I must tell about the most beautiful watermark I’ve ever seen: by Dard Hunter, paper maker and paper making historian extraordinaire. Industrial world or not, living creatures are unique; but Dard Hunter is uniquely unique. When Gutenberg invented the printing press he had help. When Caxton published the first books ever printed in England he wasn’t alone. He selected what to publish, the Bible, a book on chess … But Dard Hunter wrote the book he published on the hisotry of printing in America, and he hand-made each sheet of the paper. Indeed, each sheet imitated, accurately, the paper made by the paper maker the history was about. Dard Hunter built the press, alone. Dard Hunter designed the type and carved each alphanumeric. He based the design on something from the Renaissance, stole the font from the print museum to do it, then returned the font after basing his own designs on it. Dard Hunter tanned the leather for the binding, etched and decorated it. What am I leaving out? He did everything! He wrote it, he printed it, and did every aspect of the printing singlehandedly …
And here, the one other thing I’m here to emphasize: the book had no author credited; instead, a fore-page, blank of print, a unique original of hand-made paper, bore a watermark: and that watermark was a self-portrait of Dard Hunter: looking like Percy Bysshe Shelley! illuminated! with a halo!
I heard about Hunter from Richard Harrier, my Renaissance professor at NYU. He had met Hunter at Harvard and had made his own miserable piece of paper, first effort, under his tutelage. Later, teaching at Colby, where Harrier had first taught, I learned that the library Special Collections had a copy of the Dard Hunter history: and I reverently held it in my lap and perused each page, reading some. That’s when I saw the watermark! Oh my.
Hunter worked more alone than is easy in the modern world. But then he had a rich wife. At least he was fed, and housed, and presumably loved.
Search for Dard Hunter to compare claims. There’s a domain in his name. Wikipedia has an entry … I wrote the above from memory, fast, not checking anything. I may later. Later I may also add more on watermarks … printing, paper, publishing: fields I have experience in.
Papermaking by Hand in America, Dard Hunter