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Print marks and inscriptions

Authentic Inuit prints are usually marked with identifying information in such forms as hand-stamped symbols or logos, and/or with inscriptions handwritten in pencil. These marks and inscriptions generally include the following:

Print Title

In English and/or Inuktitut syllabics.


Occasionally, Arctic Québec artists indicate stonecut in syllabics; some communities do not write technique on the prints.

Edition number/total edition

e.g. 12/50. The edition number is solely an identification and is not indicative of the order in which a print was pulled within an edition. A low or high number has no bearing on quality as may be the case with prints made elsewhere.

Community or Co-operative


Date is usually, but not necessarily, the col1ection year. In the early days when prints were sent South by sea lift, they were usually dated the year previous to issue or when editioned. Today the date usually corresponds to the release date.

Artist’s Name

In syllabics. Artist usually signs his or her name in pencil. Holman artists/printers do not use syllabic signatures. Especially in Pangnirtung, but also in some of the other communities, the syllabic shaped like a backwards “L” or “_“, “in behalf of”, used before and/or after the syllabic signature on a print, indicates that someone other than the artist signed the work. The “substitute signer” is usually a member of the family, who has been asked to authenticate he prints because of the illness or death of a relative. The device has also been used upon occasion when the artist has left the community before the edition is completed.

Artist’s Name followed by Printer Name(s) in English and sometimes in Inuktitut syllabics

Current practice dictates this order and from it follows the assumption that if only one name appears on the print that the artist was also the printer. Occasionally, on some prints, artist and printer names have been switched inadvertently. However for the 1977 Baker Lake collection, the position of the artist and printer were reversed deliberately to honor by emphasis the technical skill required of the printer. Although not unheard of in early collections, in more recent years, personal printer chops (stamps) have been used on a more regular basis in Cape Dorset Holman and Pangnirtung, and/or the printers may also sign in syllabics. (In early Cape Dorset annual collections and Holman and Povungnnituk (Puvirnituq) experimental collections, elaborate, hand-carved chops were used to identify artists as well)

Co-operative or Community Symbol

A pictographic symbol for the originating co-operative or community is usually positioned on the line with the handwritten inscriptions. However, Cape Dorset prints other than lithos carry a vertical, Japanese-style arrangement of artist/printer/co-op chops (stamps) which appears randomly on the paper, often within the image area.

Canadian Eskimo Arts Council Symbol

The symbol usually appeared on the edge of the paper outside the image area. First printed in black in 1961, it was blind-embossed on each print as of 1962.

Translated, the syllabics read, “namatuk” or “genuine”, and its appearance on a print meant that it was authentic and that the design and technique met the professional standards of the CEAC. Members were appointed by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs as an advisory body to the Minister, the Co-operatives and the artists. The symbol did not imply that each print within an edition was scrutinized separately.

Although the CEAC symbol does not appear on prints from the 1957-1960 Cape Dorset collections, the 1964-1969 Povungnituk collections, Northern editions and some special commission prints, these prints are nevertheless authentic and well-recorded.

The Council was dissolved in September 1989, and there is no longer any outside structure for authenticating prints. The individual Co-op or community symbols remain the guarantee of genuine Inuit-produced graphics.

Information contained within the print image:

Especially in Arctic Québec, it has often been the practice to incise a story or statement or artist/printer names into the printing block. Often the writing is in syllabics and sometimes appears backwards on the print, because the artist has worked directly on the plate in a right-reading method.

Early on, Holman artists frequently cut their names into the stones as well.

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