Scratching the surface: the use of sheepskin parchment to deter textual erasure in early modern legal deeds

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Henderson, Stuart 
Fiddyment, Sarah 
Finch, Jonathan 
Collins, Matthew J. 

Abstract: Historic legal deeds are one of the most abundant resources in British archives, but also one of the most neglected. Despite the millions that survive, we know remarkably little about their manufacture, including the species of animal on which they were written. Here we present the species identification of 645 sixteenth–twentieth century skins via peptide mass fingerprinting (ZooMS), demonstrating the preferential use of sheepskin parchment. We argue that alongside their abundance and low cost, the use of sheepskins over those of other species was motivated by the increased visibility of fraudulent text erasure and modification afforded by the unique structure of their skin.

Research Article, Parchment, Manuscripts, Proteomics, Biocodicology, Sheepskin, Legal deeds
Journal Title
Heritage Science
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Springer International Publishing
Arts and Humanities Research Council (1489527)
European Research Council (295729-CodeX)