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Islamic Manuscript Studies

Resources for the study of manuscripts produced in the Islamic world and the manuscript cultures they represent.

Resources for the study of watermarks

hand holding a phone with light up near a folio of paper lifted from a loose-leaf stack of manuscript pages, other books and satchel visible in background

Watermarks and measurements can help identify papers and trace their circulation and use in manuscript books and other  documents. 

 Existing descriptions of watermarks and watermarked papers -- in catalogues of watermarks, catalogues of books and  documents, and studies drawing on watermark corpora -- are useful references for identifying and documenting watermarks observed in the papers of particular books or documents. 

Collections or catalogues of watermarks and watermarked papers document watermarks by compiling instances of their appearance in the papers of exemplars -- specific books, documents or artworks produced in particular times and places. 

Printed watermark catalogues are typically arranged by watermark motif and provide drawings or images, measurements, and indications of mould markings alongside details on the document in which that watermark was found -- usually date and place of production. Watermark motifs are described using particular vocabulary or terminology established within these catalogues. Early catalogues relied on tracings, which can be inexact or less detailed than the actual watermark. Some catalogues discuss manufacturers and their locations, trends in regional manufacture and circulation, and other historical details. 

Online watermark collection databases include similar data and permit searching -- usually by main motif and ancillary motif (via primary and secondary descriptors), date, place of origin, and other elements. A reproduction of the watermark with dimensions and reference details is typically provided as well.

Though watermark catalogues and collections contribute a great deal to our understanding of watermarks and paper circulation, they are of course limited in scope. A significant number of the watermarked papers appearing in manuscripts and other materials have not yet even been documented, let alone collected this way, and it is exceedingly rare to find in a catalogue or collection an exact match with a watermark observed in a book or document under study. Identifying and referencing reasonably similar watermarks is still useful and important.

Provided here is a selection of resources especially useful for working with watermarked papers encountered in manuscripts produced in Islamicate cultural areas.


Suggested citation for this resource page:  Kropf, Evyn. "Resources for the Study of Watermarks." Islamic Manuscript Studies 2012- available online at guides.lib.umich.edu/islamicmsstudies/watermarks (accessed 30 January 2022)

Anchor watermarks, crown-star-crescent watermarks, and tre lune (three crescents) watermarks

The anchor, crown-star-crescent, and tre lune (three crescent) motifs are among the most commonly encountered in watermarked papers of manuscripts produced in formerly Ottoman areas. A variety of anchor watermarked Italian papers circulated in the 16th and 17th centuries while a many crown-star-crescent watermarked papers circulated from the late 16th century through to the early 18th century. The ubiquitous tre lune (three crescents or trois lunes) motif appeared in numerous Italian watermarked papers circulating during the 17th and 18th centuries (and French of the 18th century) and was incorporated into marks of the late 18th and turn of the 20th century as well. 

The specialized works of Mošin, Grozdanovic-Pajié, Andreev and Velkov are especially useful for working on these marks.

[Mošin] Mošin, Vladimir. Anchor Watermarks. Amsterdam: Paper Publications Society (Labarre Foundation), 1973.

[Mošin and Grozdanovic-Pajié] Mošin, Vladimir and M. Grozdanovic-Pajié. "Das Wasserzeichen ‘Krone mit Stern und Halbmond.'" Papiergeschichte 13 (1963): 44-52.

[Andreev] Andreev, Stefan. Les filigranes dans les documents ottomans. Couronne. Sofia: "Texte - Asparouh Trayanov," 2007. (available online)

[Velkov and Andreev] Velkov, Asparoukh and Stephane Andreev. Filigranes dans les documents ottomans. I Trois croissants [= Водни знаци в Османотурските документи. I Три луни]. Sofia: Bibliotheque Nationale "Cyrille et Methode" Comission Archeographique Bulgare Section Orientale, 1983.

Other common Ottoman-era marks are highlighted in Velkov (arranged by motif) and in the massive (folio volume) compilation of Nikolaev in which he also provides a historical overview. Nikolaev's rich catalogue is arranged chronologically rather than by motif, making it more tedious to navigate.

[Velkov] Velkov, Asparouh. Les filigranes dans les documents ottomans: divers types d’images. Sofia: Éditions "Texte - A. Trayanov", 2005.

[Nikolaev] Nikolaev, Vsevolod. Watermarks of the mediaeval Ottoman documents in Bulgarian libraries (Watermarks of the Ottoman Empire, volume 1) Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1954.

