Definitions of engraving terms
An explanation of the words and terms used in engraving
If you collect antique engravings, you may have wondered what some of the mysterious words and letters below the image mean. In fact, they may reveal quite a lot about the print such as the names of the artist and printmaker, and the printing method used.
They are difficult to understand as they are often abbreviations of latin, foreign or words that are no longer in common use. Here are explanations of the more common abbreviations and words you may see on antique prints:
a.f., aq., aquaforti. These mean "aquaforti" in Latin, which is nitric acid. This was used to etch metal printing plates, so the print is an etching rather than an engraving
del., delt., delin. This mean"drew". The name following will be the artist's who who did the drawing that the engraving reproduces.
eng.,engd. This means engraved. The name following this will be that of the engraver.
f., fec., fect., fac., faciebat. These mean "made." Often seen on antique engravings and lithographs. Most often used where the person who drew the image also printed it.
imp., impressit. This means printed, usually from an engraved plate pressed on the paper with a rolling press. The name following will be the printer's.
imp. lith. Means printed on a lithographic (stone) press. This means the art work is not an engraving, it is a lithograph.
inc. incidebat, incidit. Means "incised". Refers to the engraver and is a more reliable indicator than "sc." that the print is an engraving.
pinx., ping. This means "painted". The name following will be that of the artist who did the painting that the print reproduces.
sculp, sculpt. This means "engraved". The name following will be the engraver's name.
Peoples' names. Conventionally, the name on the left is the original artist's, and the name on the right is the craftsman's who printed image.
Reversed letters. Sometimes you see the artists name printed in reverse. This is usually because the artist wrote their name on the printing plate, and when printed it comes out in reverse.