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The Watermark Initiative

"Watermarks" Discussion List Archive from Virginia Tech

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Re: Watermark Descriptions (IPH 3.1.3-3.1.5)

As my book on Italian watermarks was mentioned as an example of the
difficulty of using the IPH code, I suppose I should respond. This was
included in the publication because it seemed to be the only standard
available at the time. It made sense to order the watermarks according to
that list. The codes, I agree, are really cumbersome. It is so much easier
just to look at a bank of images, which is why a graphic index, such as
that which I included in the back of the Italian watermarks book, works so
much better that searching a coded data base. I think it would be good to
keep a standard hierarchical order to the images, however, and the IPH
begins to do that (although it needs a lot more additions).

David Woodward

>Tomas Stohr made some comments in his last letter which we did not respond
>to in our first reply, but which seem to us important points for us all to
>consider. We refer to his comments B and C. First, regarding Comment B, on
>coded watermark descriptions.  (We will send a second note regarding
>Comment C, on digital camera facsimiles, a little later.)
>At  9:46 AM 11/25/97 -0800, Ing. Tomas Stohr wrote (COMMENT B):
>> B) Difficulties with IPH code: Recently I went through the "Catalogue of
>>Watermarks in Italian Printed Maps" by David Woodward, University Chicago
>>Press 1996. Even though a great effort was made in this book to show the
>>IPH code for each watermark fascimile, unfortunately there are several
>>inconsistencies among these assignments. Many of the watermarks shown,
>>are surrounded by a circle under a six pointed star but in the
>>identification one can find a large variety of codes:
>>   in # 16 to 22              U1[J5/4]
>>   in # 35, 36                [U1-J5/4]
>>   in # 91/92                 [U1]-J5/4
>>   in # 107 to 110            [U1]-J5/3
>>   in # 121to123,and 126to130 <f:U1{b:J5/4}>
>>   in # 150,158to176,214/215
>>        221/222 and 238to242  <f:U1{t:J5/4}>
>>   in # 146                   <U1>-{t:J5/4}
>> and I would probabily have written:         <f:U1>-{t:J5/4}
>>    I am not criticizing the publication on italian maps, but I want
>>enfasize how difficult it is to find an agreement even on a simple
>>pattern. I think there is a need of elaborating or reconsidering the
>>coding system, or at least produce an extense users manual.
>You will see in the model pages which we set up that we have not yet
>addressed the question of how to describe the watermarks, and whether the
>IPH system will work for a WWW-based watermark archive.  We simply
>reproduced the IPH fields as they presently exist, and entered a simple set
>of codes in fields 3.1.3 (Motif) and 3.1.4 (Class). (You can see this on
>the sample description at the following URL:
>We, personally, find the IPH codes very difficult to get used to, ambiguous
>when applied to more complex watermarks and likely to introduce errors as
>different readers of descriptions interpret in various ways the codes
>others have written (as Tomas' example demonstrates very clearly).  It
>seems to us that we might do well to explore other alternatives and how
>they might be implemented in a WWW-based archive system. In the Commentary
>on the IPH Standard which we compiled as we worked on the model for a
>WWW-based system of distributed archives, we therefore wrote the following
>in the commentary on sections 3.1.3 and 3.1.4:
>     In our model, we would like to use
>     straightforward, standardized language
>     and eliminate the codes. In our model
>     watermark description, however, we have
>     for the present retained, for discussion
>     purposes, the IPH code.
>We do have some initial thoughts on the methodological issue.
>When the IPH project was started, there was no possibility of ready
>availability on line of visual images, so the codes were devised to
>describe *everything* in such a way that it could be searchable.  We now
>have the advantage of having images as well as descriptions on line.  So we
>ask you:  is there any continuing need for the watermark description to
>describe *everything* -- every element and aspect of the watermark?
>Wouldn't the presence of online images associated with the database
>eliminate the need for such detailed codes as the IPH system constructed?
>In light of the WWW's expanded graphical capacities, should the purpose of
>the watermark description simply be to enable us to do searches that narrow
>the field to a reasonable degree preparatory to visual study, so that we
>don't have to download too many images over the wires?
>So we have before us several related questions about how to handle
>watermark descriptions, and you, the participants on this discussion group,
>will hopefully think of still others:
>Should we abandon codes?
>How much and what kinds of information should we include in the watermark
>description (IPH 3.1.3 - 3.1.5)?
>What should be in the glossary of standardized descriptive terms (whether
>coded or not)?
>What can/should we do in the design of this database to assure the
>effective use of standardized language?

David Woodward
Arthur H. Robinson Professor of Geography
University of Wisconsin
550 North Park Street
Madison WI 53706-1491 USA

Tel:   608 262 0505 (Office)
          608 251 1074 (Home)
Fax:   608 263 0762

Web Site: http://feature.geography.wisc.edu/histcart/

The Watermark Initiative was created by

Robert W. Allison
Dept. of Philosophy & Religion, Bates College and

James Hart
Information Services, Bates College Lewiston, Maine, 04240