Storing Old Vellum – Why?

Why do I still have a pile of vellum for music copying? I’ve got sheets with layouts for quintets, quartets, parts, chorus.

It’s such old technology. I never want to go back to copying music by hand with pens on transparent vellum, which are then copied using a diazo machine. For those of you who haven’t heard of these, it’s like a blueprint, but diazo copies had black lines. The resulting copies stank of ammonia. It was part of the process. Did blueprints use ammonia too?

At Eastman School of Music in the ‘70s, composers stayed up late using clogging technical pens to write on vellum. The music staves were on the back so when you had to erase, you wouldn’t erase the staff lines. Erasing was really hard to do neatly, far too easy to make a hole in the paper. When the score was finished, we went to a tiny room on the 9th or 11th floor of the Annex where composers could make copies of their carefully written scores. I don’t remember if the room itself smelled of ammonia, but the copies sure did. They kept a characteristic smell for years.

I’m glad that technology has dropped into the past. The magic of editing on the computer and reprinting corrections may waste paper, but it beats hunching over vellum trying to erase a blotch of ink.

So, now that I’m cleaning out my overcrowded little house, what should I do with my small stack of like-new vellum that I’ve saved for almost 30 years?

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