Parchment is the rendering in the A.V. at 2Ti 4:13 of the Greek μεμβράνα, a skin, from which the English membrane is derived. The apostle Paul in this passage directs Timothy to bring with him to Rome, whither he charges him to repair speedily, certain things, "but especially the parchments;" what these parchments were to which so much importance seems to be attached can only at this time be matter of conjecture.
Parchment is prepared from the skins of animals, generally sheep, in an untanned state. It "is one of the oldest inventions of writing materials, and was known at least as early as 500 years B.C. Herodotus speaks of books written upon skins in his time. Pliny, without good grounds, places the invention as late as 196 B.C., stating that it was made at Pergamos (hence the name Pergamea, corrupted into English parchment) in the reign of Eumenius II, in consequence of Ptolemy of Egypt having prohibited the exportation of papyrus. Possibly the Pergamian invention was an improvement in the preparation of skins, which had certainly been used centuries before. The manufacture rose to great importance in Rome about a century B.C., and parchment soon became the chief material for writing on; and its use spread all over Europe, and retained its pre-eminence until the invention of paper from rags, which from its great durability proved a fortunate circumstance for literature" (Chambers). Parchment is now rarely used except for literary diplomas and such documents as are destined for special permanence. SEE WRITING.