Watermarks in paper are used to indicate the place of origin, the quality of the paper and the papermaker and in some instances the arms of a rich patron1. They were first developed at Fabriano in Italy in the thirteenth century, and quickly spread to other paper makers2 in Holland, France, Switzerland and Germany3. Watermarks are made by attaching a wire figure to a tightly woven wire mesh which is attached to a wooden frame called a deckle. Less paper pulp settles on the wire mesh where the figure has been attached, and this shows as a watermark in the finished sheet of paper when held up to a light source. Several deckles would be used at each mill, and therefore several figures could originate from the same paper manufacturer, including twin motifs, which nevertheless would have their own noticeable idiosyncrasies. Some watermarks denoted a particular paper size. The Fool’s cap is the most noted and was used as an indication of paper size from the middle of the fifteenth century until recently when it was replaced with the figure of Britannia4. The Dutch and French became prolific manufacturers of paper, each with their own set of logos, although there was crossover and ‘borrowing’ of logos as several papermakers moved from one mill to another, or worked simultaneously at duplicate mills5.
Searching for watermarks in the Cathedral Library required some criteria:
1. Due to the dilapidated condition of some books, they were not examined for watermarks.
2. Books were selected at random from the several thousand on the shelves but taken from all subject matters and ages of issue.
3. For the most part, only watermarks visible in the end papers and fly leaves of the books were recorded, again due to the fragile condition of some of the books. Watermarks were hand drawn so as not to damage the pages.
A number of books yielded watermarks – about 41% of those searched. The following are just a sample selected from those recorded. This took some time, as there are literally thousands of watermarks in catalogues, with no guarantee that the one selected would be recorded anywhere.
1. WCLTM15: Histoire du Schisme des Grecs. P. Louis Maimbourg. Compagne des Jesus, Paris, 1682.
Front flyleaf partial:
The Italians, particularly from Lombardy, were some of the earliest papermakers to use watermarks. This is from an Italian papermaker who used the logo PHOMO. A full example showing a shield with trefoil lobes, a stylised sun, two fleur-de-lys and a rounded cross finial making up the Arms of France and Navarre dated 1690 can be seen in the Corpus Christi Italicarum in Rome6, and in the Churchill Collection7. Nothing could be found that elaborates on the initials PHOMO.
2. WCLSEL A 188.8.131.52 Mácinelli Sermoniū. Venundantur Parrhisijs. Ioannes Patri & Iodici Badij Ascentij. No Location, no date.
Back flyleaf partial:
This version is similar to that seen in a document by Friedrich Kőnig, Segeberg, Schloss, Denmark, example shown 15238, although the motif has also been seen on a paper contract of sale date December 1494 in Castile, and an Islamic treatise dated 14799 . The full image shows a gloved hand with frilled cuff and either a flower or a cross extending from the middle finger. This motif appears in several versions of William Caxton’s works. The Journal of Prior William More in the Worcester Cathedral Library Collection 10 has three versions at least: the version on folio 4, dated 1522-1523 is the most common, but another version appears on folio 41 dated 1520 and another again on folio 149 dated 1533-1534. The paper for these works may have come from a mill owned by John Tate at Stevenage in Hertfordshire from 1494-98. This was the only mill in England at the time, and a rare example of superimposed watermarks of both Tate and Caxton can be seen in the collection of the Papermakers’ Association of Great Britain. The next producer of paper in England was John Spielman at Dartford in Kent 1588-160511.
William Caxton (1422-1491) was the first publisher to translate, print and publish works in the English language and became a huge influence in promoting English literature. He operated mostly in Flanders and Holland and returned to England to set up a press in Westminster in 147612.
3. WCLSELB.55.2 The Workes of Sir Thomas More. Thomas More. Iohn Cawod, Iohn Waley, Richarde Tottel, London, 1557.
Pots such as the above are generally French, mostly originating in the Normandy paper mills. They are ubiquitous and are classified into three categories: this example is type pot 2: single handled. Most have the maker’s initials in the belly of the pot. An example with the initials NB can be seen on a letter from Baron Cobham to Elizabeth Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, dated 159613, and also on a letter in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington dated 1587. The latter comes from the Bagot Family Archives dated 1557-1623. The archive originated in Blithfield, Staffordshire, but is now in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC 14. The letters are all of English origin, however no further information on ‘NB’ could be found. It is unlikely that it would have been an English papermaker’s mark, as the bulk of paper was at that time imported from France, Italy or Holland15.
