Ochsenkopfwasserzeichen | © BSB

Seeing through the paper. Virtual exhibition on watermarks in music manuscripts

Watermarks were used to mark papers throughout the centuries. The virtual exhibition shows highlights from a project dedicated to the cataloguing and documentation of these marks.

A brief overview of the history of early papermaking opens the presentation. In the following, a broad thematic variety of watermarks is shown from the music manuscripts of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek from the late middle ages and Renaissance. The motifs mirror the design concepts of their time and, besides indications for the historical classification of the sources, also give interesting insights into cultural-historical relationships. On the basis of the large-format codices of the Munich court music ensemble of the 16th century on the one hand and important manuscripts from clerical and civil ownership on the other hand, the exhibition illustrates the use of paper for the production of music-specific types of sources, such as choir books or part books.

The watermark images presented were produced by means of thermography in the course of a DFG project at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. This technique permits researchers to take a very close look at the motifs, even if the marks are located below the ink in paper with very dense writing and are not visible to the naked eye.

Virtual exhibition  (in German)
Seeing through the paper. Watermarks in the music manuscripts of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek from the beginnings to the 17th century


Picture credits
Header image: Ox head watermark | © BSB  –  Start image of the virtual exhibition: Papeterie, Cuve à Ouvrer | © BSB