Talk:BPG Watermarks

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  • Description of the use of multispectral imaging for capturing a watermark
  • Image of watermarks captured with Dylux, beta radiography or multispectral imaging
  • Does anyone use phosphorescence watermark imaging?
  • Does anyone use computed radiography?

Wiki Compiler:
Wiki Contributors: Linda Barone, Mary Broadway, Dr. Erwin Frauenknecht, María Cristina Rivera Ramos, Denise Stockman, Claire Valero, your name could be here

Copyright 2024. The AIC Wiki is a publication of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). It is published as a convenience for the members of AIC. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. Information on researching with and citing the wiki can be found on the Reference and Bibliography Protocols page.

Cite this page:

American Institute for Conservation (AIC). "Talk:BPG Watermarks." AIC Wiki. April 20, 2024.

Background[edit source]

Watermarks are created by additional wires sewn into the wire paper mould which displace the fibers during formation to create an area of less density. Light travels with less obstruction through this area and will appear as an image, letters, and/or numbers in transmitted light.

Detail of watermark in transmitted light, New York Public Library

In the digital age, the word is used to describe a marker embedded in audio, video or image files to denote copyright. The majority of results for online searches of the term will lead to this kind of watermark.

The first watermarks appeared on Fabriano paper by about 1293 (the date varies in different sources) and quickly spread throughout Europe. They were most common from the 15th through the 19th centuries. It is not always known what every watermark symbolizes. While they are generally trademarks of the papermaker, some indicate the paper size. Papermakers sometimes used different watermarks for different markets. While watermarks can sometimes be used to determine the date and location where a paper was made, they can be unreliable because papermakers imitated watermarks that were popular; old moulds were reused by other papermakers; and loose wires may have been reattached in slightly different locations.

The first documented use of the English word "watermark" for these designs in paper was in 1790 in a British patent granted to John Phipps to create watermarked lines in paper. In German, they are called wasserzeichen or papierzeichen. The French use the term filigrane. The Dutch call them papiermerken. The Italians and Spanish use the word "filigrana" but sometimes Spanish speakers use the more elaborate term "filigranas o marcas invisibles."

Watermarks can be found in both handmade and machine-made papers. In the 19th and 20th centuries, more elaborate watermarks were made for security of banknotes and for artistic purposes. This page is generally focussed on traditional watermarks in handmade western papers.

Some papers from the 16th - 19th century will have a second watermark called a countermark; often on the opposite side of the paper. The countermark is usually smaller and simpler, featuring a date, letters, or a small symbol. When the paper being examined is a portion of the original sheet, it may be hard to tell whether you are looking at a watermark or a countermark.

Common Watermarks[edit source]

  • Arms of Amsterdam
  • Arms of France and Navarre / Arms of Burgundy

The Arms of France watermark usually depicts three fleur de lis inside a shield under a crown. The Arms of Burgundy watermark is similar, but the shield is divided into four sections that may contain initials, stripes, fleur de lis and/or lions. History and examples of Arm of Burgundy here and here.

  • Fleur-de-lis
  • Foolscap
This symbol came to denote a folio size of paper. The name is derived from the Italian "foglio-capo." [insert note: Clayton Beadle. The Development of Watermarking in Hand-Made and Machine-Made Papers. Journal of the Society of Arts, Volume 54

Society of Arts (Great Britain), 1906: The University of California.]

  • ProPatria
This symbol was created to commemorate the liberation of the Netherlands from Spanish control in 1851. Ogierman 2017 There are two main variants of the ProPatria watermark:
  • A lion with a sword, scepter and/or a handful of arrows
  • Britannia: A lion with the "Maid of Dort," usually inside a fence, sometime incorporating the initials "GR." Most were made in the Netherlands for the British market. It is also common in paper used in British colonies.
MTI Pro Patria Maid of Dort
  • Strasbourg Lily

Major Papermaking Regions[edit source]

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
Years active
Common symbols
  • Antwerp, Belgium
Years active
Common symbols
  • Bologna, Italy
Years active
Common symbols
  • Fabriano, Italy
Years active
Common symbols
  • Genoa, Italy
Years active
Common symbols
* three circles with a crown or cross
* Griffins holding a shield
  • Kent, England
Years active
Common symbols
  • Utrecht, Netherlands
Years active
Common symbols

Famous Papermakers and their watermarks[edit source]

  • Blauw & Briel
Years active
Common symbols
  • Lubertus van Gerrevink
Years active
Common symbols
  • Pieter van der Ley of Zaandyk
Years active: 1665 - 1765
Common symbols
  • Jean Villedary
Years active
Common symbols
  • Whatman
Years active
Common symbols

Measuring and Describing Watermarks[edit source]

To enable online searches for watermarks in databases (see list below), it is necessary to standardize the information that describes each watermark.

