Tag Archives: watermark

Watermarks and how to find them

When papyrus was used as a writing medium in about 600BC by the Egyptians, contemporary users knew that as product  it did not have a long life.

The Chinese are credited with the first major paper making industry in about 95 AD. However it was the Arabians, after their conquering of the Eastern states, who diffused this knowledge throughout Western Europe. It is also possible that merchants who travelled brought information and goods across borders, fostering innovation in many techniques, papermaking being just one of those.

According to Joel Munsell, an American printer and publisher, paper was used far earlier than suspected, perhaps as far back as the 600s by the Longobards (Lombards), a Germanic tribe living in the north of Italy. They used paper for documents of importance so that forgery was impossible. In the 700s Arabians were thought to have brought back paper technology from their raids in the East. In these periods cotton and straw were used in paper manufacture. In about 1000 Arabians were already writing on satin paper, using local cotton.

Munsell’s chronology is quite extensive and shows that cotton paper and rag paper where being used on the Continent well before printing began in the 1400s. While it is greatly accepted that Italian paper mills were the first to supply paper in large quantities to printers in other countries, there are claims that it is in fact the Spanish who first produced paper in large quantities, namely at Xativa.[1]

The Spaniards having learned the secrets of papermaking from the Moors, used their knowledge of watermills to improve the grinding techniques of linen rags to produce  fine white paper.

What is a watermark and why is it important?

pot watermark

pot watermark single handle with trefoil

If we accept that paper technology came from Arabia to Spain via the Moors who settled there, the  paper marks we see in early Spanish papers  are simple lines and hatchings that are reminiscent of the marks made by the parchment makers. These are made after the paper making process.

The first  watermarks appeared in Italy in around 1270. The crude marks make way for more inventive images created by an  elaborate system, the attachment of wires to the mould. These first watermarks were simple shapes, circles, lines, in various combination, and are made during the paper making process. Where the pulp touches the raised wires, some of it slides off, creating a thinner area.  When the paper is held up to the light, the image is visible.

Churchill RBq 910.8C563 snake

Enter a caption

Papermakers used symbols on their papers as an early form of branding and quality control. Symbols more often used were animals, fabulous monsters, weapons, eagles and birds, gothic capitals, marks associated with important families or cities; ie Columns (Colonna), ladder (Scala, Milan), serpent in wave form ( the Visconti family). Were they proof of purchase, that you really had bought paper from a particular mill, and not an inferior copy? Papermakers traded, either selling or passing on their moulds, and of course they were not averse to imitating moulds from famous papermakers and their peers.  Watermarks can give us a dating clue, however provenance on the strength of a watermark is no longer solely considered.

Later when Holland began supplying the majority of Northern European printers, the  Dutch Mark of Amsterdam which had been the acknowledged sign of quality, was “borrowed” by English paper makers. So it was that marks were bought and sold or “borrowed”, which makes it very hard to use the watermark reliably as a source of provenance. The Germans claimed that by 1800 they had 25 million watermarks

Mylij RB JES 5154 MOA

Mark of Amsterdam in paper used by Milij in Cologne 1589

Knowledge of heraldry is a big help in deciphering watermarks. Many marks are coat of arms or use heraldic symbolism. Watermark nomenclature is based on familiarity with its symbols. The NAtional  Library of Australia has a guide to finding heradic sources in its collection.

The Library holds some incunabula, books printed before and including 1500. To find this material you need to eliminated the  terms”microform” and “electronic” in the search box. They are more than likely to have watermarks. To facilitate your search, the following users list are also available:

Material can be ordered via the catalogue using your library card and  viewed with a light sheet in the Special Collections Reading Room on Level 1.

So come on over and try it out!

 

 

[1] Munsell, J (1856) A chronology of paper and paper-making

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A book of sermons

This has changed from being simply a book binding blog to other things about the book.

I found a book of sermons the other day (RB MISC 801 – Sermao do mandato pregado na sancta see metropolitana desta corte & cidade de Lisboa, no anno de 1653 / pello Diogo Cesar). The problem with this title is that it is a collection of sermon pamphlets, printed at various different times, between roughly 1685 and 1733, by various different printers.

I suppose if you were just looking for sermons in portuguese this discrepancy wouldn’t matter to you. But I am trying to collect samples of vignettes, motifs, lines and  historiated capitals and associate them with specific printers.

So let me just show you some title pages from these sermons:

Here are some of the historiated capitals used by these three printers

 

 

What is interesting about these images is the use of one tool to make an elongated image. Unlike binders who had decorated rolls they could push along and single gouges they pressed into the bindings, I would imagine that printers needed to have a bit of type stock to create  differing patterns. Were the header vignettes printed at the same time as the text? Or did they print them afterwards by hand perhaps, hence the lack of straightness in some vignettes? The repetition of one stamp can make for interesting pattern.

So lastly, some watermarks because I had nothing else for the workshop of Miguel Deslandes.

 

 

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Invisible animals in your books – watermarks

Since I had a little time on my hands today, I thought I’d publish some animal watermarks. These images will be from the upcoming publication, The Secret Life of Watermarks, due in March 2017.

If you don’t know what a watermark is, it is a wire design that is stitched onto the paper mold. The stuff (yes that’s its actual name) or paper pulp is then gathered and smooched about on the mold and couched in piles, pressed and dried. This is a very basic explanation. Further and more complex details can be found all over the internet and in books such as Dard Hunter’s Papermaking (Dover Press).

So where the stuff touches the wires, less pulp is deposited and when the sheet dries there is a space, not really an impression, but more a lack; an image appears when you hold the sheet up to the light.