4. WCLSELA 52.2 Erasmus Roterdamus. Gulielmo Budaeo Suo S. D. Hadr. Barlandum. T Martin, Lovanii, no Location, 1520.
Front flyleaf partial:
The watermark of papermaker van der Ley. The full image has a woman with a scarf standing on a ball and low plinth with the initials VDL below and can be seen in the Churchill Collection16. The van der Ley mills were set up in Holland in 1665 by Pieter van der Ley and the firm lasted until 1812. Much of their paper was made expressly for the English market and often includes the arms of England and regnal initials in the watermark17. The book containing the watermark above was rebound after the publication date which would explain why a later watermark appears in the volume.
5. WCLND16 Voyage Litteraure De Deux Religieux Benedictins. Six volumes, with various authors and publisher contributors. No location, 1767.
The lily, Strasbourg lily, or fleur de lys, was ubiquitous among French and Dutch mills from the 16th to the 18th century, and by the Apsely Mill in England in 1797. It was mostly used singly, or in threes, and usually had a coronet above it and initials of the papermaker below18. The same partial watermark can be seen in WCLSEL A.58.2. Bible incorporating Book of Common Prayer. London, Henry Fetherstone. 1581 (see below) with the maker’s initials LVG (see following image) and the number 4 incorporated.
6. WCLSELA A.70.1 The Bible: Translated according to the Ebrew etc. Christopher Barker, London, 1579.
The LVG logo may be one of two makers: Lubertus van Gerrevink of Egmond aan de Hoef in Holland, who produced high quality paper in the second half of the 18th century, and whose initials appear on paper made at the James Whatman mill at Maidstone. Lubertus van Gerrevink had his initials registered as a trademark in 1726 to distinguish his paper from another producer with the same surname, Lucas van Gerrevink19. One can assume from this that either the Bible with these watermarks was reconditioned in the 18th century, or that it was a reprint of the original made sometime in the 18th century but still using the same earlier watermark. This would apply to the watermark above.
In the same volume, back flyleaf:
Jean Villedary (1668-1758), papermaker in Holland and France. A prolific producer, his initials are visible on paper in England and Holland for 150 years from 1736 to 1812. He also produced almost exclusively for the English market. Some of his paper is marked ‘Pour l’Angleterre’. His initials were regarded as a hallmark of excellence, and he had issues with other makers copying his mark. From 1688 the law required papermakers to initial each sheet of paper made. He marked his IV20. See below.
7. WCLSD5 Euclidis Quæ Supersunt Omnia Ex Recensione. Davidis Gregorii M. D. no location, 1703.
8. WCLEB6 S. Maximi Confessoris Græcorum Theologici. R. P. Francisci Combefis. Andream Cramoisy, Paris, 1675.
Grapes were a common motif in France and some parts of Germany. They appear to have been used mostly in Normandy, and on larger sizes of paper by numerous mills. Among many other permutations, they often appear on the top of a set of pillars with a cross-piece which includes the maker’s name and sometimes also the date, and were exported to the Levant and other Ottoman areas in huge quantities during the 17th and 18th centuries 21. The example in the book quoted above is a single bunch with no maker’s name.
9. WCLUA10: Letters de Cardinal Dossat. Roy Henry Le Grand et a Monsievr de Villeroy. No Location, 1627.
Crossed Cs with the arms of Lorraine, countermark Fd?A. This could possibly be Frans van Aelst from a mill near Arnhem who was operational in 1592-163222. Similar designs without the initials have been found on German paper imported into Amsterdam in the 1620s and 1630s23.
Many more watermarks were recorded in the books in the Cathedral Library but hopefully the above gives a taste of their function, variety and widespread use. There is much work to be done in locating the rest of the makers and cataloguing them, but the effort will be rewarded in deepening our knowledge of the origin and creation of these books, as well as enriching our understanding of the human endeavour that produced them in the first place.
1. Rückert, Peter, Hodeček, Sandra and Wenger, Emanuel, Editors. The History of Paper and Watermarks from the Middle Ages to the Modern Period (Online). Stuttgart & Vienna 2009. In Bernstein, The Memory of Paper. Landesarchief, Stuttgart. page 9. Available from https://bernstein.oeaw.ac.at/twiki/pub/Main/ ProjectExhibitions/bernstein_2009_book_en.pdf [Accessed 3 January 2023].
2. Ibid. Page 15. [Accessed 8 January 2023]
3. Churchill, W.A.Watermarks in paper in Holland, England and France etc. in the xvii and xviii centuries and their interconnections (Online). Menno Hertzberger & Co, Amsterdam, 1930, reprint 1965. Page 6. Available from https://ia601003.us.archive.org/2/items/b31345736/b31345736.pdf [Accessed 3 January 2023].
