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Subject: Identifying parchment

Identifying parchment

From: Jack C. Thompson <tcl>
Date: Thursday, May 9, 2002
James Elwing <elgur [at] acay__com__au> writes

>I have a problem I have not experienced before, distinguishing
>animal from vegetable parchment. The document is an Italian
>university degree from 1933 which has slight mould. It has unrolled
>with humidification and difficulty It is mottled dark and hard. I
>have assumed it to be vegetable parchment, probably supported by its
>pH of  approximately 3.75, and the fact that I have never seen
>parchment or vellum go so dark or hard, but it cockles to some
>extent similar to true parchment.

A magnifying glass or jeweler's loupe could be used to see a follicle
pattern on genuine parchment, unless the grain had been removed
(common enough with sheepskins).

One test which does not require any chemicals is destructive, but
the sample can be very small. Cut a thin piece from one edge (one mm
or slightly less) and burn it.  If it smells like paper/wood, it is
vegetable parchment; if it stinks, curls and bubbles, it is animal

Thompson Conservation Lab.
7549 N. Fenwick
Portland, Oregon USA
503-735-3942  (phone/fax)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:76
                   Distributed: Friday, May 10, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-15-76-004
Received on Thursday, 9 May, 2002

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