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The Collation

An example of early modern English writing paper

The crocodile posted on Friday was correctly identified by Philip Allfrey as a watermark of Queen Elizabeth’s arms encircled by the Garter. In his comments, Mr Allfrey provided a useful account of how he identified the watermark and the letter on which it appears. He also went the extra mile and used various Folger databases and the Gravell Watermark Archive to identify the papermaker, John Spilman!

Watermarks are the result of the papermaking process: a wire design is attached to the wire mesh in the bottom part of a paper mold, the pulp then settles more thinly around the thicker wires of the design as it drains, and thus the watermark becomes visible when viewed through transmitted light. 1 Here’s our crocodile watermark: 

  1. For more on papermaking, see Erin’s post on the subject.


stories within stories! love this crocodile.

Simran Thadani — February 4, 2014


You wrote that you are collecting Spilman watermarks. I have a document that claims to be of royal origin that has the watermark I R. I read at other places that Spilman used I R to for Iacobus Rex (James), but I can’t find a picture of the I R watermark online. Would you have a photo of his use of I R that I could compare my watermark to? Thanks!

Isaiah Cox — December 2, 2016


Or even just the R, which I read he used for many of the royals (to stand for “rex”). If the R is the same it would be helpful to me 🙂

Isaiah Cox — December 2, 2016


Hi Isaiah, I’m happy to send an image of the IR watermark. You can reach me directly at

Heather Wolfe — December 6, 2016


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