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Title: A History of Inventions, Discoveries, and Origins, Volume 2 (of 2)

Author: Johann Beckmann

Editor: William Francis

J. W. Griffith

Translator: William Johnston

Release date: February 4, 2015 [eBook #48152]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Charlie Howard and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)


Transcriber's note: Cover created by Transcriber and placed into the Public Domain.

Sir W. Beechy.

I. J. Hinchliff.

James Watt.




Fourth Edition,





The Steam-Engine, and Discoveries of James Watt v
Lending and Pawnbroking 1
Chemical Names of Metals 23
Zinc 32
Carp 46
Camp-mills 55
Mirrors 56
Glass-cutting. Etching on Glass 84
Soap 92
Madder 108
Jugglers, Rope-dancers, Automata, etc. 115
Artificial Ice. Cooling Liquors 142
Hydrometer 161
Lighting of Streets 172
Night-watch 185
Plant-skeletons 195
Bills of Exchange 203
Tin. Tinning 206
Sowing-machines 230
Manganese 235
Prince Rupert’s Drops. Lacrymæ Vitreæ 241
Fire-engines 245
Indigo 258
Vanes. Weathercocks 281iv
Gilding 290
Fur Dresses 296
Steel 324
Stamping-works 333
Kitchen Vegetables 336
Knitting Nets and Stockings. Stocking-Loom 355
Hops 376
Black Lead 388
Sal-Ammoniac 396
Forks 407
Lottery. Tontine 414
Bologna Stone 429
Foundling Hospitals 434
Orphan Houses 449
Infirmaries. Hospitals for Invalids. Field Lazarettos 454
Cock-fighting 473
Saltpetre. Gunpowder. Aquafortis 482
Book-censors 512
Exclusive Privilege for Printing Books 518
Catalogues of Books 522
Ribbon-Loom 527
Guns. Gun-Locks 533



Although the plan of this new edition of Beckmann’s ‘History of Inventions and Discoveries’ was to confine it to the subjects treated of in the original work, yet we feel it imperative to make an exception in favour of the Steam-Engine, the most important of all modern inventions.

The power of steam was not entirely unknown to the ancients, but before the æra rendered memorable by the discoveries of James Watt, the steam-engine, which has since become the object of such universal interest, was a machine of extremely limited power, inferior in importance and usefulness to most other mechanical agents used as prime movers. Hero of Alexandria, who lived about 120 years before the birth of Christ, has left us the description of a machine, in which a continued rotatory motion was imparted to an axis by a blast of steam issuing from lateral orifices in arms placed at right angles to it. About the beginning of the seventeenth century, a French engineer, De Caus, invented a machine by which a column of water might be raised by the pressure of steam confined in the vessel, above the water to be elevated; and in 1629, Branca, an Italian philosopher, contrived a plan of working several mills by a blast of steam against the vanes; from the descriptions, however, which have been left us of these contrivances, it does not appear that their projectors were acquainted with those physical properties of elasticity and condensation on which the power of steam as a mechanical agent depends.

In 1663, the celebrated Marquis of Worcester described in his Century of Inventions, an apparatus for raising watervi by the expansive force of steam only. From this work we extract the following short account of the first steam-engine. “68. An admirable and most forcible way to drive up water by fire; not by drawing or sucking it upwards, for that must be as the philosopher calleth it, intra sphæram activitatis, which is but at such a distance. But this way hath no bounder, if the vessel be strong enough: for I have taken a piece of whole cannon, whereof the end was burst, and filled it three-quarters full of water, stopping and screwing up the broken end as also the touch-hole; and making a constant fire under it, within twenty-four hours it burst and made a great crack; so that having a way to make my vessels so that they are strengthened by the force within them, and the one to fill after the other, I have seen the water run like a constant stream, forty feet high: one vessel of water rarefied by fire, driveth up forty of cold water; and a man that tends the work is but to turn two cocks, that one vessel of water being consumed, another begins to force and refill with cold water, and so successively; the fire being tended and kept constant, which the self-same person may likewise abundantly perform in the interim, between the necessity of turning the said cocks.”

The next name to be mentioned in connection with the progressive history of the invention of the steam-engine, is that of Denis Papin, a native of France, who, being banished from his country, was established Professor of Mathematics at the University of Marburg, by the Landgrave of Hesse. He first conceived the important idea of obtaining a moving power by means of a piston working in a cylinder (1688), and subsequently (1690) that of producing a vacuum in the cylinder by the sudden condensation of steam by cold. In accordance with these ideas he constructed a model consisting of a small cylinder, in which was inserted a solid piston, and beneath this a small quantity of water; on applying heat to the bottom of the cylinder, steam was generated, the elastic force of which raised the piston; the cylinder was then cooled by removing the fire, when the steam condensed and became again converted into water, thus creating a vacuum in the cylinder, into which the piston was forced by the pressure of the atmosphere; there is, however, no evidence of his having carriedvii that or any other machine into practical use, before machines worked by steam had been constructed elsewhere.

The first actual working steam-engine of which there is any record, was invented by Captain Savery an Englishman, to whom a patent was granted in 1698 for a steam-engine to be applied to the raising of water, &c. This gentleman produced a working-model before the Royal Society, as appears from the following extract from their Transactions:—“June 14th, 1699. Mr. Savery entertained the Royal Society with showing a small model of his engine for raising water by help of fire, which he set to work before them: the experiment succeeded according to expectation, and to their satisfaction.” This engine, which was used for some time to a considerable extent for raising water from mines, consisted of a strong iron vessel shaped like an egg, with a tube or pipe at the bottom, which descended to the place from which the water was to be drawn, and another at the top, which ascended to the place to which it was to be elevated. This oval vessel was filled with steam supplied from a boiler, by which the atmospheric air was first blown out of it. When the air was thus expelled, and nothing but pure steam left in the vessel, the communication with the boiler was cut off, and cold water poured on the external surface. The steam within was thus condensed and a vacuum produced, and the water drawn up from below in the usual way by suction. The oval steam-vessel was thus filled with water; a cock placed at the bottom of the lower pipe was then closed, and steam was introduced from the boiler into the oval vessel above the surface of the water. This steam being of high pressure, forced the water up the ascending tube, from the top of which it was discharged; and the oval vessel being thus refilled with steam, the vacuum was again produced by condensation, and the same process was repeated by using two oval steam-vessels, which would act alternately; one drawing water from below, while the other was forcing it upwards, by which an uninterrupted discharge of water was produced. Owing to the danger of explosion, from the high pressure of the steam which was used, and from the enormous waste of heat by unnecessary condensation, these engines soon fell into disuse.

Several ingenious men now turned their attention to the improvement of the steam-engine, with a view to reduce theviii consumption of fuel, which was found to be so immense as to preclude its use except under very favourable circumstances; and in 1705, Thomas Newcomen, a blacksmith or ironmonger, and John Cawley, a plumber and glazier, patented their atmospheric engine, in which at first condensation was effected by the affusion of cold water upon the external surface of the cylinder, which was introduced into a hollow casing by which it was surrounded. Having accidentally observed that an engine worked several strokes with unusual rapidity without the supply of condensing water, Newcomen found, on examining the piston, a hole in it through which the water poured on to keep it air-tight issued in the form of a little jet, and instantly condensed the steam under it; this led him to abandon the casing and to introduce a pipe furnished with a cock, into the bottom of the cylinder, by which water was supplied from a reservoir. Newcomen’s engine required the constant attendance of some person to open and shut the regulating and condensing valves, a duty which was usually entrusted to boys, called cock-boys. It is said that one of these boys, named Humphrey Potter, wishing to join his comrades at play, without exposing himself to the consequences of suspending the performance of the engine, contrived by attaching strings of proper length to the levers which governed the two cocks, to connect them with the beam, so that it should open and close the cocks as it moved up and down, with the most perfect regularity. By this simple contrivance the steam-engine for the first time became an automaton.

It was in repairing a working model of a steam-engine on Newcomen’s principle for the lectures of the professor of natural philosophy at the University of Glasgow, that James Watt directed his mind to the prosecution of those inventions and beautiful contrivances, by which he gave to senseless matter an almost instinctive power of self-adjustment, with precision of action more than belongs to any animated being, and which have rendered his name celebrated over the world.

At the time of which we speak, Newcomen’s engine was of the last and most approved construction. The moving power was the weight of the air pressing on the upper surface of a piston working in a cylinder; steam being employed at the termination of each downward stroke to raise the piston withix its load of air up again, and then to form a vacuum by its condensation when cooled by a jet of cold water, which was thrown into the cylinder when the admission of steam was stopped. Upon repairing the model, Watt was struck by the incapability of the boiler to produce a sufficient supply of steam, though it was larger in proportion to the cylinder than was usual in working engines. This arose from the nature of the cylinder, which being made of brass, a better conductor of heat than cast-iron, and presenting, in consequence of its small size, a much larger surface in proportion to its solid content than the cylinders of working engines, necessarily cooled faster between the strokes, and therefore at every fresh admission consumed a greater proportionate quantity of steam. But being made aware of a much greater consumption of steam than he had imagined, he was not satisfied without a thorough inquiry into the cause. With this view he made experiments upon the merits of boilers of different constructions; on the effect of substituting a less perfect conductor, as wood, for the material of the cylinder; on the quantity of coal required to evaporate a given quantity of water; on the degree of expansion of water in the form of steam: and he constructed a boiler which showed the quantity of water evaporated in a given time, and thus enabled him to calculate the quantity of steam consumed at each stroke of the engine. This proved to be several times the content of the cylinder. He soon discovered that, whatever the size and construction of the cylinder, an admission of hot steam into it must necessarily be attended with very great waste, if in condensing the steam previously admitted, that vessel had been cooled down sufficiently to produce a vacuum at all approaching to a perfect one. If, on the other hand, to prevent this waste, he cooled it less thoroughly, a considerable quantity of steam remained uncondensed within, and by its resistance weakened the power of the descending stroke. These considerations pointed out a vital defect in Newcomen’s engine; involving either a loss of steam, and consequent waste of fuel; or a loss of power from the piston’s descending at every stroke through a very imperfect vacuum.

It soon occurred to Watt, that if the condensation were performed in a separate vessel, one great evil, the cooling of the cylinder, and the consequent waste of steam, would bex avoided. The idea once started, he soon verified it by experiment. By means of an arrangement of cocks, a communication was opened between the cylinder, and a distinct vessel exhausted of its air, at the moment when the former was filled with steam. The vapour of course rushed to fill up the vacuum, and was there condensed by the application of external cold, or by a jet of water; so that fresh steam being continually drawn off from the cylinder to supply the vacuum continually created, the density of that which remained might be reduced within any assignable limits. This was the great and fundamental improvement.

Still, however, there was a radical defect in the atmospheric engine, inasmuch as the air being admitted into the cylinder at every stroke, a great deal of heat was abstracted, and a proportionate quantity of steam wasted. To remedy this, Watt excluded the air from the cylinder altogether; and recurred to the original plan of making steam the moving power of the engine, not a mere agent to produce a vacuum. In removing the difficulties of construction which beset this new plan, he displayed great ingenuity and powers of resource. On the old plan, if the cylinder was not bored quite true, or the piston not accurately fitted, a little water poured upon the top rendered it perfectly air-tight, and the leakage into the cylinder was of little consequence, so long as the injection water was thrown into that vessel. But on the new plan, no water could possibly be admitted within the cylinder; and it was necessary, not merely that the piston should be air-tight, but that it should work through an air-tight collar, that no portion of the steam admitted above it might escape. This he accomplished by packing the piston and the stuffing-box, as it is called, through which the piston-rod works, with hemp. A further improvement consisted in equalising the motion of the engine by admitting the steam alternately above and below the piston, by which the power is doubled in the same space, and with the same strength of material. The vacuum of the condenser was perfected by adding a powerful pump, which at once drew off the condensed and injected water, and with it any portion of air which might find admission; as this would interfere with the action of the engine if allowed to accumulate. His last great change was to cut off the communication between the cylinder and the boiler, whenxi a portion only, as one-third or one-half, of the stroke was performed; leaving it to the expansive power of the steam to complete it. By this, œconomy of steam was obtained, together with the power of varying the effort of the engine according to the work which it has to do, by admitting the steam through a greater or smaller portion of the stroke.

These are the chief improvements which Watt effected at different periods of his life. He was born June 19, 1736, at Greenock, where he received the rudiments of his education. Having at an early age manifested a partiality for the practical part of mechanics, he went in his eighteenth year to London to obtain instruction in the profession of a mathematical instrument-maker, but remained there little more than a year, being compelled to return home on account of his health. In 1757, shortly after his return home, he was appointed instrument-maker to the University of Glasgow, and accommodated with premises within the precincts of that learned body. In 1763 he removed into the town of Glasgow, intending to practise as a civil engineer. His first patent is dated June 5, 1769, which parliament extended in 1775 for twenty-five years in consideration of the national importance of the inventions, and the difficulty and expense of introducing them to public notice. He died at his house at Heathfield in the county of Stafford, on the 25th of August, 1819, at the advanced age of eighty-four, after having realized an ample fortune, the well-earned reward of his industry and ability.

