A project of documenting and identifyingwatermarks for an exhibition catalogue at the National Gallery ofArt showed us that there is much to learn about the study andinterpretation of watermarks in paper.
An English appendix "The Paper Mills inthe Provincie of North-Holland" includes an excellent sectionentitled "Filigranology as an auxiliary science in the aid ofhistory." Voorn's methods of studying papers in archives makes hiswatermark dates more certain, but means watermarks on paper commonlyused for fine art are not always represented.
We have found that we can study unpublished watermarks mostsuccessfully by assembling a body of related marks, for example, thewatermarks occurring in papers used by a single artist such asSchongauer.
Quite different seventeenth-century versions of the IHSwatermark occur on an Italian paper used for a Claude print (with acentral chain line crossing the mark) and on prints by Callot onFrench paper (with chain lines crossing the mark at left and right).
Even if no watermark is present, othercharacteristic paper features may become evident such as chain lineintervals, laid line frequencies, or channeled texture. Illustrations in Briquet show the widevariation possible.
By comparing the paper andwatermarks that we find, we can learn to recognize the papers thatreoccur and those that are uncommon or from a posthumous reprinting.
While another Claude print lacks awatermark, it clearly shows the same channeled effect and is thus ona closely related paper. Channeled paper is also found on someSchongauer prints.
Voorn notes that the watermarks on large-sized papersare generally not represented in Dutch archives. Other paper historians such asHeawood and Churchi11 however did examine watermarks on printsand maps and thus can be more useful in studying watermarks in largeart papers.
The author argues for caution in dating incunabula solely bywatermark evidence and reminds the reader that the date of papermanufacture only gives at best the earliest possible date of use,but not necessarily the actual date of use.
But watermarks on large art papers mayfrequently not be published at all because some paper historianssuch as Briquet and Voorn have focussed their studies on manuscriptsin archives.
Hilversum: The Paper PublicationsSociety, 1956This watermark reference book includes an annotated bibliographyof publications on watermarks and historical profiles of many commonwatermarks, with 765 illustrations, mostly of Central Europeanwatermarks.
Another mark shows the letter "S" placed to one side of a circle;another symmetrically placed letter has apparently fallen off themold:If a researcher is fortunate and matches a watermark with anidentical published mark, then the date and place of use of thecited paper sheet can be used to infer a time period for the use ofthe paper mold which made both sheets.
Stevenson observes that watermarks Briquet found in manuscriptsmay have misleading dates because scribes could use a supply oflarge or expensive paper over a period of years, while a bookprinter would buy paper for printing a book and rapidly exhuast thatsupply.
The basis of the study of watermarks is that at a given period oftime a specific paper mill would have on hand a limited number ofpapermaking molds, and these molds had a finite useful life.
He illustrates his method of examining a run of a singlepaper type in the and notes thatindividual watermarks go through a series of "states" through wear,distortion, and breaking.