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.
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.)
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.
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.
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. :-)