Thursday, November 5, 2009

Original or Reproduction?

Telling an original print or map from a reproduction can sometimes be very easy, and other times quite difficult. [Click here for discussion of the differences between originals and reproductions] Below are some tests you can make which might tell you what you have.

Printing process
The most definitive method of determining whether a print is an original or a reproduction is by examination of its production process. All reproductions are made by a different process than originals; reproductions are photomechanically produced and originals are not. This difference in process can usually be spotted by an expert and in some cases is quite obvious.

  • Most reproductions are made from a dot-matrix or half tone process, which produces a lentiginous image composed of a symmetrical pattern of small dots.. If you look through a fairly powerful magnifier (e.g. 10X) and you see little dots (either black & white or color), then you have a reproduction.

  • If the print is supposed to be an intaglio print (engraving, etching, mezzotint, aquatint, etc.), then if there are big enough margins, a platemark should appear. Note that fake platemarks are not uncommon, but these usually differ in character from real platemarks. Also, the ink in an itaglio print will often feel raised from the surface, so if the print surface feels absolutely smooth, this is a clue that it is not an intaglio print.

  • If the print is supposed to be a lithograph or woodcut or wood engraving, then there should be no platemark. If a platemark appears, you likely have a reproduction.

  • Most intaglio prints, woodcut and wood engravings, when colored, are colored by hand with watercolors. If the color is printed and the print is supposed to be one of these types, then this is another clue you have a reproduction.

Paper
As a general rule, almost all prints and maps printed before 1800 are on laid paper and almost all prints and maps printed after 1800 are on wove paper.

  • Laid paper is made by hand in a mold, where the wires used to support the paper pulp emboss their pattern into the paper. This pattern of closely spaced, crossing lines can be seen when the paper is held up to light. The first example of the use of wove paper in western printing was in 1757, so any print or map made before that should certainly be on laid paper. However, even in the second half of the eighteenth century, the use of wove paper was relatively rare, increasing in instances the closer to the end of the century. Also, some modern paper has false laid lines and reproductions often add false laid lines to make the item look more authentic. Thus the appearance of liad lines in the paper is a clue to authenticity, but not proof positive.

  • Wove paper, in contrast, is made on a woven belt and lacks the laid lines. Thus the paper will lack the pattern of crossing lines when held up to the light. Though laid paper was used after 1800, the use of laid paper became less and less common as the nineteenth century progressed.

Other

  • Look for any printed information which indicates the print is a reproduction, e.g. “reproduced from” or a copyright notice, etc.

  • The best way to tell what you have is to try to find a reference book which features the map or print you are trying to research. This can be a collection listing, an exhibition catalogue, or a or catalogue raisonnĂ©. These references often list details about the prints or maps and you can compare these to your print or map. Among the details to check are title, measurements and the exact wording of any imprint information. Note that old prints do vary a bit in size, but the measurements should be within about 1/4” of the recorded size.

  • Many prints and maps were issued in bound volumes and if the item is large, then it will often have to have been folded to fit into the volume. This is especially true for old maps, where the majority of original antique maps from before the nineteenth century have a "centerfold." The appearance of a centerfold is often good evidence that you have an original.

Note that none of these tests are certain, for there are exceptions to all of them. Also, even if your print passes these tests this doesn’t mean that it is original, though failure of any indicates it probably is a reproduction. Ultimately the issue must be decided by knowing what process the print should be and knowing what the paper should be like. This often takes an expert to determine for certain.

You can read more about how to tell an original map in a "Tips of the Trade" article on the Antiques Roadshow web site.

You can read more about the different ways prints were made in the Antique Prints Blog posts on print processes.

54 comments:

  1. Hello, I have a watercolor that says copyright 1905 by Taber Prang Art Co., as well as by ELamasure. I can't find what you said about the other Lamasure question. It looks so real and is well framed. Is there any value?

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    1. All the print by Taber Prang are very nice, but they have only "decorative" value. This does not mean they are worthless, just that their value comes from what they look like and what someone would pay for an attractive art work.

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  2. I have a print, pretty sure its a reproduction, but can not find any other image of it online to compare it to.. I know the glass is real, not sure about the frame, but I'm afraid to open the frame and ruin it, with that being said, can older reproductions be worth anything?

