18th century paper watermarks

November 29,by Kirsten Tyree One of the more exciting things I have been working on in the conservation lab of the Smithsonian Institution Archives over the past year has been to photograph the imaginative and beautiful watermarks found on our collection of archival documents.

18th century paper watermarks

Significant Details in Recording and Identifying Watermarks Kitty Nicholson, National Gallery of Art Probably all of us from time to time have noted and recorded watermarks on works of art on paper.

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.

18th century paper watermarks

A project of documenting and 18th century paper watermarks 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. In producing common paper sizes, a mill would use that size pair of molds frequently, causing wear and damage to the wire mark and mold.

In watermarks of the 18th century much finer wire attaches the mark and sewing dots become almost imperceptible. In producing common paper sizes, a mill would use that size pair of molds frequently, causing wear and damage to the wire mark and mold. 18th century papers retained the distinct surface texture of the chain and laid lines of the paper mould mainly because the drying process remained unchanged until the end of the century. However, the calendar roll, for glazing the surface of papers, came into use around Sadly, with the advent of large scale paper manufacturing at the end of the 19th century, the ancient craft of making paper by hand nearly came to an end in America. The art of watermarking all but vanished and the tradition was on the verge of collapse.

Common-sized paper molds are estimated to last about two years, while a mold for a less common paper, such as very large formats, could last for many years. For example, one German mill about produced its largest art paper format once every two years in quantities of 50 reams.

Making Watermarks Meaningful: Significant Details in Recording and Identifying Watermarks

Accuracy in dating watermarks must be based on matching sheets of paper produced by the very same mold. The watermark to be identified must match exactly a published watermark or other mark for comparison. As well as identical size and shape, both marks must have identical placement relative to the chain lines.

For example, two very similar Gothic P watermarks can have distinctly different positions relative to the chain lines, one lies between the chain lines, while the other is sewn onto one chain line. Another Gothic P mark has a crown ornament, instead of the flower ornament which distinguishes the two previous marks.

To be considered identical, the marks must have the identical details or initials if any, identical countermarks, as well as the same recognizable sewing dots and the same laid line frequency number of lines per cm and the same chain line interval cm between lines.

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Even side by side comparison can deceive in establishing that two marks are from the same mold. Certain comparison requires superimposing the exact size images or their tracings, to see that they coincide in all significant points.

The only permissible variations are those that could result from deterioration of the mold and resultant repairs.18th century papers retained the distinct surface texture of the chain and laid lines of the paper mould mainly because the drying process remained unchanged until the end of the century.

However, the calendar roll, for glazing the surface of papers, came into use around Learning to “read” old paper June 25, when used, form decorative and informative watermarks.

Making Watermarks Meaningful: Significant Details in Recording and Identifying Watermarks

1. This type of paper, known as “laid” paper, is thinner where the pulp touched the wires, making a latticework pattern easily seen when you hold it up to a light. By the late 18th century, a completely new type of paper mold came into.

His work Paper and watermarks is available online through the site of L’Institut d’histoire du livre. Peter Bower is a forensic paper historian and paper analyst. Drawing papers as such were not specifically made until the mid-late 18th century.

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Artists drew and painted on hard sized papers made for writing, or in the case of coloured. Watermarks & Foolscaps: Exploring the History of Paper Production.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen this intriguing watermark in my first edition of Nehemiah Grew's The Anatomy of Vegetables Begun, the first work of scientific botany. Watermarks are often obscured under text, but in this case I was lucky, as it happened . Some watermark motifs remained popular for a century or more, such as the Arms of Amsterdam in use for years.

l5 In addition, popular watermarks were imitated in many countries, so the Arms of Amsterdam may appear on German or Italian paper. Sadly, with the advent of large scale paper manufacturing at the end of the 19th century, the ancient craft of making paper by hand nearly came to an end in America.

18th century paper watermarks

The art of watermarking all but vanished and the tradition was on the verge of collapse.

Hunting for Watermarks | Smithsonian Institution Archives