Sorenson (2014 Congress)

David W. Sorenson
(David Berman, Numismatist)

“European Watermarked Paper in the Early Ottoman Empire:  Some Preliminary Observations”

Abstract of Response Presented at the 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, 2014)

Poster for "Medieval Writing Materials" Congress Session (7 May 2014)Session on “Medieval Writing Materials:  Surfaces, Fixtures, and Enclosures”
Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
Organized by Mildred Budny

2014 Congress Accomplished

[Published on our first website on 16 March 2014]

The study of early paper in the Mediterranean, whether involving merchant accounts, the use of watermarked paper in non-European settings, or the production of paper specifically for use in distant corners of the known world, is of use for a variety of disciplines.  In particular it can tell us about trade patterns and practices when accounts are lacking.

This Response, in the context of Ottoman–Venetian trade relations in the early Ottoman period (roughly fifteenth century to circa 1520), examines what we can tell from watermarks found on some sample Ottoman manuscripts, and what they indicate for document studies and trade patterns in the region.  In particular I will examine the problem of watermarks, what they do and do not tell us, and why we need to exercise caution in their use (for example, that paper may be twenty or thirty years old when it was used), as well as possible reasons for these problems.  As this period, especially its end, marks the transition from “traditional” Near Eastern paper production to the (nearly) exclusive use of imported European trade paper, it may be of use to consider factors which complicate the picture of a quick, clean transition.


This Response is the fourth of the presentations by Dr. Sorenson in our annual series of sessions on “Medieval Writing Materials” at the 2011 Congress Sessions, 2012 Congress Sessions, 2013 Congress Sessions, and 2014 Congress Sessions. The Abstracts for the other presentations appear here: Sorenson (2011 Congress), Sorenson (2012 Congress), and Sorenson (2012 Congress).

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