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by Wayne Blank
Parchment was an ancient writing material made from the processed skins of animals, most often that of calves, sheep and goats. Much more durable than papyrus, parchment was widely used until the invention of paper.
The name is thought to be derived from Pergamum (see The Seven Churches), an ancient city of Asia Minor (today Turkey) where parchment is said to have been invented in the second century B.C. Although skins had been used much earlier, the new method of processing made possible the writing on both sides of a manuscript page, which resulted in the replacing of the rolled manuscript with the bound pages of the codex ("book").
The finest parchment, known as vellum, was made from the more delicate skin of a very young calf or lamb. The term was widened to include any very fine parchment. Vellum up to about the 6th century A.D. was of very high quality, but increased demand thereafter resulted in inferior material being used.
Vellum also included a very sumptuous version that was dyed purple (considered a "royal" color), and had silver or gold used in the inscribed writing. The purple dye fell out of favor, but the "illuminated" parchment in silver and gold continued.
In modern times, the terms vellum and parchment have been used for a type of high quality paper with a special finish.
This Week's Bible Quiz
1. Who was the mother of the Israelite patriarchs Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun?
2. Who was the mother of the Israelite patriarchs Joseph and Benjamin?
3. Who was the mother of the Israelite patriarchs Dan and Naphtali?
4. Who was the mother of the Israelite patriarchs Gad and Asher?
5. Who was the mother of Jacob's only recorded daughter, Dinah?
6. Who was the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh?
9. Who was the mother of the prophet Samuel?
10. Who was the mother of King Solomon?
For the answers to this September 5 2000 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page