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Re: Old Vellum

On Tue, 29 Aug 2000, Bryan Draper wrote:

> In response to Paul Werner's posting about a cache of 18th & 19th C. vellum,
> I must vehemently disagree that historical documents are a good source of
> vellum for amateur binders & calligraphers.

Have you seen them? I have...

  This thinking totally negates
> the historical value of these documents.  Research collections around the
> world are built up of documents exactly like these and the idea that
> "there's not much you'd want to hold onto" is absurd.  Most writing from
> this era is beautiful and worthy of study by calligraphers.

And who am I? Chopped liver? I've been a professional calligrapher for
almost 30 years, a consultant to rare book collections, have written
extensively on manuscript production, holds a PhD in Art History, lecture
at a major museum, and I'm suggesting these skins are worthless from an
aesthetic point of view. Now, if you want to suggest they're worthwhile
from a documentary/historical point of view - please, prove your point.
And make my day.

  How could
> someone who wants to study & learn calligraphy & fine penmanship, take an
> example of it & obliterate it for practice?  Sorry, but this doesn't make
> any sense.
Funny...It makes all the sense in the world to me. But then, I'll always
invest in the future over the past.

> These documents are part of someone's cultural heritage should be in
> research collections and archives for study & for the historical information
> that they contain.  Deeds, contracts & indentures are valuable to historians
> and genealogists, at the very least.
> I would advise Mr. Jackson to have a manuscript appraiser assess the value
> of the collection.  There maybe manuscript dealers who would pay a whole lot
> more than $25 each for this collection.  One of the NY auction houses maybe
> another venue for a public auction of such a collection.  This would bring
> it at least to the attention of institution who may collection this type of
> material.

I would advise Mr. Bryan to get his own rusty-dusty online, then. Contact
Mr. Jackson. Go see the stuff. Evaluate it. Make an offer. Donate it to
your local Society. I will be the first to cheer. No, the second, after
Mr. Jackson. I believe we've both made the right call as to the value of
these works, but hey, nobody's perfect.

> Lastly, consider selling on eBay.
Uh? As opposed to mentioning it on a list whose members, obviously, are
so much better qualified to treat these skins as they deserve - whatever
our disagreement as to what that is?

> In a time when stories of the destruction of cultural artefacts in Bosnia &
> Central Europe make the news, I cannot understand why anyone would suggest
> that historical documents are a cheap source of art materials.

Bryan, that comparison is absurd. The junkyards of Europe and America are
full of "priceless" documents and marvelous works of art. In an ideal
world every one of them would be saved, and I myself have spent countless
fruitless hours trying to save those that I felt needed it most - museum
quality stuff that no museum would take because, for instance, it had no
certified provenance. In the real world at least some works can be put to an
use that does not demean them - like the making of art. "All things fall
and are built again/And those who build them again are gay."

As to your comparison with the deliberate and systematic destruction of
cultural property in Bosnia, commonly known as cultural genocide - that's
offensive, and I believe you owe me a retraction.

> Thank you.
No, really. Thank you.
Paul Werner, New York City
    DRAGONSBLOOD AND ASHES: a project to research and teach the
techniques of the Medieval scribe and artist.
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