With the aid of recorded measurements, and with photographic images, it is possible to study watermarked paper in detail. The subtle changes which occur over time can be clearly detected and recorded. Watermarks provide an important source of information about paper-mills, papermakers, merchants and about the trade and distribution of paper. In particular, and for our purposes, they are also useful for establishing the chronology of undated manuscripts and for the correction of false dating.
What information are we adding to manuscript descriptions in the Archive Index?
The Pot F/DC
From late 1656 until the end of 1658 Baxter used a batch of paper, known as 'pot' paper marked with a large one handled pot with the letters F/DC. Thirty-three sheets have so far been identified. These sheets show that he purchased at least two separate quires of this paper over this period. (Where did he buy his paper?) What is interesting here, is that although Baxter was a prolific writer, he kept and used this particular paper almost solely for making fair copies of his own letters. What we don't know at present is whether he also wrote the actual original letters on the same supply of paper. The same watermark can be found on thirty dated, two undated letters and one item in Baxter's Treatises. The distinctive watermark depicts a large, one handled pot or jug embellished with the letters F/DC. The pot contains (describe). The timeline for writing these letters ranges from November 1656 to June 1658. A similarly marked sheet was used by Baxter to write to Philip Nye, 'considering the means of effecting agreement between Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Episcopalians' and marked with the letter F to be included in the Reliquiae and dated by Black as written sometime between 1653 and March 1661. Given that Baxter was likely to have used paper within a certain time scale, it is probable that this letter was written alongside the other letters watermarked with the Large Pot/FDC and therefore written sometime between November 1656 and late in1658. (see iii.62(7) ((see new catalogue now DWL/1/88) watermark Large Pot/FDC). Other evidence worth considering is material found in Gravell's Watermark database. He includes two examples of a large pot with initials F/DC and dates their use as1659 and 1660. It would be difficult to prove that these came from the same batch as Baxter's paper but most likely they were made in the same mill in northern France. (Again, Baxter may of course have used the this source of paper to write his original letters, but there is at present no evidence to confirm this). This paper was not the finest, nor what would have been termed as ‘seconds’ but was ’ordinary’ paper in common use through much of the century. It was named 'Pot’ paper because of the watermark used to identify it, but eventually also it reflected its size, pot paper (305x400mm).
Pot or jug is a watermark found on paper made in mills in northern France. It is the most familiar watermark to be found in 17th-century English books and manuscripts, to the extent that it was for many years the ordinary stock of the publishing trade, and a standard grade of writing paper. Pot denotes a small sheet of paper: size c 305 x 400 mm untrimmed. The pot watermark could be large or small, have a half crescent or a fleur-de-lys with five baubles above, or a small bunch of grapes; there is usually one handle, sometimes two. The initials of the maker, and perhaps a letter to indicate the place of origin are often included.
Questions: In this study of watermarks, the questions raised are as follows - When did a given watermark make its first appearance and when do did it cease to be sold/used? When and where was paper from a given batch made and most commonly in use? How long did the watermark survive in its original condition? Scholars suggest that the life of a watermark ranged from 8-12 months, followed by a period when it suffered from wear and tear, typically becoming misshapen and damaged, making it necessary to repair, or replace with a similar, but not identical motif. The image of each mould is left behind on the paper.