Why animals? i don’t know. Who actually knows. There are no papermaking tales about why watermarks began, or why certain symbols were chosen. However the watermarks exist. The tête de boeuf or Bull’s head is one of the more ancient marks as it represents resilience and calm strength. In the 15th and 16th centuries printers had allied themselves with painters, whose patron saint was St Luke. St Luke’s symbol was the bull; so this may be one reason why the tête de boeuf was a popular mark for so long.

The big difference in the bull’s heads can be seen in the eyes, the ears and the nostrils, all changing shape.  There are blank bull’s heads, heads with a variety of eyes, heads with nostrils or a strip for a nose, and the ears can change shape. The horns remain the same, however above the head there can be a variety of sticks with crosses, stars or snakes.

Snakes: are found in Italian, French and German papers. While they may have been associated with Italian families, the snake denoted a type of thin paper called “serpente” (Briquet VolIV). These were usually high quality papers. Paper from Milan, home of the Visconti family, usually had the snake devouring a child or saracen. Sometimes the prey is just a little round ball.
Snakes found on edges of paper generally come from the South West of France, from towns such as Toulouse, Pau, La Rochelle and Narbonne.

Birds in various shapes can also be found hiding inside books from the 16th and 17th centuries. Let me show you a peacock:

Some watermarks are hard to make out. I asked my son Max to photoshop some colour and printing off some hard to see watermarks. another way for me to better visualise the image was to print out the photos and use a white marker to trace the lines; only the lines I could see. I had to stop myself from assuming where lines might be.

The stag is seen as often as the bull’s head. While it originated in Italy, there are many variants of this image all over Europe. Most common are the head and antlers, with the antlers as double lines.

Maybe that’s enough for today. I need to get back to finding out more about the watermarks!

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Watermark of the week: When does a bow look like a wombat?

Over the last two years I’ve examined about 220 books and have collected over 400 watermarks. Sometimes there are tow versions of one book and I get them both out to see if the paper is the same; if there is a little difference in the printing or the pagination. Sometimes it’s as though I see the same things over  and over again.

In the search  for watermarks I look through databases and books, sometimes getting a glimpse of a mark that might resemble one that I have.

What do you think this is?

IMG_5307 IMG_5341 IMG_5125

Could you believe these are all bows? as in bows and arrows, made in Paris between1636 and 1642.

I thought it looked like a potato or a fat bear or a wombat. However , how does one describe this and how do you find it in a database if you don’t know it’s a bow?

I’ve just been browsing books, and that trains your eye. In books of later periods I have not seen any more marks like this. I wonder who’se marks they represent. They were in the following books:

  1. Sancti patris nostri Gregorii Episcopi Nysseni opera : nvnc denvo correctivs et accvrativs edita … & in tres tomos distributa Parisiis : sumptibus Aegidii Morelli … , 1638
  2. Sancti Patris nostri Justini philosophi et martyris Opera. Item Athenagorae Atheniensis, Theophili Antiocheni, Tatiani Assyrii, & Hermiae Philosophi tractatus aliquot, quos sequens pagina indicabit. Quae omnia Graecè & Latinè emendatiora prodeunt. Parisiis : apud Clavdivm Sonnivm, 1636
  3. Qvorvm plvrima Graece, qvaedam etiam Latine nunc primum prodeunt : Graeca cum manuscriptis exemplaribus diligenter collata, Latinae versiones ad Graecorum normam exactae & recognitae / Cura & studio Iacobi Sirmondi. Lvtetiae Parisiorvm : sumptibus Sebastiani Cramoisy et Gabrielis Cramoisy, 1642

If anyone out there knows, please tell me!

 

 

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The find of the week – January

It is saturday and I am writing this quickly before I start making the custard for the ice cream…

When I first started the search for watermarks every little grape and heart and crown was exciting. Now I have the “oh that’s only a heart” attitude. When there are no watermark, there is a little sense of outrage. Anyhoo…this week, this is what I found:

A unicorn, well at least two parts of him. His op half was in the flyleaf of volume 1 and the bottom part was in the back fly of volume 3 of

Historia theologico-critica de vita, scriptis, atque doctrina sanctorum patrum : aliorumque scriptorum ecclesiasticorum trium primorum saeculorum ex virorum doctissimorum literariis monumentis collecta (RB JES 4979) at the National Library, printed in Augsburg in 1783
Unicorn on edge of cross grain paper, with belt and ornament

Unicorn on edge of cross grain paper, with belt and ornament

bottom quarter of the unicorn in vol3

bottom quarter of the unicorn in vol3

 

Just as with the Virgin Mary in a previous post, I have searched online databases and all the books I can get my hands on, to no avail. So if anyone can tell me if they have seen this same unicorn, I would be most grateful.

Dos a dos binding

Dos a dos binding

This is my project book of the research I am currently undertaking. It is easy to carry around: 150 bindings and 260 watermarks! I’ll be giving this to my friend Fabienne when she visits from Montevideo….

Next…I found two jokers in the same book. This has happened to me before in The History of the Plot. These two came from :

The primitive origination of mankind, considered and examined according to the light of nature / written by the honourable Sir Matthew Hale (RBfCLI 4016) printed in London 1677.

I am getting my son Max to photoshop all my watermarks so that they are clearer. This is hard to see. But once your eye is trained you can see any number of details.

And lastly, please find below a man on a horse. They are also sometimes called picadors. I found him in:

Mellificium theologicum ad dispatandum et concionandum proficuum… : Colligente & producente m. Johanne Binchio (RB De vesci 920)

man on horseThis was printed in Amsterdam in 1658.

I  am currently just collecting data and putting them in a book. This really has made my week!

cheers

 

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