From The New York Times:
For centuries, acts of Parliament and other important documents have been inscribed on vellum, a parchment made from calfskin. Magna Carta, which King John signed 800 years ago last year, was written on vellum. So was the Domesday Book compiled in 1086, 20 years after William the Conqueror sailed across the English Channel.
This ancient tradition has survived wars, revolutions and the rise and fall of the British Empire. Now, the use of vellum, which has been a contentious issue for more than a decade, has fallen victim to austerity.
The House of Lords, Britain’s unelected upper chamber of Parliament, is finally moving to replace the calfskin with high-quality archival paper, calling the move which will come into force in April a necessary — and thrifty — adaptation to the digital age.
The House of Lords — with 819 members, the world’s largest legislative assembly outside China — said the move would save about 80,000 pounds, or nearly $116,000, annually. It said that using animal skin to painstakingly record and preserve laws was hardly efficient, given, among other things, that it is more unwieldy and difficult to store than paper. It can take the skins of as many as 130 calves to produce a 500-page book. Moreover, archival paper is surprisingly durable.
“Currently, the oldest paper records in the Lords date back to the early 16th century, and are only a few years younger than the oldest vellum record in the Archives, which is an Act of Parliament from 1497,” the House of Lords said in an email statement on Wednesday.
. . . .
James Gray, a Conservative member of the House of Commons, called the move a reckless breach of tradition and argued that inscribing laws on vellum conferred on them the dignity they deserved. “Vellum lasts 5,000 years, while there is no guarantee that electronic means of preserving documents will be there 1,000 years from now,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday, noting wryly that the once wildly popular floppy disk had long since been consigned to history’s dustbin.
Indeed, historians, archivists and librarians around the world have wrestled with the problem of digital decay: There is no guarantee that today’s electronic document-storage formats, like PDFs, will survive.
Link to the rest at The New York Times
PG is an unashamed Anglophile and loves stories like this.