University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Thomas Gravell
Watermark Collection

ca. 1970 - 1994

Manuscript Collection Number: 339
Accessioned: Multiple purchases, 1980 -1994.
Extent: 7.5 linear ft.
Content: Slides, notecards, galleys, papers.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed:: January - February 1997 by P.Tatnall.

for reference assistance with this collection at UD email Special Collections
University of Delaware Library | Newark, Delaware 19717-5267 | (302) 831-2229

for reference assistance with the digital watermark collection

Please contact Prof. Daniel Mosser and Prof. Ernest Sullivan II
Virginia Tech, who have created a searchable electronic database on the Internet:

The Thomas L. Gravell Watermark Archive

The database includes digital images of photographic reproductions of over 6,500 watermarks in paper made between 1400 and 1835 which form part of the Thomas Gravell Watermark Collection at the University of Delaware Library.

Thomas Gravell
Watermark Collection

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Thomas Gravell, an authority on watermarks, died at age 91 in September 2004. A resident of Wilmington, Delaware, Gravel retired from E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company in 1975 after 34 years of service. He became an expert on watermarks after devising an inexpensive means of reproducing watermarks and co-authoring two books on the subject. Gravell's interest in watermarks began with the watermarks from his stamp collection and later expanded to include identifying and reproducing watermarks in paper that was made in the United States and Europe prior to 1830.

At the time Gravell began his research in 1970, there were two methods of reproducing watermarks. The first, tracing, was inexpensive yet failed to produce exact copies. The second, beta-radiography, was far more accurate, but was both time-consuming and expensive. Unhappy with these methods, Gravell learned that the Du Pont Company had just introduced Dylux 503, a photosensitive, instant image proof paper. Using this paper, he devised a new method for reproducing watermarks that proved to be inexpensive, accurate, and fast. Gravell placed the watermark on top of flourescent lamps and covered it with Dylux paper. Because the watermark was thinner than the rest of the paper, the flourescent light passed through the watermark with more intensity. The Dylux paper was then exposed to ultraviolet light which turned the watermark white and the unexposed area blue. The entire process could take as little as five minutes.

Using his new Dylux method to reproduce watermarks, Gravell's second career was underway. He duplicated watermarks from manuscript collections in Delaware at the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, the Eleutherian Mills Historical Library, the Historical Society of Delaware, and Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library. He also collected watermarks from the American Antiquarian Society, the Huntingdon County Historical Society, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Library of Congress.

In addition to identifying and reproducing watermarks, Gravell has also done research on papermaking, papermakers, and paper mills. His publications include:

"Reproducing Watermarks for Study," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Oct.,

"A New Method of Reproducing Watermarks for Study," Restaurator, 1975.

A Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690-1835 (1979), with George Miller. New York:
Garland Pub., 1979.

A Catalogue of Foreign Watermarks Found on Paper Used in America, 1700-1835 (1983), with
George Miller. New York : Garland Pub., 1983.


"The Wizard of Watermarks," Du Pont Magazine (Jan./Feb. 1990) 84:1, pp. 4-6.

Thomas Gravell and George Miller. A Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690-1835. New
York: Garland, 1979.

Scope and Content Note

The Thomas Gravell Watermark Collection includes 7.5 linear feet of material. The collection consists of over 7,000 slides of watermarks and the index cards which identify and date each one. Gravell collected images of watermarks on handmade paper made in both the United States and Europe, and his sources date from the 15th through the 19th centuries, although the bulk of the watermarks are from the 18th and early 19th centuries. Machine-made paper predominated after the 1830s, so Gravell's collection extends little beyond this point in time. Also included are Gravell's research notes, papers he wrote on the Dylux process and the research value of watermarks, and secondary source material dealing with papermaking and paper mills.

A watermark identified a papermaker, sometimes a broker, or the person for whom the paper was made. The watermark was formed by shaping thin wire into a design or letters or both and then sewing it into a paper mold. When a sheet of paper was made, the pulp was thinner where the wire had been, so the watermark was visible when the paper was held up to light. Not all paper was watermarked, but that of medium and high quality usually was.

Watermarks can help to identify who made a sheet of paper, as well as where and when it was made. While this can assist researchers in dating and authenticating documents, using watermarks for this purpose is not an exact science, even if the watermark itself contains a date. The paper may not have been used immediately after manufacture, and dates did not always indicate the year the paper was actually made. To compound the problem, highly regarded watermarks were often duplicated by other papermakers, and sometimes second-hand paper molds were sold and used by others with the watermark still attached.

