This paper has been double-blind peer reviewed to meet the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) HERDC requirements.
The University of Melbourne's Middle Eastern Manuscript collection housed at the Baillieu Library was acquired by Professor John Bowman in the 1950s as part of a teaching collection to promote greater learning of Middle Eastern culture and civilisation (Pryde 2007, 3). The collection is a rare example within Australia and represents many different subjects including Qur'ans and religious teachings, dictionaries and grammars, law, philosophical, medical, historical and astrological texts, love stories and poetries (Sloggett 2007, 89). Professor Bowman's main aim was to provide students with access to primary texts and so the collection was frequently drawn upon for research and teaching purposes. This paper however focuses on the information embedded within the collection. Under the surface, the manuscripts contain invaluable knowledge of the object's use, its manufacture and the original community surrounding the material. Through visual analysis of the papers within the text blocks clues can be uncovered to assist with dating, provenance and historical trade route information. This type of study can be problematic and is not without critics so the pitfalls and indications for best practice are highlighted.
The invention of paper is attributed to the Chinese by the second century B.C.E (Hunter 1947, 50). The earliest papers were made from rags of cloth, fishing nets and waste materials. The technology of papermaking in China then spread westward along the Silk Road via travelling merchants, monks and missionaries as early as the third century (Bloom 2001, 38). Under the Abbasid rule, the technology travelled through the Islamic countries Iraq, Egypt, North Africa, Sicily and finally to Spain. Through the Moors, paper was introduced into Europe and quickly adopted by the Italians. The Italians were prolific papermakers and in the thirteenth century introduced watermarks to the paper sheet as a trade mark (Bloom 2001, 6). Papers made within the Islamic world were rarely watermarked. Historians internationally have documented and catalogued watermarks enabling many to be attributed to their markers. These resources are often used by researchers to establish provenance or confirm production dates. A number of watermarks have been found throughout this collection allowing the initial conclusion that some papers are not of Islamic production to be made. What additional knowledge can be gained? This paper delves into the history and technology of papermaking to provide greater understanding of the manuscripts within this collection.
Introduction to the collection
The University of Melbourne's Middle Eastern Manuscript collection contains approximately a hundred and ninety bound and unbound manuscripts dating from the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries. The manuscripts within this collection illustrate many different languages; Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Syriac, Ethiopic, Sanskirt, Christian Oriental, Mongol, Prakit, and Pishtu (Pryde 2007, 1). The collection includes Qur'ans and related religious texts but also dictionaries, grammars and books of poetry, love stories, law, philosophy, medicine, history and astrology (Sloggett 2007, 89). ominance in the area there was particular referecne CaThe majority of the collection was acquired by Professor John Bowman, a lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Melbourne from 1959 to 1973. Prior to this Professor Bowman was a lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament Studies at the University of Leeds. Professor Bowman recognised the need for the development of teaching Middle Eastern languages and a broad curriculum of comparative religious studies, and so he expanded the Department by increasing staff numbers and funding two annual periodicals to promote local research. In the 1960s, the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University in Canberra were the only two universities in Australia to offer courses in Middle Eastern cultures and civilisation. During his term this collection of manuscripts began to take shape. The manuscripts were sourced from his own visits to the Middle East and from book sellers in the United Kingdom. His main aim was to provide students with access to primary texts and so the collection was frequently used. Bowman himself was a keen researcher of religions and published many articles and books throughout his career. The Department of Middle Eastern Studies became internationally renowned with many students continuing their research overseas (Pryde 2007, 2-3).
Today, the collection is relatively unknown and unresearched. The recent digitisation of the collection, a changing population and growing reawareness of the important information contained within these manuscripts means correct attribution and greater knowledge is again necessary. Many provenance records were lost when the Department of Middle Eastern Studies was dismantled and Professor Bowman retired. The current catalogue records are constructed from two main sources; the University of Melbourne's 1971 Catalogue of works of Art and the 1977 List of Oriental Manuscripts held in the University of Melbourne Library. Additional information was gathered from sale catalogues and various hand-written and typed notes that accompanied the manuscripts (Pryde 2007, 1). These records have been supplemented by Ms Mahboubeh Kamalpour, a University of Melbourne staff member with a Bachelor of Librarianship from the University of Tehran, Iran (Sloggett 2007, 90).
