Researchers at the University of Manchester, in conjunction with the University of York, have recently unveiled an innovative and collaborative new research project, which takes material bibliography in an exciting new and profound direction. Forming part of the ‘Books and Beasts’ project, ‘Venetian Vellum’ seeks to identify the wide variety of animal skins used in the production of medieval and renaissance books, not only in terms of their bindings, but also in their text blocks.
In the early days of printing and in contemporary (and earlier) manuscript production, vellum (calf skin) and paper were rival media, and vast numbers of editions were produced using both materials. However, over the centuries, the extensive work on the origins and watermarks of paper has far surpassed the scholarship surrounding parchment (animal skin).
The ‘Venetian Vellum’ project will focus primarily upon the Venetian Aldines, which exist in abundance in the John Rylands Library, and will tell the story of the journey and translation of these texts to Manchester through the various book collectors from whom they originate: Mrs Rylands, Richard Copley Christie, David Lloyd Roberts, Walter Bullock, and others. The project will culminate in an exhibition at the John Rylands Library in 2015, to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius, and to celebrate the rich holdings the Library is fortunate to possess.