Watermarks and Countermarks
by Jonathan R. Wright
From the thirteenth century on, Greek manuscripts were written increasingly on watermarked paper imported from Italy, and soon from other sources in Western Europe. Watermarks were developed by Italian papermakers. They may originally have served to identify papers produced by different workmen within a factory (who were paid by the piece).
Picture several workmen working at adjacent workstations in a factory, all producing paper of the same size and appearance. It is easy to imagine a workman suffering from backache, getting behind in his work, and being tempted to steal from another who had produced a larger pile of paper. However, the watermark originated, this new development in papermaking technology was quickly adapted to new functions by the paper factories, which began using them as "trademarks" and to distinguish different grades or batches of paper.
"Watermarks were made by bending pieces of wire into filigree designs (French: filigrane) and tying them onto the wire mesh which served as the bottom of the paper mold. As the paper pulp drained, this device would be imprinted in the paper along with the lines of the wire mesh.
Watermarks took many different shapes, such as natural things (Fig. 1) (e.g., birds, hands, flowers, mountains); tools and weapons (e.g., anvils, hammers, arrows, rifles); household implements and clothing (e.g., vases and pots, scissors, hats, gloves or gauntlets); mythological beings (e.g. dragons, mermaids, unicorns); religious symbols (e.g., angels, crosses, paschal lambs, chalices); and heraldic symbols (e.g., crests, monograms, crowns, trophies). As the use of watermarks became standardized, so did their location in the sheet of paper. The watermark was normally situated in the center of one half of the sheet, so that when the sheet was folded to form two folios, the watermark would appear approximately in the center of one of the folios. Sometimes this usage was varied; for example, papers were sometimes made with double watermarks so that when the sheet of paper was folded, each folio showed a watermark in the center."
This little info stuck with me while researching I learned different methods used the traditional way it done with wiring the screen and a more contemporary way is done with foam of all sorts, easy but the only down fall is foam can last so long before its starts to deteriorate. The system with the wiring to the screen has been the go to method if you want fine mark making.
"Beginning in the sixteenth century, in addition to these watermarks, many papers also were given smaller, secondary marks called countermarks.
Countermarks were usually small letters or numbers or simple shapes such as flowers or shields. (Fig. 2) Countermarks were situated in a corner of the sheet of paper, usually on the opposite half of the sheet from the watermark. In codices, they usually appear on one of the outer corners of the folio, if they have not been trimmed off during binding and rebinding the codex."
Researching Countermarks it was a way to further your identification/security in case the original watermark was unseen. I'm interested in doing this also with my further projects. if done right your countermark and watermark can make one solid watermark to make an interesting pattern/image.
4/17/2017 09:48:01 pm
Such a great topic! Great job putting it into perspective of the workers. How did the watermark transform into an art form, and what other uses does it have? Was it ever used with money? Or adapted to something else other than marking a papermaking company? Some things I wonder. Im excited to see how watermarks will influence your work.
4/17/2017 10:10:52 pm
I found it interesting that watermarks where used to prevent theft in paper making studios. I am curious to learn more about the evolution of watermarks over time?
4/20/2017 01:39:14 am
Interesting article! I tried using wire to make watermark but came out not so successful because the self made wire is not glued to the surface so after I made a sheet of paper, I need to carefully removed the wire and most of the time, it will broke the paper. I found that sticker is very easy to work with. Even though it seem too thin but turned out pretty nice.
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