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Re: [BKARTS] Printing on vellum



Books have been printed on vellum from the beginning of printing. Gutenburg printed a number of copies of the bible on vellum/parchment. This precedent of printing a small portion of an edition on vellum continues to this day for some letterpress editions. While Google will render a number of items and queries about printing on vellum, there really isn't a good set of instructions out there. I suspect people are afraid to ruin the vellum. I've printed a few 6"x9" - maybe 50 - on vellum from a mag die. The main thing, as has been mentioned is that the skin surface is extremely hard and slick. This is due to the mfg. of the substrate - it's a gelatin process. The skin is soaked and then stretched and dried. This makes the galatin and fiber bundles realign in a flat plane - that's why a skin can be so thin when made into vellum. But the surface becomes very hard and this rigidity and smoothness are detriments to making a good impression.

By humidifying the skin, its surface becomes less stiff, making it easier to make an impression. It may be necessary to degrease the surface as well and rubbing pumice on the surface will degrease as well as abrade the surface to aid in printing. There is a marked difference in sides - hair side/flesh side. If you get split sheepskin vellum, those differences may be less if you're printing on the inner split.

The biggest thing is to overcome one's fear of "ruining" the vellum - be willing to cut up a skin and print small pieces until you get a handle on it.

Reading about a craft technique involving vellum has always been frustrating to me because there is no language in our tongues to give a complete description of an ever-changing and unique experience. That is - each skin is somewhat different, and conditions such as relative humidity of your location, the moisture content of the skin, oil within the skin, and your preparation of the surface are such that you can't duplicate it with enough accuracy to describe it. But if you plunge in and make a start, you'll be able to get some good results after a few disasters.

Good luck on your project, and please write it up so we have a current description stripped of the "mystique" that surrounds most vellum literature.

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