Watermarks!

Watermarks are translucent impressions on paper, created by wires attached to the papermaking mould. They were and are used to identify the maker of the paper, and sometimes where and when the paper was made. Watermarks were produced in a wide variety of shapes and styles, ranging from geometric designs to images of animals, flowers, national symbols such as the fleur-de-lis of France , and words or names. The watermark wire shape was attached to the paper mould by being sewed to the laid wires horizontal and chain wires vertical with fine wire; this caused “sewing dots” to be impressed on the paper along with the watermark. The combination of watermark shape, positioning on the sheet and sewing dot pattern can be used to identify the manufacturer of the paper, as well as the geographic area where it was produced and the approximate date of manufacture. There is considerable uncertainty inherent in this identification, however; watermark evidence alone can only provide clues, not precise facts.

Making Watermarks Meaningful: Significant Details in Recording and Identifying Watermarks

You can print the following five types of information: “Date”, “Pages”, “Stamp”, “Text”, and “Watermark”. You can print pre-set text or any characters as the text. If the selected stamp of one position overlaps the stamp of another position, priority will be given in the order; watermark, right side, left side, and center. Content that is hidden due to overlapping will not be printed.

Text will be printed at the preset size regardless of the copy ratio or paper size setting.

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Current obsession: watermarks! Iowa Center for the Book papermaking facility; above right: the resulting sheet of handmade paper with backlit watermark visible]. If you are not familiar with the process of hand papermaking, here is a look at a paper production at a mill in Maidstone, Kent, England [Hayle Mill, run by Barcham Green and family]. Another video poetically describes a papermaking mill in Puymoyen [southwest France, the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine].

If I were a scribe in 15th-c. Though an individual mould only lasted about a year [in full production], a watermark symbol was remade again and again on new moulds associated with a given paper mill. Watermarks also wore out over the course of a year, changing slightly in shape and definition. More on the book in a future post! So, if I find a watermark in a manuscript on paper, and locate it in Briquet, it will tell me what other documents and books on paper contain that watermark and what archives in Europe hold these — and provide a date if possible [but cannot specify the mill or location the paper came from].

Watermarks can be helpful in supporting or denying other evidence about the manuscript in question — and providing a general date for undated manuscripts. It can also provide important evidence about the movement of paper across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Iowa MS xMMs.

A Digital Image Processing and Database System for Watermarks in Medieval Manuscripts

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So when we find a dated paper document or manuscript, we have a fairly certain terminus ad quem for the paper production. Watermark motifs.

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Learning to “read” old paper

There are two main ways of producing watermarks in paper; the dandy roll process , and the more complex cylinder mould process. Watermarks vary greatly in their visibility; while some are obvious on casual inspection, others require some study to pick out. Various aids have been developed, such as watermark fluid that wets the paper without damaging it. A watermark is very useful in the examination of paper because it can be used for dating, identifying sizes, mill trademarks and locations, and determining the quality of a sheet of paper.

The word is also used for digital practices that share similarities with physical watermarks. In one case, overprint on computer-printed output may be used to identify output from an unlicensed trial version of a program.

5thInternational conference on watermarks in digital collections, Bernstein tools for undertaking paper expertises (image processing, measurements, dating)​.

Watermarks are often obscured under text, but in this case I was lucky, as it happened to coincide with the blank portion of a folding plate. Most of the watermarks I’d seen had been smaller, simpler and more condensed, so I was immediately fascinated by this sprawling, seemingly abstract symbol. First, some background on watermarks. A wire mesh mould was lowered into this mixture and lifted out several times. As the water drained through the mesh it deposited thin layers of fibers on the mould.

You can see evidence of the wire mesh in the image above: the vertical lines the ones that look like the watermark, not the folds in the paper are called chain lines, and the more frequent horizontal lines are called laid lines. They appear when light is shining from behind because the paper is thinner in the places where a wire was. Sure enough, the Thomas L. Gravell Watermark Archive at the University of Delaware has an entire section devoted to foolscap watermarks , which depict the head of a jester in an elaborate cap with bells.

This was a very popular watermark, and variations of it were used throughout Europe for centuries, with the first appearances dated to the middle of the s Hunter, Papermaking, p. The foolscap symbol eventually became associated with a specific size of paper, what until recently was called “foolscap”. August 13, August 04,

Paper Watermarks

Watermarks are the most important tool for dating undated documents written on paper. Hence, catalogues and databases of watermarks play an eminent role for the work of medievalist and paper historians. The proposed project has the aim to improve this tool in two directions. One is the development of a distributed watermark database and processing system, which allows the access to local watermark databases with different structures in different locations and the processing of images from different sources.