For a more accessible overview and introduction to relevant references, see Beate Wiesmüller's account of the watermarks in the Refaiya-Library and the Watermark Wednesdays blog series (Evyn Kropf)

Selection of catalogues and studies

Andreev, Stefan. Les filigranes dans les documents ottomans. Couronne. Sofia: "Texte - Asparouh Trayanov," 2007. (available online)

Babinger, Franz. “Papierhandel und Papierbereitung in der Levante.” Wochenblatt für Papierfabrikation LXII, no. 52 (1931): 1215-1219

Biddle, Michaelle. "New Strategies in Using Watermarks to Date Sub-Saharan Islamic Manuscripts." In The Arts and Crafts of Literacy: Islamic Manuscript Cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa, ed. Andrea Brigaglia and Mauro Nobili (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017): 27-68. (available online open access)

Briquet, Charles-Moïse. Les filigranes. Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusq'en 1600. 2nd ed. Leipzig: K.W. Hiersemann, 1923.

--------. Les filigranes. Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusq'en 1600 [par], a facsimile of the 1907 ed. with supplementary material contributed by a number of scholars, edited by Allan Stevenson. Amsterdam: Paper Publications Society, 1968.

Bull’s Head and Mermaid: The History of Paper and Watermarks from the Middle Ages to the Modern Period. Booklet and catalogue of the exhibition presented by the Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Kommission für Schrift- und Buchwesen des Mittelalters, Vienna. Stuttgart: Landesarchiv Baden Württemberg and Vienna, 2009.

Churchill, William A. Watermarks in paper in Holland, England, France etc. in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries and their interconnection. Amsterdam: Menno Hertzberger & Co., 1935.

Eineder, Georg. The Ancient paper-mills of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and their watermarks. Hilversum, Holland: Paper Publications Society, 1960. 

Harris, Neil. Paper and Watermarks as Bibliographical Evidence. Lyon: l'Institut d'histoire du livre (IHL) 2017 (published online

Gaudriault, Raymond. Filigranes et autres caractéristiques des papiers fabriqués en France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Paris: CNRS editions, 1995.

Gravell, Thomas and George Miller. A catalogue of foreign watermarks found on paper used in America, 1700-1835. New York: Garland Pub., 1983.

-------- and -------- . American Watermarks 1690-1835. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2002.

Heawood, Edward. Watermarks mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries. Hilversum: The Paper Publications Society, 1950 

Jones, Russell. "European and Asian papers in Malay manuscripts. A provisional assessment." Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 149:3 (1993): 474-502.

---------. "The Smith and Meynier Papermill in Croatia." Jurnal Filologi Melayu 12 (2004): 1-17

[Klepikov, Sokrat Aleksandrovich] Клепиков, С.А. Филиграни и штемпели на бумаге русского и иностранного производства XVII-XX вв [= Watermarks and stamps in paper of Russian and foreign production of the XVII-XX centuries]. Москва: Изд-во Всесоюзной Книжной палаты, 1959. (available online)

Kropf, Evyn. "Watermark Wednesdays" blog series. Beyond the Reading Room (2014-2016) (available online)

--------. "Recalling Alikurna: "ليكوريا" countermarked paper among scribes in the late 19th century Ottoman Levant." In Le commerce des papiers à marques à caractères non-latins. Documents et histoire = The Trade in Papers Marked with non-Latin Characters: Documents and History, edited by Anne Regourd (Leiden: Brill, 2018): 38-80.

Labarre, E J. Dictionary and encyclopaedia of paper and paper-making with equivalents of the technical terms in French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish & Swedish. Amsterdam, Swets & Zeitlinger, 1952.

Laurentius, Theo and Frans Laurentius. Italian Watermarks 1750-1860. Leiden: Brill, 2016. 

--------. Watermarks in Paper from the South-West of France, 1560-1860. Leiden: Brill, 2018.

Lickhachev, N.P. Бумага и древнѣйшія бумажныя мельницы в московском государствѣ. Историко-археографическій очерк. С. приложеніем 116 таблиц с изображеніями водяных знаков. СанктПетербургъ Тип. И. Академіи наук, 1891. (available online via HathiTrust)

Likhachev’s watermarks: An English-language version, edited by J.S.G. Simmons and Bé Van Ginneken-Van de Kasteele. Amsterdam, Holland: The Paper Publications Society, 1994. (2 volumes)

Love, Paul M. "Ibāḍī Manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale de Tunisie: Descriptions, Watermarks, and Implications." Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 7, 1 (2016): 1-35.

Malay Manuscripts: a Guide to Paper and Watermarks. The collected works of Russell Jones (1972–2015), edited by Farouk Yahya. Indonesia and the Malay World 49, 144 (2021): 139-394 (available online open access)

Mošin, Vladimir. Anchor Watermarks. Amsterdam: Paper Publications Society (Labarre Foundation), 1973.

-------- and M. Grozdanovic-Pajié. "Das Wasserzeichen ‘Krone mit Stern und Halbmond.'" Papiergeschichte 13 (1963): 44-52.

Nicolaï, Alexandre. Histoire des moulins à papier du sud-ouest de la France, 1300-1800; Périgord, Agenais, Angoumois, Soule, Béarn. Bordeau: G. Delmas, 1935.  (2 volumes)

Nikolaev, Vsevolod. Watermarks of the mediaeval Ottoman documents in Bulgarian libraries (Watermarks of the Ottoman Empire, volume 1) Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1954.

