Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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A distinguishing letter, design, symbol, etc., incorporated into a paper during manufacture. True watermarks are a localized modification of the formation and opacity of the paper while it is still wet, so that the marks can be seen in the finished sheet of paper when viewed by transmitted light. This type of sheet modification may be accomplished by means of a bronze letterpress-type dandy roll that impresses a design in the wet web, or by means of a design wired to the grid of the mold in paper that is made by hand. The place where the dandy roll impresses, or the location of the wired design, will contain less fibrous material and, therefore, will have greater translucency. Another method is to use a bronze, intaglio-type device on the dandy roll, the resulting modification being that more fibrous material is located at the point of impress. See: SHADE-CRAFT WATERMARK . A variation of the letterpress method incorporates the use of a soft rubber, letterpress-type device that impresses a design in the web of paper on the underside of the web, i.e., the wire side (where the watermark is found in handmade paper), so that it is seen through the sheet from the top. This type of watermark, which is produced at a point on the papermaking machine where the web is no longer sufficiently wet to modify the formation and opacity of the paper, is actually, therefore, a form of embossing and cannot be called a true watermark.

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 )

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