Parchment - vellum

DEFINITION

Often mistaken for paper because of similarity of color and weight, Parchment is made from thinly stretched, cleaned and dried animal skin, usually goat or sheep or calf. Vellum is made from calfskin. Paper, however, is of vegetable origin---the pulp of plants. Parchment, unlike leather, is not tanned, and artwork on Parchment requires conservation that differs from 'works on paper' in that extreme temperature can cause irreparable buckling and cracking and flaking off of paint. Standard conservation-quality matting and framing is usually adequate for 'works on parchment'. The first record of Parchment dates to the second century BC in Rome. Because of its excellent surface and durability, Parchment became popular in that Classical period for writings and records intended to be kept for long periods of time. During the Medieval period in Europe, Parchment was used for religious and secular writings and was often decorated with gilded illuminations. Sources: Margaret Holben Ellis, 'Works of Art on Paper', "Caring for Your Collections", p. 50, Heritage Preservation, Arthur Schulz, Editor; Ralph Mayer, "A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques".

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