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The Collation

Watermarks & hidden collections

Hidden collections—that is, collections that are undescribed or underdescribed—are exceedingly common in libraries and archives. Until recently, the manuscript and printed paper that make up the E. Williams watermark collection, including papers of the Hale family of King’s Walden and other papers was an example of a hidden collection. In contrast with completely undescribed collections, however, a minimal description of one element of the materials did exist: in this case, a handlist provided by the bookseller describing watermark features of the paper. The collection contains an impressive range of watermarks, everything from the common pot watermarks to unicorns to elaborate armorials.

Watermark (backlit) of Dragon/cockatrice/basilisk over seal of Basel; HD and star pendant.


Fascinating article. I was wondering in regards to watermarks more generally, are you aware of any kind of watermark catalog accessible online with images and searchable information for more well known watermarks? I know it is sort of a long shot to ask, but it seems like that kind of thing would be very useful.

Sarah Wingo — September 20, 2012

The Thomas L. Gravell Watermark Archive (also linked above in Nadia’s post) is an online database of watermarks; the site also includes links to other watermark databases.

Sarah Werner — September 21, 2012