A monthly series of bibliography- or book-related links recommended by members of the Society’s Council, initiated by Margaret Ford, Past President.

Earlier posts can be found at Council’s Choice.

December 2023

The Wasserzeicheninformationssystem (WZIS): an international database of early watermarks

Although among watermark aficionados there is still no substitute for Gerhard Piccard’s monumental 25-volume printed catalogue of watermarks, there have been several attempts at compiling online libraries of watermark images. The Wasserzeicheninformationssystem (WZIS) is one of the more successful. Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the original project sought to create a central database of watermark images drawn from the manuscript departments of seven key institutions. Integrated into this were the 90,000 images held in Piccard-Online and various other data sets.

Images of watermarks are held in the database with associated metadata to allow for searching, which is undertaken through a variety of attributes, at the highest level by motif, then within that by size. Several more complex search options are available, most usefully distance between chainlines, number of chainlines, date of use, and place of use. There is also an index of named papermakers and some more experimental search tools which utilise maps for geographical searches for place of use, depository, and location of paper mill.

WZIS’s greatest asset is the amount of data it holds. The search engine is intuitive, but not perhaps as thorough or systematised as that developed for Piccard-Online. Navigation through the tree of motifs is easy, and the decision to create interfaces in German, English, and French makes it more internationally accessible.

Ed Potten, Vice-President