Forms of the watermark are generally divided into four very broad classes: 1) the very earliest, generally consisting of simple circles, crosses, knots. ovals, three-hill symbols, triangles, and the like, which were easy to construct simply by twisting and bending soft wires. (These early marks also included many pomme crosses, based on the Greek cross with balls or circles at the ends of the cross bars. A similar watermark, found on Italian paper of the 14th century, consists of a circle above which is a patriarchal or papal cross. These earliest marks were prevalent from about 1282 to 1425); 2) watermarks emphasizing man and his works. (Thousands of designs of this nature have been noted, a large number of them featuring human hands in various forms); 3) watermarks consisting of flowers, fruit, grains, trees and other plants, etc.; and 4) watermarks consisting of wild, domesticated, and legendary animals.
More recent developments of the watermark have resulted in some complicated and occasionally artistic forms, reflecting an increasing skill in design and manufacture. "Light and shade" watermarks have been used from time to time in the 20th century, but they are relatively uncommon because of the difficulty and expense of producing them.
The papermaker's initials or name, the place or date of manufacture of the paper (if included) were more likely to be found in the COUNTERMARK , which was a subsidiary and smaller mark introduced in the 17th century, and was generally located in the opposite half of the sheet to the watermark itself.
Watermarks in paper, particularly in endpapers, can provide valuable information about the history of bookbinding. (17 , 69 , 143 , 177 , 198 )