The Watermark

In a very generous donation made to St Bride Library recently we received a large collection of paper, kindly donated by a paper merchant, which included a selection of watermarked sheets that really are something quite special.

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The watermark was first invented in 1282 and saw little change until 1826, when industrialisation revolutionised the mark. The first watermarks would have been fairly simple processes, pressed into the paper while it still took the form of pulp, or slurry, while the pieces donated to us would have been made using a process invented in 1848: the cylinder mould process. In this process a wax panel would be used to create a metal mould, which would be incorporated into a heated steel roller and the paper would be passed through it.

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Unsurprisingly, because of the higher quality results gained from using the cylinder mould process, this became the preferred method for anti-counterfeiting measures on all sorts of legal documents. We’re exceptionally lucky to have been granted such excellent examples of the technique – and a window into the history of the watermark – here at St Bride.

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