Terminology: What Do The Words On An Antique Print Mean?

Posted by Fine Rare Prints 04/02/2015 11 Comment(s) Antique Print Tips,

If you collect antique prints, you may have wondered what the sometimes mysterious text below the image means. In fact, it often reveals quite a lot such as the name of the artist and the printing method used.

However, the words are often difficult to understand as they are usually abbreviations of latin or foreign words, or words that are no longer commonly used. Below are explanations of the ones we come across quite often:

If you have an antique print that you'd like to know more about read about our antique print valuation and appraisal service here.


a.f., aq., aquaforti

Means "aquaforti" in Latin, which is nitric acid. This was used to etch metal printing plates, so the print is an etching.


Cael., Caelavit.

Means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver. This was used on engravings until the seventeenth century


Del., Delt.,  or Delin. 

Means "drew". The name following will be the artist's who who did the drawing that the print reproduces.


Eng., Engd.

Means "engraved". The name following this will be that of the engraver.


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.



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".


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


Sc., Sculp., Sculpt.

Means "engraved". The name following will be the engraver's name.


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.


If you have an antique print that you'd like to know more about read about our antique print valuation and appraisal service here.


11 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, www.finerareprints.com

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

Julie Arnett:
16/10/2016, 02:07:12 AM, www.finerareprints.com

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 https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/about-the-ra

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, finerareprints.com

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

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