In recognition of their significance and the skill and technology embedded within these manuscripts, staff and students at the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (CCMC) have completed a number of research projects that have delved into the materials used in the manuscripts, and into culturally appropriate care and handling procedures. This paper explores the history and technology of papermaking particularly in the Middle Eastern region and draws together visual analysis of the paper substrates within manuscripts. Through this investigation of the materials a greater understanding of the collection will be gained to assist with provenance identification and inform preservation. Once confirmed the information can be added to the catalogue records to be accessed by researchers and custodians of similar collections.
History and technology of papermaking
Paper is 'a substance made in the form of thin sheets or leaves from rags, straw, bark, wood, or other fibrous materials, for various uses' (Hunter 1947, 5). The invention of paper is attributed to the Chinese by the second century B.C.E. Previously ancient peoples had used stone, clay tablets, papyrus, palm leaves and parchment for written documentation (Hunter 1947, 3-4). The earliest papers were made from rags of cloth, fishing nets and waste materials. These early fibres were firstly pulped and suspended in water, then poured into a cloth mould to form a sheet. As the Chinese papermakers became more successful and proficient in this technique, they experimented with new sources of fibres for the paper pulp. They abandoned waste materials for bast fibres from plants; jute (Corehorus capsularis), rattan (Calamus spp.) and the inner bark of the paper mulberry (Broussoneta papyrifer) and mulberry (morus alba) (Bloom 2001, 34-35). In 700 AD the Saanians of Persia were importing paper from China for their state documents. At this time the Persians were unaware of how to create their own paper (Nakhjavani 2004, 231). The technology of Chinese papermaking spread westward along the Silk Road via travelling merchants, monks and missionaries (Blair 2008, 45). The techniques of papermaking, brush construction and ink recipes were part of the Buddhist teachings in China. Through the wanderings of Buddhist students these invaluable teachings were disseminated into Central Asia. Buddhists monks were very active in the region known as Transoxiana, now modern day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and south-west Kazakhstan. The Abbasid revolution in 749-50 AD resulted in this region of Central Asia being under Arab rule. Under Islam there was an amalgamation of West Asia and through this sovereignty came the dissemination of paper technology and new techniques. This dominance can be illustrated by the speed in which new technologies such papermaking travelled. It took only two centuries for papermaking to spread from Central Asia to Spain compared with five centuries to travel from its place of birth in China to Samarqand (Bloom 2001, 47).
The papermakers of Central Asia could not produce paper from semi-tropical plants like in China as their arid land would not able to sustain these plants. Therefore Arab papers were made from linen rags. They perfected rag papers through improved beating techniques and prepared a smooth writing surface with the addition of a sizing and were known for colouring sheets of paper by immersion in solutions of saffron to create yellow and safflower for red (Library of Congress 1968, 16-17). Henna was favoured for its natural colour (khodrang) either used pure or in combination with saffron (Barkeshli 2008, 259).
Across the Islamic world there were many centres known for their paper manufacture. Paper was produced in areas where there was a suitable supply of good quality water such as northern Syria, the great valleys of Mesopotamia, Palestine, the Nile and Yemen were all known for this technology (Baker 1991, 29). The two main papermaking fibres were linen and hemp which produced strong paper with excellent wet strength and resistance to abrasion and use (Turner 1998, 20).
Under the Abbasid rule (eleventh and twelfth centuries) the papermaking technique travelled through the Islamic countries of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Sicily and finally to Spain (Blair 2008, 47). Through the Moors--Spanish Muslims--paper was introduced into Europe. Once in Europe, papermaking was quickly adopted by the Italians. They became very prolific papermakers and due to their access to greater water and waterpower, the Italians were able to develop a stronger and cheaper paper then provided locally in the Arab world. Unable to compete with the Italian papermakers, papermaking throughout the Islamic world was reduced to three main centres Turkey, Iran and India (Bloom 2001, 9). By the fourteenth century, Western and European papers were being traded extensively in the eastern Islamic lands. In spite of this, Iran continued to produce very fine papers as late as the sixteenth century (Blair 2008, 47).
