For centuries, premodern societies recorded and preserved much of their written cultures on parchment: the rendered skins of sheep, cows, goats, camels, deer, gazelles, and other creatures. These remains make up a significant portion of the era’s surviving historical record. In a study spanning three millennia and twenty languages, Bruce Holsinger explores this animal archive as it shaped the inheritance of the Euro-Mediterranean world, from the leather rolls of ancient Egypt to the Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom.
Holsinger discusses the making of parchment past and present, the nature of the medium as a biomolecular record of faunal life and environmental history, the knotty question of “uterine vellum,” and the imaginative role of parchment in the works of St. Augustine, William Shakespeare, and a range of Jewish rabbinic writers of the medieval era. Closely informed by the handicraft of contemporary makers, painters, and sculptors, the book draws on a vast array of sources—codices and scrolls, documents and ephemera, works of craft and art—that speak to the vitality of parchment across epochs and continents. At the center of On Parchment is the vexed relationship of human beings to the myriad slaughtered beasts whose remains make up this vast record: a relationship of dominion and compassion, of brutality and empathy.
Bruce Holsinger is Linden Kent Memorial Professor at the University of Virginia, editor of New Literary History, and an award-winning author. He lives in Charlottesville, VA.
Informations pratiques :
Bruce Holsinger, On Parchment. Animals, Archives, and the Making of Culture from Herodotus to the Digital Age, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2023 ; 1 vol., 448 p. ISBN : 978-0-30026-021-2. prix : € 40,00.
Source : Yale University Press
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