ORIGINAL PRINT BEFORE RESTORATIONJohn Audubon's Iceland or Jer Falcon - RESTORED     ORIGINAL PRINT BEFORE RESTORATION James Duncan - British Butterflies - RESTORED     Queen Elizabeth First.Original image. Thumbnail Queen Elizabeth First. Restored image. Thumbnail

Before and After comparisons


The Tragedy of Fading and Colour Change

No doubt you will have noticed that most old prints, no matter how rare or expensive, have, to a greater or lesser degree, faded to dull browns and olive greens with residual hints of red and blue over mottled,  beige or pale brown paper. Even those that were hand-coloured have, to a certain extent, suffered the same fate but with the added faults of careless colouring, splashes, dribbles and colour bleed. It’s no surprise that prints are not the most sought after objects in the art world.

Time Takes Its Toll

Unfortunately, no matter how good the original, antique prints deteriorate rapidly with time and so those that have any real age are very poor echoes of their former selves. As an example, drawn at random from the art market today, you will find, below, a direct quote from an auction catalogue where the auctioneers have honestly and truly described the condition of a very important print which, because it was always valuable, will have been treasured and cared for by its former owners. And the description is only of faults that have occurred beyond those of normal ageing. It is assumed, (and rightly so) that everyone knows and understands that it is the nature of antique prints that they will also display all the additional problems explained below.

Too Many Hands

Before the late 19th Century*, coloured prints were produced in a multi-stage process. The illustrator or artist provided the original artwork, usually in watercolour. An engraver (sometimes the artist himself) traced the image outlines and by using an off-set process transferred these outlines to the plate. This provided guide lines for an intaglio method of acid-etching (aquatint) or the direct engraving of the outlines into the surface. The details and shading were then added freehand or using various mechanical copying devices. The plate was then used to print the resulting outlines and shading to the final paper. The paper would have been of very low standard to modern eyes with all kinds of odd inclusions from the raw materials used. The printed sheet would then be worked by a colourist, adding blocks of colour within the outlines. For a single print run there would be many individual colourists each using an individual palette of colours, some of whom would complete an entire page, while others would be involved in colouring just a single part of the image.

The opportunity for error and fault arose at each stage - and arise they did. Wood, copper and stone plates wear out very quickly. Slow-drying inks and paints eagerly migrate by capillary action along paper fibres. Water-based colours bleed into each other. Colourists, paid by the piece, worked quickly, often in poor light, cutting corners wherever possible, often using apprentices or even children to do the more mundane areas.   The resulting errors, omissions and faults are, without exception, evident in every antique print.

A Simple Recipe for “Antiquing”

In an atmosphere thick with industrial pollution, coal and tobacco smoke, add to the print some fungal spores and store in a damp atmosphere.  Wait while the paper is oxidized to a patchy beige or mottled brown. Allow complex chemical changes in the unstable dyes and pigments to take effect.  Encourage generations of microbes and mites to add their contribution to the mix. Sprinkle on liberal quantities of household dust and occasionally handle roughly with dirty or greasy fingers. Brush down from time to time with a stiff-bristled brush, soft cloth or feather duster impregnated with micro-fine coal-ash grit. Cough and sneeze over it at will. Expose to direct sunlight at every opportunity. Continue with this regime for 120 years or more.

All things considered, it's a miracle that any antique prints survive at all. Sadly, those that have, are nothing like the original artists’ and engravers' splendid work . . . . .  . .  until now.


We locate the best surviving available copy of an original print which is then digitally re-mastered using a huge amount of dedicated human effort and very sophisticated optical equipment and software. These are used in combination to correct the engraving and printing errors, remove the defects and restore the colours. Much of the work is completed at very high magnification to ensure that no matter how closely the resulting print is examined, it will continue to impress. There are no shortcuts, no quick fixes. For example, Audubon's Mocking Bird print required over 250 man hours to complete. Nothing is added and the images are not embellished in any way. However, blindingly obvious technical errors are corrected as a clearly stated option. Reference is made at every stage to the original artwork, the author's notes and descriptions (if these are available) and to nature so that the colours are as would have been seen and painted at the time. The final reprint uses the highest quality, multi-colour, permanent, light-fast inks printed at the highest possible resolution on the best available archive grade, fine art paper.

As much care and attention is dedicated to the backgrounds as to the main subject.

So that you can gain a complete and true appreciation of the full impact of the resultant prints, each print image on this web site is shown together with at least one life-size or enlarged image (when displayed at a typical domestic monitor screen resolution of 90 ppi).

