Parchment About

Parchment is a thin material made from hide; often calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, and often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very reactive to changes in relative humidity and is not waterproof. Finer-quality parchment is called vellum. Parchment was developed in Pergamon, alternately Pergamo [1] from which name it is believed the word "parchment" evolved,[2] under the patronage of either Eumenes I, who ruled 263–241 BCE; or Eumenes II, who ruled 197–158), as a substitute for papyrus, which was temporarily not being exported from Alexandria, its only source. Herodotus mentions writing on skins as common in his time, the 5th century BCE; and in his Histories (v.58) he states that the Ionians of Asia Minor had been accustomed to give the name of skins (diphtherai) to books; this word was adapted by Hellenized Jews to describe scrolls.[3] Parchment, however, derives its name from Pergamon, the city where it was perfected (via the Latin pergamenum and the French parchemin). In the 2nd century BCE a great library was set up in Pergamon that rivaled the famous Library of Alexandria. As prices rose for papyrus and the reed used for making it was over-harvested towards local extinction in the two nomes of the Nile delta that produced it, Pergamon adapted by increasing use of parchment. Writing on prepared animal skins had a long history, however. David Diringer noted that "the first mention of Egyptian documents written on leather goes back to the Fourth Dynas y (c. 2550-2450 BCE), but the earliest of such documents extant are: a fragmentary roll of leather of the Sixth Dynasty (c. twenty-fourth century BCE), unrolled by Dr. H. Ibscher, and preserved in the Cairo Museum; a roll of the Twelfth Dynasty (c. 1990-1777 BCE) now in Berlin; the mathematical text now in the British Museum (MS. 10250); and a document of the reign of Ramses II (early thirtheenth century BCE).".[4] Though the Assyrians and the Babylonians impressed their cuneiform on clay tablets, they also wrote on parchment from the 6th century BCE onward. Rabbinic literature traditionally maintains that the institution of employing parchment made of animal hides for the writing of ritual objects such as the Torah, mezuzah, and tefillin is Sinaitic in origin, with special designations for different types of parchment such as gevil and klaf.[5] Early Islamic texts are also found on parchment. One sort of parchment is vellum, a word that is used loosely to mean parchment, and especially to mean fine parchment, but more strictly refers to parchment made from calfskin (although goatskin can be as fine in quality). The words vellum and veal come from Latin vitulus, meaning calf, or its diminutive vitellus. In the Middle Ages, calfskin and split sheepskin were the most common materials for making parchment in England and France, while goatskin was more common in Italy. Other skins such as those from large animals such as horse and smaller animals such as squirrel and rabbit were also used. Whether uterine vellum (vellum made from aborted calf fetuses) was ever really used during the medieval period is still a matter of great controversy.