This will make possible the remote access to watermarks from different collections and sources.

dates. A number of watermarks have been found throughout this collection allowing the initial conclusion that some papers are not of. Islamic production to be.

Although paper came already in the fifteenth century to Iceland, we do not know where it was produced or who sold it. Paper came in the fifteenth century to Iceland but was used sparingly in the beginning, it seems, as there are only very few extant paper manuscripts or documents from that century. Paper was used mostly for ephemeral and unimportant texts, such as drafts and letters, until people were certain of its durability, which took a while: paper supplanted parchment in the late sixteenth century, judging from numbers of extant paper manuscripts in comparison to extant parchment manuscripts.

Paper had to be imported, though, because there were no paper mills in Iceland. We do not know where it was produced nor how it came to Iceland. A well-known method of identifying the place and time pf paper production is the analysis of watermarks. While watermarks are today mostly known to the public in banknotes as measurements to impede counterfeiting it has been used as a sign of origin — and quality — in papermaking since the late thirteenth century. The oldest watermark in paper is dated to , produced in the famous Italian papermaking town of Fabriano.

To create a watermark, a thin wire is bent into the desired shape and then fixed onto the mould. The paper is thinner where the wire was and when we hold the paper against a source of light, we can see the image of the wire, ie. These watermarks can be used to identify the time and place of paper production for various reasons. First, the individual wire designs were made by hand and differ in details.

Second, the moulds, including the wire designs, had a rather short life span due to the high mechanical stress of paper making. And third, paper was expensive and people tended to use it soon after buying it, usually within a few years.

The watermark; the oldest and most reliable paper protection element

The watermark is not a modern innovation, nor was it created to prevent counterfeiting. It was a medieval creation, one used primarily to show the maker of the paper, but also the place in which the paper was made, and less often when the paper was made. For this blog, I would like to discuss the risks of this third purpose of medieval watermarking- using watermarking as a means to date paper. I will rely upon two manuscript collections of the Rijksarchief te Gent, numbers K91 and K98, to demonstrate the uncertainty of watermark dating.

The watermark collection is indeed just that- a bundle of loose leaves of paper, that for the most part, are not medieval at all. In examining the bundle of paper, one sees watermarks with an assigned date of the mark in the top left corner of the page, ranging from the late fourteenth to the late fifteenth century.

Investigating a foolscap watermark found in a first edition of of They’re useful for those who want to date papers and to understand how.

The presence of such a watermark can help establish the date and place that an artwork was made, but only if significant features of the watermark are recognized and recorded. A project of documenting and identifying watermarks for an exhibition catalogue at the National Gallery of Art showed us that there is much to learn about the study and interpretation of watermarks in paper. I would like to share with you some of the significant details to look for in a watermarked sheet, how to try to identify a watermark, and some problems in interpreting information given for published watermarks.

I have included an annotated bibliography of some useful reference books as well as a few articles by some of the foremost current researchers in paper history. The basis of the study of watermarks is that at a given period of time a specific paper mill would have on hand a limited number of papermaking molds, and these molds had a finite useful life. The practice in European mills was to have a pair of molds for each size of paper produced.

In the papermaking work rhythm, the vatman immersed one mold in the vat while the coucher, his partner, couched the previously formed sheet off the other mold onto felts. Each mold generally had attached to it a bent-wire mark serving to indicate the paper’s origin, size, or quality. Often additional countermarks were also attached to the mold.

Each of these handmade wire marks varied slightly and produced a distinctive watermark recognizable by slight variations in the mark’s shape, size, placement, and points of attachment to the mold surface, as well as by the spacing of the chain lines and laid lines. So there will be two recognizable “twin” watermarks for each pair of molds. In watermarks of the 18th century much finer wire attaches the mark and sewing dots become almost imperceptible.

Looking at Art, Artifacts and Ideas

It is mainly used for documents whose authenticity is important and to produce other papers in which it forms a decorative element. In the past, paper mills used watermarks as their seal to trace paper origin and quality. You could say that they were used like logos are today.

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The Gravell Watermark Archive www. Gravell and about 45, unpublished marks documented by Charles-Moise Briquet. On the website, you can search for stags, swans, or unicorns, creatures from a medieval bestiary produced long ago by wire attached to a paper mould. Watermarks are made by placing a design made with thin wire on a paper mould. The paper formed over the wire is thinner and translucent when held up to a light source. Watermarks identify paper as the product of a particular maker or mill at a particular place and time.

Watermarks were short-lived. Exposed to water and pulp, a mould might last a year, a watermark half that. There is no comprehensive catalog of them.

Making watermarks in hand papermaking