Paper was commonly produced by submersing a mould into a vat of macerated liquid paper pulp. A deckle or frame was attached to the mould to capture the pulp. As the mould and deckle are brought to the surface, the excess was removed leaving the mould covered with paper fibres. After the sheet dried slightly, the deckle was removed and the mould was flipped onto felt sheeting for pressing and drying (Spector 1987, 8). The metal wires within the mould created fine lines in the paper called laid lines which run parallel to the longer side of the mould. Chain lines are wider in appearance and run perpendicular to the laid lines (see Figure 1).
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A watermark is a faint design put into a sheet of handmade paper at the time of manufacture. It was defined in 1708 as a 'distinguishing mark or device impressed on the substance of a sheet of paper during manufacture, barely noticeable except when the sheet is held up against the light' (Turner 1998, 31). The term watermark is misleading as the mark or design is embedded into the sheet when made by manipulating wire not by a water process. Traditionally the intended watermark design is formed by bending copper wire and is then attached to the papermaking screen. The paper pulp settles around the wire causing an area of less pulp. Once dry, the watermark can be seen by holding the sheet up to the light because the areas of less pulp allow light to be transmitted (Turner 1998, 32). According to Bloom (2001, 6) the Italian papermakers of the late thirteenth century were the first to include watermarks. Oriental papers were produced using a screen of bamboo instead of wire construction so the addition of a watermark decoration was not possible.
By the fifteenth century, the watermarking of paper was common throughout Europe. Various designs were incorporated into the sheets from simple images such as crosses, stars, circles and hills, to more complex examples; keys, anchors, horns, flora, elephants, unicorns, crowns and fleur-di-lis (Spector 1987, 9). Historians have documented and catalogued watermarks enabling many to be attributed to their makers and European reference books to be published. These resources are often used by conservators and researchers to date and establish significance of an artefact. Fortunately many watermarks were uncovered throughout the pages of the Baillieu Library's Middle Eastern manuscript collection. Because Middle Eastern papers are rarely watermarked their presence in this collection enabled the author to initially conclude the papers were of European origin. Without the presence of watermarks, paper attribution is more complex. The researcher must look closely at production marks, the evenness of paper pulp and other characteristics within the sheet. The ability to read the textual information or have access to a translation is also very beneficial.
Middle Eastern manuscript collection observations
Thorough investigations of the collection uncovered important characteristics within the papers worthy of further study. Ali of the manuscripts were carefully examine and observations were recorded in a custom-made Filemaker Pro[TM] database. The database enabled watermarks and other imaged features to be attached to the manuscript record.
Firstly, papers were observed by the naked eye and under the microscope, even very low inexpensive magnifying equipment can produce some pleasing results. Backlighting the paper by light box or light sheet assisted to reveal and provide a more accurate viewing of the paper marks. Light boxes are sufficient if the manuscript is a single sheet but problematic for bound material. Light sheets from companies such as Flexalite Proprietary Limited, Victoria allow for viewing of marks in bound form by carefully slipping the sheet between the manuscript pages. Once uncovered, watermarks were described and captured with a digital camera. The collection survey also utilised a paper examination record by Peter Bower (2002, 23) (Appendix 1) to document other paper characteristics such as laid, chain lines; paper finish and manufacturing marks. The paper examination record provides an excellent checklist for observing papers. Bower's report is tailored to the examination of European papers and so describes the quality of the paper, sheet size, wove or laid, colour, finish and opacity. Below is an example of analysis reports from two manuscripts within the Baillieu collection.
The survey also observed papers without common European marks of manufacture. It appears that approximately half of the manuscripts contain papers that showed evidence of Middle Eastern manufacture. Middle Eastern papers were commonly coloured cream or off-white to reduce the contrast against the dark text and gold borders. The dominant practice of burnishing, making paper shiny and compact is also clearly observed in Middle Eastern papers. Chain lines and intervals can assist with identification. These should be measured in millimetres or inches on a light box.
