Illuminations on papyrus scrolls exist, though rare and often found only at the introduction of a manuscript. Papyrus lacks the physical strength to support multiple coats of paint and cannot withstand humidity. As the plant only prospered in Egypt, a commercial monopoly applied.
The technical development of parchment [dressed hide] had a direct contribution to the evolution of books and thus illumination. As the source material yielding parchment, veal, sheep and goats hide, was found everywhere, there was no longer a monopoly applying though high production costs continued.
Parchment requires a lengthy preparation. The hide is tanned, washed, plunged into a lime bath to soften it and avoid decomposition, then rinsed, scraped, stretched out onto a frame, scraped again to remove all traces of fat and finally rubbed with a pumice stone rendering a thin surface apt for writing.
A fine parchment comes from young, smooth skinned animals where the grain is more even and a lean hide is assured. Any presence of fat will obstruct the adherence of ink and paint.
Vellum, the most prestigious parchment, comes from stillborn animals, veal or lambs and renders a very white and amazingly fine product.
Paper in existence in China since the 5th century AD is fabricated from plant fiber made into a pulp with water and dried. It found its way to the western world in the 11th century, though used only for more basic and common applications. As time went on, paper mills multiplied and techniques improved until paper rivaled parchment at the end 15th century.