To enter into the history of the various applications of the steam-engine to the different branches of industry would carry us beyond the bounds of this work. “To enumerate its present effects,” says a well-known writer on the steam-engine1, “would be to count almost every comfort and every luxury of life. It has increased the sum of human happiness, not only by calling new pleasures into existence, but by so cheapening former enjoyments as to render them attainable by those who before could never have hoped to share them: the surface of the land, and the face of the waters are traversed with equal facility by its power; and by thus stimulating and facilitating the intercourse of nation with nation, and the commerce of people with people, it has knit togetherxii remote countries by bonds of amity not likely to be broken. Streams of knowledge and information are kept flowing between distant centres of population, those more advanced diffusing civilization and improvement among those that are more backward. The press itself, to which mankind owes in so large a degree the rapidity of their improvement in modern times, has had its power and influence increased in a manifold ratio by its union with the steam-engine. It is thus that literature is cheapened, and by being cheapened, diffused; it is thus that reason has taken the place of force, and the pen has superseded the sword; it is thus that war has almost ceased upon the earth, and that the differences which inevitably arise between people and people are for the most part adjusted by peaceful negotiation.”


1 Dr. Lardner.




It appears singular to us at present that it should have been once considered unlawful to receive interest for lent money; but this circumstance will excite no wonder when the reason of it is fully explained. The different occupations by which one can maintain a family without robbery and without war, were at early periods neither so numerous nor so productive as in modern times; those who borrowed money required it only for immediate use, to relieve their necessities or to procure the conveniences of life; and those who advanced it to such indigent persons did so either through benevolence or friendship. The case now is widely different. With the assistance of borrowed money people enter into business, and carry on trades, from which by their abilities, diligence, or good fortune, so much profit arises that they soon acquire more than is requisite for their daily support; and under these circumstances the lender may undoubtedly receive for the beneficial use of his money a certain remuneration, especially as he himself might have employed it to advantage; and as by lending it he runs the risk of losing either the whole or a part of his capital, or at least of not receiving it again so soon as he may have occasion for it.

Lending on interest, therefore, must have become more usual in proportion as trade, manufactures, and the arts were extended; or as the art of acquiring money by money became2 more common: but it long continued to be detested, because the ancient abhorrence against it was by an improper construction of the Mosaic law converted into a religious prejudice2, which, like many other prejudices more pernicious, was strengthened and confirmed by severe papal laws. The people, however, who often devise means to render the faults of their legislators less hurtful, concealed this practice by various inventions, so that neither the borrower nor lender could be punished, nor the giving and receiving of interest be prevented. As it was of more benefit than prejudice to trade, the impolicy of the prohibition became always more apparent; it was known that the new-invented usurious arts under which it was privately followed would occasion greater evils than those which had been apprehended from lending on interest publicly; it was perceived also that the Jews, who were not affected by papal maledictions, foreigners, and a few natives who had neither religion nor conscience, and whom the church wished least of all to favour, were those principally enriched by it.

In no place was this inconvenience more felt than at the Romish court, even at a time when it boasted of divine infallibility; and nowhere was more care employed to remove it. A plan, therefore, was at length devised, by which the evil, as was supposed, would be banished. A capital was collected from which money was to be lent to the poor for a certain period on pledges without interest. This idea was indeed not new; for such establishments had long before been formed and supported by humane princes. The emperor Augustus, we are told, converted into a fund the surplus of the money which arose to the State from the confiscated property of criminals, and lent sums from it, without interest, to those who could pledge effects equal to double the amount3. Tiberius also advanced a large capital, from which those were supplied with money for three years, who could give security on lands equivalent to twice the value4. Alexander Severus reduced the interest of money by lending it at a low rate, and advancing sums to the poor without interest to purchase lands, and agreeing to receive payment from the produce of them5.

3 These examples of the ancients were followed in modern Italy. In order to collect money, the popes conferred upon those who would contribute towards that object a great many fictitious advantages, which at any rate cost them nothing. By bulls and holy water they dispensed indulgences and eternal salvation; they permitted burthensome vows to be converted into donations to lending-houses; and authorised the rich who advanced them considerable sums to legitimate such of their children as were not born in wedlock. As an establishment of this kind required a great many servants, they endeavoured to procure these also on the same conditions; and they offered, besides the above-mentioned benefits, a great many others not worth notice, to those who would engage to discharge gratis the business of their new undertaking; but in cases of necessity they were to receive a moderate salary from the funds. This money was lent without interest for a certain time to the poor only, provided they could deposit proper pledges of sufficient value.

It was, however, soon observed that an establishment of this kind could neither be of extensive use nor of long duration. In order to prevent the secret lending of money, by the usurious arts which had begun to be practised, it was necessary that it should advance sums not only to those who were poor in the strictest sense of the word, but to those also who, to secure themselves from poverty, wished to undertake and carry on useful employments, and who for that purpose had need of capitals. However powerful the attractions might be, which, on account of the religious folly that then prevailed, induced people to make large contributions, they gradually lost their force, and the latter were lessened in proportion, especially as a spirit of reformation began soon after to break out in Germany, and to spread more and more into other countries. Even if a lending-house should not be exhausted by the maintenance of its servants, and various accidents that could not be guarded against, it was still necessary, at any rate, to borrow as much money at interest as might be sufficient to support the establishment. As it was impossible that it could relieve all the poor, the only method to be pursued was to prevent their increase, by encouraging trade, and by supplying those with money who wanted only a little to enable them to gain more, and who were in a condition and willing to pay a moderate4 interest. The pontiffs, therefore, at length resolved to allow the lending-houses to receive interest, not for the whole capitals which they lent, but only for a part, merely that they might raise as much money as might be sufficient to defray their expenses; and they now, for the first time, adopted the long-established maxim, that those who enjoy the benefits should assist to bear the burthen—a maxim which very clearly proves the legality of interest. When this opening was once made, one step more only was necessary to place the lending-houses on that judicious footing on which they would in all probability have been put by the inventor himself, had he not been under the influence of prejudice. In order that they might have sufficient stock in hand, it was thought proper to give to those who should advance them money a moderate interest, which they prudently concealed by blending it with the unavoidable expenses of the establishment, to which it indeed belonged, and which their debtors, by the practice a little before introduced, were obliged to make good. The lending-houses, therefore, gave and received interest. But that the odious name might be avoided, whatever interest was received, was said to be pro indemnitate; and this is the expression made use of in the papal bull.

All this, it must be confessed, was devised with much ingenuity: but persons of acuteness still discovered the concealed interest; and a violent contest soon arose respecting the legality of lending-houses, in which the greatest divines and jurists of the age took a part; and by which the old question, whether one might do anything wicked, or establish interest, in order to effect good, was again revived and examined. Fortunately for the pontifical court, the folly of mankind was still so great that a bull was sufficient to suppress, or at least to silence, the spirit of inquiry. The pope declared the holy mountains of piety, “sacri monti de pietà,” to be legal; and threatened those with his vengeance who dared to entertain any further doubts on the subject. All the cities now hastened to establish lending-houses; and their example was at length followed in other countries. Such, in a general view, is the history of these establishments: I shall now confirm it by the necessary proofs.

When under the appellation of lending-house we understand a public establishment where any person can borrow5 money upon pledges, either for or without interest, we must not compare it to the tabernæ argentariæ or mensæ nummulariæ of the Romans. These were banking-houses, at which the state and rich people caused their revenues to be paid, and on which they gave their creditors orders either to receive their debts in money, or to have the sums transferred in their own name, and to receive security for them. To assign over money and to pay money by a bill were called perscribere and rescribere; and an assignment or draft was called attributio. These argentarii, mensarii, nummularii, collybistæ and trapezitæ followed the same employment, therefore, as our cashiers or bankers. The former, like the latter, dealt in exchanges and discount; and in the same manner also they lent from their capital on interest, and gave interest themselves, in order that they might receive a greater. Those who among the ancients were enemies to the lending of money on interest brought these people into some disrepute; and the contempt entertained for them was probably increased by prejudice, though those nummarii who were established by government as public cashiers held so exalted a rank that some of them became consuls. Such banking-houses existed in the Italian States in the middle ages, about the year 1377. They were called apothecæ seu casanæ feneris6, and in Germany Wechselbanke, banks of exchange; but they were not lending-houses in the sense in which I here understand them.

Equally distinct also from lending-houses were those banks established in the fourteenth century, in many cities of Italy, such, for example, as Florence, in order to raise public loans. Those who advanced money on that account received an obligation and monthly interest, which on no pretext could be refused, even if the creditor had been guilty of any crime. These obligations were soon sold with advantage, but oftener with loss; and the price of them rose and fell like that of the English stocks, but not so rapidly; and theologists disputed whether one could with a safe conscience purchase an obligation at less than the stated value, from a proprietor who was obliged to dispose of it for ready specie. If the State6 was desirous or under the necessity of repaying the money, it availed itself of that regale called by Leyser regale falsæ monetæ, and returned the capital in money of an inferior value. This establishment was confirmed, at least at Florence, by the pontiff, who subjected those who should commit any fraud in it to ecclesiastical punishment and a fine, which was to be carried to the papal treasury: but long before that period the republic of Genoa had raised a loan by mortgaging the public revenues. I have been more particular on this subject, because Le Bret7 calls these banks, very improperly, lending-houses; and in order to show to what a degree of perfection the princely art of contracting and paying debts was brought so early as the fourteenth century.

Those who have as yet determined the origin of lending-houses with the greatest exactness, place it, as Dorotheus Ascanius, that is Matthias Zimmermann8, does, in the time of Pope Pius II. or Paul II., who filled the papal chair from 1464 to 1471; and the reason for supposing it to have been under the pontificate of the latter is, because Leo X. in his bull, which I shall quote hereafter, mentions that pope as the first who confirmed an establishment of this kind. As the above account did not appear to me satisfactory, and as I knew before that the oldest lending-houses in Italy were under the inspection of the Franciscans, I consulted the Annals of the Seraphic Order, with full expectation that this service would not be omitted in that work; and I indeed found in it more materials towards the history of lending-houses than has ever been collected, as far as I know, by any other person.

As complaints against usury, which was practised by many Christians, but particularly by the Jews, became louder and7 more public in Italy in the fifteenth century, Barnabas Interamnensis, probably of Terni, first conceived the idea of establishing a lending-house. This man was originally a physician; had been admitted to the degree of doctor; was held in great respect on account of his learning; became a Minorite, or Franciscan; acquired in that situation every rank of honour, and died, in the first monastery of this order at Assisi (in monte Subasio9), in the year 1474. While he was employed in preaching under Pope Pius II. at Perugia, in the territories of the Church, and observed how much the poor were oppressed by the usurious dealings of the Jews, he made a proposal for raising a capital by collections, in order to lend from it on pledges to the indigent, who should give monthly, for the use of the money borrowed, as much interest as might be necessary to pay the servants employed in this establishment, and to support it. Fortunatus de Copolis, an able jurist of Perugia, who after the death of his wife became also a Franciscan, approved of this plan, and offered to assist in putting it into execution. To be assured in regard to an undertaking which seemed to approach so near to the lending on interest, both these persons laid their plan before the university of that place, and requested to know whether such an establishment could be allowed; and an answer being given in the affirmative, a considerable sum was soon collected by preaching, so that there was a sufficiency to open a lending-house. Notwithstanding this sanction, many were displeased with the design, and considered the receiving of interest, however small it might be, as a species of usury. Those who exclaimed most against it were the Dominicans (ex ordine Prædicatorum): and they seem to have continued to preach in opposition to it, till they were compelled by Leo X. to be silent; while the Franciscans, on the other hand, defended it,8 and endeavoured to make it be generally adopted. The dispute became more violent when, at the end of a year, after all expenses were paid, a considerable surplus was found remaining; and as the managers did not know how to dispose of it, they at length thought proper to divide it amongst the servants, because no fixed salaries had been appointed for them. Such was the method first pursued at Perugia; but in other places the annual overplus was employed in a different manner. The particular year when this establishment began to be formed I have nowhere found marked; but as it was in the time of Pius II., it must have been in 1464, or before that period10. It is very remarkable that this pontiff confirmed the lending-house at Orvieto (Urbs Vetus) so early as the above year; whereas that at Perugia was sanctioned, for the first time, by Pope Paul II. in 1467. It is singular also that Leo X., in his confirmation of this establishment, mentions Paul II., Sixtus IV., Innocent VIII., Alexander VI. and Julius II.; but not Pius II. Pope Sixtus IV., as Wadding says, confirmed in 1472 the lending-house at Viterbo, which had, however, been begun so early as 1469, by Franciscus de Viterbo, a Minorite11.

In the year 1479 Sixtus IV. confirmed the lending-house which had been established at Savona, the place of his birth, upon the same plan as that at Perugia. The bull issued for this purpose is the first pontifical confirmation ever printed12; for that obtained for Perugia was not, as we are told by the editor, to be found in the archives there in 1618, the time when the other was printed. I have never found the confirmation9 of those at Orvieto and Viterbo. Ascianus sought for them, but without success, in Bullarium Magnum Cherubini, and they are not mentioned by Sixtus. This pontiff, in his bull, laments that the great expenses to which he was subjected did not permit him to relieve his countrymen with money, but that he would grant to the lending-house so many spiritual advantages, as should induce the faithful to contribute towards its support; and that it was his desire that money should be lent from it to those who would assist gratis during a year in the business which it required. If none could be found to serve on these conditions, a moderate salary was to be given. He added a clause also respecting pledges; but passed over in silence that the debtors were to contribute anything for the support of the institution by paying interest, which Barnabas, whose name does not occur in the bull, introduced however at Perugia, and which the pope tacitly approved.

