26 August 2016: Watermarks and Spurious Editions
Paper. It’s been around since the 2nd Century AD, and is a pretty important function of the book. Even in this supposed impending paperless society, the e-reader developers are trying to find the best ways to make their displays appear more like paper for the best reading experience. In our vast collection here at Rooke Books, we have volumes made from many different types of paper of all shapes and sizes, produced through a variety of different processes.
One of the ways we can learn more about a book is from the watermarks on its paper. A watermark is an image or pattern in the paper which is formed during the manufacturing process. The watermark is more visible when the paper is held to the light and is caused by the thickness or density variations in the paper. Watermarks were first introduced in 1282 in the town of Fabriano and are a way of identifying the manufacturer of the paper and often the year it was made. The development of a new way of making watermarks in 1826 revolutionised the watermark process, making it easier for producers to watermark their paper. This is called the dandy roll process.
The most common method of making paper was from placing a wooden-framed metal screen into a vat of fibres made from rags and water. The frame had a metal mesh grid across it so that the water can drain when the pulp is pressed. The paper would therefore have lines across from the chains of the moulds. These were known as chain lines. Designs would be sewn into these grids to form the watermarks from where the pulp forms around the shape. The patterned portion of the page ends up being thinner and transmits more light. This is the Dandy Roll process and paper made from this process is known as laid paper.
Another method of making watermarks is from the cylinder mould process. This was to produce a shaded watermark, which was first used in 1848. Instead of the Dandy Roll process of embossing the wire covering for the dandy roll, it is created by areas of relief on the roll’s surface. When the paper is dry it is rolled for a second time to create a watermark of even thickness but varying density.
Each paper-maker had a different colophon for their watermarks and some simply printed their names. The designs vary from unicorns to the fleur de lis. Our first edition The Prisoner of Chillon by Lord Byron has a unicorn watermark to the front endpaper. One of the most common watermarks and types of paper we have in our books is the’ Dutch Van Gelder’ paper. Our copy of Shelley's Hellas, A Lyrical Drama is an example of one of our works with the Van Gelder Fleur de Lis. Van Gelder was a manufacturer of paper from as early as 1685 and continued until 1982. Another commonly found watermark is Arches paper. We also have several books with English made paper by James Whatman the Elder and Younger.
Watermarks are also very often issue points for certain texts. They also help to identify spurious editions of texts. Byron’s English Bards and Scotch Reviewers for example, was famously pirated. We have several spurious editions of this popular and therefore pirated text. We have a spurious fourth edition, whereby the title page states 1811 as the publisher's date, although the watermark to the paper is 'W Pickering and Co' and dated 1816. Our spurious third edition of the text is dated 1810 to the title page, although has the watermark of J & R Ansell dated 1818 to the paper.
This is just a small insight into some of the fascinating and clever watermarks found to the paper of some of our books. We will always state in our listings if a watermark has been found, and as such, these listings are easy to find on our website.