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Many intaglio prints by Whistler exist in only one state, and the rest were taken through two or more states. For this catalogue, the state descriptions of Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) were used as starting points, 1 and clarifications and corrections have been made as appropriate.

A significant number of 'new' states have been found; these reflect plate changes that were either undetected by Kennedy or are present on impressions he did not see. The working method of the Whistler Etchings Project has included examination of the original prints under varying degrees of magnification along with comparison of high resolution digital images. The additional states found by the Project expand Kennedy's work significantly but should not be considered absolutely definitive, as it is likely that further new states will be discovered.

1: Kennedy, Edward G., The Etched Work of Whistler, New York, 1910

When new states are identified from this date (2012) on, they will be added to the online catalogue as a, b, c etc, between the appropriate states that have already been established. This does not mean that they are 'intermediate' states, but that they are states not previously recorded. This happens particularly in the 'First Venice Set' and 'Second Venice Set'.
For a number of the intaglio prints, there are just two known states -- a first state in pure etching and a second state with drypoint additions. Whistler apparently chose to make alterations directly on those plates with a drypoint needle, rather than re-applying coats of etching ground, making changes with an etching needle and then using acid to bite corrections or additions into the copper.
It should be noted that some of Whistler's intaglio prints, currently known in just one state, are etchings with relatively small touches of drypoint. While impressions from those plates in pure etching have not been found to date, it is possible that at least one etched proof was pulled from each plate before Whistler decided to make changes with drypoint lines or shading. Therefore, it is possible that earlier states in pure etching exist for some of those plates, and proofs without drypoint may come to light over the course of time. It is equally likely that Whistler discarded many of those early trial proofs.
In some cases plates were printed over many years and considerable changes were made, resulting in up to 20 different states, subtly varying in composition, detail and printing, as in impressions of San Biagio [237] reproduced below.
Impression: K1970102
Impression: K1970504