Produced by Robert W. Allison
Assoc. Prof of Religion, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine and
Research Fellow Ektaktikos of the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, Thessaloniki

© 1996 Robert W. Allison. All rights reserved.

Overview of the Archive

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History of the Archive

The Watermark Archive began as a mode of publishing the watermarks of papers in the Greek manuscripts of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos. During the course of several years' work I built up a collection of contact prints of those papers for publication as a supplement volume to the Catalog of the Greek Manuscripts of Philotheou Monastery, a project of the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies. The original purpose of of the Archive was to expedite the publication of this part of the catalog, and to exploit the advantages of computer enhancement offered by the electronic medium for comparative study and analysis of watermarks. An experimental graphic archive was set up for my own experimentation and for public viewing on the Bates College gopher server, with some sample scanned images of the watermark contact prints. Research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ellis L. Phillips Foundation subsequently funded a project to scan and enhance the entire body of watermark prints from Philotheou Monastery.

As I used this archive for my own work on the Philotheou Catalog Project, and developed new methods for assessing the evidence of paper for the history of book production at Philotheou, it became increasingly evident how useful a central archive of electronic images of watermarks could be for identifying the work of Greek scribes and centers of book production. At the same time, the potential of the World Wide Web as a mode of scholarly publication was becoming increasingly evident. When interactive forms and database interfacing became possible on the Web, it was a natural development to expand the scope of this archive (by adding a Database of Paper Descriptions and later a Bibliographical Database) and to mount it on the World Wide Web.

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The Watermark Archive as a Vehicle of Publication

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Identifying Scribes, Centers of Manuscript Production & Patterns in the use of paper As a vehicle of publication, this Archive began with the objective of publishing in a more useful way the watermarks and descriptions of papers found in manuscripts of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos. Its expansion into a centralized, universal scholarly resource for papers and watermarks in Greek manuscripts extends this mode of publication to scholars everywhere who are identifying and describing papers in Greek manuscripts.

The Watermark Archive is structured to facilitate scholarly collaboration. Scholars everywhere who work with Greek manuscripts are invited participate in creating this resource by publishing here their watermark prints or tracings and their paper descriptions, and by submitting new entries for the Bibliographical Database. Electronic forms provide for the automated and standardized submission of watermark prints, paper descriptions, and bibliographical references.

Publications of Paper Matches.

As the databases grow, it can be anticipated that searches and analytical comparative studies conducted by scholars to match papers in manuscripts with examples in the Watermark Archive will begin to identify clusters of matching papers within the archive. Searches for matching papers will begin to yield larger numbers of examples which match the characteristics of new papers being searched. Scholars are invited to publish their discoveries of such clusters of identical papers and their analyses of these results here, where they can be found by other scholars who are searching for matching papers. In other words, we look forward to extending this Archive to include an electronic journal devoted to discoveries about paper in Greek manuscripts.

Publications regarding scribes and scriptoria.

Likewise, it can be anticipated that the expansion of this database will begin to reveal patterns of use of paper in manuscripts as characteristic of particular scribes or centers of book production. It is for this reason that the indexing of scribes and places of production is incorporated into the Form for Description of Papers and the Search Form. It is our hope that this Archive, as a vehicle of publication, will include increasing reports of discoveries of such associations of papers with scribes and centers of book production in the future.

Alternatively, scholars who choose to publish such discoveries in the form of traditional journal articles are urged to contribute a listing of those articles to the Watermark Archive's Bibliographical Database using the Form for Submission of Bibliography on Watermarks in Greek Manuscripts

The remainder of this introductory page of the Guide includes:
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Watermarks and the related characteristics of hand made paper (countermarks, chain and wire lines, and physical traits), are the "fingerprints" by which we can date and establish the provenance of manuscripts from the late medieval, humanist and early modern eras. The evidence of the paper on which they are written can link even unsigned manuscripts with the centers of copy or the scribes which produced them, contributing to one of the central tasks of Greek paleography and codicology, namely, the reconstruction of the output of these centers of book production.

To be useful to scholars, however, these pieces of evidence need to be collected and permanently available in a central database, so that scholars working with manuscripts can compare the papers they are finding with those that have been found and recorded by others. Scholars everywhere who work with manuscripts written on paper collect this information, but until now, there has been no convenient and central repository for this information. Consequently, with very few exceptions (see the Bibliography of Watermark Publications), this kind of information is now scattered in scholarly articles or books of very diverse nature which can not be conveniently or systematically searched every time a scholar needs to date or place a manuscript.

The present archive with its three interrelated databases is intended to unite all the necessary information in one place, so that the evidence of paper in Greek manuscripts can be utilized to its full potential. Its objective is to become a comprehensive, electronic Briquet for papers used in Greek manuscripts.

Why, finally, an archive for papers found specifically in Greek manuscripts? In part the answer is historical; it grew out of a large-scale project of the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies whose focus is specifically Greek manuscripts, and for the most part Athonite Greek manuscripts. More importantly, however, the scope of this archive is based on the practical observation which has emerged from this work, that it is a rarity to find a match for papers found in Greek manuscripts in catalogs based on Western European sources. This observation based on Athonite manuscripts has recently found confirmation in the studies of Mark Sosower on Greek manuscripts in European libraries (based on a personal communication; see News Clips). The objective of recovering the output of particular scribes and particular centers of copy, whether monastic or other, depends upon our ability to find matching papers, not merely papers with generally similar watermarks from approximately the same era. The Watermark Archive is designed to meet this need, and thereby to advance the central objective of the contemporary study of Greek paleography and codicology.

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Why an Electronic Archive of Watermarks and Papers?

The electronic medium makes it possible to conduct very sophisticated searches for paper matches very easily, once the database of paper descriptions and watermark images exists. The use of contact images, which preserve more information than tracings, and the electronic medium with its many advantages for study and manipulation of data, facilitate the close comparison of papers needed to establish matches. Watermark tracings which are machine-generated also take advantage of this medium.

Advantages of the Electronic Medium. The following are some of the several advantages which this medium offers over traditional printed watermark catalogs:

Promoting the use of contact prints instead of watermark tracings The Watermarks Archive is also intended to promote the method of reproducing watermarks as contact prints (the Dylux® method). Contact prints, together with consistently formatted paper descriptions, enable us to match papers among scattered manuscripts with much greater accuracy than has ever before been possible. As the data at our disposal multiply, we will be increasingly capable of reconstructing the output of particular scribes (even anonymous ones) and book production centers in the era of paper manuscripts.

[Home Page] [Overview] [Guide to the Watermark Archive] [Responses] [The Colophon (credits)]
[watermark search tool]

[FTP receiving] [paper description form] [Bibliography] [News Clips]

Created by Robert W. Allison
Dept. of Philosophy & Religion, Bates College
Lewiston, Maine 04240

Updated: October 3, 1996

© 1996 Robert W. Allison. All rights reserved.