Arab made papers commonly have grouped together chain lines is twos and even threes with no fixed interval between the lines (Gacek 2009, 501). Another helpful distinguishing feature are the bar shadows. In Arab papers, the bar shadows do not correlate to the chain lines seen in European papers as the papermaking mat was moved between sheet formations (Baker 1991, 30-31).
Below is a tabulation of the common characteristics observed within the Baillieu Collection.
Watermarks within the collection
Approximately thirty percent of the collection was identified as containing watermarks within the manuscript papers. The three crescent watermark is commonly found throughout the collection. Also known as the ire June, this watermark is frequent in other Middle Eastern and Islamic collections around the world such as in the National Library of Jakarta, the McGill University in Quebec and the Bodleian Library in Oxford (Jones 2010; Crown 2001, 102). There are several variations of the design and it is believed to have originated in Italy in the early sixteenth century. Italian watermarks have featured in Arab manuscripts in the Middle East and Northern Africa as early as the eighth century. Early on, Italian papers exported into the Arab region had anchor watermark decorations however these were soon overtaken by the three crescent designs (Gacek 2009, 291). Another common watermark during this period was the crown-star-crescent also found within the University of Melbourne's collection and University of Michigan (MS 564). The crown-star-crescent watermark is believed to have been made for the Islamic market and used widely in the Chanceries of the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries (Jones 2010; Crown 2001, 103). The German article (Mosin and Grozdanovic 1963, 44-52) referenced by Dr Russell Jones (2010) suggests that the crown-star-crescent watermark was made until the eighteenth century whereas the three crescent designs were used up until the nineteenth century.
Access to consistent water sources allowed European papers to flood the market. In 1409, Abu 'Abdallah ibn Marzuq, presented a legal document explaining that due to the influx of European papers to the local markets in Tlemcen (now day western Algeria) Muslims were forced to use 'offensive' papers depicting living beings and crosses. The document rationalised the issue of using these problematic papers by the writing of Arabic and the word of God over the symbols rendering them invisible (Bloom 2008, 50-51). Italian goods including silk stuffs, coral, paper, lead, copper, tin and quicksilver were traded into Northern Africa through Cairo and Tripoli. In a 1767 British report describing the Venetian trade dominance in the area there was particular reference to imported 'paper stamped with three moons (800 reams)' (Bloom 2008, 52).
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Best practice in watermark identification and attribution
Traditionally historians and researchers have documented watermarks and other paper marks by tracing. Tracings can be inaccurate and difficult to compare similar watermarks. Technology advancements such as the invention of light sheets and digital cameras enable accurate capturing of images for future reference and comparison. Betaradiography is also available but this technique is time consuming and expensive.
When investigating sheets with similar watermarks, the chain line interval measurements can ensure more accurate comparison. One could suggest that papers were made by the same mould or paper mill if the watermark and intervals are the same. The paper may also display marks of poor production such as water spots, opaque lumps and uneven fibre distribution.
Microscopic fibre examination is another useful area of investigation if resources permit and there is approval to sample. For fibre comparison and additional information the Oriental Papermaking Fibre database (http://cultural-conservation. unimelb.edu.au/PapermakingFibres----by Travis Taylor (2007) is worthy of study.
Edward Heawood (1950 and republished 2003), Charles Moise Briquet's Les Filigranes (1907), W.A Churchill (1935), Alfred H. Shorter (1957) provide excellent references for researching Western and European watermarks and can assist with dating. More recent online examples such as the watermark database by the Dutch University and the Institute for Art History, Florence are also beneficial. (http://www.wm-portal. net/niki/index. php).
Implications for best library practice
Knowledge gathered through paper investigation can provide clues and information to create fuller description records for both conservators and cataloguers. Collection and tabulation of information will provide resources for more effective identification of materials and supporting documentation for provenance. The paper examination record and information detailed in this article are not specific to Middle Eastern manuscripts and papers. These tools can be used for the investigation of print, watermark, book and manuscript papers of Western and Eastern origins. Following a best practice standardised descriptive terminology improves findability, better documentation and enriched records. Thorough the creation of a body of data useable by many professions will advance study in the area and ultimately raise the profile of such collections.
