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Antique Laid Paper with Straubourg Lily Watermark


A distinguishing mark or pattern pressed into a sheet of Paper during its manufacture. Watermarks were first developed about 1282 by Italian papermakers at Fabriano. By the 15th century, most manufacturers were using watermarks to assure quality and authenticity. Now the characteristic patterns provide a method to distinguish paper manufacturers and sometimes date the paper. Watermarks are usually produced by a raised pattern in the paper mold that results in a slightly thinner, more translucent paper in the marked area. More recently, watermarks or shaded marks, were sometimes applied with a dandy roll impression. The dandy roll compresses the fibers in a given region producing an opaque design. Watermark patterns can be seen in Transmitted light, Raking light, and by low energy Radiography such a beta or Grenz.


Synonyms and Related Terms

shaded mark; Wasserzeichen (Deut.); filigrane (Fr.); watermerk (Ned.); Znak wodny (Pol.); marca al agua (Esp.)

Additional Information

  • The Bernstein project - Bull's Head and Mermaid - The History of Paper and Watermarks from the Middle Ages to the Modern Period



  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • Silvie Turner, Which Paper?, Design Press, New York, 1991 Comment: ' .. credited to the Italian papermakers at Fabriano .. papermaking was established there around 1268 and fourteen years later the first watermark, a very rough cross with small circles at each end and a larger one in the middle, appeared ...'
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com Comment: "watermark" Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. [Accessed 20 Sept. 2005]. '...existed in Italy before the end of the 13th century'
  • Website address 1 Comment: D. van der Reyden "Identifying the Real Thing" at www.scmre.org/analysis.htm

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