Tips for preserving fine prints

During the Civil War, when photography was still in its infancy, it was common for American magazines such as Harper's Weekly to illustrate their articles with wood-engraved prints.

The most famous of the artists was Winslow Homer, whose paintings command astronomical sums, although his prints do not.

Harper's Weekly prints are quite collectible and sell anywhere from $50 to a few thousand dollars, depending on the workmanship, artist, subject matter, rarity, and condition of the print.

Fine prints, such as those from Harper's Weekly, should be handled as little as possible, and they require more care in framing. They should be mounted on acid-free paper boards and have thick mats so the prints don't touch the glass, where moisture may accumulate.

Sometimes the black-and-white Harper's images have been "improved" by the later addition of color, which does not enhance their beauty but also doesn't necessarily reduce their value, except to purists.

When displaying prints, it's important to remember that groupings of several smaller prints look far better than one lone print on a wall. By numbering the back of each frame, you can replace them in the proper order when they're taken down for redecorating.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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