Pergamenum 21 is a transdisciplinary research project dedicated to parchment studies. The team gathers physicists, chemists, biologists, historians and conservators involved in cultural heritage science.
There is a growing interest in scientific methods able to identify accurately the animal species from which parchments of codices or charters were made of. Indeed, as revealed by species identification tests carried out in MaSUN mass spectrometry facility on historical parchments of presumably known species, visual inspection may fail in identifying correctly species more often than expected. Reliable and systematic identification of parchment animal species has therefore become a key information for medievalists. When the process of writing is put in relation with parchment trade and economy, important questions emerge: were parchments chosen deliberately according to species and quality, was there a preferred species, did the choice of parchment have an impact on the writing production process, how was it related to parchment trade and economy?
The goal of the Pergamenum21 project is to develop scientific methods which could help answering those questions.
Tiny amounts of collagen were collected using a non-invasive sampling method from more than a thousand of folios (a selection of 68 codices dating from 12th -13th c.) and analyzed by proteomic techniques in order to identify the animal species in each folio.
A selection of samples were taken from Codices kept at the National Library of Luxembourg.
This is the first time such a systematic study is undertaken at the scale of a Cistercian scriptorium. The goal of the project is to shed a new light on the work of a Cistercian scriptorium through possible correlations between animal species distribution among parchments and their presumed place of production.