Animal skin (usually calf, sheep or goat) was transformed into a suitable writing surface by the parchmenter. Parchment preparation was slow and arduous. Skins with the fewest flaws (due to ticks, injuries, etc.) were soaked in vats filled with a solution of lime and water from 3 to 10 days, and were stirred several times a day. The skins would then be removed and draped, hair side out, over a curved wooden board. The parchmenter would then scrape off the hair and outer film with a curved blade. It was then rinsed for two more days in fresh water to get rid of all the lime. The wet skin would then be stretched on a wooden frame and kept wet by ladling scoops of hot water over it. Then a lunellum, a crescent shaped knife, would be used to scrape the skin down. The skin was then allowed to dry on the frame, becoming shrunken and more taut. When dry it was scraped again until it became quite thin and the shiny surface was removed.

The full skin would then be cut into a Parchmentnumber of double leaves, or bifolia. The leaves were then gathered into a quire of anywhere from 4 to 24 leaves, depending upon the thickness of the parchment used, then ruled with drypoint (blind lines scored with a stylus or back of a knife) or ink to calibrate the writing surface.

The parchment would be been rubbed with pumice or chalk before the writing in order to decrease its oiliness and absorbency.




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