Saturday, 14 March 2009

Vellum: The Post

I figured it was about time I did a little post on my namesake: vellum.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that if you read this blog you know what vellum is, or at the very least, have enough internet savvy to use wikipedia, so we can skip that: it's not paper, it's stretched, dried, shaved, not-tanned leather. And you write on it.

So of course the first thing I did was to go find an in-depth how-to-make-vellum video, otherwise known as season five, episode eight of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Now, may try to tell you that, in fact, the job Vellum Maker is covered by season four, episode twenty-six. They are wrong. I know this, because The Pirate Bay knows this. Fingers crossed for those guys for April 17th, by the way.

In the episode, Mike heads over to the Meyer Tannery in Montgomery, New York, which is also the home of the vellum manufacturing facility known as Pergamena. The guy in charge, Jesse Meyer (that's no coincidence on the name, by the way), shows us how horribly time-consuming and labour-intensive it is to produce this stuff -- and that's already after you've killed the goat/cow/whatever and somehow removed its skin in more-or-less one piece. No, rabbits aren't big enough. Well, maybe for a moleskin. But then, so is a mole.

But I digress: once the skins are off, the steps to making your own illuminated manuscript are as follows:

1.Trim off the ears and tail so that you can lay it flat.

2. Soak the skins in a lime slurry for a week.

3. Remove the hair.

4. Remove any remaining flesh.

5. Stretch and dry the skin.

6. Using a Lunellum/Lunellarium/Moon Knife scrape the heck out of the dried skin.

7. Sand the crap out of it with a disk sander.

Note on Step 7 -- Not the Medieval Way.

8. Cut to size and proceed to bind as per these French instructions (with sound!).

9. Inscribe and illuminate to your heart's content.

Note on Step 9 -- May require years of indentured service as a monk to learn proper scribal and illumination techniques.

Now you know, the only thing keeping you from doing it yourself (aside from, you know, not having a heap of dead goats, a ready supply of lime slurry, a large room full of skin stretchers, and a Moon Knife) is technique.

Well, guess what? Mr. Meyer over at Pergamena now runs two-day workshops on how to do it yourself. So if you're in the neighbourhood and want to learn, go to the site and check it out. Click Here, then click News and check it out there. You'll need to contact Jesse to book it I think. Cost seems to be $250. I'd do it if I had the money.

And now, some parting words from Mr. Rowe:

"There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but a cow is a horse of a different colour."



1 comment:

Vaulting said...

Suppose this means I should do a post on vaulting...