Like many conservators, I like history of art technique, art technology and history of materials. Perhaps it is because I learned more about conservation – how to use it, how to change it for the better, and how to understand it. Above all, the powerful and pleasurable pull of the past art technique awakened my passion for art conservation. I become fascinated with the old art technique, researching relation between present and past.
Looking at old parchment with an USB microscope is revealing and with some experience can lead to their identification.
Parchment making history is fascinating as well as a complex subject. I like to share in this post some basic hints.
What being thin and strong at the same time, calf parchment which is known as vellum from Latin “vitulus” calf is regarded as the finest kind of parchment. In the course of time velum began to define any kind of the quality parchment even that made from hide other than calf one. Parchment sheet may exhibit some differences which differ depending on the source of skin.
Parchment is a result of animals, its sex, age, the breeding condition, its health.
Through the history of mankind parchment was used primarily as writing materials, although it was also applied to production of drums and other instruments, or transparent window membranes.
It was used as a support by book illuminators, and paintings.
Mural drawings in cave of Spain (120000years ago) depict hunters with lether bound up legs for protection.
The methods of skin processing used in ancient times in Near East, are known today owing to descriptions supplies by Jewish rabbinical literature. Probably ancient parchment used to be slightly tanned with gallnuts or other plant materials rich in tanning agents. In ancient rabbinical literature three kind of parchment are mentioned: Parchment made using the whole non-splitted hide was called” gewil” if the unhaired skin was split into two layers and both were treated with salt, farinaceous solution and tannins, then the layer which was close to the hair yielded a kind of parchment known as “kelaf”, and other layer was used to make a kind of parchment referred to as “ duxustus”. The Jewish tradition required that “gewil” and “ kelaf” were used for Scroll of Moses Low, and the grain surface was to be written on. “ Duxustus was considered to be of interior quality in comparison with other kinds of parchment.
It was in the second century BC in Pergamon (now Bergama Turkey) that the methods of parchment manufacture were improved but………………… I knew that I would have a story to tell you in my next time- travel post.