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

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Number of pages6
JournalHeritage Science
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021


  • parchment, DNA, ZooMS,
  • post-medieval

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