The greater part of the lending-houses in Italy were established in the fifteenth and following centuries by the Minorites Marcus Bononiensis, Michael a Carcano13, Cherubinus Spoletanus, Jacobus de Marchia, Antonius Vercellensis, Angelus a Clavasio, and above all, Bernardinus Tomitano, named also Feltrensis and Parvulus. This man was born at Feltri, in the country of Treviso, in the year 1439. His father was called Donato Tomitano, and his mother Corona Rambaldoni; they were both of distinguished families, though some assert that he was of low extraction, and a native of Tomi, a small place near Feltri, on which account he got the name of Tomitano. The name of Parvulus arose from his diminutive stature, which he sometimes made a subject of pleasantry14. This much at any rate is certain, that he had received a good education. In 1456, when seventeen years of age, he suffered his instructors, contrary to the inclination of his father, to carry him to Padua, to be entered in the order of the Minorites; and on this occasion he changed his christian-name Martin into Bernardinus. As he was a good speaker, he was10 employed by his order in travelling through Italy and preaching. He was heard with applause, and in many parts the people almost paid him divine honours. The chief object of his sermons was to banish gaming, intemperance, and extravagance of dress; but he above all attacked the Jews, and excited such a hatred against them, that the governments in many places were obliged to entreat or to compel him either to quit their territories or not to preach in opposition to these unfortunate people, whom the crowds he collected threatened to massacre; and sometimes when he visited cities where there were rich Jews and persons who were connected with them in trade, he was in danger of losing even his own life. Taking advantage of this general antipathy to the Jews, he exerted himself, after the example of Barnabas, his brother Minorite, to get lending-houses established, and died at Pavia in the year 1494. The Minorites played a number of juggling tricks with his body, pretending that it performed miracles, by which means they procured him a place in the catalogue of the saints; and to render his name still more lasting, some of his sermons have been printed among the works of the writers of the Franciscan order15.

The lending-houses in Italy, with the origin of which I am acquainted, are as follows:—The lending-house at Perugia was inspected in 1485 by Bernardinus, who enlarged its capital.

The same year he established one at Assisi, which was confirmed by Pope Innocent, and which was visited and improved by its founder in 148716.

In the year 1486, after much opposition, he established a lending-house at Mantua, and procured for it also the pope’s sanction17. Four years after, however, it had declined so much, that he was obliged to preach in order to obtain new donations to support it.

At Florence he met with still more opposition; for the rich Jews bribed the members of the government, who wished in appearance to favour the establishment of the lending-house, to which they had consented eighteen years before,11 while they secretly thwarted it; and some boys having once proceeded, after hearing a sermon, to attack the houses of the Jews, the Minorites were ordered to abstain from preaching and to quit the city18. It was however completely established; but by the Dominican Hieronymus Savonarola19.

In the year 1488 Bernardinus established a lending-house at Parma, and procured for it the pope’s sanction, as well as for one at Cesena, where the interest was defined to be “pro salariis officialium et aliis montis oneribus perferendis.” About the conclusion of this year he was at the other end of Italy, where he re-established the lending-house at Aquila in the kingdom of Naples20.

In the year following he established one at Chieti (Theate) in the same kingdom, another at Rieti (Reate) in the territories of the Church, a third at Narni (Narnia)21; and a fourth at Lucca, which was confirmed by the bishop, notwithstanding the opposition of the Jews, who did every thing in their power to prevent it.

In the year 1490 a lending-house was established at Piacenza (Placentia) by Bernardinus, who at the same time found one at Genoa which had been established by the before-mentioned Angelus a Clavasio22. At this period also a lending-house was established at Verona23, and another at Milan by the Minorite Michael de Aquis.

In 1491 a lending-house was established at Padua, which was confirmed by Pope Alexander VI. in 149324; and another was established at Ravenna25.

In 1492 Bernardinus reformed the lending-house at Vicenza, where, in order to avoid the reproach of usury, the artifice was employed of not demanding any interest, but admonishing the borrowers that they should give a remuneration according to their piety and ability. As people were by these means induced to pay more interest than what was legally required at other lending-houses, Bernardinus caused this method to be abolished26. He established a lending-house also the same year in the small town of Campo S. Pietro,12 not far from Padua, and expelled the Jews who had lent upon pledges. At this period there were lending-houses at Bassano, a village in the county of Trevisi, and also at Feltri, which he inspected and improved27.

In the year 1493 Bernardinus caused a lending-house to be established at Crema, in the Venetian dominions; another at Pavia, where he requested the opinion of the jurists, whom he was happy to find favourable to his design; and likewise a third at Gubbio, in the territories of the Church. At the same time another Franciscan established at Cremona a mons frumenti pietatis, from which corn was lent out on interest to necessitous persons; and it appears that there had been an institution of the like kind before at Parma28.

In the year 1494, Bernardinus, a short time before his death, assisted to establish a lending-house at Montagnana, in the Venetian territories29, and to improve that at Brescia, which was likely to decay, because the servants had not fixed salaries30. The same year another Franciscan established the lending-house at Modena.

In the year 1506 Pope Julius II. confirmed the lending-house at Bologna. That of Trivigi was established in 1509; and in 1512, Elizabeth of the family of Gonzaga, as widow of duke Guido Ubaldus, established the first lending-house in the duchy of Urbino at Gubbio, and procured permission for it to coin money31.

The historical account I have here given, displays in the strongest light the great force of prejudice, and particularly of the prejudice of ecclesiastics. Notwithstanding the manifest advantages with which lending-houses were attended, and though a great part of them had been already sanctioned by the infallible court of Rome, many, but chiefly Dominicans, exclaimed against these institutions, which they did not call montes pietatis, but impietatis. No opposition gave the Minorites so much uneasiness as that of the Dominican Thomas de Vio, who afterwards became celebrated as a cardinal under the name of Cajetanus. This monk, while he taught at Pavia13 in 1498, wrote a treatise De Monte Pietatis32, in which he inveighed bitterly against taking pledges and interest, even though the latter was destined for the maintenance of the servants. The popes, he said, had confirmed lending-houses in general, but not every regulation that might be introduced into them, and had only given their express approbation of them so far as they were consistent with the laws of the church. These words, he added, had been wickedly left out in the bulls which had been printed; but he had heard them, and read them, in the confirmation of the lending-house at Mantua. I indeed find that these words are not in the copy of that bull given in Wadding, which is said to have been taken from the original; nor in the still older confirmation of the lending-house at Savona. But even were they to be found there, this would not justify Cajetan’s opposition, as the pope in both these bulls recommended the plan of the lending-house at Perugia to be adopted, of which receiving interest formed a part. Bernardinus de Bustis33, a Minorite, took up the cause in opposition to Cajetan, and, according to Wadding’s account, with rather too much vehemence. Among his antagonists were Barrianus and Franc. Papafava, a jurist of Padua34. As this dispute was revived with a great deal of warmth in the beginning of the sixteenth century, it was at length terminated by Pope Leo X., who in the tenth sitting of the council of the Lateran declared by a particular bull that lending-houses were legal and useful; that all doubts to the contrary were sinful, and that those who wrote against them should be placed in a state of excommunication35. The whole assembly, except one archbishop, voted in favour of14 this determination; and it appears from a decree of the council of Trent, that it also acknowledged their legality, and confirmed them36. Notwithstanding this decision, there were still writers who sometimes condemned them; and who did not consider all the decrees, at least the above one of the Lateran council, as agreeable to justice. Among these was Dominicus de Soto, a Dominican. All opposition, however, in the course of time subsided, and in the year 1565, Charles Borromeo, the pope’s legate at the council of Milan, ordered all governments and ecclesiastics to assist in establishing lending-houses37.

Of the lending-houses established after this period in Italy, I shall mention those only of Rome and Naples. It is very remarkable that the pope’s capital should have been without an institution of this kind till the year 1539, and that it should have been formed by the exertions of Giovanni Calvo, a Franciscan. Paul III., in his bull of confirmation, ordered that Calvo’s successors in rank and employment should always have the inspection of it, because the Franciscans had taken the greatest pains to endeavour to root out usury38.

The lending-house at Naples was first established in 1539 or 1540. Two rich citizens, Aurelio Paparo, and Leonardo or Nardo di Palma, redeemed all the pledges which were at that time in the hands of the Jews, and offered to deliver them to the owners without interest, provided they would return the money which had been advanced on them. More opulent persons soon followed their example; many bequeathed large sums for this benevolent purpose; and Toledo, the viceroy, who drove the Jews from the kingdom, supported it by every method possible. This lending-house, which has indeed undergone many variations, is the largest in Europe; and it contains such an immense number of different articles, many of them exceedingly valuable, that it may be considered as a repository of the most important part of the moveables of the whole nation. About the year 1563, another establishment of the like kind was formed under the title of banco de’ poveri.15 At first this bank advanced money without interest, only to relieve confined debtors; afterwards, as its capital increased, it lent upon pledges, but not above the sum of five ducats without interest. For larger sums the usual interest was demanded39.

At what time the first lending-house was established at Venice I have not been able to learn40. This State seems to have long tolerated the Jews; it endeavoured to moderate the hatred conceived against these people, and gave orders to Bernardinus to forbear preaching against them41. It appears to me in general, that the principal commercial cities of Italy were the latest to avail themselves of this invention; because they knew that to regulate interest by law, where trade was flourishing, would be ineffectual or useless; or because the rich Jew merchants found means to prevent it.

The name mons pietatis, of which no satisfactory explanation has been as yet given, came with the invention from Italy, and is equally old, if not older. Funds of money formed by the contributions of different persons, for some end specified, were long before called montes. In the first centuries of the Christian æra, free gifts were collected and preserved in churches by ecclesiastics, partly for the purpose of defraying the expense of divine service, and partly to relieve the poor. Such capitals, which were considered as ecclesiastical funds, were by Prudentius, in the beginning of the fifth century, called montes annonæ and arca numinis42. Tertullian calls them deposita pietatis43; and hence has been formed montes pietatis. At any rate I am of opinion that the inventor chose and adopted this name in order to give his institution a sacred or religious appearance, and to procure it more approbation and support.

I find however that those banks employed in Italy, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, to borrow money in16 the name of States, for which the public revenues were mortgaged and interest paid, were also called montes44. In this sense the word is used by Italian historians of much later times; and those are greatly mistaken, who, with Ascian and many others, consider all these montes as real lending-houses. These loan-banks or montes received various names, sometimes from the princes who established them, sometimes from the use to which the money borrowed was applied, and sometimes from the objects which were mortgaged. Of this kind were the mons fidei, or loan opened by Pope Clement VII. in the year 1526, for defending his capital45; the mons aluminarius, under Pope Pius IV., for which the pontifical alum-works were pledged; the mons religionis, under Pius V., for carrying on the war against the Turks; and the montes farinæ, carnium, vini, &c., when the duties upon these articles were pledged as a security. To facilitate these loans, every condition that could induce people to advance money was thought of. Sometimes high interest was given, if the subscribers agreed that it should cease, and the capital fall to the bank after their death; and sometimes low interest was given, but the security was heritable and could be transferred at pleasure. The former were called montes vacabiles, and the latter montes non vacabiles. Sometimes the State engaged to pay back the capital at the end of a certain period, such for example as nine years, as was the case in regard to the mons novennalis, under Paul IV.; or it reserved to itself the option of returning the money at such a period as it might think proper, and sometimes the capital was sunk and the interest made perpetual. The first kind were called montes redimibiles, and the second irredimibiles46. One can here clearly discover the origin of life-rents, annuities, tontines, and government securities; but the further illustration of this subject I shall leave to those who may wish to employ their talents on a history of national debts. I have introduced these remarks, merely to rectify a mistake which has become almost general, and which occasioned some difficulties to me in this research; and I shall only observe further, that the popes gave to their17 loans, in order to raise their sinking credit, many of those spiritual advantages which they conferred on the montes pietatis. This error therefore was more easily propagated, as both were called montes; and hence it has happened that Ascianus and others assert that many lending-houses were misapplied by the popes in order to raise public loans.

From the instances here adduced, one may see that the first lending-houses were sanctioned by the pontiffs, because they only could determine to the Catholics in what cases it was lawful for them to receive interest. This circumstance seems to have rendered the establishment of them out of Italy difficult. At any rate the Protestants were at first averse to imitate an institution which originated at the court of Rome, and which, according to the prevailing prejudice of the times, it alone could approve; and from the same consideration they would not adopt the reformation which had been made in the calendar.

The first mention of a lending-house in Germany, which I have as yet met with, is to be found in the permission granted by the emperor Maximilian I. to the citizens of Nuremberg, in the year 1498, to drive the Jews from the city, and to establish an exchange-bank. The permission further stated, “That they should provide for their bank proper managers, clerks, and other persons to conduct it according to their pleasure, or as necessity might require; that such of their fellow-citizens as were not able to carry on their trades, callings, and occupations without borrowing and without pledging their effects, should, on demand, according to their trade and circumstances, receive money, for which pledges, caution and security should be taken; that at the time of payment a certain sum should be exacted by way of interest; that the clerks and conductors of the bank should receive salaries for their service from the interest; and that if any surplus remained it should be employed for the common use of the city of Nuremberg, like any other public fund.”

