Re: More on trimming

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Posted by Pat Collins on May 08, 2002 at 16:20:00:

In Reply to: Re: album-backing and trimming posted by Pat Collins on May 08, 2002 at 02:49:12:

Some further thoughts: all prints are "trimmed" actually, in the sense that the edge paper had to be cut to make a straight edge, which doesn't happen naturally. If you look at prints of the woodblock process, you'll often see a paper trimmer at work. But this is different from someone cutting down a print later, either to fit a frame or to remove edge damage. The question is always one of degree, the measure being what a perfect specimen looked like new.

Here's a curious example: the severely cropped images of hashira-e are still highly valuable, even though this genre was born of cracked and cut down ("trimmed" if you will) blocks, as prints of this genre were 'cropped' to begin with (at first by accident, later by design) and are expected to be that way. The same is not true for a sliver of an oban print, even if it should by chance work as a hashira-e aesthetically, as the print wasn't meant to be seen this way, and anyone who knows prints feels a sense of loss looking at it.

So the problem is that something has been cut away and lost from what the print was originally. And the question is then how much, and what has been lost? Personally, a margin partially or even almost completely lost is not a disaster to me, but if a print is trimmed into the design, the story changes.

Your sellers who explicitly state trimming are being honest actually. More often you'll see only dimensions given, with no word about trimming. Also, don't think lack of margins necessarily means trimming--this is only true for prints in series or modern prints, and triptychs/actor prints/prints with blank backgrounds like a standing beauty or actor will often have no marked "margin".

Once again, the dimensions are the first step in determining the extent of damage caused by trimming, but the next necessary step is to examine the appearance of the print. For example, is the trimming jagged? Is it a little off all sides or all off of one? A 14 inch tall print can still be severely trimmed, especially if it's a full inch off one side rather than a half inch off of two. On the other hand, I've seen Meiji prints with big margins that only measure around 14 inches tall, so I suspect these are full or almost full despite the size.

Ultimately, you should let your personal impression of a print be the judge as to whether the print is worthy of acquisition, not the market value.

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