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Processed skins of certain animals (chiefly sheep, goats, and calves) that have been prepared for the purpose of writing on them. Parchment was probably invented in Greece in the 2nd century BC. Skins had been used for writing material even earlier (c. 2400 BC), but the new, more thorough method of cleaning, stretching, and scraping made possible the use of both sides of a manuscript leaf, leading to the replacement of the rolled manuscript by the bound book (codex). Especially fine parchment is known as vellum. In modern usage, the terms parchment and vellum are sometimes used for a type of high-quality paper.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on parchment, visit Britannica.com.