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untanned skins of animals, especially of the sheep, calf, and goat, prepared for use as a writing material. The name is a corruption of Pergamum, the ancient city of Asia Minor where preparation of parchment suitable for use on both sides was achieved in the 2d cent. B.C. Parchment, which is more durable than papyrus and susceptible of being folded into book form, very gradually superseded papyrus. In Europe it gave way to paper for use in books only after the advent of printing. The skins were soaked in water, treated with lime to loosen the hair, scraped, washed, stretched, and dried, and then rubbed with chalk and pumice stone. A fine grade prepared from the skin of the calf or kid became known as vellum, a name applied during the Middle Ages to any parchment used in manuscripts. For important manuscripts vellum was often dyed purple. Parchment is still used for certain documents and diplomas, for bookbindings and lampshades, and for the heads of drums, tambourines, and banjos. Vegetable parchment is paper treated to make it tough, translucent, and impervious to water.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(derived from Pergamum, a city in Asia Minor where parchment was widely used in the second century B.C.), a writing surface that is made from untanned, clean, dry hide; it is sometimes treated with lime.

Parchment fibers are connected in an unstructured, cornified mass that is often transparent and has a relatively high tensile strength of 100–120 meganewtons per m2, or 10–12 kgf/mm2. The taut parchment gives a clear sound when struck with a wooden object. At one time, parchment was the most commonly used writing surface for letters and the best material for making quivers and shields. Before the invention of printing, most medieval Russian and European texts were written on parchment. Different grades of parchment have been used for making drumheads, seams for drive belts, and pickers and noiseless, spark-free pinions in looms. Parchment for pickers and pinions has been replaced by polymers.

In the production of parchment it is crucial to retain the natural hide proteins in as native a condition as possible. Therefore, the hair is removed from the hide either mechanically or by immersion in concentrated Na2S solution. Chemical depilation preserves the collagen structure and thus the strength of the parchment. Soaking and lime treatment are performed for short periods without raising the temperature. After drying, the parchment is moistened and the underside is further lubricated with glycerin and organic tanning agents.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The skin of a goat or sheep that has been treated so that it can be used to write upon.
A drawing or written text on this material.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in classic literature ?
In the first place I considered the manner in which the parchment had come into my possession.
"Sign there," he repeated, turning suddenly on Laura, and pointing once more to the place on the parchment.
"The closing paragraph be unfortunately worded," said Norman of Torn, "for because of it shall the King's messenger eat the King's message; and thus take back in his belly the answer of Norman of Torn." And crumpling the parchment in his hand, he advanced toward the royal emissary.
"And so you shall, Tabby!" her husband graciously replied, as he removed the blotting-paper, and showed the two parchments lying side by side.
you are procurator to the king in the Ecclesiastical Courts: this parchment is abominable."
Pickwick,' said Jackson, deliberately depositing his hat on the floor, and drawing from his pocket the strip of parchment. 'But personal service, by clerk or agent, in these cases, you know, Mr.
Tabitha took the parchment and held it close to her nose, which was saddled with a pair of iron-bound spectacles.
Is it my crime if you have sold your daughter for the mere hope of getting a sheet of yellow parchment into your clutch?
While this paper was remitted to the comte, another messenger brought to D'Artagnan a little bundle of parchments, adorned with all the seals employed in setting off property deeds in England.
There was some one by his side, reading a large parchment, sealed with a huge seal of red wax.
Honest John Hull's pine-tree shillings had long ago been worn out, or lost, or melted down again; and their place was supplied by bills of paper or parchment, which were nominally valued at threepence and upwards.
Then he unlocked one of the safes and drew out from an inner drawer a parchment book bound in brown vellum.