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Watermarks at the BM

I have been working on a project at the British Museum to create a paper archive of various samples of handmade papers. This has involved taking lots of measurements and also recording and imaging watermarks in the papers. So far I have not been able to dedicate much time to identifying the watermarks but I hope that in time the information I have gathered can be added to, and this would make the database a really useful resource.

Finde/ A F Montgolfier/ D’Annonay /1769

Chain lines: 36-39mm, Laid lines: 7 per cm, Approx. gsm: 159

This paper and its watermark are typical of French paper from the Auvergne region. The paper is relatively thick, with an uneven distribution of pulp, and the watermark text is encapsulated within lozenge shapes. The heart device used as a stop between letters occurs frequently in French papers. The Montgolfier family of papermakers became particularly famous when two brothers from the family, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne, invented the hot air balloon, apparently using Montgolfier paper in its lining construction. Following several test flights, they eventually launched a sheep, a duck and a rooster into the air in one of their balloons at Versailles in 1783 (the King had suggested they launch two criminals instead). Apparently the balloon landed safely, although one wonders how the animals got on together in the basket.

The company became “Montgolfier et Canson” in 1801, and produces fine papers to this day under the name “Canson”.  


2 responses »

  1. Exceptionally interesting area of study and vital resource as yet untapped.
    Have you taken this further yet?

    • Hello,

      Not yet – at the moment I am away from London and have been focusing my research on Islamic book arts. But someday I hope to return to the BM and continue working with this collection of papers as the potential to turn them into a useful resource seems huge. If you are interested in watermarks and paper characteristics, the British Association of Paper Historians (BAPH) is a good place to start, although you may already be aware of them!


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