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    1. Reproductions have only "decorative" value. That is, they are not collector prints but get their value from what they look like.

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  3. I have a german cherry heart print supposed to be original great frame cant find values

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  4. Hi Chris,
    I have a 1916 WWI Poster "Columbia Calls." It looks to be an original but I'm just not sure. The poster is on very thin paper--almost like tissue paper. It is in fine condition other than some browning along the sides, some small tears on the corners and scraped corner. How can I really tell if it is an old piece? I'm a bookseller not an antique collector. I'd really appreciate your advise.

    Thank you,
    Tisha

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  5. Hello Chris, I have a etching done by Antoine Marcenay de Ghuy after Rembrandt, it looks like laid paper with the lines. My question is when you look at laid paper in light can you see thru it or is it thicker than that? The only one I am finding like this is at the British Museum. Any help would be great.

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    1. Laid paper can actually be of varying thickness, though I have never seen one so thick you couldn't see the laid lines when looking at it through a light. Note that there is "fake" laid paper, where you see the lines, but the paper was actually made mechanically.

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  6. Hi Chris,
    I have two 'Twelve Months of Flowers' etchings by Robert Furber. I understand that the original prints were created in 1730, then reprinted in 1964 by Penn Prints, and again in 1982. Are there any distinguishing marks on the reproductions that would separate them from the original 1730 prints? I want to know if what I have is original, or from a reproduction series. The platemarks are visible, and there is no dot-matrix. Thank you for any input!

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    1. First off, there are many more reproductions of the Furber prints than just the Penn Prints and the ones from 1982. I haven't kept track, but I would guess that there are probably about twenty series of reproductions done over the years (though much less in facsimile size). In the end, the way to tell is the paper and process. Not all reproductions are dot matrix, but none that I know of were actual engravings. Also the paper. All reproductions I have seen are on later paper.

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  7. I have an 'Authentic hand colored reproduction of an original watercolor by John Hulse' Is this worth anything?

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  8. I have a Carington Bowles print "The comical hotch potch, or the alphabet turn' posture master". There is not copyright date. It has lines in the paper. It has the raised edge. It appears to be watercolor. Do I take this in somewhere to be seen. Or is it just a nice print?

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  9. hallo,i have an old tschaikovsky's portrait print saying lower right
    "ACKERMANN COLLECTION No 40"."HAS TSCHAIKOVSKY'S SIGNATURE" with blue ink lower in the middle & to the lower left says H.SEROFF PINX.
    The print is protected by an old wooden gesso frame with glass.the back of the frame is almost still sealed by the old worn paper but has some
    spots the paper is peel off & can
    see the rusty nails holding the back of the print.As i can see through the
    glass,i see clearly lines on the print.
    i do not know if i should take of the
    print from the frame to clean it or
    leave it as is.The print was found in
    an old estate house owned by an old violin builder.
    can you determine the date of the print?or if the signature is real?
    I will be waiting for your thoughts.
    i can send photos if this helps...
    Thank you,

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    1. It does not hurt to take the print out of the frame and in fact the old backing and mat (if any) is likely acidic and so will eventually destroy the print. The best thing to do is to take out the print, deacidify it, and then put it back in with "acid free" matting/backing/hinges.

      The signature will be a facsimile signature, not a real one. That is fairly typical of that sort of print. The print will probably date from the mid-1870s to late 1890s, though if there is no date on it is is probably impossible to date cloer than that.

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    2. thank you very much for your help & your fast reply!

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  10. I have the Litho "Bologna Strada Maggiore" J Hakewill and JMW Turner The entire sheet measures 12" x 17". The impressed lithograph measures 7.5" x 10". The lithograph has been colored. There are 2 tears in the paper would it be worth it to have it repaired?

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    1. If you like it, sure, but the print has only "decorative" value so purely economically I wouldn't spend much on doing that.

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  11. Thank you for your swift response. I am a novice at this - but this doesn't look like a regular print. The paper is much heavier and the print looks like it was impressed or stamped onto the larger sheet. I also think I may be a little confused between what is a lithograph, engraving, etching or print. Thanks again for your response.

