The Oldest Siddur Facsimile

This tiny manuscript, roughly the size of a modern smart-phone is estimated to be over 1,300 years old and is only about 50 leaves/pages long, with Hebrew script covering each thick, rough-edged gorgeous page. It is one of the oldest Siddur manuscripts known to exist.

This unique Siddur facsimile was hand-crafted on genuine scribal sheepskin parchment using medieval methods and techniques -honoing the process, traditions and values of ancient manuscript making. All the edition process regards on the extraction and mounting an entire page. We make digital copies of a entire page to then be able to fold and bind all the pages together.

Before commencing the calligraphy our scribes ready the parchment by preparing the surface with a combination of powder sandarac and fine pumice. Afterwards he calligraphy work is done using only ancient inks – iron gall, walnut and lamp black mixed with Arabic gum. Other archival inks and treatments have been used to reserve the quality and durability of this facsimile.

Book of Chess, Dice and Board Games by Alphonse X of Castile

First edition of the “Book of Chess, Dice and Board Games” on natural parchment made of lamb skin. For centuries, parchment was used by illuminators, copyists and amanuensis as the best way of transmitting knowledge and beauty through manuscripts that were wonderfully and wisely illuminated.

The manuscript as a knowledge transmitter

For centuries books have been the living memory of mankind. Patiently written or wisely illuminated, books have gone through history, bearing witness to it and reflecting the men attitude about life and about themselves. The monastery walls were the deaf witnesses of the monks’ labour; time didn’t exist for them and they devoted many years to copying and illuminating rich miniatures in unique codex that were worked as jewels. Their lives were devoted to worship and work, to religion and knowledge, to faith and beauty.

Copies made from manuscripts, codex and historical documents spread the bibliographic art, transmitting the sensitive pleasure before these amazing treasures which can move us, and which are able to revive the meticulous work of monks in the scriptorium and the love of those hands sewing the parchment pages. But above all, these copies show us the art and knowledge, the creation and reflection of these documents . born to remain in time as singular beauty and luxury objects, made as delicate works that we now receive.

Over the past two decades we have been editing high-quality facsimiles using the best existing paper, even having produced special manufactures of a paper called “pergamenata”. After a special process of humidifying and creasing, we got a material that looks like the
natural parchment, the one that was used in ancient manuscripts manufacturing for centuries. It is understandable that, with the use of any material based on paper, the characteristics of natural parchment, such as durability, touch, texture, smell and consistency and natural
beauty, are impossible to imitate.

Through its ongoing quest to improve the results of editions using all types of conventional materials and through its will to spread culture, We manage, with natural parchment copies made of lamb skin, to take that knowledge out of palaces and abbeys, renewing the indescribable pleasure that only real bibliophiles have been able to benefit from.

Copies made from manuscripts, codex and historical documents spread the bibliographic art, transmitting the sensitive pleasure before these amazing treasures which can move us, and which are able to revive the meticulous work of monks in the scriptorium and the love of those

hands sewing the parchment pages. But above all, these copies show us the art and knowledge, the creation and reflection of these documents born to remain in time as singular beauty and luxury objects, made as delicate works that we now receive.

Parchment

Parchment is a writing material with a long and arduous manufacturing process, as the skin of the lamb from which it’s made – usually lamb, goat, sheep or ram -must be treated specifically to make of it a useful and lasting material. Its name comes from Pergamum, a city of Asia Minor, founded by Phileterus in 238 B.C.

According to the Latin writer Pliny, King Attalus I founded the library that reached its apogee with King Eumenes II (197 to 158 B.C.); it held 200.000 volumes in it. This library competed with Alexandria’s in such a way that, according to tradition, the Egyptian king Ptolemeus Philadelphus stopped supplying papyrus to the city of Pergamum. As a result of that the city of


Pergamum developed and improved the manufacturing of this writing material to replace the papyrus. Nevertheless, the first evidence of the parchment use is very old: it dates from 2700 – 2500 B. C., during the fourth Egyptian dynasty.

According to Herodotus and Ctesias, it was widely used among the Persians, though the oldest preserved scroll is from the second century B.C., it contains a Greek text and comes from Dura Europos. Among the Greeks it was known as dipthéra and among Latinos membrane, the name that was commonly used during the Middle Ages, as the one of charter membranacea.

The name of parchment comes from the expression membrane pergamenea, that was first used in the edict of Diocletian 301 B.C., known as the Edictum de pretiis rerum venalium; the term pergamenum was used by St. Jerome (330 – 420). The parchment was the favourite writing material in the third and fourth centuries, until the introduction of paper by the Arabs in Europe in the late eighth century. After its spreading, it remained as the preferred material for illuminated manuscripts for a long time.

The method that has been used to obtain the parchment for each one of the 390 copies of the Alphonsine manuscript is the same as the one used in the tanneries of the Middle Ages: starting with the selection of skins, one by one, when they still have wool and hair, thus we ensure the final result of the process. Once the skins have been selected, they will be soaked in a solution of water and quicklime for a long, stirring them periodically to
wet them all. After this stage, and with the skins still moist to facilitate the work, they arescrapped manually, using sickle blades or curved blade knife as tools, and removing all traces of flesh that might remain.

This is a job that requires much experience and skill to avoid damaging the skin while performing. After this operation, the skins are soaked again, without wool, hair or flesh, in clear water for several days to be thoroughly cleaned and free off lime. The drying process is done by tightening the skins one by one on a wooden frame, so that we can increase its size, control its thickness and maintain the parchment’s uniformity characteristics. During this drying period we polish both sides of the skins with a pumice stone to achieve a natural smoothing.

After the cleaning and the selection of thickness and colour have been made, a natural resin is applied over the skins to facilitate the fixing of golden and inks, rejecting those that do not look like the ones used in the original manuscript. After tens of centuries since its use as a way of writing and transmitting knowledge, Scriptorium, thanks to the completion of the 390 copies of the Alphonsine manuscript on this extraordinary and genuine natural parchment, allows us to feel through its beautiful miniatures drawn with fine paintbrushes, and through its natural touch and smell, the emotion of holding the testimony of an old and wise work that illuminators and amanuensis left us patiently in vellum and parchment.

Downhill Publishing

80 Eighth Ave., Suite 1M
New York, NY 10011

Tel: 1+(800)203 0612

Ramon Abajo, CEO
ramon@thevellumpage.com

Todd Blackmore, New Projects Director
todd@thevellumpage.com

Contact Us

10 + 6 =