Writing material made from the skin of sheep or calf, less frequently pig, goat, and other animals; it has also been used for painting, and occasionally for printing and bookbinding.
Pliny says that it was invented in the second century BC in Pergamum; hence the term `parchment' from the Latin pergamena, `of Pergamum'. Skin had been used as a writing material before this, but the refined methods of cleaning and stretching involved in making parchment enabled both sides of a leaf to be used, leading eventually to the supplanting of the manuscript roll by the bound book. Vellum is a fine kind of parchment made from the delicate skins of young (sometimes stillborn) animals.
Paper began to replace parchment from about the 14th century, but parchment is still used for certain kinds of documents, and the name is often applied to high-quality writing paper.
Thanks to the BMW Foundation, the WebMuseum mirrors, partners and contributors for their support.