THIS VENERABLE DOCUMENT
by Linda A. Ries and Jane Smith Stewart  

   

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The king referred Penn's request to the Lords of Trade and Plantations, a committee of his Privy Council responsible for managing the Crown's colonial commerce. William Penn would be a relative latecomer on the eastern coast of the New World. He received the largest piece of remaining unsettled acreage (by European reckoning), the land west of the Delaware River, south of the colony of New York, and north of Maryland. For several months the Lords of Trade and Plantations worked out the details, consulting periodically with Penn and appropriate crown officials such as Lord Baltimore, the proprietor of Maryland, and James, Duke of York, who administered the peninsula between the Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake Bay, also newly won from the Dutch.   

A draft of Pennís Charter was presented to King Charles II on February 25, 1681. He approved it, insisting the new colony be named Pennsylvania to honor Penn's father. The younger Penn had wanted to call it "New Wales" or simply "Sylvania," a Latin word for forest, but the Crown prevailed. 

A final version was executed on parchment, as were most British charters, and the text written in engrossed, or oversized, calligraphy by royal clerks. Such important records were created on parchment, which is the hide of an animal--usually a goat, sheep, pig, or cow.

A hide would be scraped, treated with lime, stretched and dried, then cut to appropriate shapes, usually rectangular for writing purposes.  Inks were made of iron gall, a ground assortment of chemicals primarily consisting of iron filings and pulverized galls, a leaf tumor created by wasps when laying eggs. Pennsylvania's Charter is probably on sheepskin, and its text written with iron gall ink, factors which must be taken into account to understand the phases of its deterioration.

 

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