Call it vellum, parchment, or (gulp) calfskin, the barn door is closing on the Parliamentary use of calfskin.

Call it vellum, parchment, or (gulp) calfskin, the barn door is closing on the Parliamentary use of calfskin.

You likely have not had your fill of vellum news stories this week. So here you go.

News from the U.K. tells us that Parliament—specifically the House of Lords—has voted to eliminate the use of vellum—calfskin—as the substance underlying its official Acts. Instead, they are shifting to archival-quality paper.

The New York Times story does an admirable job of describing the allocation of power between Lords and Commons—kind of like “I’m just a bill” for those of us wondering in the colonies.

And in this—the year of a major Magna Carta anniversary—it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for the arguments of those who stand on the side of parchment. If only for their colorful language:

“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.”

Nice point, that.

And then there’s the argument by the vellum-supplier:

“‘With vellum you can roll up a document and leave it on a shelf for 5,000 years. You can handle historic documents that were touched by great artists and kings,’ Paul Wright said. ‘Now they want to throw this tradition away. If early civilizations hadn’t used vellum, our understanding of history would be diddly-squat!’”

You may wonder how much money the move from parchment will save: $116,000 annually. Which tells us a few things: (1) That’s not much money, and (2) Those in Parliament are pikers when it comes to drafting legislation, for I’m pretty sure that the cost for calfskin for our own Congress’s productions would run into the many millions. That’s a lot of cattle.

Read the whole tale here.

Yes, that's Magna Carta, on vellum.

Yes, that’s Magna Carta, on vellum.