Each situation is going to be unique so there is no one way of doing this. That is why their are professionl paper and art restorers. You should not attempt it on a print unless you accept the risk of damaging it, possibly ruining it. If you are willing to take the risk, you are going to have to find a solvent to dissolve the glue. It is quite likely if an old print it was stuck on with a water soluble glue. So you might consider soaking the print in water but do note if it is a coloured print there is a high chance of the colours running. It would be wise to experiment with prints you don't care about first. Kind regards

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