Ancient manuscripts have survived thousands and thousands of years and to this day we are fortunate enough to marvel in their beautiful, luminous decorated pages. Any work on vellum can survive much longer than paper as it does not rot and can withstand a large amount of handling. The House of Common’s use front and back sheets for their important documentation on vellum ‘out of respect for tradition’.
Parchment, Pergamenum in Medieval Latin, originated from the city of Pergamum and the word vellum has the origin of Veau in French, Vitellus in Latin, and is made from the skin of young calves. In medieval times, most scribes did not care what type of animal skin it was as long as it had been good quality. Parchment is usually sheepskin or goats skin but can refer to any skin of an animal.
William Cowley is tasked with preserving a heritage craft which, unfortunately, has been classified as ‘critically endangered’. I can recall Paul Wright, the General Manager of William Cowley telling me that ‘There are more astronauts that have been to the moon than there are parchment makers in the world today’.
William Cowley is the last company in Britain and the only company in the world still making proper vellum in the proper way, as the ancient manuscripts would’ve been. William Cowley’s vellum offers a luminous quality and is also a perfect medium for preventing art fraud due to the skin containing the animals unique DNA.