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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A facsimile (from Latin fac simile, "made alike") is a copy or reproduction of an old book, manuscript, map, art print, or other item of historical value that is as true to the original source as possible. It differs from other forms of reproduction by attempting to replicate the source as accurately as possible in terms of scale, color, condition, and other material qualities. For books and manuscripts, this also entails a complete copy of all pages; hence an incomplete copy is a "partial facsimile". Facsimiles are used, for example, by scholars to research a source that they do not have access to otherwise and by museums and archives for museum and media preservation. Many are sold commercially, often accompanied by a volume of commentary. They may be produced in limited editions, typically of 500–2,000 copies, and cost the equivalent of a few thousand United States dollars.

Facsimiles in the age of mechanical reproduction

age of mechanical reproduction

Advances in the art of facsimile are closely related to advances in printmaking. Maps, for instance, were the focus of early explorations in making facsimiles, although these examples often lack the rigidity to the original source that is now expected. An early example being the Abraham Ortelius map (1598). Innovations during the 18th century, especially in the realms of lithography and aquatint saw an explosion in the number of facsimiles after old master drawings that could be studied from afar.

At the present time, facsimiles are generally made by the use of some form of photographic technique. It is most often referring to Fax machines.

Facsimiles and conservation

Important illuminated manuscripts like Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry are not only on display to the public as facsimiles, but now even scholars may only consult high-quality copies. However, unlike normal book reproduction processes, facsimiles remain truer to the original colors—which is especially important for illuminated manuscripts—as well as defects.

Facsimiles are best suited to printed or hand-written documents, and not to items such as three dimensional objects or oil paintings with unique surface texture. Reproductions of those latter objects are often referred to as replicas.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Facsimile" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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