By Jordan Tabov, Svilena Hristova and Milena Dobreva
Paper given at QQML2009: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries, International Conference, Chania Crete Greece, 26-29 May 2009
Abstract: There is an ongoing scholarly debate on the exact time and speed of replacement of parchment with paper. There are three different hypotheses about the time of change: the first one based on Sobolevskij research suggests that paper completely replaced parchment as early as in 14th century; the second one put forward by Hunter is that parchment was still widely used during the 15th century; and the third ones dates the change as late as 16th century. Nowadays it is relatively easier to gather mass evidence on the writing materials using digital catalogues of European manuscripts; this allows to apply quantitative methods on a larger scale studying the process of replacement of parchment by paper on the wider European context. In this paper we present a statistical study based on the data within an electronic catalogue of manuscripts including 823 Bulgarian manuscripts currently stored in Bulgaria. We then extend our study with more than thousand parchment manuscripts from the Delorez’s Codicology, 45 volumes of documents in Dubrovnik archives and over 1000 parchment manuscripts from the Bodleian and British libraries. This study is based on the manuscript dating provided in the catalogues. Our basic conclusion is that while there is rare evidence of any Bulgarian parchment manuscripts dated after 1350, and this is in controversy with manuscript collections from libraries in Central and Western Europe.