German National Library


German National Library

German Museum of Books and Writing

The watermark collections of the German Museum of Books and Writing held by the German National Library (DNB) are considered the world’s largest compilation of modern watermarks and, regarding their scope and relevance, belong to the most important tools for documentation and research for German-speaking countries and partly also beyond these. They focus chronologically on the 17th to the 19th centuries. The collections amount to a total of approximately 400,000 watermark entries and are primarily composed of two large stocks: the collection of Karl Theodor Weiss, started in 1897, which together with the German Museum of Paper in Greiz was integrated in the German Museum of Books and Writing in 1964 and the Research Institute for the History of Paper (Mainz) transferred to Leipzig in 1992. The watermark collections basically contain two filing systems: according to motifs and to paper mills.

The watermark collections of the DNB are a rare and often unique source when evaluating the origin and use of paper as well as its regional distribution and authenticity. A modern digitized system of processing and exploitation has been a long-standing wish.

From the section "paper mills" the stock of "paper mills of Thuringia" has been chosen for its high standard of available cataloguing data and because the stock is of a particularly high cultural value. The paper mills present in Thuringia have contributed significantly to support main cultural centres in Germany. This region played an important role from the Reformation to the German classical period. Paper from Thuringia featured prominently with regard to important estate documents, manuscripts and music collections and found a wider regional distribution.

A part of this collection is characterized by a high percentage of original papers with numerous double folios. Both the original papers as well as the copies (blueprints, rubbings, tracings) show precise cataloguing data (place of use, date, paper mill, papermaker). Approximately 9,300 watermarks have been selected from these papers; about 2,500 will be analysed by our own specialists.

The DNB considers the proposed project here as a starting point for the continued study of further central parts of this extremely extensive watermark collection and in the medium-term intends to further research the collection with the support of the DFG making it available for users.


Dr. Stephanie Jacobs
Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum
Deutscher Platz 1
D-04103 Leipzig