Parchment

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Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, 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. The finer qualities of parchment are called vellum.

Contents

History

According to the Roman Varro, Pliny's Natural History records (xiii.21) that parchment was invented under the patronage of Eumenes of Pergamum,[1] 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 BC; and in his Histories (v.58) he states that the Ionians of Asia Minor had been accustomed to give the name of skinsdiphtherai — to books; this word was adapted by Hellenized Jews to describe scrolls [1]. Parchment (pergamenum in Latin), however, derives its name from Pergamon, the city where it was perfected (via the French "parchemin"). In the 2nd century B.C. a great library was set up in Pergamon that rivalled 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. Some Egyptian Fourth Dynasty texts were written on parchment. Though the Assyrians and the Babylonians impressed their cuneiform on clay tablets, they also wrote on parchment from the 6th century BC onward. Rabbinic culture equated a "book" with a parchment scroll. Early Islamic texts are also found on parchment.

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