An Online Archive of Medieval Western-European Watermarks

Watermark of the Week

About the Project

My first exposure to watermarks came about during research into Brussels, Royal Library ms 1411, Nicolas de Lyre's Postilles. With eight distinct watermarks contained in the manuscript, I thought it would be easy to narrow down its date of creation and verify whether or not it belonged to a particular duchess. I was quite wrong, and thus began a years' long journey into the world of watermarks, made more frustrating by the limited availability of the volumes indexing them and the necessarily incomplete nature of those tomes. In response, I conceived of this database, an easily searchable repository of images and information that will, I hope, prove to be an invaluable tool in research concerning medieval and early modern paper codices, with a special focus on those housed in collections within the United States. It is, of course, not the only such database available - check out The Bernstein Portal for a vast database indexing a number of other, smaller databases - but to my knowledge, no one else is working on watermarks in this particular region.http://www.memoryofpaper.eu/BernsteinPortal/

I wish to thank Peter Stradinger and Elaina Rife, without whom this project would never have gotten off the ground. Thanks also go out to Grace Frank Dissertation Grant from the Medieval Academy of America (2014) and the Albert and Elaine Borchard European Studies Fellowship for Dissertation Research (2013-2014) for their support of travel and research which contributed to this database.

About the Site's Organization

The database is organized to facilitate several research in several ways. The Search page allows one to specify information in multiple fields: type (crown or shield, for instance), descriptors, date, height and width, and shelfmark. The Watermark Index filters the database contents by type, the Shelfmark Index by collection, and the Date Index by year, while the Printer Index helps to visualize which paper is associated with which printer(s). From the Search page or any of the Indices, you can click on resultant thumbnails to access a larger image with all known information about the individual watermark; these in turn lead to a separate, permalink detail page. Through these detail pages, you can also use the Comparison function, which allows for the consideration of two images side-by-side. There are also features aimed at a more general audience, including the Watermark of the Week (above) and the Blog, which talks about upcoming features and trips to various libraries. The Glossary explains watermark terms both widely-used and those particular to this site. The Contributors page recognizes individuals and institutions that have, in one way or another, supported the development of the database, while the Contribution page encourages you to expand the database’s holdings if you're so inclined.

Please be aware that we are very much under construction! We appreciate your patience as Paperbound development continues.

About the Images

Unless indicated otherwise, all images of watermarks PPB 1 to PPB 303 were taken with a hand-held Sony DSC-W120 Cybershot in various lighting conditions and with varying back-lighting conditions including natural light, light-boxes, and light-sheets, according to the tools available at various institutions. PPB 124 was shot with a hand-held Canon Rebel T5 EF-S camera body and 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. When possible, images have been cropped to include the chain lines closest to the edges of the watermark. When the chain lines are indistinguishable (as they often are when a page is densely printed), the image is cropped closer to the edge of the watermark. The images have not been modified in any way except for cropping; unless indicated otherwise, you are free to download the images and manipulate them as you will (though we ask that you notify us in advance at paperbound.contributions@gmail.com and credit the site if you publish them in any form).

Interested in contributing your photos to our collection?

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