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Graduate students' guide to resources in art history: Prints

Research guide for graduate students in art history lists core resources, print and electronic.

Find out about prints

The world of prints is fascinating and complex, with an extensive literature devoted to cataloging, identifying, documenting, and categorizing.  The books listed here will help you to learn about how prints are made, the history of printmaking in the Western world, how to identify prints, and how prints fit into social and in many cases political culture.

See the box below and to the right to link to a library guide on prints that offers extensive resources and information on researching prints, printmaking, and printmakers.


Gascoigne, Bamber.  How to Identify Prints: A Complete Guide to Manual and Mechanical Processes from Woodcut to Ink Jet.  London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Part 1 describes the three types of prints, including “images not really prints but called prints” (e.g. screen print, Xerox and laser, and inkjet).  Part 2 describes and illustrates visual evidence that can be used to identify and clarify areas of confusion, identify details based on historical development of genres and techniques, and draw conclusions based on details of technical processes.  Part 3 defines terminology for families of prints, lays out a “Sherlock Holmes approach” to print identification, and includes a glossary-index that references numbered sections of the book and defines technical terms. 

Stacks  NE850 G37 2004


Griffiths, Anthony.  Prints and Printmaking: An Introduction to the History and Techniques.  Berkeley and Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 1996.

Intended as a guide for the general reader wishing to understand the main categories and processes of printmaking, as well as how and by whom each method was used.  Western art only.   Sections include relief printing processes (woodcut, linocut, wood-engraving, and metalcut and relief etching), intaglio printing processes (engraving, etching, drypoint, crayon manner and stipple, mezzotint, aquatint, and soft-ground etching), lithography, screen printing, color printing, and photomechanical reproduction processes (relief printing, intaglio printing, surface printing, and color printing).

Stacks  NE400 G74 1996


Hults, Linda C.  The Print in the Western World:  An Introductory History.  Madison:  University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.

Scholarly, chronological introduction to the history of prints in the Western world from 1400, when paper became widely available in Europe, to about 1980.  Chapters reflect various approaches to understanding prints, while remaining consistent with the chronological arrangement.  Excellent background source, giving a sense of the context and development of the print.  Chapters conclude with lengthy bibliographies.

Stacks  NE400 H85


Ivins, William Mills.  How Prints Look:  Photographs with a Commentary.  Boston: Beacon Press, 1958.

Describes the basic processes of the three types of printmaking, with illustrations and captions that show fine details of technique, materials, or process and that give details on the impact of a given technique on artistic practice or on aesthetic taste or understanding.  Includes a short chapter on color in printmaking, and another on “copies, facsimiles, and other bothersome matters” with details on how to tell the difference between originals and copies.  The final chapter briefly places prints in a social, artistic, and economic context, with sections on the social importance of graphic techniques, the influence of illustration, and the economics of print publishing.

Stacks  NE400 I8h Repr.


Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) and Richard Benson. The Printed Picture. New York: Museum of Modern Art, c2008.

Exhibition catalogue on the history and techniques of all processes used to print pictures, including planographic, intaglio, relief, photographic, digital, and more. The accompanying website has a wealth of additional material.

Reserve Shelf   NE2606 N4996 2008  

Pierre Bonnard, The Little Laundress

Pierre Bonnard.  The Little Laundress (Le petit blanchisseuse), 1896.  Lithograph in deep red, orange yellow, bistre, gray-black, grayish beige, on China paper.  Sterling and Francine Clark Art Instite.  Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.


The Print: History, Theory, and Practice