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  12. Hi.I have a very old print by Edwin Byatt and at the end of the signature their is other writing and some numbers and it looks like a crest or something. And the lady is green at the bottom. .plus Behind that stuck to the paper on the back of that was a Black and White print 1894 copyright of the hush by maude goodman singed by her on the chair. Copyright by

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  13. Sorry copyright by photogiaphische Gesellischafl 1894

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  14. I bought a map (at Goodwill) that is beautifully framed that is the map of Virginia that accompanied Thomas Jefferson's NOTES ON VIRGINIA. This clearly wasn't a copy originally in the book because it in not colored or folded, but do you know if the engraver sold the map separately from the book? It's square and about 26 inches across.

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    1. I do not believe that the map was issued without folds. There are a number of reproductions of the map out there, and while I cannot tell for sure without seeing it, the odds are that is what you have.

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    2. Thank you for your prompt reply!

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  15. I have two Albrecht Durer prints, I've been trying to find someone to help me figure out how old they are. They are antique looking, but I'm no expert. Do you have any advice for me on how to proceed? Thanks in advance.

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  16. I have a print that is not the typical 'dot matrix' pattern. Instead it is more of a fingerprint looking pattern. What type of printing would this be?

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  17. Hard to know what process from your description, but it could be a collotype or an off-set litho, but there are literally hundreds of different printing techniques used since about 1900. The dot matrix are the most common, but there are tons of others. It is unlikely, however, from your description that it is a 'hand done' process, but rather that it is some sort of photo-mechanical process.

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  18. Hello. Please forgive my ignorance on the subject, but I bought an old framed work by Henri Riviere (Le Crepuscule from his Les Aspects de la Nature series). The dealer label behind the backing gave the address as "Pittsburg" without the "h" on the end, which can usually be used to date things to pre-1915 when the "h" became standard. Thinking it was a color lithograph on paper, I took it out from behind the glass and found it is printed on heavy board, like the kind of mat board used to frame photographs. The board is beveled at the edges and the print bears Riviere's signature signed in the stone and his red studio monogram. Would this be considered an original print or a copy? Thanks.

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  19. We do not deal i Riviere prints, so I have not seen enough to be sure, but I am not aware that they were ever issued printed on a board. That would make me suspicious about the originality of the prints. Since the signature and stamp are both "in the image" any reproduction would include these. My guess is that it is probably a copy, but I just do not have enough experience with these prints to say for sure.

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  20. Hello and thank you for creating this forum. Very early today, I purchased a series of 3 plates : Fores's Celebrated Winners : Teddington, The Hero and Flying Dutchman. They each are the requisite size as I have discovered the originals were/are. I have checked the various typefaces of the titles, and other notations on the prints, and they are consistent. The 3 are each beautifully, expensively and heavily framed under glass, so I haven't removed them yet to examine the paper, nor to more closely examine the various etching lines, etc, under the tints of the pieces. I realize that they are rather late in the history of printmaking and so pape may not be a telling feature. I understand the originals were aquatints- and wonder what I should look for to verify this form of coloration in my pieces. Each has evidence of the plate strike marks around the perimeter ( I took various printmaking courses in college many decades ago, so am a little familiar - but rusty- with the processes) I have looked online to try to discover whether these are reproductions or later restrikes, etc, but so far have not been able to find any information that the series was reprinted, past the strikes still available in the late 1880s... How doses one ascertain strikes, restrikes, or reproductions in these? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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  21. This is a really hard question; one of the most difficult there is related to antique prints. Basically, for any British sporting prints there is the issue of whether they are originals, restrikes or reproductions. The odds are that they are one of the latter two, as early British sporting prints are quite rare and the latter two types of prints fairly common. The fancy framing is actually something of a clue that they are one of the latter two (oddly), for those types of prints were done for decoration and so were often elaborately framed, whereas the earlier prints are generally found in less elaborate frames. I did write a blog just on this subject, so rather than go through the whole thing again, I will suggest you do a search in this blog for "british sporting" and you'll find that blog.

