Paper and watermarks as bibliographical evidence - Neil Harris (course in English)

The course provides a basic introduction to the techniques of Western hand paper-making and to how paper is exploited as bibliographical evidence in the study of manuscripts and printed books. It begins with the historical background of the advent of paper-making in the Middle Ages, when in Italy the technology was revolutionized by contact with the native wool industry, and continues through to the nineteenth century and the introduction of mechanized paper-making with the Fourdrinier process. Extensive reference will be made to eighteenth-century published texts and copper-plate illustrations in French, in particular L’ Art de faire le papier by Lalande (1761) and the entry ‘Papeterie’ in the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D’Alembert (1765), in order to explain the organization of the paper mill and work done at the vat.

It will analyse in detail basic sheet-size ratios (in particular those on the Bologna stone, c. 1389), formats, mould construction, the purposes of twin moulds, and the design and typologies of watermarks. It will also include a survey of standard sources and will explain how to interpret Briquet, Piccard, and other repertories for the purpose of watermark recognition and classification, including online resources. Practical sessions will take place at the Archives Municipales de Lyon, in order to look at medieval paper and retrace the footsteps of Briquet as well as at the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon to examine the patterns of paper distribution in incunabula. Practical sessions will involve the examination of sheets of paper, mainly from the eighteenth century, in order to distinguish the mould/felt sides, to identify watermark/countermark, and to recognize twin watermarks (for example, try telling apart the twin pairs of keys and the sisterly sirens in the images below). Information will also be provided about methods employed to describe and reproduce watermarks, such as tracing, rubbing, ß-radiography, and digital imaging.

Explanations will be provided about how paper evidence can be applied to identify substitutions and modifications in manuscripts or in printed books. Reference will also be made to research in which paper evidence has played a key part in the resolution of a bibliographical problem.

The course will be conducted in English.

A knowledge of French for reading purposes will however be useful.

Dr. Neil Harris is Professor of bibliology at the University of Udine in Italy, where he is also director of the Department of History and Preservation of the Cultural Heritage (Dipartimento di Storia e Tutela dei Beni Culturali). After a first degree in English at Oxford, a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Leicester followed by a Perfezionamento at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa turned what began as a learned footnote into a vocation for bibliography. Best known as the author of a Bibliografia dell’Orlando Innamorato (1988-91), his recent work includes in-depth studies of the printing of the Aldine Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and a lengthy exploration of the tricks of the trade used in the publication of sixteenth-century Italian poetry. He has also followed numerous cataloguing projects of early printed material in Italian libraries and contributed introductions and critical essays to the published versions, in particular to that of San Gimignano (2007). In his scholarship he makes extensive use of the paper evidence gathered from the examination of multiple copies of the same edition.

Plan détaillé du cours: 

Course programme

Monday, 22 June 2015

Morning (enssib): Introduction to the history of paper-making and its passage from East to West. Technological innovation in the Middle Ages.

Afternoon (enssib) : The paper-making process in images. The descriptions of the paper-making process in Lalande (1761) and in the Encyclopédie (1765). Examination of a collection of sheets of Eighteenth-century paper and watermark recognition.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Morning (enssib): Sheet-sizes, formats, and watermarks in Medieval and Renaissance paper. Repertories of watermarks and the figure of Briquet. Twin watermarks in the Medieval archive at Udine and Briquet’s Les filigranes.

Afternoon (Archives Municipales) : Examination of the watermarks in Medieval documents and their identification in Briquet. Recognising twin watermarks.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Morning (enssib): Progress in papermaking. Wove paper and the Baskerville Virgil (1757). The Fourdrinier papermaking machine.

Afternoon (Archives Municipales): Continuation of the examination of the watermarks in Medieval documents and their identification in Briquet.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Morning (enssib): Bibliographical problems and solutions provided through paper evidence. The rule of runs and remnants. Recognising half or quarter sheet cancellantia.

Afternoon (Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon): Examination of formats and sheet-sizes in the incunabula of the Bibliothèque Municipale. Evidence for the use of a one-pull or two-pull press.


Short reading list

Short but sweet, start with the chapter ‘La question préalable: l'apparition du papier en Europe’, in the famous L’Apparition du livre by Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin, Paris, Albin Michel, 1958, pp. 25-51 (new paperback edition: 1971, with a further issue in 1999, which reprints the 1971 setting with the addition of a ‘Postface’ by Frédéric Barbier).

Even better, and with lots of pictures, if you can find it, is Dard Hunter, Papermaking. The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, New York, Knopf, 1943; 2nd edition, revised and enlarged, London, Pleiades Books, 1947 (and reprints).

Otherwise thumb through Alexander Monro, The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of the World's Greatest Invention, London, Allen Lane, 2014.

Extremely good for its balanced and well-informed view of everything to do with paper is John Bidwell, ‘The Study of Paper as Evidence, Artefact and Commodity’, in The Book Encompassed. Studies in Twentieth-century Bibliography, edited by Peter Davison, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 69-82 (available on line).

For those able and willing to cope with German, somewhat aged, but still fundamental is Karl Theodor Weiß, Handbuch der Wasserzeichenkunde, bearbeitet und herausgegeben von Wisso Weiß, Leipzig, Fachbuchverlag, 1962 (reprinted by Sauer, 1983).

Again in German, albeit also now in Italian, with a splendid introduction by Ezio Ornato, is a carefully expounded and extensively documented overview of the history of papermaking by Peter F. Tschudin, Grundzüge der Papiergeschichte, Stuttgart, Hiersemann, 2002.

On the basic process of paper-making at the vat, the most helpful and concise introduction in English remains that by Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1972 (and numerous reprints), pp. 57-66. Those looking for something more arduous can try Conor Fahy, ‘Paper Making in Seventeenth-century Genoa: The Account of Giovanni Domenico Peri (1651)’, Studies in Bibliography, vol. 56 (2003-2004), pp. 243-259.

On watermarks, there is only one word to say: Briquet.

Three websites also provide useful starting points.

The The International Association of Paper Historians provides many useful links, as well as people to talk to.

The Bernstein ‘Memory of Papers’ Consortium is complicated and unfriendly for novice users. If you persist, however, it has a lot of information.

My personal favourite in friendliness terms, also for the wonderful links to videos of papermaking in Youtube is “Paper through time” website at the University of Iowa.

A final word, the text of the introduction to this course presently on the IHL website was put online in 2010, and is being revised. Hopefully the new version will be available soon.