Saturday, February 13, 2016

The vellum market is narrowing

TIMES HAVE CHANGED: Vellum: UK's last producer of calf-skin parchment fights on after losing Parliament's business. As of next month, archive copies of Acts of Parliament will cease to be printed on vellum, saving £80,000 in costs (Adam Lusher, The Independent).
In the company’s original office, with its 1855 safe, overlooked by a photograph of the firm’s founding father, the general manager of parchment and vellum makers William Cowley receives a steady stream of phone calls from sympathisers and customers.

Paul Wright tells them how parchment and vellum are “the earliest writing materials, in use since man stepped out of a cave, wrapped some skins round a few sticks to make a tepee, and started scribbling on his tent walls”. He added: “All of humankind’s history is on parchment and vellum. Magna Carta was written on parchment. The Dead Sea Scrolls: parchment, in 435BC.”

Today, he says, William Cowley, based in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, may be the only company in the world making “proper” vellum in the proper way – “without any harsh chemicals, by hand and hard, pigging work”.

The dating of 435 BCE for the Dead Sea Scrolls is, of course, centuries too early, but the point does remain. I do not assume that Mr. Wright actually made the error. He may have been misquoted or misunderstood.

The company disputes that Parliament will actually save as much as £80,000 with this cost-cutting measure.