In the case of this Middle Eastern manuscript collection, greater knowledge of the material has real implications for research of culturally sensitive handling practices and digitisation projects. There are restrictions detailed by Shari'ah (divine law) as to the correct handling of religious material.
Best practice material characterisation leads to evidence based library practice. For example once a manuscript is identifed as containing Qur'anic textual information it should be handled with clean hands and during digitisation be captured on a table higher than groin level. Islamic culture states that the Holy Qur'an is the word of God and should be treated with due reverence and stored in a pure pristine environment (Wilson 2004,136). When exhibiting Qur'ans and religious teachings, The British Museum exhibits these manuscripts on cradles higher and more prominent than other material in keeping with cultural practice. Within the Baillieu Library collection, identified Qur'anic texts are stored above all other subject matter to demonstrate a required level of respect and cultural reverence. Ali manuscripts are housed within corrugated board phase boxes together in two metal shelving units within a temperature and humidity controlled environment. Access to the manuscripts is restricted to the special collections reading room, which allows staff to ensure appropriate handling training for researchers.
Shan'ah law also dictates that Islamic manuscripts should not be in contact with 'ritually impure materials such as dog, pig, corpse, blood, semen, human urine and excrement and liquid intoxicants' (Zekrgoo and Barkeshli 2005, 96). To show appropriate cultural respect, manuscripts within this collection are not repaired with pig derived gelatine adhesive product commonly used in conservation. Culturally appropriate adhesives and consolidants have been used to repair tears and support fragile media. To date treatments undertaken at CCMC prior to digitisation or +exhibition display have followed a minimal intervention approach. The majority of manuscripts show evidence of use and historical information that is integral to the object and should therefore not be removed in treatment.
The study and attribution of watermarks is somewhat controversial. Papermaking moulds were used many times to create hundreds of sheets of paper and during a period of use the watermark wire can change shape. This is another reason why photographic imaging is more accurate than tracing. It is often difficult to know how long a certain mould with a particular watermark was in use. Buhler (1987, 30) warns against trying to predict the lifespan of paper moulds. One method introduced by Stevenson in his 1962 book Paper as Bibliographical Evidence suggests observing a particular watermark in many different papers of different dates to track the movement and deterioration of the mark. This is very wise advice however there are no such references at present for the cataloguing of watermarks within manuscripts manufactured in the Middle East or Islamic countries. It is problematic to refer to European watermark literature. How can we predict the time taken between the sheet manufacture in Europe, its travel into the Middle East and finally its use by a scribe or binder? Historians following this line of inquiry often comment that paper purchased for manuscripts can survive many years especially if it is a large sheet of high quality paper (Spector 1987, 19). The research into this collection is still in its infancy. Many watermarks identified by the collection survey are yet to be attributed. Trolling through watermark catalogues is time consuming and often unsuccessful especially when one considers the issues identified above.
None of the research done on the watermarks within this collection discredits the dates and information within the current catalogue records. This line of inquiry has instead increased the knowledge of the collection and the materials contained within. Through greater understanding of the materials of manufacture we have a greater knowledge of the communities in which the manuscripts were produced and an increased comprehension of the trade throughout Europe and into the Middle East. The manuscript MUL 33 is living evidence of historical trade routes. From the watermarks contained within, we know the papers were manufactured in Italy and travelled to the Middle East where they were cut, bound and inscribed with Islamic law doctrines.
Technology advancements in digital photography and digitisation allow for greater capturing of relevant information for this avenue of research. By documenting Middle Eastern and Islamic manuscripts vital resources to be created and thus provide the next generation of researchers with invaluable watermark catalogues similar to those created by Heawood and Churchill. Organisations such The Islamic Manuscript Association (http://www.islamicman uscript. org/) with varied professional membership such as conservators, cataloguers and historians are working together to develop and share collection information and current research. Watermark investigation and paper analysis will continue on this collection and be published alongside the appropriate manuscripts in due course. As identified in the discussion section, this type of information can inform library best practice in the areas of cataloguing, handling, display, storage and conservation. This author welcomes anyone uncovering similar watermarks within their collections to make contact.
