The placement of a work of art in the context of prior or later issuances of multiples of the same work. Edition either identifies a specific work in the context of a group issued at the same time or defines an issuance of a work in relation to previous and subsequent editions.
SUBCATEGORIESNUMBER OR NAME
An edition describes a limited number of works made at a specific time, such as prints taken from a plate or bronzes made from set of molds. Historically, the concept of edition is much more problematic, and applying the term to printed works is often possible only if they were published in book form  or can be grouped as a result of detailed study.
The edition of a work is often difficult to identify. In the case of books and "book-like" materials, an inscription may be present, possibly on the title page. If an edition statement is found on the title page, it should be transcribed accurately. Such inscriptions, however, can be misleading, as they may not have changed when later editions of a work were issued. In the case of prints or photographs, an inscription often identifies the number of the impression, and juxtaposes it with the total print run, as the number 2/32 does.
The identifying of an edition may require the expertise of a connoisseur, or comparison of the object with a published catalogue raisonné. It is often a small technical change, such as the use of a different paper, shown by a change in watermark, which identifies a different edition. In other cases, different publishers will have issued a work, each in their own editions.
This information is often speculative, and not always reliable; all editions of a work are not always known or described. It is also difficult to apply the concept of edition to earlier works, when "printmaking plates were kept in the possession of the artist or publisher who ran off more impressions as needed until the plate wore out."  Multiple opinions should be accommodated.
A printed work in book form may have a title page with an edition statement. Inscriptions may be found on single sheets or photographs. If so, these should be recorded exactly as given. Information about the various editions of an artist's graphic works may also be found in secondary sources devoted to the history of printmaking or to the graphic work of an artist. Sometimes the date a work was created identifies it as a separate edition. For example, the sculptures of Rodin are still being cast, but the twentieth-century bronzes are not considered part of the original edition.
An edition statement helps to identify the work described, providing a context for its study and an aid in its dating and evaluation.
As works produced in multiples can vary slightly, identifying the edition of a work distinguishes it from other similar works, issued previously or subsequently and belonging to different editions. For example, identifying a work as belonging to the third edition removes it somewhat from its original creation and possibly from its original creator.
Relationships between editions illuminate the evolution of an idea. Some editions are of more historical value than others, as they incorporate significant changes or additions. The illustrations or text of a work may change from edition to edition.
Placing an individual impression in the context of the total print run, as the number 2/40 does (meaning the second print in a run of forty prints), helps to assess how widely a work of art was distributed, and therefore its rarity.
Inscriptions indicating edition should be recorded in the category INSCRIPTIONS/MARKS.
Different stages of the same work should be indicated in the category STATE. The distinction between EDITION and STATE often hinges on the span of time between works. Also, various editions are not necessarily different from one another, while various states do differ.
The publisher of a work, who may be responsible for a particular edition, should be indicated in the category CREATION. The date an edition was issued should be specified in the subcategory CREATION - DATE.
Different versions of a work, such as copies after it and re-creations, replicas, or reproductions of it, should be recorded separately from states or editions in RELATED WORKS.
Component parts, lots, or collections of objects, such as tea sets and nests of baskets, are not covered in this category. See OBJECT/WORK and OBJECT/WORK - COMPONENTS.
Edition information should be transcribed verbatim in the category INSCRIPTIONS/MARKS. Indexing this information in the subcategories of EDITION makes it accessible.
Researchers may need to identify specific editions of known works. They may wish to use information about edition to connect items known to have been published as part of a particular edition. Researchers may wish to discover intermediate editions or to identify manuscripts as early or late. Those versions of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience that have been identified as early differ interestingly from those that have been identified as late.
The identification of the specific edition to which a work belongs.
For published volumes, such as books, portfolios, series, or sets, the edition is expressed as a number in relation to other editions printed. In other cases, a scholar may have identified a series of editions, which have then been numbered sequentially. An edition may also be identified by a name or phrase, such as the Mariette printing or the eighteenth-century French edition.
Edition statements may be found on the title page, colophon, or justification of "book-like" works, or in inscriptions on single-sheet works. They should be transcribed verbatim. Secondary sources, such as collection catalogs and catalogues raisonnés, may also help to identify the edition of a work, as will comparison to other known instances of the same work.
An edition number helps the art historian identify the work, and aids in its evaluation and dating. It also sets a specific work apart from other works of different editions.
The examples above illustrate a descriptive statement about edition number or name. Usually this information will be sufficient for researchers. However, some researchers may wish to locate a particular edition of a work. If information is to be accessible, it must be indexed using controlled vocabulary and consistent format.
The number assigned to a particular item within a specific edition or production run.
Impression numbers are usually expressed as a ratio of the specific number to the total number of prints made, e.g., 1/250. The first number, the number of the impression, should be indicated in this subcategory. The second number, identifying the size of the edition, should be indicated in EDITION - SIZE. Different impressions of a work may be numbered consecutively without an indication of the total number made; this numbering does not necessarily reflect the actual sequence of issuance.
The number of the impression sets the work within the context of the entire edition.
If the EDITION - IMPRESSION NUMBER is to be accessible, it must be formatted consistently.
The total number of works created in a particular production run.
EXAMPLESedition of 250
Edition size is usually expressed as a ratio of the number of a specific impression to the total number of prints or casts made, e.g., 1/250. The second number, or total number made, should be indicated in this subcategory.
Edition size is usually found in an inscription on the object. "The number 14/75 written on it means the print in question is fourteenth in an edition totaling 75,"  although not necessarily the fourteenth printed. Sometimes the total number printed or cast is inscribed on the work, as in ed. 50. The stated edition size may differ from the number of works actually made; the full edition may not have been printed or cast, or more works may have been made that were not recorded or described.
The total number in a particular edition makes it possible to assess the rarity of a work; this often has a bearing on its value.
If the EDITION - SIZE is to be accessible, it must be formatted consistently.
Any comments or notes about the identification of the edition of a work, which may include a summary of the source of this information, a justification of the edition chosen, or notes about previous or subsequent editions and how they differ from this work.
A reference to the bibliographic source, unpublished document, or other source that identified the edition of the work.
1 Antony Griffiths, Prints and Printmaking: An Introduction to the History and Techniques (London: British Museum Publications Limited, 1980), p. 136.
3 Pat Gilmour, The Mechanized Image: An Historical Perspective on 20th Century Prints (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978), p. 118.