Van Gelder Zonen papermaker

In my collection is an etching which is today’s subject. The etching itself is a fine impression of a 19th century street scene. It is most likely a Dutch or Belgium city. Although the words on the shop front are definitely French – the picture has a Dutch feel to it. It is expertly etched with good tonal difference and architectural/perspective accuracy. Other than the image there is no clue as to whom the artist is. But that is not today’s consideration.

I wish to look at the watermark which lies in the bottom right corner. Like most watermarks, they are invisible until the paper is backlit. We also find the letters ‘olland in the top right corner. I take it that the ‘H’ has been cut off. So the paper is from a Dutch paper mill.

As you can see there are no lines on the paper so it is not ‘laid paper. It appears to be rag paper. Rag paper was hand-made in trays (up to 48″ x 60″) by workers in factories. When looked at closely, it is very fibrous. This would mean the paper is certainly 19th century or earlier. From the early 1880s, most paper being made came from wood pulp – except for specialty papers.

The watermark is for #VanGelderZonen – paper makers in Holland since 1685. The company closed in 1982 after going through several re-formations. The Van Gelder’s became the owners of the paper mills in 1783. They had four factories – Wormer, Velsen, Apeldoorn, and Renkum. Most often seen of their watermarks is their name ‘Van Gelder Zonen’ which first appeared in 1845.

This brings us a bit closer to identifying the artist. It gives us a bit more context and a narrowing of the timeline in which I need to look.

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