Baker, Don. 1991. "Arab papermaking": The Journal of the Insitute of Paper Conservation, 15: 28-35.
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Blair, Sheila. 2008. Islamic Calligraphy, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Limited.
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Bower, Peter. 2001. "Beating the forger: Case Studies in Forensic Paper Investigation": Looking at Paper." Evidence & Interpretation, Symposium Proceedings, May 13-15, 1999. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute.
Briquet, Charles Mali'se. 1968. Les filigranes: dictionnaire historique des marques du papier des leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu'en 1600. Facsimile of the 1907. Ed. Allan Stevenson. 4 vols. Amsterdam: Paper Publications Society.
Buhler, Curt E 1987. "Was the Mainz Catholicon printed in 1460": Essays in paper analysis, ed. Stephen Spector, 29-33. London: Associated University Press.
Churchill, W.A. 2006. Watermarks in Paper in Holland, England, France etc. in the XVII and XVIII centuries. Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing
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Dutch University and the Institute for Art History. 2011. Watemark Database. Dutch University and the Institute for Art History: Florence. http://www.wm-portal.net/niki/index.php.
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Gacek, Adam. 2009. Arabic Manuscripts: A Vademecum for Reders. Leiden/Boston: Brill.
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Pryde, Pam. 2007. "John Bowman and the University of Melbourne's Middle Eastern Manuscript Collection.": Contributions to the Symposium on the Care and Conservation of Middle Eastern Manuscripts, November 26-28, 2007. Melbourne: University of Melbourne.
Shorter, Alfred H. 1957. Paper mills and paper makers in England 1495-1800. Hilversum: Paper Publication Society.
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Conservation of Middle Eastern Manuscripts, November 26-28, 2007. Melbourne: University of Melbourne.
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Taylor, Travis. 2007. Oriental Papermaking Fibres. Melbourne: University of Melbourne. http://cultural-conservation.unimelb.edu. au/Paperma kingFibres/.
Turner, Silvie. 1998. The Book of Eine Paper, London: Thames and Hudson.
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University of Michigan. date unknown http://www.cefas.com.ye/ IMG/pdf/Michigan_Yemeni_mss_images_noshadow_SG.pdf
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Sophie Lewincamp is a paper conservator and lecturer with the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne. She is also undertaking PhD research of the Middle Eastern Manuscript Collection at the Baillieu Library. Sophie has worked in many of Australia's leading cultural institutions including the National Library of Australia and the Australian War Memorial. In 2005/06, Sophie was awarded a Harper-Inglis paper conservation fellowship at the Library of Congress, Washington DC where she conducted analysis of the pigments on 8th-10th century Quranic parchment fragments. Sophie can be contacted on email@example.com.
Paper Examination Record
DATA REFERENCE No.
Client / Collection Reference:
Contact Address / Phone:
Hand / Mould / Machine:
Wove / Laid:
Single-Faced / Double-Faced:
Chain Line Frequency: in. cm apart
Laid Line Frequency: per in. per cm
Edges: Deckles Handmade: Cylinder Mould: Torn: Cut:
Table 1: Simple paper examination table MUL 33 MUL 34 Media Black and red ink Black and red ink Hand/ handmade Handmade Machine made Wove/laid Laid Laid Laid and Both Both chain lines Chain line 25 millimetres 30 frequency millimetres Laid line 2 millimetres 3 millimetres frequency Colour cream cream Finish Shiny/glossy Shiny/glossy Formation Even fibre Even fibre formation, no formation, areas of uneven no areas of pulp distribution uneven pulp distribution Fibres Small dark brown fibre specks throughout sheet Watermark Three crescent Elongated watermark and three LG crescents Table 2: Overall collection results Characteristic Percentage of the Collection Paper substrate 99% Parchment (animal skin) 1% substrate Handmade 92% Unknown--possibly 8% machine made Features Wove 46 Laid 28% Watermarks 30% Fibre flecks 7% Coloured 7% Burnished 68% Old repairs of different 47% papers…