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Lithographs: Some questions

lordlozz
Member
#1 · Posted: 8 Feb 2017 01:17
I was surfing the net for Tintin merchandise and I found this lithograph: as lovely as it is I am wondering why the shop seems to value it at £80.
Surely someone could just search for a high res image of the same picture and print it themselves?
Looking more closely it seems to be a print from a lithograph does this mean that it's come from the same printing block that was used to print the original and thus it is higher quality and more authentic thus expensive?
Or would the printing block likely not be from the original? If so how would they have created it accurately? Can someone educate me on lithographs, Tintin prints, and their significance?
jock123
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 8 Feb 2017 11:23 · Edited by: jock123
lordlozz:
I am wondering why the shop seems to value it at £80.

The shop isn't valuing the piece, per se, they are selling it at the retail price; you might just as well ask why does anything cost anything, or why do people buy expensive items when there are cheap alternatives? A Bic biro costs pennies, and a Mont Blanc pen doesn't, but people buy one or the other, or both.

lordlozz:
Surely someone could just search for a high res image of the same picture and print it themselves?

Well, while that may appear self evident, it's not a line we will pursue here as we aren't going to re-hash the whole intellectual property, what one can and can't do in terms of copyright, etc. - there are already many discussions about that. Suffice to say, we don't condone piracy in any form, you *could* just go to the library and photocopy the books, but a) that would be wrong, b) it would be tedious, and c) you like to own the "real" books. Some people like to own "real" lithographs. Horses for courses.

(Actually, such is the value in such items that many reputable repro shops will not allow you to make a copy of decorative items, such as magazine covers and record sleeves, especially on a scale for display, if you can't prove that you have the right to do so.)

lordlozz:
does this mean that it's come from the same printing block that was used to print the original

Printing plates are in and of themselves copies too, so it's opening up a whole raft of questions about authenticity and originality, which probably demands a term at philosophy school to debate. How we attach worth and value to things is entirely a cultural fiction - one that we tend to agree on, as a group, but which might, if looked at by an outsider, be impenetrable.
For instance, an example from the philosopher and writer Umberto Eco: we use paper money, which we agree has a value - £5, for example. It may only have cost pennies to produce, in terms of labour, materials, overheads on presses, premises and transport, etc., but we, as a group, say it is £5. I can give you my piece of inky paper (or plastic) with a notional value of £5, and you will give me real things to which we also agree to have attached the value of £5. But it can only be specific pieces of inky paper/ plastic, with the ink arranged in specific patterns, and made by specific people under specific purposes, or it won't work: I could assemble the exact same elements in a different way, and it wouldn't be worth £5.
No matter how uniform, or how many, or how I protest, society dictates that it isn't £5, like all the other uniform, numerous pieces of inky paper/ plastic made by the Mint. They are all worth £5...
However..., society *also* operates a double standard, because if I had the first £5 note produced, it instantly takes on a value of *more* than £5, because someone somewhere ascribes that "fisrtness" an extra value: I couldn't take it to the shops and transact a purchase and automatically expect to get more goods with it - but I could find someone who might give me two (or more) of *their* £5 notes for my one note.
So the reason why the lithograph is more expensive than you might want to pay, is that there people to whom the fact that this piece of inky paper has been made in a certain way, from certain elements, by certain people in a certain quantity adds value and worth - over and above the "value" of those parts.

You yourself talk of the expense of buying first edition books, attributing to them an arbitrary value over similar but not first edition volumes: but first editions are often the biggest and most widely sold edition there is - second or third editions might be far scarcer. But less valued. And really not different. That's a head-scratcher.

lordlozz:
would the printing block likely not be from the original?

Not sure of your exact meaning: all prints of Hergé's work will always have been at several times remove from the original art - Hergé himself actually worked in the repro department of his paper before he began his career as a cartoonist there, and he will have been making copies of other people's artwork to be turned into plates from which further duplicate plates would be made (for use on multiple presses) to print what was seen in the paper at several removes from the artist's pen.

I don't know how the print you link to has been made, but the image is unlikely to be from a period printing plate - those will most likely be long gone (the constant churning out of papers day after day wouldn't make that practical), and if any survive it would be a fluke. The other thing is that it is an image of a cover, not just the cover image - it looks like the cover of an actual Petit Vingtième, inset on a white sheet. So I imagine that if it isn't a high resolution scan of a vintage print copy, it's a modern fabrication, with a scan of the art placed in position on a scan of a sheet of aged paper, or simulation thereof, to look like a slightly foxed original cover.

lordlozz:
Can someone educate me on lithographs

I think you'll need to read up on that outside of here, it's a long and non-Tintin specific sort of thing.
Lithography as a means of creating collectible prints is a long and specialist part of art history, and it has become slightly bent out of shape over the years with many arguments about what constitutes "true" lithography, and how "limited" a limited edition should be, etc.
Some look on it as an art form in and of itself, with an artist working directly on the printing stone, and thus any print is unique in its manufacture; others include photo-lithography as a high-quality means of producing many uniform copies.

In this case, I would suggest, the separate elements are brought together to form an artful design, centering on an iconic image by a celebrated artist who's work has commercial value and a distinctive style, in an edition with the trappings of exclusivity about it, to sell to people who want stylish design elements in their decor.

It is again a case of horses for courses. :-)
lordlozz
Member
#3 · Posted: 8 Feb 2017 22:52
jock123:
A Bic biro costs pennies, and a Mont Blanc pen doesn't, but people buy one or the other, or both.

