Judith Wibberley
Author & Crafter
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Pergamano - History
History of Parchment Craft
The original surface for writing on prior to papermaking was papyrus, which was made from dried leaves of the Papyrus plant. The first Parchment was invented in the Turkish town of Begama, known as ‘Pergamum’ in Latin.  The people there discovered that antelope and pig skins could be specially treated for writing on.  This new medium was called ‘Particaminum’, after the city where it was discovered and consequently this is where the word Parchment was derived and eventually came into the English Language.

Real parchment was eventually replaced by parchment paper in the fifteenth century with the invention of the Printing Press as the demand for paper increased dramatically and it needed to be produced in greater quantities and by a faster process than the real parchment made from skins.  They also needed a product that was cheaper.  The original papers were opaque but this was soon followed by transparent parchment paper.

The craft of writing on parchment originated in Europe during the 14th Century when hand made devotional cards and communion cards were made for religious occasions.  The arrival of the printing press made it possible for the cards to be mass produced and their popularity soared.  During the 18th Century the cards became larger and hand decorated borders appeared on them.  The French 19th Century parchment cards were more romantic than religious with themes such as flowers and cherubs appearing popular. The appearance of embossing and relief patterns can be traced to this period also, whilst most of the borders and perforations appear to have been machine cut rather than hand crafted as we see in modern day Parchment Craft cards.

At the end of the last century Catholic Nuns took the art of Parchment Craft to South America and taught it in the Convents and Boarding Schools.  There it was welcomed as a means of capturing both the religious and handicraft interest of the South American culture.

The revival of Parchment Craft outside South America is largely attributed to Martha Ospina who learnt the craft as a 14 year old school girl in Columbia, South America and continued to develop her skills in parchment Craft.  Some years later she married Tiemen Venema, a Dutchman and moved to Holland.  The popularity of the craft grew and as the materials were not available in the Netherlands Martha and Tiemen decided to develop and produce the tools and products themselves.  They founded Marjo-Arte in 1988 and introduced the world famous Pergamano fan brand name.

In 1997 Peter Venema took over the company and expanded it to an international level. He also changed the company name into Pergamano International. From the year 2000 the company is situated in Uithoorn, a stone's throw from Amsterdam.
Since the successful launch of Pergamano Parchment Craft in the Netherlands the craft is taught by Registered Pergamano Tutors, who have studied to the highest levels in the craft and continue to do so.  These tutors are available in over 25 countries worldwide.

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