Watermark Terminology[edit source]

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

Methods of Imaging Watermarks[edit source]

Tracing[edit source]

The simplest way to record a watermark is to place the paper in transmitted light and trace the watermark onto a piece of transparent paper or plastic placed on top. There are some problems inherent in this method that make it the least reliable in recording the watermark data without introducing error. The paper may shift slightly during the tracing. It is difficult to consistently hold the writing utensil directly over the lines being traced without leaning to one side or another. There may be damage, folds, imperfections, or media on the paper that get mistaken for part of the watermark.

However, if this is the only method available, weigh the papers down to prevent shifting. Lower the light table so that you can look straight down on it. Work slowly and carefully. Include all chain lines in the vicinity of the watermark and a sampling of the laid lines, perhaps in a different color. If possible, include the mark and countermark (if applicable) on the same tracing so that their exact distance and relationship is clear.

Contact Print[edit source]

This method, also sometimes known as the "Ilkey method" was more common in the age of darkrooms. High speed film is placed under the watermark, exposed to light, and developed.

Photogram[edit source]

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 radiograph. Art Institute of Chicago.

Beta Radiography[edit source]

CAMEO describes this technique in their page on Beta radiography.

In 2018, the paper lab at the Art Institute of Chicago developed a protocol for beta radiography that replaces the Kodak film with phosphor-coated imaging plates. This offers several advantages including: a larger surface area, higher sensitivity to beta rays, lower sensitivity to visible light, and they are reusable. Practically, these features translate into significantly shorter collection times (between 10-40 minutes, depending on the thickness of the support), a setup that is safer for the art (i.e. does not have to be carried out in total blackness), and a digital image that is easily manipulated with basic Image Pilot Konica software. The method is detailed in their "Beta Radiography Protocols" (Rivera Ramos and Broadway 2019).

Transmitted Light[edit source]

Place the watermarked paper on a transmitted light source that is as even as possible. Position the camera in a level plane directly over the paper. Try different exposures to find the one that captures the watermark as clearly as possible. Unlike other conservation documentation, it is not necessary to capture the true color of the paper with this image. See Digital Manipulation of Watermark Images (below) for tips on enhancing the photograph further.

Digital Manipulation of Watermark Images[edit source]

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

Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)[edit source]

This is a system of capturing a series of images where the camera and the object are in the exact location, but the light source is in a different position for each image. Software is used to compile these images into one synthesized RTI image that captures surface three-dimensionality and can be manipulated within the software to reveal a watermark. More information here.

Multispectral Imaging[edit source]

Online Watermark Databases[edit source]

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.

References[edit source]

Watermark Compendiums[edit source]

Ash, Nancy and Shelly Fletcher. 1998. Watermarks in Rembrandt's Prints. National Gallery of Art; First edition.
Bidwell, John. 2013. American Paper Mills 1690-1832. Dartmouth College Press, Hanover, NH.
Briquet, Charles-Moise. 1907. Les Filigranes: Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu'en 1600 avec 39 figures dans le texte et 16 112 fac-similés de filigranes. Paris: Alphonse Picard et fils. Digitized.
Churchill, William A. 1935. Watermarks in Paper in Holland, England, France, etc. in the XVII and XVIII Centuries and Their Interconnection. Amsterdam: M. Hertzberger.
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.
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.

Papermaking and Papermaking History[edit source]

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.
Doizy, Marie-Ange and Pascal Fulacher. 1997. Papier et Moulins. Paris: Arts et Métiers du Livre éditions.
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.
Ogierman, Leonard. 2017. "Phenomenon of Pro Patria Paper Expansion." Ślaski Kwartalnik Naukowy NR-1(47)- Bibliotheca Nostra, 2017.

Watermark Reproduction Techniques and Database Use[edit source]

Bradley, Louise. 2006. "The Use of Digital Imaging to Record Watermarks .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
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.
Rivera Ramos, María Cristina and Mary Broadway. 2019. "Beta Radiography Protocols: Watermark Wiki Submission." Art Institute of Chicago.
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.

References to be added:

The article above has a nice bibliography that is worth looking at for more references. --Denise Stockman (talk) 13:31, 17 October 2018 (CDT)

W. A. Churchill, Watermarks in paper in Holland, England, France, etc, in the XVII and XVIII centuries and their Interconnection (Amsterdam, 1935)

Edward Heawood, Watermarks, mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries (Hilversum, 1950)

David Schooner, 'Techniques of Reproducing Watermarks: A Practical Introduction', in Essays in Paper Analysis, ed. by Stephen Spector (London, 1987), pp. 154-67

Carol Ann Small, ‘Phosphorescence Watermark Imaging', in Puzzles in Paper, ed. by Daniel Mosser, Michael Saffle and Ernest W. Sullivan II (London, 2000), pp. 169-81.

Links: The British Association of Paper Historians

The International Association of Paper Historians

Paper Online

Handmade Paper on the Web

IPH Standard for Describing Paper

Gravell Watermark Archive[this link is unreliable]

History of This Page[edit source]

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

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