Arrangement Note

The collection has been divided into five series which reflect Gravell's original use of the material in the collection. The first four series focus on the watermarks themselves, and consist primarily of Gravell's slides of watermarks and the corresponding index cards which identify and date each watermark slide. Both the American and Foreign series include manuscripts, draft material, and camera-ready copy for the books that Gravell and his co-author George Miller subsequently published. In some cases Gravell's research notes are included as well.

Gravell organized his slides in two different ways, either by the country where the paper was made or by the manuscript collection from which the watermark came. The watermarks that are grouped by country include United States (A), Holland (D), England (E), France (F), Germany (G), Ireland (T), Italy (I), and Spain (Sp). Those grouped by collection include Folger (Fol), Library of Congress (LC), and Thomas Jefferson (TJ) (from the Library of Congress). There are also some slides, labeled miscellaneous (misc), which Gravell was unable to identify. Each slide has one of the above abbreviations and a number in the bottom left hand corner. The slides are grouped by collection and then numerically within each collection. The corresponding identification cards are arranged either in the same numerical order or alphabetically. See the watermark list at the beginning of one of Gravell's books for an illustration of his method of alphabetizing watermarks. The cards also have a collection abbreviation and number in the bottom left-hand corner so they can be matched with the corresponding slide.

Both the slides and the identification cards have an additional code, usually on the upper right, that indicates either the repository holding the watermarked sheet of paper, or the specific manuscript collection within that repository. These abbreviations are as follows: American Antiquarian Society (AAS), Eleutherian Mills Historical Society (H), Huntingdon County Historical Society (HHS), Historical Society of Delaware (HSD), Thomas Gravell's personal collection (TLG), and Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library (UD). The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum collections include the Joseph Downs Manuscript Collection (W) and the Pennybaker Watermark Collection (WP). At the Library of Congress Gravell studied the Harrison Elliot Collection (HE-LC), the Peter Force Collection (PFC), the John Boyd Thatcher Collection (JBT, although many slides are labeled JCT), the Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection (MMC), and manuscripts from the Law Library (LL).

The final series of the collection, General Resources, has been subdivided into two categories. The first, articles by Gravell, deals primarily with reproducing watermarks, and with their value to researchers. Gravell compiled a bibliography on many aspects of paper and papermaking which is also included here. The second grouping under General Resources, Secondary Source Material, includes issues of The Papermaker, an article about Gravell that appeared in the Du Pont Magazine, and unpublished manuscripts on the history of the Curtis Paper Company (in Newark, Delaware) and the paper mills of New England.

Throughout the finding aid, it is important to note the changing box numbers to determine housing location for the various media in the collection (slides, cards, documents, etc.). Supplemental lists of slide inventories (by number) are available from the manuscripts librarian.

Series List

I.   American Watermarks 1690-1835
     1.  Material from Gravell's A Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690-1835
     2.  Research Notes

II.  Foreign Watermarks 1590-1849
     1.  Material from Gravell's A Catalogue of Foreign Watermarks Found on Paper Used in 
          America, 1700-1835
     2.  Additional foreign slides and research material 1591-1860

III. Folger Shakespeare Library Watermarks

IV.  Library of Congress and Miscellaneous Watermarks c.1400-1838
     1.  Thomas Jefferson watermarks 1775-1819
     2.  Additional Library of Congress slides c.1400-1825
     3.  Miscellaneous slides c.1500-1838

V.   General Research Material
     1.  Articles by Thomas Gravell
     2.  Secondary source material

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

      Series I.  American Watermarks, 1690-1835
               This series consists of the manuscript and watermark photographs from
               Gravell's A Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690-1835, as well as
               material used by Gravell in the compilation of his catalog, including the
               slides and identification cards, his research notes on papermakers,
               papermills, paper merchants, paper molds, bank molds, and secondary
               sources, and approximately 50 slides that were not included in the book.

          Series I.1.  Material from A Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690-1835
               Includes over 700 slides of watermarks, an identification card for each
               slide, a draft of the Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690-1835
               manuscript, and photographs of the watermarks.  Also early draft material
               on paper mills, paper makers, purchasing agents, lists of watermarks
               organized by category such as shape or name, and alphabetical lists of

1         American Watermark Slides
               Slides from the book are numerically arranged and are succeeded by those
               not included in the book.

9         American Watermark Identification Cards
               Alphabetically arranged and preceeded by several cards explaining
               Gravell's location codes.

