M.L. Ryder describes the use of skins for writing material from about 2000 B.C. in Egypt down to recent times.

HAMLET: Is not parchment made of sheepskins?

HORATIO: Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins, too.

Writings on parchment provide an important source of knowledge about antiquity; yet few historians are familiar with the method of its manufacture. Parchment is, of course, made from skin; but it is not generally known that, unlike leather, it is not tanned. In making parchment, the skin is merely stretched and dried. The stretching causes changes in the skin that make the parchment extremely durable, so that, provided it is dry, parchment will keep indefinitely.

From remote times skins were used as writing materials, but the first mention of documents written on skins occurs at the time of the Egyptian 4th Dynasty (about 2700 B.C.), and the oldest surviving skin document is a roll of the Egyptian 12th Dynasty (about 2000 B.C.) kept in Berlin. Another of the seventeenth century B.C., and a parchment of the fifth year of Rameses II (about 1292-1225 B.C.) are in the British Museum.

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