It here appears that the lending-houses in Germany were first known under the name of exchange-banks, by which was before understood any bank where money was lent and exchanged; but it does not thence follow, as Professor Fischer thinks47, that they were an Italian invention. The citizens of18 Nuremberg had not then a lending-house, nor was one established there till the year 1618. At that period they procured from Italy copies of the regulations drawn up for various houses of this kind, in order to select the best. Those of the city of Augsburg however were the grounds on which they built, and they sent thither the persons chosen to manage their lending-house, that they might make themselves fully acquainted with the nature of the establishment at that place48. In the year 1591, the magistrates of Augsburg had prohibited the Jews to lend money, or to take pledges; at the same time they granted 30,000 florins as a fund to establish a lending-house, and the regulations of it were published in 160749.

In the Netherlands, France and England, lending-houses were first known under the name of Lombards, the origin of which is evident. It is well known that in the thirteenth and following centuries many opulent merchants of Italy, which at those periods was almost the only part of Europe that carried on an extensive trade, were invited to these countries, where there were few mercantile people able to engage deeply in commerce. For this reason they were favoured by governments in most of the large cities; but in the course of time they became objects of universal hatred, because they exercised the most oppressive usury, by lending at interest and on pledges. They were called Longobardi or Lombardi, as whole nations are often named after a part of their country, in the same manner as all the Helvetians are called Swiss, and the Russians sometimes Moscovites. They were, however, called frequently also Caorcini, Caturcini, Caursini, Cawarsini, Cawartini, Bardi, and Amanati; names, which in all probability arose from some of their greatest houses or banks. We know, at any rate, that about those periods the family of the Corsini were in great consideration at Florence. They had banks in the principal towns for lending money; they demanded exorbitant interest; and they received pledges at a low value, and retained them as their own property if not redeemed at the stated time. They eluded the prohibition19 of the church against interest when they found it necessary, by causing the interest to be previously paid as a present or a premium; and it appears that some sovereigns borrowed money from them on these conditions. In this manner did Edward III. king of England, when travelling through France in the year 1329, receive 5000 marks from the bank of the Bardi, and give then in return, by way of acknowledgement, a bond for 700050. When complaints against the usurious practices of these Christian Jews became too loud to be disregarded, they were threatened with expulsion from the country, and those who had rendered themselves most obnoxious on that account, were often banished, so that those who remained were obliged to conduct themselves in their business with more prudence and moderation. It is probable that the commerce of these countries was then in too infant a state to dispense altogether with the assistance of these foreigners. In this manner were they treated by Louis IX. in 1268, and likewise by Philip the Bold; and sometimes the popes, who would not authorise interest, lent their assistance by prohibitions, as was the case in regard to Henry III. of England in 1240.

In the fourteenth century, the Lombards in the Netherlands paid to government rent for the houses in which they carried on their money transactions, and something besides for a permission. Of this we have instances at Delft in 1313, and at Dordrecht in 134251. As in the course of time the original Lombards became extinct, these houses were let, with the same permission, for the like employment52; but governments at length fixed the rate of interest which they ought to receive, and established regulations for them, by which usurious practices were restrained. Of leases granted on such conditions, an instance occurs at Delft in the year 1655. In 1578, William prince of Orange recommended to the magistrates of Amsterdam Francis Masasia, one of the Lombards, as they were then called, in order that he might obtain for him permission to establish a lending-house53, as many obtained permission to keep billiard-tables, and Jews letters of protection. In the year 1611, the proprietor of20 such a house at Amsterdam, who during the latter part of his lease had gained by his capital at least thirty-three and a half per cent., offered a very large sum for a renewal of his permission; but in 1614, the city resolved to take the lombard or lending-house into their own hands, or to establish one of the same kind. However odious this plan might be, a dispute arose respecting the legality of it, which Marets54 and Claude Saumaise endeavoured to support. The public lending-house or lombard at Brussels was established in 1619; that at Antwerp in 1620, and that at Ghent in 1622. All these were established by the archduke Albert, when he entered on the governorship, with the advice of the archbishop of Mechlin; and on this occasion the architect Wenceslaus Coberger was employed, and appointed inspector-general of all the lending-houses in the Spanish Netherlands55. Some Italians assert that the Flemings were the first people who borrowed money on interest for their lending-houses; and they tell us that this practice began in the year 161956. We are assured also, that after a long deliberation at Brussels, it was at length resolved to receive money on interest at the lending-houses. It however appears certain that in Italy this was never done, or at least not till a late period, and that the capitals of the lending-houses there were amassed without giving interest.

This beneficial institution was always opposed in France; chiefly because the doctors of the Sorbonne could not divest themselves of the prejudice against interest; and some in modern times who undertook there to accommodate people with money on the like terms, were punished by government57. A lending-house however was established at Paris under Louis XIII., in 1626; but the managers next year were obliged to abandon it58. In 1695, some persons formed a capital at Marseilles for the purpose of establishing one there according to the plan of those in Italy59. The present mont de piété at Paris, which has sometimes in its possession forty casks filled with gold watches that have been pledged, was, by royal command, first established in 177760.

21 [The following is the rate of profit or interest which pawnbrokers in this country are entitled to charge per calendar month. For 2s. 6d. one halfpenny; 5s. one penny; 7s. 6d. three halfpence; 10s. twopence; 12s. 6d. twopence halfpenny; 15s. threepence; 17s. 6d. threepence halfpenny; £1 fourpence; and so on progressively and in proportion for any sum not exceeding 40s. For every sum exceeding 40s. and not exceeding 42s. eightpence; and for every sum exceeding 42s. and not exceeding £10, threepence to every pound, and so on in proportion for any fractional sum. Where any intermediate sum lent on a pledge exceeds 2s. 6d. and does not exceed 40s., a sum of fourpence may be charged in proportion to each £1. Goods pawned are forfeited on the expiration of a year, exclusive of the date of pawning. But it has been held that the property is not transferred, but that the pawnbroker merely has a right to sell the article; and consequently that, on a claim after this period, with tender of principal and interest, the property must be restored if unsold (Walker v. Smith, 5 Barn. and Ald. 439). Pledges must not be taken from persons intoxicated or under twelve years of age. In Great Britain pawnbrokers must take out a license, which costs £15 within the limits of the old twopenny-post, and £7 10s. in other parts. No license is required in Ireland. A second license, which costs £5 15s., is required to take in pledge articles of gold and silver.

From 1833 to 1838 the number of pawnbrokers in the metropolitan district increased from 368 to 386; in the rest of England and Wales, from 1083 to 1194; and in Scotland, from 52 to 88; making a total of 1668 establishments, paying £15,419 for their licenses, besides the licenses which many of them take out as dealers in gold and silver. The business of a pawnbroker was not known in Glasgow until August 1806, when an itinerant English pawnbroker commenced business in a single room, but decamped at the end of six months; and his place was not supplied until June 1813, when the first regular office was established in the west of Scotland for receiving goods in pawn. Other individuals soon entered the business, and the practice of pawning had become so common, that in 1820, in a season of distress, 2043 heads of families pawned 7380 articles, on which they raised £739 5s. 6d. Of these heads of families 1375 had never applied for or received22 charity of any description; 474 received occasional aid from the relief committee, and 194 were paupers. The capital invested in this business in 1840 was about £26,000. Nine-tenths of the articles pledged are redeemed within the legal period. There are no means of ascertaining the exact number of pawnbrokers’ establishments in the large towns of England. In 1831, the number of males above the age of twenty employed in those at Manchester was 107; at Liverpool, 91; Birmingham, 54; Bristol, 33; Sheffield, 31.

The following curious return was made by a large pawnbroking establishment at Glasgow to Dr. Cleland, who read it before the British Association in 1836. The list comprised the following articles:—539 men’s coats, 355 vests, 288 pairs of trowsers, 84 pairs of stockings, 1980 women’s gowns, 540 petticoats, 132 wrappers, 123 duffies, 90 pelisses, 240 silk handkerchiefs, 294 shirts and shifts, 60 hats, 84 bed-ticks, 108 pillows, 262 pairs of blankets, 300 pairs of sheets, 162 bed-covers, 36 tablecloths, 48 umbrellas, 102 bibles, 204 watches, 216 rings, and 48 Waterloo medals. There were about thirty pawnbrokers in Glasgow in 1840. In the manufacturing districts, during the prevalence of strikes, or in seasons of commercial embarrassment, many hundreds of families pawn the greater part of their wearing apparel and household furniture. The practice of having recourse to the pawnbrokers on such occasions is quite of a different character from the habits of dependence into which many of the working classes suffer themselves to fall, and who, “on being paid their wages on the Saturday, are in the habit of taking their holiday clothes out of the hands of the pawnbroker to enable them to appear respectably on the Sabbath, and on the Monday following they are again pawned and a fresh loan obtained to meet the exigencies of their families for the remainder of the week.” It is on these transactions and on such as arise out of the desire of obtaining some momentary gratification that the pawnbrokers make their large profits. It is stated in one of the reports on the poor laws that a loan of threepence, if redeemed the same day, pays annual interest at the rate of 5200 per cent.; weekly, 866 per cent.;

4d., annual interest 3900 per cent., or 650 p. c. weekly;
12d., annual interest 1300 per cent., or 216 p. c. weekly.

It is stated that on a capital of sixpence thus employed (in23 weekly loans), pawnbrokers make in twelve months 2s. 2d.; on five shillings they gain 10s. 4d.; on ten shillings, 22s.d.; and on twenty shillings lent in weekly loans of sixpence, they more than double their capital in twenty-seven weeks, and should the goods pawned remain in their hands for the term of twelve months (which seldom occurs), they then frequently derive 100 per cent.61]


2 J. D. Michaelis, in Syntagma Commentationum, ii. p. 9; and his Mosaisches Recht. iii. p. 86.

3 Sueton. Vita Augusti, cap. 41.

4 Taciti Annal. vi. 17.—Sueton. Vita Tiberii, cap. 48.—Dio Cassius, lviii. 21.

5 Ælius Lamprid. Vita Alex. Severi, cap. 21.

6 M. Manni circa i sigilli antichi dei secoli bassi, vol. xxvii. p. 86. The author here quotes from an ancient city-book the following passage:—“Franciscus fenerator pro se et apotheca seu casana fenoris, quam tenebat in via Quattro Pagoni,” &c.

7 Algemeine Welthistorie, xlv. p. 10.

8 This theologian, born at Eperies in Hungary in 1625, was driven from his native country on account of his religion, and died superintendant at Meisse in 1689. He wrote, besides other works, Dorothei Asciani Montes Pietatis Romanenses, historice, canonice, et theologice detecti. Lipsiæ, 1670, 4to. This book is at present very scarce. I shall take this opportunity of mentioning also the following, because many who have written on lending-houses have quoted it, though they never saw it:—Montes Pietatis Romanenses, das ist, die Berg der Fromheit oder Gottesforcht in der Stadt Rom. Durch Elychnium Gottlieb. Strasburg, 1608, 8vo. It contains nothing of importance that may not be found in Ascianus.

9 Of this Barnabas I know nothing more than what I have here extracted from Waddingii Annales Minorum, tom. xiv. p. 93. Wadding refers to Marian. lib. v. c. 40. § 17; and Marc. 3. p. lib. 5. cap. 58. The former is Marianus Florentinus, whose Fasciculus Chronicoram Ordinis Minorum, which consists of five books, was used in manuscript by Wadding, in composing his large work, and in my opinion has never been printed. Marc. is Marcus Ulyssoponensis, whose Chronica Ordinis Minorum I have not been able to procure, though it is translated into several languages. See Waddingii Scriptores Ordinis Minorum. Romæ 1650, fol. pp. 248, 249.

10 This is confirmed by M. B. Salon, in t. 2. Contr. de Justit. et Jure, in ii. 2 Thom. Aquin. qu. 88. art. 2. controv. 27: “Hujus modi mons non erat in usu apud antiquos. Cœpit fere a 150 annis, tempore Pii II.” In C. L. Richard’s Analysis Conciliorum Generalium et Particularium, Venetiis, 1776, 4 vol. fol. iv. p. 98, I find that the first lending-house at Perugia was established in the year 1450; but Pius II., under whose pontificate it appears by various testimonies to have been founded, was not chosen pope till the year 1458.

11 Bussi, Istoria della città di Viterbo. In Roma, 1742, fol. p. 271.

12 It may be found in Bolle et Privilegi del Sacro Monte della Pietà di Roma. In Roma, 1618: ristampati l’anno 1658. This collection is commonly bound up with the following work, which was printed in the same year and again reprinted: Statuti del Sacro Monte della Pietà di Roma. This bull is inserted entire by Ascianus, p. 719, but in the Collection of the pontifical bulls it is omitted.

13 This Michael travelled and preached much in company with Bernardinus, and died at Como in 1485.—Wadding, xiv. p. 396.

14 The Piccolimini, nephews of the pope, having once paid their respects to him at Siena, he told them he was their namesake.—Wadding, xiv. p. 447.

