A BYZANTINE SCHOLAR'S LETTER ON THE PREPARATION OF MANUSCRIPT VELLUM
Jeffrey Abt, & Margaret A. Fusco
2 PLANUDES TO MELCHISEDEK OF AKROPOLITA
“Since you completely agreed to work for us on the parchment leaves [membranas], then you absolutely ought to keep on so doing; especially so if we notify you in writing and if that which is written down is neither troublesome nor difficult for you.
“These [parchment leaves] must be fine,1 lest we might in some way assemble a pot-bellied codex2 from a few thick [parchment leaves], but so that from many finer [parchment leaves we might make] a better-polished [codex],3 as it were.
“Now you should never encrust these [parchment leaves] with egg [albumen], for this is the very thing from which they suffer, the letters from the egg, that is, and not [the parchment leaves] themselves.4 For if they should somehow see water, the writing on them erupts and quakes with the egg, and the work of the scribe turns out into thin air, clean gone.5 For the egg lies in the middle space between the writing and the parchment leaf, and when it is wet, it washes away the writing with it.6
“Furthermore, you were sent two [sample] measures7 of bifolium leaves [diphyllon]8 through the person [messenger] present to you,9 of which for the larger size [bifolium leaf (sample A)] you will buy small parchment leaves with half the money, and each [parchment leaf] will render one bifolium leaf according to the length and the width which you see [in the sample].10 But for the rest [of the bifolium leaves (sample B)] which are smaller, you will buy larger parchment leaves with the rest of the money, so that you can cut each parchment leaf into two bifolium leaves, again according to the length and the width in the measure [sample] you have.11
“Now, I do not want to tell you that these [parchment leaves] must be clean, for you already know this; and that they must be sent quickly, I say this firmly and moreover, I repeat it. For if they should not come quickly, you will dull my gratitude. But I wish you to fare well in everything and to furnish your friends with nothing worse than swift favors.”