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    1. Thank you much! I found a label on the back of one of the frames, with evidence of similar labels on the other 2 that gives location, contact info of the antique art gallery from which they were purchased. Contacted one of the parties and it was verified they are not reproductions. I appreciate your time and will read your blog for further information.

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    2. Thank you for all of the relevant information. I've read all of the blogs recommended and examined the prints in question under high magnification and am now confident they are originals and early strikes.

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  22. Hello, I have a mezzotint of a woman called "Countess de Dilliere" by N. Sherwood. The signature on front looks like it is in pencil. On the back there is a piece of brown paper attached to the back that states who it is, along with Limited Edition, two-hundred fifty copies. Plate destroyed, the number 39 in a red border. Not sure what this is, but thought I'd try to find out.

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    1. Also, on the front it says London, Published 1919 By F.T. Dennis 7 Red Lion Square

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    2. Not really sure what your question is, as you have told me all the information there is about this print: viz. it is a Mezzotint by N. Sherwood issued in 1919 in London in a limited edition of 250. It is unlikely it is a reproduction, as this sort of print was not often reproduced, so that really is all one can say about the print (though you could, of course, do some research and learn more about the artist if so inclined)

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  23. I have what I thought was an original picture signed C.E Fischer 47,it looks like a dot matrix reproduction ,however only the black shadows appear to be made up of dots,I see no dots on the black outlines or signature ,of course they seem much thicker , the colors seem to be water color they lack the dot matrix it literally looked like the shading and shadows are dot matrix and the rest not ? it was in an old frame













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  24. I came across 4 Jacques Barraband prints in a charity shop, that judging by the age of the frames and yellowing of the paper, must have been framed in at least the 1960.s. they have Barraband prinx in the left hand corner and De L:Imprimene de langlois at the bottom center. The name of the bird is provided in french but no reference number to a plate:
    Perruche omnicolore
    variete de la perruche a large queue
    le parroquek a calotte blue
    variete dulori a collier

    I may have misspelled them – they are away being re-framed as regardless of value they are lovely, if not a bit weathered!
    Please can you advise on their age as I can’t find vintage prints of the originals on the internet, if that's what they are

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    1. The odds are that these are reproductions. I say this only based on the number of reproductions of these prints (of which there are a lot) vs. the number of originals (of which there are quite few). They still are, as you note, lovely so I wouldn't worry about it, but my guess is that they are from the 1960s...

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  25. I have what could be an original etched lithograph of George Dunlop Leslie's "Back to Schoo". It has a raised seal and both pencil signatures of GD Leslie and F Stacpoole are on the lithograph. There are large margins and a platemark. It is in an old glass frame. Are there any other distinctive marks, signs I can look for to know that it is not a repro?

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  26. It certainly sounds like your print is an original (esp. with the signatures). In the end it is a question of process (note that it is probably an engraving and not a lithograph), but I would be very surprised from what you have written if it is a reproduction.

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  27. Thank you so much for getting back to me! Another note, the raised stamp has "VOX" insignia. I have enjoyed this engraving for the last 20+ years, could there be any value to it?

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  28. Chris hello , I have stumbled onto a lot of vintage cigarette add posters (chesterfield ,old gold , lucky strike, 7 up buy war bonds )
    I have small chesterfield posters (21x22's) that all say litho usa on the white edging and liggett co in the bottom left then I have these oversized chesterfield posters in the 60" size that are driving me crazy I don't understand what they are or when there from picturing different Stars (Ronald Reagan ,Rita,William Bendix ) these big ones have a really oily red outside on front then seems like pictures dimensionaly placed on top of that from the real early lithos ? Like the Ronald Reagan one says (copyright 1918) bottom right corner? Then a HUGE 60" "chesterfield wins " out board motor poster looks like a high quality litho print of the original stone litho and the people setting in the boat looks dimensionally added to the oily litho backdrop ? 50" old gold posters that have actresses and they say usa litho in bottom right corner on the White around the picture Then the 7up "her America must stay free" I have a huge 70" with the back showing ilford cibachrome and a huge #1 in pencil , and from my understand Ilford didn't print on that paper till the 50's but the from of the poster has Litho 1943 7up co ..
    So is my assuming everything I have is a reproduction correct because I just spent a lot of money and now I'm scared ? I'm just ready to understand what I have ? Thank you for any help you can give me ...