15 Waddingii Scriptores Ordinis Minorum, p. 58. Fabricii Biblioth. Mediæ et Infimæ Æt. i. p. 586.

16 Wadding, xiv. pp. 398, 433.

17 It may be found entire in Wadding, xiv. p. 411. It was ordered that the pledges should be worth double the sum lent, and that they should be sold if not redeemed within a year.

18 Wadding, xiv. p. 446.

19 D. Manni circa i Sigilli Antichi, tom. xxvii. p. 92, where much information respecting this subject may be found.

20 Wadding, xiv. p. 451.

21 Ibid. pp. 462, 465.

22 Ibid. xiv. pp. 480, 481.

23 Ibid. p. 517.

24 Ibid. xiv. pp. 93, 482.

25 Ibid. p. 514.

26 Ibid. xv. pp. 6, 65.

27 Wadding, xv. pp. 7, 9, 12.

28 Ibid. xv. pp. 37, 45, 46.

29 Ibid. xv. 67.

30 Ibid. xv. p. 68. Bernardinus considered the giving of wages as a necessary evil.

31 Della Zecca di Gubbio, e delle Geste de’ Conti e Duchi di Urbino; opera di Rinaldo Reposati. Bologna, 1772, 4to.

32 It is to be found in the well-known large collection of juridical writings quoted commonly under the title Tractatus Tractatuum. Venetiis, 1584, fol. p. 419, vol. vi. part 1. It has also been printed separately.

33 His works were printed together, in folio, at Brescia in 1588.

34 The work of the former appeared in 1496. The writings of both are printed in the work of Ascianus, or Zimmermann, which has been often quoted already.

35 This bull, which forms an epoch in the history of lending-houses, may be found in S. Lateranen. Concilium Novissimum. Romæ, 1521, fol. This scarce work, which I have now before me, is inserted entire in Harduini Acta Conciliorum, tom. ix. Parisiis, 1714, fol. The bull may be found p. 1773. It may be found also in Bullarium Magnum Cherubini, i. p. 560; Waddingii Annal. Minor. xv. p. 470; Ascianus, p. 738; and Beyerlinck’s Theatrum Vitæ Hum. v. p. 603.

36 This is the conclusion formed by Richard, in Analysis Conciliorum, because in sess. 22, cap. 8, lending-houses are reckoned among the pia loca, and the inspection of them assigned to the bishops.

37 Waddingii Annal. Minor. xv. p. 471.

38 Ibid. xvi. p. 444; Ascianus, p. 766.

39 (Summonte) Historia de Napoli, 1749, 4to, vol. iv. p. 179.—Giannone, vol. iv.—De’ Banchi di Napoli, da Michele Rocco. Neap. 1785, 3 vols. 8vo, i. p. 151.

40 Vettor Sandi, in Principi di Storia civile della Republica di Venezia. In Venezia 1771, 4to, vol. ii. p. 436. The author treats expressly of the institution of this bank, but the year when it commenced is not mentioned.

41 Waddingii Annal. Minor. xv. p. 67.

42 Hymnus ii. honorem Laurentii. The poet relates, that in the third century the pagan governor of the city demanded the church treasure from Laurentius the deacon.

43 This passage, with which Senkenberg was not acquainted, may be found in Tertullian’s Apolog. cap. 39, edition of De la Cerda, p. 187.

44 This word however is not to be found in the Glossarium Manuale.

45 See the bull in Bullarium Magnum, n. 17.

46 See Petr. Gregorius Tholosanus de Republica. Francof. 1609, 4to, lib. xiii. c. 16, p. 566; and Ascianus, p. 753.

47 Geschichte des Teutschen Handels, ii. p. 454.

48 Gokink’s Journal für Teutschland, 1784, i. p. 504, where may be found the first and the newest regulations respecting the lending-house at Nuremberg.

49 Stettens Geschichte der Stadt Augsburg. Frankf. 1742, 2 vols. 4to, i. p. 720, 789, 833.

50 Fœdera, vol. iv. p. 387.

51 Beschryving der Stadt Delft. 1729, fol. p. 553.

52 Salmasius de Fœnore trapezitico. Lugd. 1640, 8vo, p. 744.

53 De Koophandel van Amsterdam. Rott. 1780, 8vo, i. p. 221.

54 S. de Marets Diss. de trapezitis.

55 Beyerlinck, Magnum Theatrum Vitæ, tom. v. p. 602.

56 Richard, Analysis Concilior. iv. p. 98.

57 Turgot, Mem. sur le prêt à intérest, &c. Par. 1789, 8vo.

58 Sauval, Hist. de la Ville de Paris.

59 Rufel, Hist. de la Ville de Marseille; 1696. fol. ii. p. 99.

60 Tableau de Paris. Hamb. 1781. 8vo, i. p. 78.

61 Waterston’s Cyclopædia of Commerce.


As those metals earliest known, viz. copper, iron, gold, silver, lead, quicksilver and tin, received the same names as the nearest heavenly bodies, which appear to us largest, and have been distinguished by the like characters, two questions arise: Whether these names and characters were given first to the planets or to the metals? When, where, and on what account were they made choice of; and why were the metals named after the planets, or the planets after the metals? The latter of these questions, in my opinion, cannot be answered with any degree of certainty; but something may be said on the subject, which will not, perhaps, be disagreeable to those fond of such researches, and who have not had an opportunity of examining it.

That the present usual names were first given to the heavenly bodies, and at a later period to the metals, is beyond all doubt; and it is equally certain that they came from the Greeks to the Romans, and from the Romans to us. It can be proved also that older nations gave other names to these heavenly bodies at much earlier periods. The oldest appellations, if we may judge from some examples still preserved, seem to have originated from certain emotions which these bodies excited in the minds of men; and it is not improbable that the planets were by the ancient Egyptians and Persians named after their gods, and that the Greeks only adopted or translated into their own language the names which those nations had given them62. The idea that each planet was the24 residence of a god, or that they were gods themselves, has arisen, according to the most probable conjecture, from rude nations worshiping the sun, which, on account of his beneficent and necessary influence over all terrestrial bodies, they considered either as the deity himself, or his abode, or, at any rate, as a symbol of him. In the course of time, when heroes and persons who by extraordinary services had rendered their names respected and immortal, received divine honours, particular heavenly bodies, of which the sun, moon and planets seemed the fittest, were also assigned to these divinities63. By what laws this distribution was made, and why one planet was dedicated to Saturn and not to another, Pluche did not venture to determine: and on this point the ancients themselves are not all agreed64. When the planets were once dedicated to the gods, folly, which never stops where it begins, proceeded still further, and ascribed to them the attributes and powers for which the deities, after whom they were named, had been celebrated in the fictions of their mythologists. This in time laid the foundation of astrology; and hence the planet Mars, like the deity of that name, was said to cause and to be fond of war; and Venus to preside over love and its pleasures.

The next question is, Why were the metals divided in the like manner among the gods, and named after them? Of all the conjectures that can be formed in answer to this question, the following appears to me the most probable. The number of the deified planets made the number seven so sacred to the Egyptians, Persians and other nations, that all those things which amounted to the same number, or which could be divided by it without a remainder, were supposed to have an affinity or a likeness to and connexion with each other65. The seven metals, therefore, were considered as having some relationship to the planets, and with them to the gods, and were accordingly named after them. To each god was assigned a metal, the origin and use of which was under his particular providence and government; and to each25 metal were ascribed the powers and properties of the planet and divinity of the like name; from which arose, in the course of time, many of the ridiculous conceits of the alchemists.

The oldest trace of the division of the metals among the gods is to be found, as far as I know, in the religious worship of the Persians. Origen, in his Refutation of Celsus, who asserted that the seven heavens of the Christians, as well as the ladder which Jacob saw in his dream, had been borrowed from the mysteries of Mithras, says, “Among the Persians the revolutions of the heavenly bodies were represented by seven stairs, which conducted to the same number of gates. The first gate was of lead; the second of tin; the third of copper; the fourth of iron; the fifth of a mixed metal; the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold. The leaden gate had the slow tedious motion of Saturn; the tin gate the lustre and gentleness of Venus; the third was dedicated to Jupiter; the fourth to Mercury, on account of his strength and fitness for trade; the fifth to Mars; the sixth to the Moon, and the last to the Sun66.” Here then is an evident trace of metallurgic astronomy, as Borrichius calls it, or of the astronomical or mythological nomination of metals, though it differs from that used at present. According to this arrangement, tin belonged to Jupiter, copper to Venus, iron to Mars, and the mixed metal to Mercury. The conjecture of Borrichius, that the transcribers of Origen have, either through ignorance or design, transposed the names of the gods, is highly probable: for if we reflect that in this nomination men at first differed as much as in the nomination of the planets, and that the names given them were only confirmed in the course of time, of which I shall soon produce proofs, it must be allowed that the causes assigned by Origen for his nomination do not well agree with the present reading, and that they appear much juster when the names are disposed in the same manner as that in which we now use them67.

26 This astrological nomination of metals appears to have been conveyed to the Brahmans in India; for we are informed that a Brahman sent to Apollonius seven rings, distinguished by the names of the seven stars or planets, one of which he was to wear daily on his finger, according to the day of the week68. This can be no otherwise explained than by supposing that he was to wear the gold ring on Sunday; the silver one on Monday; the iron one on Tuesday, and so of the rest. Allusion to this nomination of the metals after the gods occurs here and there in the ancients. Didymus, in his Explanation of the Iliad, calls the planet Mars the iron star. Those who dream of having had anything to do with Mars are by Artemidorus threatened with a chirurgical operation, for this reason, he adds, because Mars signifies iron69. Heraclides says also in his allegories, that Mars was very properly considered as iron; and we are told by Pindar that gold is dedicated to the sun70.

Plato likewise, who studied in Egypt, seems to have admitted27 this nomination and meaning of the metals. We are at least assured so by Marsilius Ficinus71; but I have been able to find no proof of it, except where he says of the island Atlantis, that the exterior walls were covered with copper and the interior with tin, and that the walls of the citadel were of gold. It is not improbable that Plato adopted this Persian or Egyptian representation, as he assigned the planets to the demons; but perhaps it was first introduced into his system only by his disciples72. They seem, however, to have varied from the nomination used at present; as they dedicated to Venus copper, or brass, the principal component part of which is indeed copper; to Mercury tin; and to Jupiter electrum. The last-mentioned metal was a mixture of gold and silver; and on this account was probably considered to be a distinct metal, because in early periods mankind were unacquainted with the art of separating these noble metals73.

The characters by which the planets and metals are generally expressed when one does not choose to write their names, afford a striking example how readily the mind may be induced to suppose a connexion between things which in reality have no affinity or relation to each other. Antiquaries and astrologers, according to whose opinion the planets were first distinguished by these characters, consider them as the attributes of the deities of the same name. The circle in the earliest periods among the Egyptians was the symbol of divinity and perfection; and seems with great propriety to have been chosen by them as the character of the sun, especially as, when surrounded by small strokes projecting from its circumference, it may form some representation of the emission of rays. The semicircle is in like manner the image of the moon, the only one of the heavenly bodies that appears under that form to the naked eye. The character ♄ is supposed to represent the sythe of Saturn; ♃ the thunderbolts of Jupiter; ♂ the lance of Mars, together with his shield; ♀ the looking-glass of Venus; and ☿ the caduceus or wand of Mercury.

28 The expression by characters adopted among the older chemists agrees with this mythological signification only in the character assigned to gold. Gold, according to the chemists, was the most perfect of metals, to which all others seemed to be inferior in different degrees. Silver approached nearest to it; but was distinguished only by a semicircle, which, for the more perspicuity, was drawn double, and thence had a greater resemblance to the most remarkable appearance of the moon; the name of which this metal had already obtained. All the other metals, as they seemed to have a greater or less affinity to gold or silver, were distinguished by marks composed of the characters assigned to these precious metals. In the character ☿ the adepts discover gold with a silver colour. The cross placed at the bottom, which among the Egyptian hieroglyphics had a mysterious signification74, expresses, in their opinion, something I know not what, without which quicksilver would be silver or gold. This something is combined also with copper, the possible change of which into gold is expressed by the character ♀. The character ♂ declares the like honourable affinity also; though the half-cross is applied in a more concealed manner; for, according to the most proper mode of writing, the point is wanting at the top, or the upright line ought only to touch the horizontal, and not to intersect it. Philosophical gold is concealed in steel; and on this account it produces such valuable medicines. Of tin one-half is silver, and the other consists of the something unknown: for this reason the cross with the half moon appears in ♃. In lead this something is predominant, and a similitude is observed in it to silver. Hence in its character ♄ the cross stands at the top, and the silver character is only suspended on the right-hand behind it.

The mythological signification of these characters cannot be older than the Grecian mythology; but the chemical may be traced to a much earlier period. Some, who consider them as remains of the Egyptian hieroglyphics75, pretend29 that they may be discovered on the table of Isis, and employ them as a proof of the high antiquity, if not of the art of making gold, at least of chemistry. We are told also that they correspond with many other characters which the adepts have left us as emblems of their wisdom.

