By the time that printing from moveable types is developed in 1450, the tradition of watermarking paper is already two centuries old (Hunter 1943, 261)
The term water mark is fairly modern.
Besides watermarks and "antique" laid lines, Whistler saw othersigns of quality and age in the papers he chose for printing:Creases and worm holes, discreetly placed and not too numerous, anddirt.
Since most are laser-printable and photocopier-compatible, they are popular for invitations, menus and signage, but their lower price point also makes them favoured with collage artists and scrapbookers. All papers are available in 8.5 x 11" as well as parent sheets of 43 x 31" or half.
OttoBacher, one of Whistler's "followers" in Venice in the late 1870's,observed that "Whistler printed many of his etchings on old Venetianpaper....In order to procure this particular kind, he wandered amongthe old, musty, second-hand book-shops, buying all the old booksthat had a few blank pages which he cut out for his printing." in the Freer collection, only oneimage of Venice (, K219) is printed on paperwith the Venetian watermark of three crescent moons known as TreLuna.
Hunting for a rare find is part of the fun of collecting old prints. But first your eye must be trained to recognize value. A good way to begin is by visiting museums, libraries, and galleries specializing in old prints—places where you know you're looking at the genuine article. Ask questions. Read reference books about the areas or artists you like best. Next, buy a couple of inexpensive prints to start your collection. You may want to frame them, but first, examine them carefully. Notice the feel, the patina, the aroma of an old print. Look for indications of hand printing such as the impression from the printing press or ink smudges, signs of age, the quality and texture of the paper. Hold them up to a strong light and look for a watermark in the paper, the kind you find in quality stationary. Run your (clean) hand across to feel what's there. Studying the reference books and viewing exhibits is invaluable, but hands-on experience is a must as well.
One of the purposes in surveying the extensive collection ofWhistler prints in the Freer Gallery, was to see how many of themare on old paper and how Whistler identified a sheet of paper as"old."Some of the characteristics of old paper are a somewhat unevendistribution of the fibers, dark stripes beside the chain lines, awatermark, creases, wear, and dirt.
The watermarks in the Whistler print papers indicate thatWhistler did find quite a lot of paper made in the 18th century orearlier and a good deal of it was Dutch.
Whistler also used contemporary papers with theirwatermarks clearly visible: Blauw, Van Gelder, and Van der Ley,(Dutch paper mills with long histories), Forge, Barry, Rives, PD, S.