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    1. I am sorry, but I really do not know posters of that sort. I would suggest contacting an expert--any advice I gave you could very well be wrong.

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  29. Hi Chris. I was reading the posts and replies to figure out my picture by Marino.Italian artist I was told it was a print and then I was also told it was like a Kmart special. It does have a dot matrix but written on the back of the Picture which is on paper is the size of the picture and the words early lately which could describe the picture and it looks like the #2 in pencil all written in the artist hand writing. Stamped on the framing material is thename of an auction house/framing co in Florida which is no longer there. I guess I was wondering has any value or just worthless. The picture is mixed colors with a white line scratch through the colors making an image of a two headed creature on one side with the body connecting to a horses head and hoof othe other side. Thanks for your time juls

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    1. I also wanted to add a note could this be a lithograph. I have to add I'm not sure about the dot matrix sometimes I think see it and other times I don't. Also the person that told me it was like a Kmart special said that was because the paint was The color was pulling away. Thanks again any comments

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    2. I really cannot give a definite answer without seeing it in person, but it sounds to me i) like it is a straight reproduction and not a lithograph and ii) even if a lithograph, that is has only "decorative" value.

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  30. Hello Chris. May I request a favour from you? I have found some copper plates and I have no clue if this is an interesting find or not:

    I very recently purchased 3 copper engraved plates in a local thrift shop in Belgium. When I came home with them, I started surfing the internet. I have come up with the following result so far:
    One of the plates is exactly the image of an engraving print of Cornelis Galle, "Raphael et Tobias". I have found a picture of a print on the website of the British museum. It dates from the 17th century.
    Another plate represents Mater Dei, mother of God. I have found a picture of a holy card that was sold on ebay, which looks very similar, apart from the edges around the woman figure. It was advertised as 18th century.
    A third plate shows an ex-libris. I found a text about it when searching on google with: "bon trot du bay" and "bon trot de bay". A date is mentioned there saying 1615. It was in French I recall.
    The 2 first plates are the mirrored images of the prints I have found on the internet. The ex-libris, I cannot confirm, because I haven't found a picture of it.

    Now, apart from searching these plates on the internet, I also started looking for similar plates, from that time period (1600's). I couldn't find many. I understand that such plates are very rare, because most of them where reused after the prints weared the plate. Now, can you give me some extra info on these. To help you a little bit, here is a link to some pictures I have made of them: https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0i532ODWJfCRxG . Oh ya, the sizes of the plates are more or less the same sizes as mentioned from the prints. Thank you in advance.
    Gert

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    1. I cannot really help more than to give my impression (ha, ha). These look very much like they could be original plates; nothing I see in the images which proves to me otherwise. You would have to physically compare them to original examples of the prints to see if there is an exact match to be sure.

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  31. Chris, thank you for your very fast reply and hopefully good news. I have already looked at details on the plate and compared them with the picture. Even some "faulty" points are there, on the late as in the print. Do you have any idea of the value if they are the real thing? Thank you. Gert

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    1. Sounds good. As to value, not only do we not really handle such, but I do not discuss anything more than vague notions related to values in this blog.

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    2. Ok, thank you for your expert advice. We will write to Plantein- Moretus to find out more. Once again, thank you for your advice and... fingers crossed!
      Gert

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  32. I have a print titled Veduta Della Badia, e del Palazzo del Pirtefta pressa dalla Riazza Della Chiefa de P. P. Dell Oratorio by Zocchi. I think the number isTXVIII. I found it in my Mom's things after she passed with a whole bunch of other antique prints including Italian prints of fish. She was from Italy. Is it worth getting this print reframed to protect it? I may sell it. I think it is a woodcut print that is lightly tinted with watercolour.

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  33. i have a Tattershalls - Vanity Fair Print dated 1887,how do i tell its age,is it an original,just wanted to know its value

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    1. There are reproductions of the Vanity Fair prints, so you can tell by determining the way it was made. The originals were done by chromolithography. In terms of value, this blog is not a place I discuss specific values, but I would bet you can find this print for sale on the web, which should give you an idea.

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