If we are desirous of deciding without prejudice respecting both these explanations, it will be found necessary to make ourselves acquainted with the oldest form of the characters, which in all probability, like those used in writing, were subjected to many changes before they acquired that form which they have at present. I can, however, mention only three learned men, Salmasius76, Du Cange77, and Huet78, who took the trouble to collect these characters. As I am afraid that my readers might be disgusted were I here to insert them, I shall give a short abstract of the conclusion which they form from them; but I must first observe that the oldest manuscripts differ very much in their representation of these characters, either because they were not fully established at the periods when they were written, or because many supposed adepts endeavoured to render their information more enigmatical by wilfully confounding the characters; and it is probable also that many mistakes may have been committed by transcribers.

The character of Mars, according to the oldest mode of representing it, is evidently an abbreviation of the word Θοῦρος, under which the Greek mathematicians understood that deity; or, in other words, the first letter Θ, with the last letter ς placed above it. The character of Jupiter was originally the initial letter of Ζεύς; and in the oldest manuscripts of the mathematical and astrological works of Julius Firmicus the capital Ζ only is used, to which the last letter ς was afterwards added at the bottom, to render the abbreviation more distinct. The supposed looking-glass of Venus is nothing else than the initial letter, a little distorted, of the word Φωσφόρος, which was the name of that goddess. The imaginary sythe of Saturn has been gradually formed from the first two letters of his name Κρόνος, which transcribers, for the sake of dispatch, made always more convenient for30 use, but at the same time less perceptible. To discover in the pretended caduceus of Mercury the initial letter of his Greek name Στίλβων, one needs only look at the abbreviations in the oldest manuscripts, where they will find that the Σ was once written as Ϲ; they will remark also that transcribers, to distinguish this abbreviation still more from the rest, placed the C thus, ◡; and added under it the next letter τ. If those to whom this deduction appears improbable will only take the trouble to look at other Greek abbreviations, they will find many that differ still further from the original letters they express than the present character ☿ from the Ϲ and τ united. It is possible that later transcribers, to whom the origin of this abbreviation was not known, may have endeavoured to give it a greater resemblance to the caduceus of Mercury. In short, it cannot be denied that many other astronomical characters are real symbols, or a kind of proper hieroglyphics, that represent certain attributes or circumstances, like the characters of Aries, Leo, and others quoted by Salmasius.

But how old is the present form of these characters? According to Scaliger79, they are of great antiquity, because they are to be found on very old gems and rings. If the ring No. 104 in Goræus be old and accurately delineated, this must indeed be true; for some of these characters may be very plainly distinguished on the beazel80. We are told by Wallerius that they were certainly used by the ancient Egyptians, because Democritus, who resided five years in Egypt, speaks of them in the plainest terms. I do not know whence Wallerius derived this information, but it proves nothing. He undoubtedly alludes to the laughing philosopher of Abdera, who lived about 450 years before our æra, but no authentic writings of his are now extant. Fabricius says that we have a Latin translation of a work of his, De Arte Sacra, Patavii, 1572, which, however, is certainly a production of31 much later times. I have it now before me from the library of our university; and I find that it is not the whole book, but only an abstract, and written in so extravagant a manner that the deception is not easily discovered. It contains chemical processes, but nothing of the characters of metals; which is the case also with the letters of Democritus, published by Lubbinus81.

[By way of contrast to the seven metals with which the ancients were acquainted, we may enumerate those known at the present day. They are as follows:—

1. Gold    
2. Silver    
3. Iron    
4. Copper    
5. Mercury    
6. Lead    
7. Tin    
8. Antimony   Basil Valentine 1490.
9. Bismuth   Agricola 1530.
10. Zinc   (Paracelsus?) 1530.
11. Arsenic   Brandt 1733.
12. Cobalt
13. Platinum   Wood 1741.
14. Nickel   Cronstedt 1751.
15. Manganese   Gahn 1774.
16. Tungsten   D’Elhujart 1781.
17. Tellurium   Müller 1782.
18. Molybdenum   Hjelm 1782.
19. Uranium   Klaproth 1789.
20. Titanium   Gregor 1791.
21. Chromium   Vauquelin 1797.
22. Columbium   Hatchett 1802.
23. Palladium   Wollaston 1803.
24. Rhodium
25. Iridium   Tennant 1803.
26. Osmium
27. Cerium   Hisinger 1804.
28. Potassium   Davy 1807.
29. Sodium
30. Barium
31. Strontium
32. Calcium
33. Cadmium   Stromeyer 1818.
34. Lithium   Arfwedson 1818.
35. Silicium   Berzelius 1824.
36. Zirconium
37. Aluminum   Wöhler 1828.
38. Glucinum
39. Yttrium
40. Thorium   Berzelius 1829.
41. Magnesium   Bussy 1829.
42. Vanadium   Sefström 1830.
43. Didymium   Mosander 1842.
44. Lanthanium
45. Erbium   Mosander 1843.
46. Terbium
47. Pelopium   H. Rose 1845.
48. Niobium  
49. Ruthenium   Claus 1845.
50. Norium   Svanberg 1845. ]


62 See Goguet, Origines. Bailly, Hist. de l’Astron. Ancienne.

63 Jablonski, Pantheon Ægypt. 1750, p. 49.

64 These contradictions are pointed out by Goguet, in a note, p. 370. A better view of them may be found in Hygini Astronom. (ed. Van Staveren), xlii. p. 496.

65 Jablonski, Panth. p. 55. Vossius de Idololatria, ii. 34, p. 489. Bruckeri Histor. Philosoph. i. p. 1055.

66 Origenes Contra Celsum, lib. vi. 22. I expected to have received some explanation of this passage from the editors of Origen, and in those authors who have treated expressly on the religious worship of the Persians; but I find that they are quoted neither by Hyde; Philip a Turre, whose Monumenta Veteris Antii is printed in Thesaurus Antiquitat. et Histor. Italiæ; nor by Banier in his Mythology.

67 Borrichius arranges the words in the following manner: “Secundam portam faciunt Jovis, comparantes ei stanni splendorem et mollitiem; tertiam Veneris æratam et solidam; quartam Martis, est enim laborum patiens, æque ac ferrum, celebratus hominibus; quintam Mercurii propter misturam inæqualem ac variam, et quia negotiator est; sextam Lunæ argenteam; septimam Solis auream.”—Ol. Borrichius De Ortu et Progressu Chemiæ.” Hafniæ, 1668, 4to, p. 29. Professor Eichhorn reminded me, as allusive to this subject, of the seven walls of Ecbatana, the capital of Media, the outermost of which was the lowest, and each of the rest progressively higher, so that they overtopped each other. Each was of a particular colour. The outermost was white; the second black; the third purple; the fourth blue; the fifth red, or rather of an orange colour; and the summit of the sixth was covered with silver, and that of the seventh, or innermost, with gold. Such is the account given by Herodotus, i. 98; and it appears to me not improbable that they may have had a relation to the seven planets, though nothing is hinted on that subject by the historian.

68 Philostrat. Vita Apollonii, iii. 41, p. 130. How was the ring for Wednesday made? Perhaps it was hollow, and filled with quicksilver. Gesner, in Commentaria Societat. Scien. Gotting. 1753, iii. p. 78, thinks that these rings might have been made or cast under certain constellations.

69 Oneirocritica, v. 37.

70 Isthm. Od. ver. 1. Of the like kind are many passages in Eustathius on Homer’s Iliad, b. xi., and also the following passages of Constantinus Manasses, where he describes the creation of the stars, in his Annales (edit. Meursii, Lugd. 1616), p. 7, and p. 263: “Saturnus nigricabat, colore plumbeo; Jupiter ut argentum splendebat; Mars flammeus conspiciebatur; Sol instar auri puri lucebat; (Venus uti stannum;) Mercurius instar æris rubebat; Luna in morem glaciei pellucida suam et ipsa lucem emittebat,” &c.

71 In his Preface to Critias. Platonis Opera; Francof. 1602, fol. p. 1097.

72 It is probable that Ficinus had in view a passage in Olympiodori Commentar. in Meteora Arist. Ven. 1551, fol. lib. iii. p. 59.

73 This distribution, which is ascribed to the Platonists, may be found also in the scholiasts on Pindar, at the beginning of the fifth Isthmian Ode, p. 459.

74 Jablonski, Pantheon Ægypt. i. p. 282, 283, 287; and ii. p. 131. This author makes it the representation of something which cannot be well named. Kircheri Œdipus Ægypt. t. ii. pars ii. p. 399. Romæ, 1653, fol.

75 Goguet, ii. pp. 370, 371, considers them as remains of the original hieroglyphics; but he is of opinion that we received them in their present form from the Arabians.

76 Plinianæ Exercitat. in Solinum, p. 874.

77 Gloss. ad Script. Med. et Infimæ Græcitatis.

78 In his Annotations on Manilii Astronomicon (in usum Delphini). Par. 1679, 4to, p. 80.

79 In his Annotations on Manilii Astron. Strasb. 1665, 4to, p. 460.

80 In Gorii Thesaurus Gemmarum antiquarum astriferarum, Florent. 1750, 3 vols. fol., I found nothing on this subject. Characters of the moon and of the signs in the zodiac often occur; but no others are to be seen, except in tab. 33, where there is a ring, which has on it the present characters of Mars and Venus. In general the planets are represented by seven small asterisks, or by six and the character of the moon. Besides, the antiquity of this gem cannot be ascertained.

81 See the collection of Greek letters of Eilh. Lubbinus. Commelin. 1601, 8vo.



Zinc is one of those metals which were not known to the Greeks82, Romans, or Arabians. This we have reason to conjecture, because it has not been distinguished by a chemical character like the rest; but it is fully proved, by our not finding in the works of the ancients any information that appears even to allude to it. I know but of one instance where it is supposed to have been found among remains of antiquity. Grignon pretends that something like it was discovered in the ruins of the ancient Roman city in Champagne83. Such an unexpected discovery deserved to have been investigated with the utmost minuteness; but it seems to have been examined only in a very superficial manner; and as that was the case, it is impossible to guess what kind of a metal or metallic mixture this author considered as zinc.

It is not surprising that this metal should have remained so long unknown, for it has never yet been found in the metallic state. Its ores are often and in a great degree mixed with foreign ingredients; and when they are melted, it sublimes in a metallic form, and is found adhering above to the cool sides of the furnace; but a particular apparatus is necessary, else the reduced metal partly evaporates, and is partly oxidized, by which means it appears like an earth, and exhibits to the eye no traces of metal.

That mixture of zinc and copper called at present brass, tomback, pinchbeck, princes-metal, &c., and which was first discovered by ores, abundant in zinc, yielding when melted not pure copper, but brass, was certainly known to the ancients. Mines that contained ores, from which this gold-coloured metal was produced, were held in the highest estimation; when exhausted, the loss of them was regretted; and it was supposed that the metal would never be again found. In the course of time it was remarked, no one knows by what 33accident, that an ore, which must have been calamine, when added to copper while melting, gave it a yellow colour. This ore was therefore used, though it was not known what metal it contained, in the same manner as oxide of cobalt was employed in colouring glass before mineralogists were acquainted with that metal itself. Aristotle and Strabo speak of an earth of that kind, the use of which in making brass has been retained through every century. Ambrosius, bishop of Milan, in the fourth century; Primasius, bishop of Adrumetum in Africa, in the sixth; and Isidore, bishop of Seville, in the seventh, mention an addition by which copper acquired a gold colour, and which undoubtedly must have been calamine. When in course of time more calamine was discovered, the ancient method of procuring brass from copper-ore that contained zinc was abandoned; and it was found more convenient first to extract from it pure copper, and then to convert it into brass by the addition of calamine.

Those desirous of inquiring further into the knowledge which the ancients had of this metal must examine the meaning of the word cadmia, which seems to have had various significations. This task I have ventured to undertake; and though I cannot clear up everything that occurs respecting it, I shall lay before my readers what information I have been able to obtain on the subject, because perhaps it may amount to somewhat more than is to be found in the works of old commentators. Cadmia signified, then, in the first place, a mineral abounding in zinc, as well as any ore combined with it, and also that zinc-earth which we call calamine. Those who should understand under it only the latter, would not be able to explain the greater part of the passages in the ancients where it is mentioned. It is probable that ore containing zinc acquired this name, because it first produced brass84. When it was afterwards remarked that calamine gave to copper a yellow colour, the same name was conferred on it also. It appears, however, that it was seldom found by the ancients85; and we must consider cadmia in general as signifying34 ore that contained zinc. Gold-coloured copper or brass was long preferred to pure or common copper, and thought to be more beautiful the nearer it approached to the best aurichalcum. Brass therefore was supposed to be a more valuable kind of copper; and on this account Pliny says that cadmia was necessary for procuring copper, that is brass. Copper, as well as brass, was for a great length of time called æs, and it was not till a late period that mineralogists, in order to distinguish them, gave the name of cuprum to the former86. Pliny says that it was good when a large quantity of cadmia had been added to it, because it not only rendered the colour more beautiful, but increased the weight. In the like manner a quintal of copper in Hungary produces a hundred and fifty pounds of brass. The same author remarks also that the cadmia (fossilis) was not used in medicine: this however is to be understood only of the raw ore, for some physicians prepared oxide of zinc from ore that contained zinc, as he afterwards tells us; and Galen extols the calamine found in Cyprus on account of its superior effects, because, perhaps, the oxide could be obtained from it much purer.

