Meyer (2016 Congress)

Jesse Meyer
(Pergamena Parchment and Leathers, Montgomery, NY)

“Parchment: The Worst Writing Medium Except for All Others”

Abstract of Paper
Presented at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, 2016)

Session on
“Parchment or Paper? Choosing the Writing Medium in the Era Before the Printing Press”
Session 5 (2016) in the Research Group Series on “Medieval Writing Materials”
Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
Organized by Mildred Budny
2016 Congress Program and 2016 Congress Report

[Published on 2 April 2016 with updates]

Parchment has been used and discarded by scribes and scholars over the course of generations, especially leading up to the advent of modern paper, with the hope that paper would be a material easier to use. While paper has many advantages, parchment, for all its faults, is arguably a sturdier material. One big reason being, it is grown, as opposed to manufactured. If parchment is produced and stored properly, using time-tested methods, it can last indefinitely.

I will do my best to illustrate the various aspects of the production that are involved in producing a parchment suitable for written manuscripts, from raw animal skin, through to finished writing material. This list includes:

  • Choosing the right animal skin with the right traits and beneficial characteristics.
  • Production methods that might be used and what they might be best used for.
  • What not to do and things to avoid in order to produce the proper material.
  • How to produce the proper surface for writing on.
  • Chemicals and tools involved in manufacture.
  • Examples of materials at various states of finish.



One thought on “Meyer (2016 Congress)

  1. Mildred Budny says:

    See also the 2016 Congress Report.