Most reproductions are accomplished by copying a small photograph of an original. (A copy of a copy) Others are produced less expensively through a large inkjet printer, commonly called giclees. Princeton, however, purchased the actual originals and using oversized Kodak film the same size as the giant print, directly captured their detail and color same-size! Yes, this process is expensive, risky, and time intensive, but the results are absolutely stunning.
Of the major Audubon Birds of America full-size reproductions, the Princeton Collection stands alone as the world's only direct-camera, first-generation facsimile edition. A first-generation print is a re-creation of an original with no extra intermediate steps. A second-generation is a copy of a photograph of an original, the intermediate photograph being the first-generation. For example, Amsterdam and Abbeville prints are second-generation, or copies of intermediate photographs. (They are beautiful prints, but theyare not absolutely accurate facsimiles.) Loates are in fact not facsimiles. Increasingly, some reproductions today (Oppenheimers, Centennial, Discovery,and others) are now made less expensively through digital scanning with the image stored on a CD for later dot matrix printing. As more and more of these computer-generated ink-jet editions are released, the investment value correspondingly decreases. But Princetons are actual lithographs, first-generation prints, being only one step away from the actual original. Princeton reproduced original art, not photographs of original art as others have.
All photo offset Audubon reproduction prints result from images on film being transferred to mechanical printing plates, which plates are then inked and put in contact (through high speed rollers) with the paper, resulting in the final print. Their production began with taking a high quality photograph of either an original print or watercolor. This of course reduced the image to the size of the film. Obviously, with any such reduction, there is a corresponding reduction (loss) of detail. The next step is the transfer of the image onto the printing plates. Small film cannot be transferred to large plates to produce large images. Thus, the image on the film first needs to be enlarged before it can be transferred to the printing plates. 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 and are possibly good investments, although we have seen the value of some of the better know Audubon facsimiles lessen this year. Nonetheless, they were not produced directly from the originals, but rather from a copy (photograph) 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 and reducing and enlarging the film, or working from a scan, 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 on the film. The large 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 inAudubon'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 historic Princeton Audubon Double Elephant 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 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.