Condition of Antique Japanese Woodblock Prints

Descriptions of condition that are found in catalogues of antique prints are about as subjective as it can get. One dealer’s “excellent” might be another dealer’s “good”. A description can do a lot to convey information about condition, but among a range of catalogues comparability has yet to be achieved. Some dealers omit condition statements entirely, presumably on the assumption that their reputation is sufficient -and often it is, especially with a return guarantee. Of necessity, auction catalogues generally have more extended descriptions of condition since misinformation can invalidate a sale.

Woodblock prints are paper items that are subject to wear and tear similar to any item which was intended to be used. Below is a classification guide to grade condition.

Buy a print in the best condition that you could reasonably expect for its age and price. The rarer and older it is, the more forgiving you should be about condition.

Moonlit Sea Prints has adopted the following condition codes adopted from The Antique Map Price Record & Handbook 1998. Our scale includes a “letter Grade”, in addition to a short descriptive statement. Their criteria are described below.

(A+) Excellent Condition

Clean and bright, with crisp engraved lines. On sound paper with wide margins. Fine quality coloring.

(A) Very Good Condition

Clean and bright, with crisp engraved lines. On sound paper with no imperfections in the image. Small tears or minor discoloration in the margin only. Very good quality coloring.

(B) Good Condition

No significant imperfections. Minor spotting, foxing, short separations on centerfold with no image loss, or overall age toning may be present. May have narrow margins but paper is still sound. Good coloring.

(C) Fair Condition

Noticeable imperfections. Scattered foxing or spotting. Long separations on centerfold or tears entering image which can be easily repaired. Color may be slightly faded.

(D) Poor Condition

Needs significant repair and cleaning. Paper may be highly acid and brittle. Color may be faded.