15        Manuscript of A Catalogue of American Watermarks, 1690-1835 
     F1   Text, Part One
     F2   Text, Part Two
     F3   Watermark Photographs, pp. 27-53
F3a Miscellaneous photographic reprints F4 Watermark Photographs, pp. 54-81
F4a Miscellaneous photographic reprints
F5 Watermark Photographs, pp. 82-117
F5a Miscellaneous photographic reprints F6 Watermark Photographs, pp. 118-154 F6a Miscellaneous photographic reprints F7 Early Draft Material, Part One Introduction, paper mills and paper makers, purchasing agents. F8 Early Draft Material, Part Two Indexes of watermarks by categories including shape, name and location. Series I. American Watermarks, 1690-1835 (cont') Series I.1. Material from A Catalogue of American Watermarks (cont'd) F9 Early Draft Material, Part Three Alphabetical lists of watermarks that identify the watermark symbol, source, date, and location. F10 Additional Manuscript Material Correspondence regarding manuscript corrections and halftones from the introduction to the book. Series I.2. Research Notes Consists of Gravell's research notes on American watermarks, paper mills, paper makers, bank molds, and paper molds. Also notes from various journals and ledgers, Dylux reproductions of watermarks, photocopies of watermarks, and some notes from secondary sources. F11 Paper Mills and Makers, Part One Including notes on paper manufacture and information from secondary sources. F12 Paper Mills and Makers, Part Two Including notes on bank molds, sketches of watermarks, and information from an 18th century journal or ledger. F13 Paper Mills and Makers, Part Three Includes list of mills by state from Tench Cox, 1814. F14 Bank Mold Transactions, 1811-1814 Information copied from a journal or ledger. F15 Paper Molds Includes chart on mold sizes and notes from a journal or ledger labeled 1779-1798, although the transactions date to 1815. F16 Paper Molds Orders, 1811-1814, Part One From the journals of Nathan Sellers, an early American paper mold manufacturer. F17 Paper Mold Orders, 1811-1814, Part Two Series I. American Watermarks, 1690-1835 (cont') Series I.2. Research Notes (cont'd) 16 F18 Watermark Symbols Brief notes just mentioning a name or type of mark. F19 Preliminary Identification Cards Some cards include the manuscript source, but there are no numbers to cross reference these cards with the corresponding watermark slide. F20 Paper Transactions 1881-1920 Notes from a ledger or journal. F21 Paper Merchants F22 Dylux Watermarks F23 Photocopies of Watermarks Series II. Foreign Watermarks, 1590-1849 This series includes the slides, manuscript, and some research material used by Gravell in the compilation of A Catalogue of Foreign Watermarks Found on Paper Used in America, 1700-1835, as well as his additional foreign slide collections. Some of the additional slides, which are from England, France, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Spain, are duplicates of those in the catalogue itself. Series II.1. Material from A Catalogue of Foreign Watermarks Found on Paper Used in America, 1700-1835 Includes the slides, corresponding identification cards, manuscript, and draft material from Gravell's A Catalogue of Foreign Watermarks Found on Paper Used in America, 1700-1835. 2 Foreign Catalogue Slides Includes 800 slides, arranged first by country of origin, and then numerically. 9 Foreign Catalogue Identification Cards Arranged alphabetically, all countries combined. Series II. Foreign Watermarks, 1590-1849 (cont'd) Series II.1. Material from A Catalogue of Foreign Watermarks...(cont'd) 16 Manuscript of A Catalogue of Foreign Watermarks Found on Paper Used in America, 1700-1835 F24 Draft, Part One F25 Draftt, Part Two F26 Watermark Photographs, pp. 25-64 F27 Watermark Photographs, pp. 65-104 F28 Watermark Photographs, pp. 105-144 F29 Watermark Photographs, pp. 145-180 F30 Watermark Photographs, pp. 181-216 F31 Early Draft Material Introduction and watermark lists. Series II.2 Additional Foreign Slides and Research Material 1591-1860 Includes hundreds of slides and their corresponding identication cards. The slides and cards are both arranged by country and then numerically. Also includes lists of English and European mills and their watermark symbols, a list of English papermakers, a photocopy of a British manuscript on papermaking, and indexes from autograph books. 3 Dutch Slides (D), 1680-1829 Consists of about 225 slides, most from the late 18th century. 10 Dutch Identification Cards 3 English Slides (E), 1700-1849, #1-1057 Approximately 1,350 slides, most from the early 19th century. 4 English Slides (E), 1700-1849, #1058-1811 11 English Identification Cards 5 French Slides (F), 1656-1849 Nearly 600 slides, the bulk of which originate from 1780-1830. 10 French Identification Cards 5 German Slides (G), 1809-1860 A small collection of fewer than 10 slides. Series II. Foreign Watermarks, 1590-1849 (cont'd) Series II.2 Additional Foreign Slides (cont'd) 10 German Identification Cards 5 Irish Slides (T), 1591-1629 Approximately 30 slides from Trinity College in Dublin. 10 Irish Identification Cards 5 Italian Slides (I), 1657-1848 Approximately 70 slides. 10 Italian Identification Cards 5 Spanish Slides (Sp), 1791-1835 12 slides. 10 Spanish Identification Cards 16 F32 Research Material Lists of mills and their watermark symbols, list of English papermakers, photocopy of a British manuscript on papermaking, indexes from autograph books.