In the second place, cadmia, among the ancients, was what we call (ofenbruch) furnace-calamine, or what in melting ore that contains zinc, or in making brass, falls to the bottom of35 the furnace, and which consists of more or less calcined zinc. As this furnace-calamine assumes various appearances, according to the manner of melting, and according to many other circumstances that in part cannot be defined, and as the ancients comprehend all its varieties under the general name of cadmia, and give to each variety, according to its form, consistence and colour, a particular name also, a confusion of names has hence arisen which cannot now be cleared up, especially as it is not thought worth while to distinguish all its incidental variations. Our physicians esteem only the pure oxide of zinc; and as they know how to obtain it, they are not under the necessity of using impure furnace-calamine. In our melting-houses it is employed, without much nicety in the choice, for making zinc or brass87.

What here appears to me most singular is, that the ancients should have given the same names to furnace-calamine as they gave to ores that contained zinc. The affinity of these substances they could conjecture only from their effects, or perhaps they were induced to do so from observing that furnace-calamine was not produced but when the different kinds of cadmia, as they were called, were melted; that is, when yellow and not red copper was obtained. Ofenbruch got the name of furnace-calamine at Rammelsberg, when it was observed that it could be employed instead of native calamine36 for making brass88. Were the ancients then in any measure acquainted with this use of it? Galen and Dioscorides speak only of its use in medicine, and say nothing of its being employed in the preparation of brass. The Arabian writers, particularly the translators of the Greek physicians, speak in a much clearer manner of the preparation of brass; but the appellations which they employ are so indeterminate in their signification, that an answer to the above question cannot be deduced from them. Climia, which some pronounce calimia and from which the modern Greeks made kelimia, and the Latins lapis calaminaris, seems to have entirely the same meaning as cadmia. Tutia, which occurs first in the eleventh century, in Avicenna, and which the Greeks write toutia, or perhaps more properly thouthia, signifies sometimes pompholyx; but in common it seems to express also minerals that contain zinc, and likewise furnace-calamine89. Could it be proved that the tutia of the Arabs and later Greeks was furnace-calamine, or the tutia of our druggists, the oldest account with which I am acquainted of furnace-calamine, employed in making brass, would occur in Zosimus, who, according to every appearance, lived in the fifth century90. This author tells us, that in order to make brass, Cyprus copper must be melted, and pounded tutia must be strewed over it. Salmasius suspects that Zosimus here means only calamine: but however this may be, his receipt has been retained till the present time in books on the arts; for these recommend not calamine, but tutia91.

We can with more certainty affirm that this use of furnace-calamine, in making brass, was known to Albertus Magnus37 in the thirteenth century; for he says, first, that yellow copper was made by the addition of calamine, which he calls lapis calaminaris. He tells us afterwards, that Hermes taught how to give a gold colour to copper by throwing pounded tutia into the melted metal. Tutia, says he, which is used in the transmutation of metals, is not a native mineral, but an artificial mixture, produced in the furnace when copper-ore is melted; and he advises glass-gall to be strewed over the ore, otherwise calamine and tutia will lose their force in the fire92. It would appear that the last-mentioned name, in the thirteenth century, signified only furnace-calamine, and that its use for making brass was at that period known.

For many centuries, however, the ofenbruch (furnace-calamine), with which, as we are told, the furnaces at Rammelsberg overflowed, was thrown aside as useless, till at length, in the middle of the sixteenth century, Erasmus Ebener first showed that it might be used instead of native calamine for making brass. This Ebener, descended from the noble family of that name at Nuremberg, was a man of great learning, and an able statesman. He was employed by his native city, and by foreign princes, on occasions of the highest importance. In 1569 he was privy-counsellor to Julius duke of Brunswick, and died in 1577, at Helmstadt, where he was buried. I regret much that I can give no further account of this important discovery; the time even when it was made is not known with certainty. Lœhneyss says that it was sixty years before the period when he wrote. But at what period did he write? The oldest edition, with which I am acquainted, of his treatise on mines, is of the year 1617, so that this discovery would fall about the year 155793. Calvör caused to be printed an old account of the Rammelsberg mines, which was said to have been published in 1565. According to that work,38 Ebener made the above-mentioned observation at Nuremberg, about seventeen years before, that is, about the year 1548. Schluter assigns as the period about 1550, and Honemann about 1559. We may therefore very safely place it in the middle of the sixteenth century, and probably the discovery happened in 1553, at which time Ebener was sent to duke Henry, with whom he continued a long time, as we are expressly told by Doppelmayer. This use of calamine refuse induced the managers of the profitable brass-works in the Harz forest to pick up carefully that which before had been thrown aside. Duke Julius, who endeavoured to improve every branch of manufacture, and particularly what related to metallurgy, and who, agreeably to the then prevailing mode of princes, suffered himself to be duped with the hopes of making gold, improved the brass-works at Buntheim, below Harzburg, and by these means brought a great revenue to the electoral treasury.

Another production of zinc, artificial white vitriol, was also long prepared, used and employed in commerce before it was known that it was procured from this metal. That it was not known before the middle of the sixteenth century, and that it was first made at Rammelsberg, may with confidence be affirmed. Schluter ascribes the invention of it to duke Julius, and places it in the year 1570: but it must be somewhat older than the above-quoted account of Rammelsberg; for the author, who wrote about 156594, relates, that in his time one citizen only, whom he calls Henni Balder, boiled white vitriol; and it appears that this person kept the process a secret. That the invention was not then new, is evident from his adding, that what its effects might be in medicine had not been examined; but that its use in making eye-water39 had been known almost as early as the time when it was discovered. This agrees with another account, according to which the method of boiling white vitriol was found out at the time when Christopher Sander, whose service to the Harz is well-known, was tithe-gatherer. Honemann says that Sander was tithe-gatherer at the mines of the Upper Harz before the year 1564, but that in this year he was principal tithe-gatherer and director of the mines and melting-houses at Goslar. Sander himself, in a paper dated August 3, 1575, seems to ascribe the invention of white vitriol to duke Julius95.

At first this salt was called Erzalaun, a name occasioned by its likeness to alum, but afterwards it was more frequently known by those of Gallitzenstein, Golitzenstein, and Calitzenstein. The latter names however appear to be older than white vitriol itself; as we find that green vitriol, even before the year 1565, was called green Gallitzenstein. May not the word be derived from gallæ; because it is probable that vitriol and galls were for a long time the principal articles used for making ink and in dyeing? I am of opinion that the white vitriol, which is produced in the mines of Rammelsberg in the form of icicles, gave rise to the discovery and manufacture of this salt. The former, so early as the year 1565, was called white native vitriol, or white Gogkelgut, and was packed up in casks, and in that manner transported for sale96. I shall not here enter into the old conjectures respecting the origin and component parts of this vitriol; but it deserves to be remarked, that Henkel and Neumann97 observed in it a mixture of zinc, by which Brandt, a member of the Swedish council of mines, was led to prove, that, when pure, it consists of vitriolic acid and oxide of zinc; and this was afterwards confirmed by Hellot98.

40 I come now, in the last place, to the history of this metal, which, when furnace-calamine was used, could not remain long unobserved, as it is sometimes found amongst it uncalcined in metallic drops. It is worthy of remark, that Albertus Magnus, who first described the use of furnace-calamine in making brass, is the oldest author in whose works mention is made of zinc. He calls it marchasita aurea. This was properly a stone, the metallic particles of which were so entirely sublimated by fire, that nothing but useless ashes remained behind. It contained fixed quicksilver, communicated a colour to metals, on which account it was well known to the alchemists, burned in the fire, and was at length entirely consumed. It was found in various parts, but that at Goslar was the best, because the copper it contained seemed to have in it a mixture of gold. To give this copper however a still greater resemblance to gold, some tin was added to it, by which means it became more brittle. This marchasita also rendered copper white as silver. Thus far Albertus. It obtained without doubt the name of marchasita aurea, because zinc communicates a yellow colour to copper; and for the same reason the Greeks and the Arabians called cadmia golden or aurea. But how could Albertus say that marchasite made copper white? Did he commit a mistake, and mean tin? To me this appears not probable, as at one time he seems to call it argentea. I imagine that he knew that copper, when mixed with as much zinc as possible, that is, according to Scheffer, eighty-nine pounds to a hundred, became white; and it appears that by this he wished to establish its affinity with quicksilver.

The next author who gives an intelligible account of this metal is Theophrastus Paracelsus, who died in 1541. I do not however imagine that it was forgotten in this long interval, at least by those who were called alchemists. I am rather of opinion, that on account of the great hopes which it gave them by the colouring of copper, they described it purposely in an obscure manner, and concealed it under other names, so that it was not discovered in their works. There are few who would have patience to wade through these, and the few who could do so, turn their attention to objects of greater41 importance than those which occupy mine. Gold and silver excepted, there is no metal which has had formerly so many and so wonderful names as zinc99. For this reason, chemists long believed that zinc was not a distinct metal, but only a variety of tin or bismuth; and with these perhaps it may hence have been often confounded.

The name zinc occurs first in Paracelsus. He expressly calls it a distinct metal, the nature of which was not sufficiently known; which could be cast, but was not malleable, and which was produced only in Carinthia. Was he then unacquainted with the zinc of Goslar, which was known at an earlier period to Albertus Magnus100? George Agricola, who wrote about the year 1550, speaks however of the Goslar zinc, but he calls it liquor candidus, and in German conterfey101. Mathesius, who published his sermons in 1562, says, “at Freyberg there is red and white zinc.” Perhaps he did not mean the metal, but minerals that contained zinc. George Fabricius, who died in 1571, conjectures that stibium is what the miners call cincum, which can be melted, but not hammered.

It is seen by these imperfect accounts that this metal must have been scarce, even in the middle of the sixteenth century, and that it was not in the collection of Agricola, which was considerable for that period. Libavius, who died in 1616, mentions it several times, but he regrets, in one of his letters, that he had not been able to procure any of it102. Was this owing to the prohibition of duke Julius, by which it was forbidden to be sold? This prohibition is quoted by Pott from Jungii Mineralogia, with which I am unacquainted; but42 as Pott has already, by his unintelligible quotations, made me spend many hours to no purpose, I shall not waste more in searching for it. The prohibition alluded to is mentioned neither by Rehtmeier nor by any other author. The foolish taste for alchemy, which prevailed then at the duke’s court, makes it not altogether improbable that one was issued103; and if that was really the case, it was occasioned not so much by any dread of this metal being misused, as Pott thinks, but by the high hopes which were entertained of its utility in making gold. The first accurate and certain account of the method of procuring zinc at Goslar, is, as far as I know, given by Lœhneyss, in 1617, though he considers it to be the same as bismuth104. Joh. Schrœder of Westphalia, who died in 1664, calls it marcasita pallida.

The first person who purposely procured this metal from calamine, by the addition of some inflammable substance, was undoubtedly Henkel, who gave an account of his success in the year 1741, though he concealed the whole process105. After him, Dr. Isaac Lawson, a Scotsman, seems to have made experiments which proved the possibility of obtaining zinc in this manner on a large scale; and in 1737 Henkel heard that it was then manufactured in England with great43 advantage. Of this Lawson I know nothing more than what is related by Dr. Watson106. Anthony von Swab, member of the Swedish council of mines, procured this metal afterwards from calamine by distillation, in 1742; as did Marggraf in 1746, who appears however not to have been acquainted with the Swedish experiment. In the year 1743, one Champion established zinc works at Bristol, which were continued by his successor James Emerson, who established works of the like kind at Henham, in the neighbourhood. The manner in which the metal was procured, has been described by Dr. Watson in his Chemical Essays.

The greater part of this metal, used in Europe, was undoubtedly brought from the East Indies. The Commercial Company in the Netherlands, between the years 1775 and 1779, caused to be sold, on their account, above 943,081 pounds of it107. In the year 1780, the chamber of Rotterdam alone sold 28,000 pounds; and I find, by printed catalogues, that the other chambers, at that period, had not any of it in their possession. If the account given by Raynal be true, the Dutch East India Company purchased annually, at Palimbang, a million and a half of pounds108. In 1781, the Danish Company at Copenhagen purchased 153,953 pounds of tutenage, which had been carried thither in two vessels, at the rate of from four and one-eighth to four and a quarter schillings Lubec per pound. It is probable that the English44 and Swedes import this article also. It would be of some consequence if one could learn in what part of India, when, and in what manner this metal was first procured, and in what year it was first carried thence to Europe. According to the scanty information which we have on the subject, it comes from China, Bengal, Malacca109, and the Malabar coast, from which copper and tin are also imported. In the oldest bills of lading of ships belonging to the Netherlands I find no mention of zinc; but it is possible that it may be comprehended under the name of Indian tin; for so it was at first called. Savot, who died about the year 1640, relates, on the authority of a contemporary writer110, that some years before the Dutch had taken from the Portuguese a ship laden with this metal, which was sold under the name of speautre. It is probable therefore that it was brought to Europe so early as the beginning of the seventeenth century. Indian tin is mentioned by Boyle.

It is probable that this metal was discovered in India before anything of the European zinc had been known in that country; but we are still less acquainted with the cause of the discovery than with the method of procuring the metal. We are told that an Englishman, who, in the above century, went to India, in order to discover the process used there, returned with an account that it was obtained by distillation ver descensum.