Some of the titles and credits have been re-written using closely matching fonts. This can be necessary where these were added by hand using organic inks that have since deteriorated to an unacceptable degree or were poorly drafted in the first place. These were not, in any case, part of the image itself and were almost certainly not written by the original artist. On major works, a restoration credit has been added with the text in a matching font.

It's a very slow and costly process but the results can be absolutely stunning, hugely better than the surviving original prints and even better than they were on the day that they were first published . . . . . . as you will see.

* We do not restore later prints that were mechanically coloured as their poor quality does justify the enormous effort and expense involved.

This is an exact and full quote from the November, 2008, Bonham's, Los Angeles auction catalogue describing in detail the typical "fair condition" Audubon print.

After John James Audubon (American, 1785-1851) The Bird of Washington, or Great American Sea Eagle (Pl. 11), 1827

From the Havell edition of The Birds of America, handcolored engraving with aquatint and etching on J Whatman Turkey Mill paper, trimmed to or just within platemark, laid down, in fair condition with restorations including an expertly repaired vertical tear at center of image running the entire length of the print, 3½ in repaired horizontal tear at right sheet edge, 1½ in repaired vertical tear at lower sheet edge, unprinted area around the bird extensively touched-in, filled-in surface rubs, abrasions and pressure marks throughout, surface soiling, other defects, framed.

38 1/8 x 25in        sheet 38 3/8 x 25in 

Estimate: $7,000 - 9,000


Oil paintings generally suffer from craquelure* which quickly fills with dirt and is very difficult and expensive to clean out or remove and so is often just varnished over at the next "cleaning", thus making it absolutely impossible to eradicate.  In many cases the craquelure can be so offensive as to make an otherwise attractive picture almost unviewable.

In addition, there was a tradition of varnishing oil paintings, even when new, with a thick, protective coat of boiled linseed oil. This yellows very quickly, especially in a sulphur laden atmosphere as existed throughout Europe and America for 200 years from from the mid 18th Century. It had the unfortunate habit of remaining slightly sticky for many years after application, attracting a fine layer of dust and dirt on its surface.

Just a bad as both of the above was the universal use of white lead (Lead carbonate) as a primer and whitening agent in oil paints. Its use continued from the very earliest days right up to the late 1960s. This also discolours very rapidly in a sulphurous atmosphere, a change that only reversible by the use of peroxide gels. But this is an expensive and risky process best only carried out by an even more expensive expert restorer.

These three faults are commonly seen on almost all oil paintings more than 50 years old. If the the work is not particularly valuable, the faults remain untreated since the horrendous cost of correction can easily exceed the value of the work itself. 

The resultant severe visual imbalance in the colours and the aesthetic intrusion of the fine dark lines are the primary targets in the restoration of the fine images that we offer.

We treat watercolours in exactly the same way as we treat prints, since they are essentially the same medium and suffer the same effects and injuries.

We are constantly astonished by the difference between the dull, discoloured and physically damaged originals and the sparkling, true colour image that is revealed at the end of the restoration process.  But be assured, we never, ever embellish or enhance the original artist's fine work.     

* Craquelure:  The fine, deep cracks in the paint where the canvas has been stretched, rolled, bent or suffered a slight impact or where oil paint has dried out and shrunk or combination of all of these


Large prints look best without a mount (or matte) and set in swept gold, moulded frame about 1½ inches wide. Medium and small prints are best seen behind a plain white mount about 2 inches wide within a neutral or medium coloured frame. Deep, dark or heavy frames do not sit well with our fine prints.

We recommend that large prints (A1 and SuperA1 sizes) are framed by a professional as they can be awkward to handle without creasing or buckling.

To frame prints to a professional standard, in addition to the frame and glass you will  need: archival quality, self-adhesive foam backing board, a craft knife, cotton gloves, craft paper, double-sided adhesive tape, mounting board and a mount cutter (or a pre-cut mount). Your friends at the local photographic society will probably lend you a mount cutter. The board, tape and paper are available at any artists' supply outlet. If you are framing a large print then the cost of the materials and the mount cutter will be substantially less than the charge for a single frame-up from a professional framer.

An detailed mounting and framing tutorial is available on Christopher Crawford's excellent website.

If you try framing a print yourself and you ruin it in the process you can claim under our no-quibble guarantee.



All Restored Prints are produced by a smooth tone process using light-fast inks that are guaranteed, under normal conditions, neither to fade nor discolour for at least 200 years.  Heavyweight or ultra-heavyweight, museum quality, archive papers are used for all non-photographic Restored Prints. 18th and 19th Century colour prints are on Hahnemühle Smooth White Cotton Rag, 188gsm., matte finish, archive paper. Pre-18th Century etchings and woodcuts from the likes of Gesner, Rembrandt and Dürer are on Hahnemühle "Dürer" textured surface papers.