Ornato, Ezio. "Watermarks Galore. Observations on the Number and Homogeneity of Papers Used in Manuscripts and Incunabula." In Trends in Statistical Codicology, edited by Marilena Maniaci (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021): 149-182. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110743838-006

--------. "An Experiment in Dating Documents through the Analysis of Watermarks: The Letter ‘P’ in Incunabula of the Low Countries." In Trends in Statistical Codicology, edited by Marilena Maniaci (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021): 183-202. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110743838-007

Piccard, Gerhard. Die Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard im Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart: Findbücher I-XV. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1961-1987.

Regourd, Anne. Catalogue cumulé des bibliothèques de manuscrits de Zabid. Fascicule 1, Les papiers filigranés. Sanaa: Centre français d'archeologie et de sciences sociales de Sanaa, 2008. (available online)

-------- (Ed.). The Trade in Papers Marked with Non-Latin Characters: Documents and History = Le commerce des papiers à marques à caractères non-latins. Documents et histoire. Leiden: Brill, 2018. 

  • Introduction : Le papier des manuscrits, une source pour l’histoire du commerce / Anne Regourd
  • ARBIB, YDLIBI and SÙRÙ (HAKURĪ) : three Arabic script watermarks in Northern Nigerian manuscripts / Michaelle Biddle
  • Note on a dated Tunisian watermark / Michaelle Biddle
  • Recalling Alikurna : "ليكوريا" countermarked paper among scribes in the late 19th century Ottoman Levant / Evyn Kropf
  • Manuscrits de la mer Rouge (première moitié du xxe s.) : papiers Abū Šubbāk du Yémen et d’Éthiopie / Anne Regourd
  • Papiers ’indiens’ de manuscrits éthiopiens (fin xixe-début xxe s.) / Anne Regourd
  • Note sur les papiers à timbre sec (dry seal) en russe ou en arḿenien / Francis Richard
  • Un exemple rare de contremarque du viiie/xive siècle en langue et caractères arabes / Alice Shafi-Leblanc
  • Collection of Persian farmāns on Russian paper in the National Library of Russia / Olga Yastrebova.

--------. "Paper in Islamic Manuscripts: Refining the Supporting Evidence. Rethinking the Typology." Paper History: Journal of the International Association of Paper Historians 25, 1 (2021): 8-16 (available online)

Valls i Subirà, Oriol. Paper and watermarks in Catalonia [= El papel y sus filigranas en Catalunya], edited and translated by J. S. G. Simmons and B. J. van Ginneken-van de Kasteele. Amsterdam, Paper Publications Society (Labarre Foundation), 1970. 

--------. The History of Paper in Spain. Translated by Sarah Nicholson. Madrid: Empresa Nacional de Celulosas, 1978-1982. 3 volumes.

Velkov, Asparouh. Les filigranes dans les documents ottomans: divers types d’images. Sofia: Éditions "Texte - A. Trayanov", 2005.

-------- and Stephane Andreev. Filigranes dans les documents ottomans. I Trois croissants [= Водни знаци в Османотурските документи. I Три луни]. Sofia: Bibliotheque Nationale "Cyrille et Methode" Comission Archeographique Bulgare Section Orientale, 1983.

Viola, Natalia. "A propos des papiers filigranés dans les manuscrits arabes provenant de l' Afrique de l' Ouest." Journal of Islamic Manuscripts 6, 2-3 (2015): 351-375

Walz, Terence. "The Paper trade of Egypt and the Sudan in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and its re-export to the Bilad as-Sudan." In The Trans-Saharan book trade: manuscript culture, Arabic literacy, and intellectual history in Muslim Africa, edited by Graziano Krätli and Ghislaine Lydon (Leiden : Brill, 2011): 73-108.

Wiesmüller, Beate. The Watermarks from the Refaiya-Library. Translated by Steven Black. (available online)

Zanetti, Ugo. "Filigranes vénitiens en Egypte." In Studi albanologici, balcanici, bizantini e orientali in onore di Giuseppe Valentini, S.J. (Firenze : L.S. Olschki, 1986): 437-499

Zonghi, Aurelio et al. Zonghi’s watermarks. Hilversum: Paper Publications Society, 1953. 

Online databases and portals

Paperbound "An Online archive of Medieval Western-European Watermarks" comprised of researcher contributed content [no longer active]

"Watermark Wednesdays" blog series (Evyn Kropf)

Citing this page

Suggested citation

Kropf, Evyn. "Resources for the Study of Watermarks." Islamic Manuscript Studies 2012- available online at guides.lib.umich.edu/islamicmsstudies/watermarks (accessed 30 January 2022)

This watermarks resources guide was first published 5 September 2012 on the retired mblog site and subsequently transitioned, enhanced and updated.

http://islamicmss.blogspot.com/2013/12/watermarks.html 

http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/islamicmsstudies/archives/2012/09/online_resource.html