Watermarks in Paper

From Wiki

The watermark may provide information about the papermaker, the location the paper was manufactured, and/or the approximate date of manufacture.

Wiki Compiler:
Wiki Contributors: Linda Barone, Dr. Erwin Frauenknecht, Denise Stockman, Claire Valero, your name could be here

Copyright 2018. The Book and Paper Group Wiki is a publication of the Book and Paper Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. It is published as a convenience for the members of the Book and Paper Group. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. There is an ongoing project to update the BPG Wiki. We welcome contributions and feedback. If you would like to get involved in this effort, please contact the wiki team at [email protected].


Measuring and Describing Watermarks

Watermark Terminology

  • Countermark:
  • Mark:
  • Variants: Slightly different versions of similar watermarks

Methods of Imaging Watermarks


Thomas L. Gravell developed a system for imaging watermarks using Du Pont DYLUX® 503 photosensitive paper. The Archive of Watermarks and Papers in Greek Manuscripts describes the procedure here.

Beta Radiography

CAMEO describes this technique in their page on Beta radiography.

Transmitted Light

Multispectral Imaging

Digital Manipulation of Watermark Images

Images of watermarks can be dramatically improved by digital manipulation. The following are examples of a technique developed by Claire Valero for enhancing transmitted light images. Ms. Valero presented the technique at the BPG Tips Session at AIC Annual in Houston. The handout and training videos are available on the BPG Annual Meeting Tips Sessions page . The technique is also described in Conservation Highlights on the Library of Congress Preservation Directorate website.

Laid Paper

Wove Paper

Online Watermark Databases

Websites accessed 4/2018.

-This portal was developed by the International Association of Paper Historians to allow searches in different languages and simultaneous access to remote distributed databases. It includes NIKI, Piccard-Online, WILC, WZMA and other databases.
-This site can be used to make inquiries about mystery watermarks
-With links to even more databases here and here
-More than 135,000 watermarks from 1400 until around 1800 from European manuscripts, incunabula and music.


Ash, Nancy and Shelly Fletcher, 1998. Watermarks in Rembrandt's Prints. National Gallery of Art; First edition.
Bidwell, John, 2013. American Paper Mills 1690-1832Dartmouth College Press, Hanover, NH.
Bradley, Louise. 2006. "The Use of Digital Imaging to Record Watermarks (PDF)." The Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Material Bulletin: 137-146.
Bustarret, Claire. 2012. “Databases on Modern and Contemporary Papers: Shared Reference Lists or Working Tools for Research? ” XXXIst IPH Congress IPH Edition (19): 109-115
Bustarret, Claire and E. Vanzieleghem. 2016. “Inventaire Condorcet: méthodes érudites et gestion électronique.” Bulletin du bibliophile (2): 330-355
Castagnari, Giancarlo et al. 2016. La Forma. Formisti e Cartai nella Storia della Carta Occidentale (The Mould.Paper-and Mould-Makers in the History of Western Paper) Italy: Istituto Europeo di Storia della Carta e delle Scienze Cartarie & Fondazione Gianfranco Fedrigoni Istocarta.
Churchill, William A. 1935. Watermarks in Paper in Holland, England, France, etc. in the XVII and XVIII Centuries and Their Interconnection. Amsterdam: M. Hertzberger.
Doizy, Marie-Ange and Pascal Fulacher. 1997. Papier et Moulins. Paris: Arts et Métiers du Livre éditions.
Gants, David L. 1994. "Pictures for the Page: Techniques in Watermark Reproduction, Enhancement and Analysis." Annual Meeting of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 23 April 1994.
Gaudriault, Raymond. 1995. Filigranes et autres caractéristiques des papiers fabriqués en France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Paris: Éditions du CNRS.
Gravell Thomas L. and George Miller. 1979. A Catalogue of American Watermarks 1690 – 1835. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc.
Gravell Thomas L. and George Miller. 1983. A Catalogue of Foreign Watermarks Found on Paper used in America 1700 – 1835. New York & London: Garland Publishing Inc.
Hunter, Dard. 1943. Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft. A.A. Knopf, 1943. Dover Publications, 1974, 1978 and 2011.
James, Carlo and Marjorie B. Cohn. 1997. Old Master Prints and Drawings: A Guide to Preservation and Conservation. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
La Lande, Joseph Jérôme de. 1761. Art de faire le papier. Paris: Saillant et Nyon.
Le Prat, André and Ariane de La Chapelle. 1996. Les relevés de filigranes = Watermark records = I rilievi di filigrane. [Musée du Louvre], Paris: la Documentation française.
Valero, Claire. 2018. "Enhancing Watermark Images: A Photoshop Method." Presented at the 46th AIC Annual Meeting as part of the BPG Tips Session Luncheon. To be published in the forthcoming Book and Paper Group Annual 38.
Videos and pdf handout for this tip are available on the BPG Annual Meeting Tips Sessions page.
Valero, Claire and Mary Oey. 2018. "Enhancing Watermark Images: A Photoshop Method". Conservation Highlights. Preservation Directorate Website, Library of Congress.
Wenger, Emanuel and Marisa Ferrando Cusi. 2013. “How to Make and Organize a Watermark Database and How to Make it Accessible from the Bernstein Portal. A Practical Example: IVC+R Database.” Paper History - Journal of the International Association of Paper Historians 17 (2) : 16-21.

History of This Chapter

This chapter was created through an April 2018 Call-for-Content to the BPG listserve.

Book and Paper Group Wiki
Using the Wiki

·Contributors Toolbox ·Reference and Bibliography Protocols ·Accessing Conservation Literature (AIC) ·Help Wanted ·Template for New BPG Chapter

Materials and Tips

·Annual Meeting Tips Sessions ·Materials, Equipment, and Tools ·Adhesive Recipes and Tips
·Gels, Thickeners, and Viscosity Modifiers (ECPN) ·Oddy Tests (R&A) ·Instrumental Analysis (Paintings) ·Technical Examination (Paintings) ·Microchemical Testing (R&A)


·Selection for Preservation ·Exhibition, Supports, Transport ·Imaging and Digitization ·Housings ·Encapsulation

Conservation History and Ethics

·Culturally Sensitive Treatment ·Conservation Ethics (AIC) ·History of Conservation and Conservators (AIC)