Most of the composition was etched, with drypoint used only for the butterfly signature and a small area of shading to left of the young man's head. There were many fine vertical and slightly diagonal scratches on the plate, which remain clearly visible on the upper portion of first state and some second state impressions. The plate was cleaned and burnished at the left and bottom, removing the most prominent scratches. The burnished areas show clearly on some impressions, where the polished portions of the plate surface held less plate tone (i.e. ).
Whistler was obviously well satisfied with Turkeys from the start, since some sixteen impressions of the first state exist. One of the earliest impressions, probably done in Venice or immediately on Whistler's return to London, is in black ink on off-white laid paper (). Other early impressions, probably dating from 1881, are in dark brown ink on cream 'antique' (pre-1800) laid paper with a Pro Patria watermark () and black on ivory laid paper with 'WW' water- or countermark ().
Apparently Whistler was prepared to let Messrs Dowdeswell publish it in this first state. This is slightly surprising because there was a gritty roughness in the surface of the etched plate, which could have been burnished out, but was left, adding a darker tone to the calm intimacy of the scene. 9
9: MacDonald 2001[more], 120-22.
In March 1886 Whistler handed over his copper plates to Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau
(ca 1840- d.1892). 10
A few impressions were printed in Paris on a paper chosen by Thibaudeau that Whistler liked. One impression of Turkeys
, reproduced below, was printed by Émile Frédéric Salmon
10: W. Dowdeswell to Whistler, 23 March 1886, #08678.
It is in black ink on a light-weight laid paper with margins. There is a light, even plate-tone overall, but no manipulation of the ink. The etched lines are sharp and show the state and quality of the etching plate at the time that Whistler was prepared to sell it to Messrs Dowdeswell. However, Whistler decided to print the edition himself.
He printed a few at a time, delivering, for instance, a single proof on one day, two on another, and five impressions on 20 August 1886. 11
Some impressions are in dark brown ink on cream or ivory laid paper (, ) and black on ivory and off-white laid (, ).
11: W. Dowdeswell to Whistler, [March/April 1886], GUW #08680; [March/October 1886], #08684; 20 August 1886, #00872; see also a record of deliveries, [March/October 1886], #08718.
For the second state - printed in January and February 1887- Whistler made few alterations, beyond adding the butterfly signature.
Some are in dark brown ink on buff and ivory laid paper (, reproduced above; ) and a few in black ink on buff, possibly Asian paper (), buff and tan laid (). There appears to have been a slight preference for darker and warmer colour papers and ink, compared to some other etchings in the set.
On 29 October 1886 Dowdeswell told Whistler that of the eight impressions of Turkeys delivered, he only had two left. In 1887, Dowdeswells received two more impressions on 5 January; ten days later Whistler delivered a further three proofs; and on 8 February he completed the edition, delivering twenty-five proofs and one from the destroyed copper plate. 12
There are several cancelled impressions, carefully printed in dark brown () or black ink () on ivory laid paper. The latter is part of a complete set of the cancelled etchings from the 'Second Venice Set', now in the Art Institute of Chicago. It was printed to show both publishers and collectors that the edition was indeed completed and the plate cancelled.
12: 29 October 1886, GUW #00883; 5 January 1887, #00886; 15 January 1887, #13021; 8 February 1887, #13647.