4 Hunter, David. Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft. Page 137. Quoted in Massey, Laura. Watermarks & Foolscaps: Exploring the History of Paper Production (Online). June 19, 2015. Available at https://alembicrarebooks.com/blogs/alembic-rare-books-blog/40160515-watermarks-foolscaps-exploring-the-history-of-paper-production [Accessed 17 January 2023].
5 Churchill, W.A. Watermarks in paper in Holland, England and France etc. in the xvii and xviii centuries and their interconnections (Online). Menno Hertzberger & Co, Amsterdam, 1930, reprint 1965. Page 21. Available from https://ia601003.us.archive.org/2/items/b31345736/b31345736.pdf [Accessed 4 January 2023].
6. Various Eds. Sixth International Conference on Watermarks in Digital Collections, Fabriano, Italy, 26-27 May 2022, including the Bernstein Project. Online. Reference no. icpi.cci.XVI.109.a EC Programme eContentPlus. Available at https://www.memoryofpaper.eu/BernsteinPotol/appl_start. disp [Accessed 11th January 2023].
7 Churchill, W.A. Watermarks in paper in Holland, England and France etc. in the xvii and xviii centuries and their interconnections (Online). In Menno Hertzberger & Co, Amsterdam, 1930, reprint 1965. Example 308 Page ccxliii. Available from https://ia601003.us.archive.org/2/items/b31345736/b31345736.pdf [Accessed 4 January 2023].
8. Various Eds. Sixth International Conference on Watermarks in Digital Collections, Fabriano, Italy, 26-27 May 2022, including the Bernstein Project, Online. Reference no. DE4620-PO-155696, database WZIS. EC Programme eContentPlus. Available at https://www.memoryofpaper.eu/BernsteinPotol/appl_start. disp [Accessed 17 January 2023].
9. Various authors. Watermarks & the History of Paper with Specimen Samples. (Online). Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, Princeton, New Jersey. Reference Specimens VII.1.1.1 & VII.1.1.2. July 2020. Available at https://manuscriptevidence.org/wpme/ [Accessed 9 January 2023].
10. Prior William More. Journal. 16th Century. WCL A xi, Worcester Cathedral Library. Folios 4, 41 and 149.
11. Churchill, W.A. Watermarks in paper in Holland, England and France etc. in the xvii and xviii centuries and their interconnections (Online). Menno Hertzberger & Co, Amsterdam, 1930, reprint 1965. Page 39. Available from https://ia601003.us.archive.org/2/items/b31345736/b31345736.pdf [Accessed 4 January 2023].
12. Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica: William Caxton: English printer, translator, and publisher. 1 January 2023. Available at https://www.britannica.com/biography /William-Caxton. [Accessed 7 January 2023].
13. Mosser, Daniel W & Sullivan, Ernest W II (Editors). The Thomas L Gravell Watermark Archive. University of Delaware. Gravell folio -113 POT.018.01 in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC., Shelfmark X.d.428 (17) Available at https://www.gravell.org/record.php? RECID=581 [Accessed 4 January 2023].
14. Ibid. Gravell folio 0618 – Pot 148.1. [Accessed 4 January 2023]
15. Churchill, W.A. Watermarks in paper in Holland, England and France etc. in the xvii and xviii centuries and their interconnections (Online). Menno Hertzberger & Co, Amsterdam, 1930, reprint 1965. Page 40. Available from https://ia601003.us.archive.org/2/items/b31345736/b31345736.pdf [Accessed 7 January 2023].
16. Ibid.Image 193, page 74. [Accessed 8 January 2023].
17. Ibid. Page 9. [Accessed 7 January 2023].
18. Ibid. Pages 38 & 48. [Accessed 8 January 2023].
19. Ibid. Page 40. [Accessed 8 January 2023].
20. Ibid. Pages 9, 21, 57 & 71 [Accessed 8 January 2023].
21. Kropf, Evyn. Watermark Wednesdays: Grapes. (Online). In University of Michigan Library Blogs. 27 July 2016. Available at https://blogs.lib.umich.edu/beyond-reading-room/watermark-wednesdays-grapes. [Accessed 17 January 2023].
22. Churchill, W.A. Watermarks in paper in Holland, England and France etc. in the xvii and xviii centuries and their interconnections (Online). Menno Hertzberger & Co, Amsterdam, 1930, reprint 1965. Page 13. Available from https://ia601003.us.archive.org/2/items/b31345736/b31345736.pdf [Accessed 4 January 2023].
23. Ibid. Page 79 ref 311. [Accessed 4 January 2023].