F33 Notes Preliminary notes involved in the process of identifying watermarks.

Series III. Folger Shakespeare Library Watermarks This is Gravell's largest collection. The series consists of over 2,000 slides dating from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries, many from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Also included are their identifications cards, 3 reels of watermarks on microfilm, and some of Gravell's research material. 6 Folger Slides (Fol), #1-1039 7 Folger Slides (Fol), #1040-2065 5 Folger Slides (Fol), #2066-2119 12-13 Folger Identification Cards The primary cards are alphabetically arranged. Also included are a set of cards with a chronological arrangement, and a set of cards listing Folger slides that Gravell has placed in other European collections. 17 F34 Research Material Includes a list of slides arranged chronologically and notes with a series of "xd" numbers that identify the watermarks on the microfilm in the following folder. F35 Microfilm 3 reels of film of Folger watermarks. The "xd" numbers in the left margin can be matched with the notes in the preceeding folder.

Series IV. Library of Congress and Miscellaneous Watermarks c.1400-1838 This series consists of Gravell's watermark slides from various manuscript collections at the Library of Congress, most notably his Thomas Jefferson slides. Also included in this series are miscellaneous slides that Gravell was unable to identify. Series IV.1 Thomas Jefferson Watermarks, 1775-1819 Nearly 900 watermark slides from the Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress and their corresponding identification cards. 8 Jefferson Slides (TJ) 14 Jefferson Identification Cards Arranged alphabetically. Series IV.2 Additional Library of Congress Slides c. 1400-1825 Nearly 200 slides from the Peter Force Collection (PFC), the Law Library (LL), the John Boyd Thatcher Collection (JBT or JCT), and the Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection (MM). 8 Library of Congress Slides, c.1400-1825 10 Library of Congress Identification Cards There are 2 sets of cards, one is arranged alphabetically and other numerically. Series IV.3 Miscellaneous Slides c.1500-1838 Approximately 260 watermark slides that Gravell was unable to identify in terms of the country of origin, the paper maker or the paper mill. Some are European, and some are from the United States. For some he has dates, for others he does not. Also includes the identification cards which list the information Gravell did have. 5 Miscellaneous Slides (misc), c.1500-1838 14 Miscellaneous Identification Cards

Series V. General Research Material Articles by Gravell including a bibliography on papermaking and articles describing his Dylux method for reproducing watermarks, and secondary source material used by Gravell over the course of his research. Series V.1 Articles by Thomas Gravell Prior to the two watermark catalogues that Gravell coauthored with George Miller, Gravell wrote several articles on watermarks and watermark reproduction. 17 F36 Watermark Articles "What Watermarks Can Tell Us," n.d. "Reproducing Watermarks for Study" (1972) "A New Method of Reproducing Watermarks for Study" (1975) F37 Watermarks Found in Delaware Libraries, n.d. Early drafts of the article. F38 Watermarks Found in American Libraries, n.d. Two drafts of the article. F39 Bibliography Two drafts of a bibliography on papermaking and local histories. Series V.2 Secondary Source Material Additional material on paper mills and paper making and a DuPont Magazine article about Gravell. F40 Du Pont Magazine (Jan./Feb. 1990) "The Wizard of Watermarks," Article on Gravell and the Dylux method of watermark reproduction. F41 "History of the Curtis Paper Company" (c. 1951) Manuscript by Patricia Martha Brown on a local Delaware paper company. The Paper Maker, 1956-1970 F42 1956 no. 2 1957 no. 1 1958 no. 2 Series V. General Research Material (cont'd) Series V.2 Secondary Source Material (cont') The Paper Maker, 1956-1970 (cont'd) 17 F43 1959 no. 2 1960 no. 1 1961 no. 2 F44 1964 no. 1 1964 no. 2 1965 no. 1 F45 1966 no. 2 1967 no. 1 1970 no. 1 F46 "Paper Mills of New England," (1944) Unpublished manuscript by Dr. G.E. Leontine

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