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The Watermark Initiative

"Watermarks" Discussion List Archive from Virginia Tech

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Data standards

The following message got lost in the ether when I originally posted
it yesterday.  As I've seen neither hide nor hair of the first
message, I'm reposting it today.  By the way, for those of you who
wondered about the TEI SGML repost from me yesterday, it deals
with one of the issues in the following post and should have arrived
after this one, not before.  Sorry for the confusion.

After looking over the updated program for next month's Watermark
Conference in Roanoke, I was struck by the diversity of subjects
and experiences to be discussed by those assembled.  Clearly this
conference has the potential to energize the study of watermarks 
and of paper for the next few years.

It occured to me that such a gathering affords us the 
opportunity to establish some basic guidelines, some common
procedures and standards that will help assure the smooth exchange
of data among watermark investigators in the future.  The papers 
themselves will help spark discussion along these lines: Larry-Ted
Pebworth's discussion of a taxonomy of watermarks, e.g., as well as
the image archives at Bates College and at Virginia Tech.  However,
I believe we can use these papers to think more deeply about
how we will record, store and deliver paper evidence.  To
mention just a few subjects:

--Watermark Measurements.  Most of us are familiar with Stevenson's
model, 91 x 0[35|23]12, mLF<sup>o</sup> and so on.  Can we revise
this model in such a way as to achieve both greater simplicity and
clarity AND increased accuracy and detail?  Furthermore, can we
arrive at some guidelines for measuring watermarks at more than
the height x width level?  What parts of a fleur-de-lis occur
regularly and can thus be measured in all marks?  A unicorn?

--Chainline Measurements.  Where and how should we record chainlines
on a sheet?  Is a central measurement from edge-to-edge and bisecting
the watermark enough?  Can anything be gained by measuring chains at
other locations such as the top and bottom of the mould?

--Wirelines.  Those from the Anglo-American tradition measure wirelines
in terms of lines per centimeters.  Robert Allison tells me that 
scholars in his field record the ratio in reverse, i.e., centimeters
per lines.  Such conflicting practices have the potential for misunder-
standing, and in general add that little bit of annoyance when we have to
convert data from one system to another.

--Level of Accuracy.  How closely can we measure evidence before we
exceed the barrier of significance?  Is recording to the nearest
millimeter sufficient?  When dealing with lines that are themselves
1-3 mm wide, does measuring the distance between them in smaller
increments achieve anything? 

--Encoding Schemes.  Given the nature of paper production and use, the
more data we can call upon the greater our potential insights.  In 
order to understand a single state of a watermark we need a larger
context into which to place it.  Digital technology affords us the
possibility to create such contexts, but in order to blend the results
>from disparate projects into a searchable database the information
must be recorded in a standard fashion.  I'm circulating in a 
separate message a call for participation that came out a month or
so back asking for interested parties to help develop SGML
standards for the recording of physical information from books.  SGML
is a scheme that allows one to create searchable databases in
platform-independent form.  By agreeing on a standard encoding scheme
at this early stage of the introduction of digital technology into
the study of watermarks we can greatly accelerate our progress
toward large-scale watermark databases.

I'd be very interested in the reaction of conference participants to
the above information as well as thoughts or proposals in other areas.
I'd also like to arrange a time when interested parties can get together
in Roanoke to lay the groundwork for developing such ideas.  Looking at
the program I see that Friday evening doesn't yet have anything scheduled.
Would it be possible for those who want to pursue this matter to meet
for dinner Friday evening and work on a framework for further discussion?
You can respond to me personally or to the mailing list.

Thanks for your interest, and I look forward to meeting you all next month.

Dave Gants

David L. Gants *** Department of English *** Park Hall
 University of Georgia *** Athens, GA *** 30602-6205
     dgants@english.uga.edu *** (706) 542-1261

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