Abbreviations Seen On Etchings Explained

Etching is considered the most important technique for producing prints by old masters. It is a very traditional process discovered by Daniel Hopfer (1470 – 1536) in Germany. Daniel Hopfer already used the etching technique on combat clothing before applying it to make a print. A strong acid or pickling agent is used to cut metal surfaces (usually copper, zinc or steel). The metal plate is covered with a waxy soil which is resistant to acid. The artist then scratches his or her design into the metal with different types of etching needles. After a bath of acid or pickling agent, the scratched metal undergoes a redox reaction, leaving the drawing in the wax on the plate. Ink is poured over the plate and wiped off again to fill in the scratched areas. By then pressing the plate in paper, an etching is created.

The maker usually scratches in the plate who created the image, who printed or published the image and who he is. These names are recorded in the plate and all editions are clearly signed. It is then easy to see at a glance who created, published and engraved the etching. To further clarify this, many different abbreviations are used. On this page we go through the most used and most common abbreviations on etchings and their meanings.

The most common abbreviations seen on etchings:

Del.: Drawn by.

Delt.: Drawn by.

Delin.: Drawn by.

Delineavit.: Drawn by.

Exc.: Printed by or published by.

Excud.: Printed by or published by.

Excudit.: Printed by or published by.

Sc.: Image engraved by.

Sculp.: Image engraved by.

Sculpt.: Image engraved by.

Sculpsit.: Image engraved by.

Inv.: Designed by or originally drawn by.

Invenit.: Designed by or originally drawn by.

Inventor.: Designed by or originally drawn by.

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Other common abbreviations seen on etchings:

A.P.: Artist’s proof.

B.A.T.: Proof print approved by artist and ready to be handled over to the master printer (Bon á tirer).

Cael.: Engraved by.

Caelavit.: Engraved by.

Cum privilegio.: Privilege to publish from some authority.

Disig.: Designed by.

Designavit.: Designed by.

Divulg.: Published by.

Divulgavit.: Published by.

Eng.: Engraved by.

Engd.: Engraved by.

F.: Made by.

Fac.: Made by.

Fec.: Made by.

Fect.: Made by.

Fecit.: Made by.

Faciebat.: Made by.

H.C.: Not for commercial sale (Hors Commerse).

Imp.: Printed by.

Impressit.: Printed by.

Inc.: Incised or engraved by.

Incidit.: Incised or engraved by.

Incidebat.: Incised or engraved by.

Lith.: Lithographed by.

Litho.: Lithographed by.

Lithog.: Lithographed by.

Pins.: Painted by.

Pinxit.: Painted by.

Scrip.: Text engraved by.

Scripsit.: Text engraved by.

Thanks to this list, etchings can be deciphered faster and better. Sometimes etchings are not signed at all. This may be because the etching was taken from a book of which the designers and engravers are clearly indicated in the book itself. In that case, it is often decided not to sign the etching. Etchings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries sometimes have a title signature written by hand underneath including a written signature. These unique etchings are therefore ‘hand-signed’ and not ‘plate-signed’.