Paper Identification Database

Since March 2009, The National Archives of Finland has provided on online access to A Database of Historic Paper Identification. The website has been developed by István Kecskeméti, head of the archival technical unit at the National Archives.

The database has been created for collecting data on historic and modern paper characterisation and identification. It began in 2006 as a project under the auspices of the EVTEK Institute of Art and Design and, in the early phases, the Finnish Cultural Foundation provided support for the documentation of the first paper mill in Finland, Tomasböle (1667–1713). The watermark from Tomasböle (see above) presents the coat of arms of the City of Turku, with the initials of Johan Winter, the Royal Book Printer of the Gezelius printing house. This watermark appears in 1680, after the nomination of Winter to the post of Royal Book Printer.

Since then over four hundred entries from various countries have been added to the database. However, Finnish, Swedish and Estonian handmade papers comprise the most prized items in the overall documentation. At the moment most of the new entries are taken from the collections of the National Archives of Finland and the collection of the Museum of Paper (run by the Finnish Pulp and Paper Research Institute).


The database includes information on types of the paper, watermarks and details of laid and chain lines that are characteristic of handmade rag paper. Size, colour and acidity measurements, fibre morphology and pulp type as well as paper sizing and other components in paper also have a place in the database. Images and further detailed images of the paper samples can also be added to the database. Naturally, searches can be carried out in several categories.

Using the Database

All users have free access to the database, with the opportunity for conducting multiple searches. For example, it is possible to search by paper owner, surveyor, type of paper, mould type, water mark classification, dating summary, manufactory, country and place of manufactory, as well as by pulp type. The National Archives would also be happy to receive any comments or suggestions about the content and appearance of the database. All comments are welcome, and should be sent to István Kecskeméti by e-mail at istvan.kecskemeti[at]narc.fi.

More detailed information on the database is available from the following sources:

Kecskeméti, Istvan. “Paper Identification Database” in IADA Papier Restaurierung, no 3/2006.
Kecskeméti, Istvan. “Paper Identification Database, a novel tool for paper characterization and documentation. A case study of early Finnish handmade paper documentation” in IPH 28th yearbook, Capellades/Barcelona, 2006.
Kecskeméti, Istvan. “Paper Identification Database” in Postprints of the 11th seminar on the care and conservation of manuscripts, Copenhagen, 2009.

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