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Synopsis: Most reproductions are copies of copies, being accomplished by reproducing a small photograph of an original. Princeton, however, purchased and physically reproduced the actual originals.
All photo offset Audubon reproduction prints result from images on film being transferred to mechanical printing plates. Their production generally began with taking a photograph of the original art. For Audubon’s giant images this of course reduced the more than two foot by three foot images to 8 x 10 inch photos along with a great loss of detail. The next step is the transfer of the now small image onto the much larger printing plates, resulting in further loss of detail as the image is widened out, much as you widen out an image with your two fingers on a computer screen. The detail which was lost in the initial reduction can never be recaptured in the subsequent enlargement. It is lost. In fact, the subsequent enlargement process is often itself accompanied with its own peculiar distortions.
Once the film is enlarged to the size of the desired final print, it is then transferred to the mechanical printing plates noted above.
This is not said to detract in any way from the value and beauty of today's major investment editions, many copies of which we ourselves have purchased for comparative purposes. They are still high-quality Audubon art. Nonetheless, they were not produced directly from the originals, but rather from a copy of an original.
Princeton Audubon Prints
The Princeton Collection, however, was produced directly from the original Audubon/Havell antique engravings. Instead of working from a photograph, reducing and enlarging the film, we purchased actual originals (from Sotheby's or other auction houses) and brought them into our own printing plant. These originals themselves were then carefully mounted before a giant wall-mounted bellows process camera, with film the same size as the print. Thus the exact image was captured one to one onto the film. The exact image could then be transferred to mechanical printing plates, without any reductions or enlargements.
This process is risky, lengthy, and costly, yet the results are stunning. Direct-camera prints capture the striking original detail in Audubon's originals. The color fidelity is unequalled, the depth of color breathtaking.
Concisely, the direct-camera process eliminates two steps (reduction and enlargement) and transfers the image of the original directly to the printing plates. The elimination of these two steps eliminates their attendant distortions, and results in the most accurate of all reproductions.
Further, we were able to choose which originals we reproduced, instead of limiting our selections from just those available from one antique book of engravings. This is a fact of no small significance, since over the years differences develop even between examples of the same engravings. The unique requirements of the direct-camera process demand use of pristine examples of original art.
Not mere reproductions, the Princeton Audubon Double Elephant Edition prints are the world's only first-generation facsimile re-creations of the actual antique originals, simply the finest and most accurate Audubon re-creations ever accomplished. Unframed and measuring more than two feet by three feet, these impressive, sealed, pencil-numbered, limited edition (500 or 1500) images were printed with the finest inks on heavy sheets of acid-free paper that is stressed for 300 years and recommended by the Library of Congress for archives. Additionally, this finest of all paper was specially toned to match the average color of the antique originals.
Truly fine art prints, Princetons set the standard in Audubon facsimile art. Other editions may cost more due to an artificially low press run, and as a result need a higher price to recoup the initial press costs. But a higher cost does not indicate higher quality.
Princetons were printed on a 300 line (most reproductions are printed at the 150 to 200 level) meaning there is placement of 300 dots of ink per one inch line. The level of 300 is a threshold for the eye, as the eye will not resolve differences beyond 300. The registration is exact.
Princetons are properly termed first-generation re-creations.