Heavy duty card envelopes are used for prints up to A4 in size. Larger prints are packed in specially made, ultra-heavyweight, large diameter postal tubes having first been wrapped in acid-free tissue paper Each print is accompanied by an individually signed, numbered certificate.


All prints are guaranteed for life against fading and discoloration, the only condition being that the print has not been exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time. The ink and paper manufacturers give us a 100 years plus non-fade, non-discolour warranty. We have total confidence in these claims.

If within 1 year of despatch you damage your print in any way we will provide a replacement at half price, plus postage and packing. To claim the replacement all you need to do is send us a piece at least 4 inches by 4 inches (100mm x 100mm) cut from the centre of the damaged print. This guarantee will not apply to prints with a minimum sheet dimension in excess of 24 inches as printing and shipping are a major part of the cost. We will however, provide a replacement at a very substantial reduction to the list price.

"Hahnemühle" is the registered trade name of Hahnemühle FineArt GmbH., Germany.




Under the Universal Copyright Convention (as amended Jan 2007) and the Berne Convention (1886 last amended 2011), original works of art and intellectual endeavour remain in copyright for at least 25 years(1) from the death of the author or artist.  European work typically remains protected for 70 years.

Reproductions of two dimensional images (whether in copyright or not) that have not been significantly changed during the reproduction process and have not been subject to additional artistic or intellectual input (e.g. photocopies and scans) do not confer any form of copyright on the copy nor the party producing that copy.

The prints offered here have been extensively reworked using considerable artistic and intellectual input and therefore copyright is applicable to all the restored images offered until at least the year 2086.

Limited Copyright Release

Images may be downloaded from this website and used for any purpose subject only to the condition that the copyright is acknowledged and an attribution given to (for example: Image courtesy of in the "alt" line of the image properties). Any on-line commercial use should, out of courtesy, also clearly exhibit a link to this website. We are happy to reciprocate in appropriate circumstances.

Warning: No release of copyright is given or implied in respect of the Restored Prints themselves. Reproductions produced from these images, regardless of format, will be a breach of copyright and such breach will pursued to the fullest possible extent of international law.

(1) Photographs are protected for a minimum of 10 years.

Note: Museums, galleries and public institutions frequently and deliberately mislead their visitors with bogus claims of copyright over direct reproductions of copyright-expired artwork in their care.

( Unsolicited )

Mr. H. C., Wisconsin, USA
King of the Roost by Archibald Thorburn
 "The red grouse print is truly magnificent, with exquisite color and fine detail. Many thanks!"

Mrs. M. W. Norwich, England.
Barn Owl from Birds of Great Britain - John Gould
I am delighted with the quality . . It is outstanding . . . If the owl were to move I would not be surprised.

Dr. W. D.,  Boston, USA.
2 Prints from Birds of America - John Audubon
The pictures are nothing less than stunning. The colours, brightness, and clarity
are just sumptuous. What wonderful images... !

M. B. T-G.,  Dubai, UAE.
6 Prints from Birds of America - John Audubon & Mammals of Australia - John Gould

" What can I say?  Magical."

P. W., West London, UK
3 Prints from Birds of Great Britain - John Gould

Have you made arrangements for these to be held in a national archive?
They are far too important to risk being lost to the nation."

W. v K., Drinten, Netherlands
2 Prints from Birds of America - John Audubon
"Beautiful images. The eyes are just amazing - so alive!"

"Tom", Brisbane, Australia
Print from Mammals of Australia - John Gould

"The Thylacine print is superb! Many thanks. When will the Lyre Bird be available?"

"E. v M., Diepenveen, Netherlands
Print from Mammals of Australia - John Gould

"The Print arrived today, I was very impressed !"

G. W., Vancouver, Canada
Print from British Entomology -John Curtis

"Wow! Way beyond anything I have seen before!"

K. L., California, USA
4 Prints from Birds of America - John Audubon
"The prints arrived safely and look great - thanks so much!"

P. K. Kent, England
Print from Birds of America - Arctic Tern - John Audubon
"Thank you for an amazing work of art."

S. K. London, England
Selection of various Maria Merian prints
"Absolutely brilliant. Can I come and work for you?"

M. K., Berlin, Germany
Bespoke, oversize print of Conrad Gesner's Aquilla
".. it looks amazing!  I am very happy with it. Thank you so much."

P. M., Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA
Full size print of Audubon's White-headed Eagle
".. it is beautiful.  I am very pleased with the piece."

And many, many more "Thank you"  notes and complimentary comments.

100% customer satisfaction

We have never, ever received a customer complaint or adverse criticism.


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;All restored images are copyright. All rights reserved