Parchment is prepared from animal skins. Traditionally the skins are soaked in a lime
bath, hair and flesh removed. The skins are steretch on a frame, scraped thin with a knife
called a lunarium and dried.
Vellum refers to calf skin parchment, though today the term
is often used to infer parchment of finner quality.
Parchemnt has two distint side akin to suede and leather, referd to respectivly as the skin
side and the hair side. Both are suitable for used if properly prepared.
PARCHMENT VS. PAPER
Parchment is the support of choice for traditional illuminating techniques. Because
parchment is not absorbent, the paint layer sits up on the surface allowing the binder to have
an active visual effect in the image. The illumination will have a rich, saturated pigment surface.
Paper is absorbent, the binder sinks in giving the illumination a leaner more matt surface
reminiscent of a drawing rather than a painting. Both are stable, the choice should be one
Parchment preparation: Commercially available parchment and vellum are very good and do not
need much preparation for illuminating. It may be a good idea to very lightly sand the surface with
very fine sandpaper (#600 is good) or to scrape it carefully with the long flat edge of a razor blade
or knife (be careful or you will cut the surface); then burnish it smooth. Texts often recommend
pounce, cuttlebone or other treatments to remove oils but it is usually not needed.
A dusting with powered sandarac is sometimes recommended prior to writing.