Parchment is a writing material with a long and arduous manufacturing process,
as the skin of the lamb from which itís made - usually lamb, goat, sheep or ram -
must be treated specifically to make of it a useful and lasting material. Its name
comes from Pergamum, a city of Asia Minor, founded by Phileterus in 238 B.C.
According to the Latin writer Pliny, King Attalus I founded the library that
reached its apogee with King Eumenes II (197 to 158 B.C.); it held 200.000
volumes in it.
This library competed with Alexandriaís in such a way that, according to tradition, the Egyptian king Ptolemeus Philadelphus stopped
supplying papyrus to the city of Pergamum. As a result of that the city of
Pergamum developed and improved the manufacturing of this writing material to
replace the papyrus. Nevertheless, the first evidence of the parchment use is very
old: it dates from 2700 - 2500 B. C., during the fourth Egyptian dynasty.
According to Herodotus and Ctesias, it was widely used among the Persians,
though the oldest preserved scroll is from the second century B.C., it contains a
Greek text and comes from Dura Europos. Among the Greeks it was known as
dipthera and among Latinos membrane, the name that was commonly used during
the Middle Ages, as the one of charter membranacea. The name of parchment
comes from the expression membrane pergamenea, that was first used in the edict
of Diocletian 301 B.C., known as the Edictum de pretiis rerum venalium; the term
pergamenum was used by St. Jerome (330 - 420).
The parchment was the favourite
writing material in the third and fourth centuries, until the introduction of paper
by the Arabs in Europe in the late eighth century. After its spreading, it remained
as the preferred material for illuminated manuscripts for a long time.
The method that has been used to obtain
the parchment for each one of the Pages of Honor manuscript is
the same as the one used in the tanneries
of the Middle Ages: starting with the
selection of skins, one by one, when they
still have wool and hair, thus we ensure
the final result of the process. Once the
skins have been selected, they will be
soaked in a solution of water and quicklime
for a long, stirring them periodically to
wet them all.
After this stage, and with the skins still
moist to facilitate the work, they are
scrapped manually, using sickle blades or
curved blade knife as tools, and removing
all traces of flesh that might remain.
This is a job that requires much experience
and skill to avoid damaging the skin while
performing. After this operation, the skins
are soaked again, without wool, hair or
flesh, in clear water for several days to
be thoroughly cleaned and free off lime.
The drying process is done by tightening
the skins one by one on a wooden frame, so that we can increase its size, control
its thickness and maintain the parchmentís uniformity characteristics. During this
drying period we polish both sides of the skins with a pumice stone to achieve a
After the cleaning and the selection of thickness and colour have been made, a
natural resin is applied over the skins to facilitate the fixing of golden and inks,
rejecting those that do not look like the ones used in the original manuscript.
After centuries since its use as a way of writing and transmitting
knowledge, the Order of the Royal Honor, thanks on this extraordinary and genuine natural parchment,
allows us to feel through its beautiful miniatures drawn with fine paintbrushes,
and through its natural touch and smell, the emotion of holding the testimony of
an old and wise work that illuminators and amanuensis left us patiently in vellum and parchment.