This is the point that I am trying to get at, Is it valuable just because its official or is it because finding or making a non official one of a similar quality would be very difficult?

If you going to say both then please add weight one way or the other if you can and if you feel like you are expert enough to give a quality answer.. Thanks :-)
jock123
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 9 Feb 2017 09:29
lordlozz:
This is the point that I am trying to get at, Is it valuable just because its official or is it because finding or making a non official one of a similar quality would be very difficult?

I have absolutely no way of answering this question. Only you can attribute value - would you pay what someone asks?
You might pay someone £100 for a first edition Crab with the Golden Claws, because you want that book at that time.
You might find the same book, in the same condition, for 10p at a jumble sale.
In the second instance, you might think in your mind that, "I bought a £100 book for 10p - what a bargain!" But would you think in the first instance, "I just bought a 10p book for £100!"...? Probably not, because you have given the book a notional value.
Someone to whom the book was not wanted and of no interest might have thrown it away, or cut it up and decorated their coffee table with it... And all they would have done (in their eyes) is get rid of an old book.

I've tried to show that how, what, when, where someone made something is both everything and nothing: it's what the seller and the consumer transact at a given moment that matters. It's entirely conceptual, there is nothing absolute about it.

If you have the skills to produce high quality lithographs, you might think that producing something similar was trivial - but you might also think that the twenty or thirty years spent learning the craft made the price asked realistic (or even too cheap).
lordlozz
Member
#5 · Posted: 9 Feb 2017 16:31
You seem to be more knowledgeable about philosophy than you are about tintin prints.
jock123:
It's entirely conceptual, there is nothing absolute about it.

I agree, however, you seem to me misunderstanding my question. I am not interested in why people would assign differing ammounts of value to this print so ill re-phrase the question: Out of the people who assign some sort of value to this picture is the majority of that perceived value derived from A) The fact that its an official print. Or, B) The fact that finding or producing a non-official print of a similar clarity would be difficult.
jock123
Moderator
#6 · Posted: 9 Feb 2017 18:06
lordlozz:
You seem to be more knowledgeable about philosophy than you are about Tintin prints.

I'm sorry that my freely given, as in-depth as I know how, replies haven't sufficed, but as long as you ask questions which are reliant on subjectivity, they are the best I can give.

lordlozz:
you seem to me misunderstanding my question

Again I'm sorry, but the clarity of your questions is down to you: I understand it, I just don't think there's any way to answer.

lordlozz:
Out of the people who assign some sort of value to this picture is the majority of that perceived value derived from A) The fact that it's an official print. Or, B) The fact that finding or producing a non-official print of a similar clarity would be difficult.

That's not actually a restatement that changes my perception of what you asked, that's exactly the question (or questions) you asked before as I understood them to be.

Let me put it another way: how would I, or anybody know? :-)
You're the first person ever to ask the question, and I've never taken any sort of survey to find out (not anticipating that the question would ever be asked).
I don't even know what your position is - how do you rate the value of anything on those two options?

To try and give context (or look at it in a different light) I applied them to the book example I gave before - showing that under, different circumstances value, cost and worth change, to try and establish that there is no definitive way to assign value; I then said that without know a person's skill level, there's no way to know what particular weight they would give doing their own, and that even if you could (you might be a skilled lithographer) you still might value the other printed work highly.
A and B aren't mutually exclusive options, to me, they are just different things.

Now I put it to you - do you value a first edition book because it's official, or because it would be more difficult to make one yourself?
lordlozz
Member
#7 · Posted: 9 Feb 2017 18:58
jock123:
don't even know what your position is - how do you rate the value of anything on those two options?

I don't know my position the post was an attempt to help me clarify my position and unfortunately have not gained any clarity so far.

jock123:
A and B aren't mutually exclusive options

Correct, they are not, and nor do I claim them to be! However, it's highly probable and plausible that either A or B has far greater weighting than the other.

jock123:
Now I put it to you - do you value a first edition book because it's official, or because it would be more difficult to make one yourself?

Almost entirely because its official.

In order to achieve some further clarity to the question let's not get hung up on the fact that it is a lithograph, lets assume that its a high quality crisp digital print in 1080p, printed from someones PC on some relatively expensive paper.

Obviously digital prints are not the same as lithographs and may have more or less value attached as a result but lets assume they are interchangeable for the purposes of clarity. Now I pose the question again:

Out of the people who assign some sort of value to this picture is the majority of that perceived value derived from A) The fact that its an official print. Or, B) The fact that finding or producing a non-official print of a similar quality would be difficult.
jock123
Moderator
#8 · Posted: 9 Feb 2017 22:48
lordlozz:
I don't know my position the post was an attempt to help me clarify my position and unfortunately have not gained any clarity so far.

I've been as clear as I can under the circumstances; again I apologize that my efforts haven't been in any way helpful.
lordlozz:
it's highly probable and plausible that either A or B has far greater weighting than the other.

If you say so, but I really can't see why it's either; once one's moral compass is set against stealing, it doesn't really come into play as a "choice" ("Am I buying something because I like it, or because it's more convenient than theft?").
lordlozz:
Out of the people who assign some sort of value to this picture is the majority of that perceived value derived from A) The fact that its an official print. Or, B) The fact that finding or producing a non-official print of a similar quality would be difficult.

I have to leave you here. This is just going round in circles, and I really don't have anything more to add that would satisfy you - I have no data, no plausible way of deriving an answer that would be any more than tossing a coin, no more ideas to offer, so I am bowing out.

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