The decline of parchment use

ESR3 & 4 Parchment and paper.

ESR 3 and 4 will examine the thesis that parchment production was impacted by a reduction in costs of paper by 40% in the 15th C coupled with a rise in the cost of parchment. Using state of the art proteomics methods the students will explore the transition between parchment and paper. A number of questions will be explored. (1), Does the demand for writing media result in changes in parchment quality? (2) What factors dictated the use of one medium over the other? What was the differentiation between legal documents, vernacular and religious texts? Can we differentiate uses between low cost (goat/sheep) parchment and high cost (calf) vellum. (3) How does parchment use compare with economic and archaeozoological evidence for use of animal resources.

ESR3: The decline of parchment use (@ DEVRO)

Objectives: To explore the ability of proteomics to assess changes in proteins caused by modern and ancient manufacturing processes

Expected Results: The project will explore the chemical changes that occur when skins are de-haired and processed. It will compare experimental data on the production of parchment using different recipes with data from modern production facilities which prepare commercial collagen. It will establish new rapid methods to determine damage caused by collagen processing. It will use these methods to analyse legal documents spanning the 15th-16th C, to test the hypothesis that the fall in the cost of the competitive medium (paper) resulted in a decline in quality of parchment.

We have developed new methods for detecting the quality of parchment, and will use these to explore the transition from parchment to paper. The methods use glutamine deamidation (ESR5) to assess processing history (specifically the use of lime. ESR3 will be based at DEVRO research laboratories and will examine the chemical markers resulting from skin processing. This will then be used to develop improved methods to detect parchment processing.

In order to address these questions, experimental skin will be tested to establish the extent to which it is possible to assess parchment production methods from proteomics analysis. DEVRO will work closely with the University of York ESR4 and Fera Science Ltd. (UK) , who are developing method to police commercial gelatin. Networking. Within TEMPERA, ESR 3 will interact more closely with:

  1. ESR 4: ESR3 and DEVRO will work closely with ESR4 at the University of York (co-supervision), with a 6-8 months secondment, and the
  2. ESR3: ESR4 He/she will also be supported by Helen Grundy FERA Science Ltd , who is developing, together with DEFRA a method to assess the quality of commercial skins for gelatin production and methods to assess skin processing prior to gelatin production.
  3. ESR3 will spend a secondment of 2 months at UCAS, who have been developing methods to detect collagen binders in paints (collaboration with ESR1)

Planned secondment(s): 6-8 months at UoY and 3 months with the gelatin authentication team at FERA Science Ltd (Helen Grundy), to compare collagen skin products (e.g. sausage skins, DEVRO) with more highly processed collagen (i.e. gelatin).