Respecting the origin of the different names of this metal, I can offer very little. Conterfey signified formerly every kind of metal made in imitation of gold111. Frisch says it was called zink, from which was formed first zinetum, and afterwards zincum, because the furnace-calamine assumes the figure of (zinken or zacken) nails or spikes; but it is to be45 remarked that these names do not occur before the discovery of this metal, though ofenbruch was known long before. Fulda speaks of the Anglo-Saxon sin, zink, which he translates obryzum. Spiauter, speauter, and spialter, from which Boyle made speltrum, and also tutaneg or tuttanego, came to us from India with the commodity. Under the last-mentioned name is sometimes comprehended a mixture of tin and bismuth. Calaem is also an Indian appellation given to this metal, and has a considerable likeness to calamine; but I am of opinion with Salmasius that the latter is not derived from the former, as lapis calaminaris occurs in the thirteenth century, and calaem was first brought to us by the Portuguese from India.

[Most of the zinc works in this country are situated in the neighbourhood of Birmingham and Bristol; a few furnaces also exist in the neighbourhood of Sheffield, among the coal-pits surrounding that town; there is also one at Maestag in Glamorganshire. The ores worked at Bristol and Birmingham are principally obtained from the Mendip-hills and Flintshire; those at Sheffield from Alston Moor. The greater part however of the zinc used in this country is imported in ingots and plates from Silesia, by way of Hamburg, Antwerp, Dantzic, &c. We receive annually from 100,000 to 170,000 cwts. from Germany; of this quantity, about 80,000 cwt. are entered for home consumption, and the rest is exported for India.

From its moderate price and the ease with which it can be worked, zinc is now extensively used for making water-cisterns, baths, pipes, covering of roofs, and a great many architectural purposes. It has also of late been employed in the curious art of transferring printing, known under the name of Zincography, but owing to the ease with which this metal becomes coated with a film of oxide or carbonate, by exposure to the air, the plates cannot be preserved for any great length of time.]


82 [It has been observed by an anonymous reviewer (British and Foreign Medical Review, vol. viii. p. 361) that a passage in Strabo authorises the belief that the ancients were acquainted with this metal in its separate state, and that it is the false silver, ψευδάργυρον, of that ancient geographer.]

83 Bulletin des fouilles d’une ville Romaine, p. 11.

84 Plin. lib. xxxiv. sect. 22.

85 Zinc-ore, besides being mentioned by Aristotle and Strabo, is mentioned by Galen, De Simplic. Medicam. Facultatibus, lib. ix. p. 142. As he found no furnace-calamine when he resided in Cyprus, he procured from the overseer of the mines some raw cadmia, which had been found in the mountains and rivulets, and which certainly must have been calamine.

86 At first it was called æs cyprium, but in the course of time only cyprium; from which was at length formed cuprum. It cannot however be ascertained at what periods these appellations were common. The epithet cupreus occurs in manuscripts of Pliny and Palladius; but one cannot say whether later transcribers may not have changed cyprius into cupreus, with which they were perhaps better acquainted. The oldest writer who uses the word cuprum is Spartian; who says, in the Life of Caracalla, “cancelli ex ære vel cupro.” But may not the last word have been added to the text as a gloss? Pliny, book xxxvi. 26, says, “Addito cyprio et nitro;” which Isidore, xvi. 15, p. 393, expresses by the words adjecto cupro et nitro. The superiority of the Cyprian copper gave occasion to this appellation; as the best iron or steel was called chalybs, from the Chalybes (a people of Galatia) who prepared the finest, and carried on the greatest trade with it. But in what did the superiority of this Cyprian copper consist? In its purity, or in its colour, which approached near to that of gold? That island produced a great deal of ore which contained zinc, and abounded also with calamine. Pliny says, “in Cypro prima fuit æris inventio.” Red copper however had been known there from the earliest periods, so that the honour of its invention must be allowed to that island without any contradiction; and Pliny must undoubtedly allude in the above passage to some particular kind.

87 Dioscorides, book v. c. 84, first mentions some sorts of cadmia, βοτρυίτις, πλακωτὴ and ὀστρακῖτις. These, according to Galen and Pliny, are undoubtedly certain kinds of (ofenbruch) furnace-calamine; but Salmasius in his book De Homonymis, p. 230, and Sarracen in his Annotations, p. 113, are of opinion that Dioscorides considered them as native kinds of cadmia, or minerals abundant in zinc. I cannot however allow myself to believe that Dioscorides, who was so careful, and who immediately after describes the artificial preparation of cadmia clearly and properly, should have thus erred. Besides, every kind of ofenbruch (furnace-calamine) must have discovered its origin from fire to such a good judge of minerals as Dioscorides. I am convinced that he, as well as Galen and Pliny, considered the above kinds as furnace-calamine.

Pompholyx was the name of the white flowers of zinc which Dioscorides, v. 85, p. 352, compares to wool, and which by chemists were formerly called lana philosophica. The ancients collected these flowers when produced by the melting of zinc-ore; but they obtained them also by an apparatus which is fully described by Dioscorides and Galen, and which approaches near to that used for collecting arsenic in the poison melting-houses, as they are usually called.

88 This however I will not with certainty affirm. As calmey and galmey have probably taken their rise from cadmia or calimia, and as both these words signified proper calamine, as well as ofenbruch, the latter, perhaps, may at an earlier period have signified furnace-calamine.

89 Proofs respecting this subject may be found in Salmasius De Homonymis.

90 It is not certainly known when this Zosimus Panopolitanus lived. His works, which must contain abundance of information respecting the history of chemistry, have never yet been printed. The greater part of them were preserved in the king’s library at Paris. The receipt to which I allude has been inserted by Salmasius, p. 237.

91 We read in Observations sur la Physique, vi. p. 255, that for many years tutia has been collected and sold in the bishopric of Liege. Lehmann endeavours to show that it was made by the Jews in Poland. Novi Comment. Acad. Petrop. xii. p. 381. As the use of tutia [which is an impure oxide of zinc found in the chimneys of the furnaces in which zinc-ores are roasted, or in which zinciferous lead-ores are smelted] has been almost abandoned, because physicians prefer pure flowers of zinc, and because those who make pinchbeck employ purified zinc, it is probable that this substance will soon be entirely neglected.

92 De Mineralibus. Coloniæ, 1569, 12mo, p. 350, lib. iv. cap. 5; and lib. v. cap. 7, p. 388.

93 The other edition was printed at Stockholm and Hamburg, by Liebezeit, and is the same as that mentioned by H. Gatterer, in Anleitung den Harz zu bereisen, i. p. 313, and ii. p. 13.

94 “White vitriol also is made at Goslar, but by one citizen only, named Henni Balder. It is not procured by the evaporation of copper like other vitriol; but when large quantities of ore are roasted in the furnaces, a red substance is from time to time collected on the refuse of the ore, and found in some places half an ell thick. This substance, which is saltish, is formed into a lye, and boiled in small leaden pans. The rest of the process I do not know, but I observed that it crystallizes like saltpetre, but is stronger and whiter. It is also cast into small cakes about the thickness of one’s hand. This vitriol is employed by the leather-dressers, and may be used for many things instead of alum; but it cannot be used in dressing white skins, because it makes them yellowish.”

95 Bruckmann, ii. p. 446. [Schwartze, in his Pharm. Tabell. 2nd edit. p. 779, states that white vitriol was known towards the end of the thirteenth or at the commencement of the fourteenth century.]

96 Calvor, Historische Nachricht, p. 199 and 200. Properly it is written and pronounced jöckel. It is very remarkable that in Iceland this word at present signifies icicles.

97 Chemie, von Kessel, iv. 2, p. 832, where may be found the old opinions on this subject.

98 Brandt, in Acta Upsaliens. 1735. Hellot, in Mémoires de l’Acad. des Sciences, Paris, 1735, p. 29. [Sulphate of zinc or white vitriol is at present manufactured in considerable quantity for pharmaceutical purposes, and for the calico-printer.]

99 A great many may be found collected in Fuchs, Geschichte des Zinks. Erfurt, 1778, 8vo.

100 Paracelsi Opera. Strasb. 1616, fol. I shall here transcribe the principal passage. Of zinc:—There is another metal, zinc, which is in general unknown. It is a distinct metal of a different origin, though adulterated with many other metals. It can be melted, for it consists of three fluid principles, but it is not malleable. In its colour it is unlike all others, and does not grow in the same manner; but with its ultima materia I am as yet unacquainted, for it is almost as strange in its properties as argentum vivum. It admits of no mixture, will not bear the fabricationes of other metals, but keeps itself entirely to itself.

101 De Re Metallica, lib. ix. p. 329.

102 In J. Hornung’s Cista Medica. Lipsiæ.

103 How much duke Julius, who in other respects did great service to his country, suffered himself to be duped by the art of making gold, appears from an anecdote given by Rehtmeier, p. 1016. Of this anecdote I received from M. Ribbentrop an old account in manuscript, which one cannot read without astonishment. There is still shown, at the castle of Wolfenbuttle, an iron stool, on which the impostor, Anna Maria Zieglerinn, named Schluter Ilsche, was burnt, February 5, 1575.

104 Page 83:—“When the people at the melting-houses are employed in melting, there is formed under the furnace, in the crevices of the wall, among the stones where it is not well plastered, a metal which is called zinc or conterfeht; and when the wall is scraped, the metal falls down into a trough placed to receive it. This metal has a great resemblance to tin, but it is harder and less malleable, and rings like a small bell. It could be made also, if people would give themselves the trouble; but it is not much valued, and the servants and workmen only collect it when they are promised drink-money. They however scrape off more of it at one time than at another; for sometimes they collect two pounds, but at others not above two ounces. This metal, by itself, is of no use, as, like bismuth, it is not malleable; but when mixed with tin, it renders it harder and more beautiful, like the English tin. This zinc or bismuth is in great request among the alchemists.”

105 Kieshistorie, p. 571, and particularly p. 721.

106 Pott refers to Lawson’s Dissert. de Nihilo, and quotes some words from it; but I cannot find it; nor am I surprised at this, as it was not known to Dr. Watson.—See Chemical Essays, iv. p. 34. Pryce, in Mineral. Cornub., p. 49, says, “The late Dr. J. Lawson, observing that the flowers of lapis calaminaris were the same as those of zinc, and that its effects on copper were also the same with that semi-metal, never remitted his endeavours till he found the method of separating pure zinc from that ore.” The same account is given in the supplement to Chambers’s Dictionary, 1753, art. calm. and zinc; and in Campbell’s Political Survey of Britain, ii. p. 35. The latter however adds, that Lawson died too early to derive any benefit from his discovery.

107 Ricards Handbuch der Kaufleute, i. p. 57.

108 Raynal says that the company purchase it at the rate of twenty-eight florins three-quarters per hundred weight, and that this price is moderate. At Amsterdam, however, the price was commonly from seventeen to eighteen florins banco. According to a catalogue which I have in my possession, the price, on the 9th of May, 1788, was seventeen florins, and on the 22nd of January, 1781, it was only sixteen.

109 Linschoten, b. ii. c. 17. The author calls it calaem, the name used in the country. It is a kind of tin.

110 De Nummis Antiquis; in Grævii Thes. Antiq. Rom. xi. p. 1195.

111 Matthesius, Pred. v. p. 250.—“Conterfeil is a metal of little value, formed by additions and colouring substances, so that it resembles gold or silver, as an image, or anything counterfeited, does its archetype. Thus copper is coloured by calamine and other mixtures, in such a manner that it appears to be pure gold.” In the police ordinance issued at Strasburg in 1628, young women are forbidden to wear gold or silver, or any conterfaite, and everything that might have the appearance of gold or silver.



So obscure is the ichthyology of the ancients, or so little care has been taken to explain it, that the question whether our carp were known to Aristotle, Pliny, and their contemporaries, cannot with any great degree of probability be determined. Besides, that subject is attended with much greater difficulties than the natural history of quadrupeds. Among four-footed animals there is a greater variety in their bodily conformation, which at any rate strikes the eye more, and can be more easily described than that of fishes, which in general are so like in shape, that an experienced systematic naturalist finds it sometimes difficult to determine the characters of the genera and species. It is not surprising therefore that the simple descriptions of the ancients, or rather the short accounts which they give us of fish, do not afford information sufficient to enable us to distinguish with accuracy the different kinds. Quadrupeds may terrify us by their ferocity, or endeavour to avoid us by shyness and craft; but it is still possible to observe their sexes, their age, and their habits, and to remark many things that are common to one or only a few species. Fishes, on the other hand, live in an element in which we cannot approach them, and which for the most part conceals them from our observation. The chase, since the earliest periods, and in modern times more than formerly, has been the employment of idle persons, who bestow upon it greater attention the fewer those objects are which can attract their curiosity or employ their minds: but fishing has almost always been the laborious occupation of poor people, who have no time to make observations, as they are obliged to follow it in order to find a subsistence; and mankind in general seldom see fish except on their tables or in collections of natural history. On this account those properties of fish by which their species could be determined, were less known. The descriptions of four-footed animals which have been handed down to us from the time of the Greek and Roman writers, give us, at any rate, some information; but from those of fishes, which are more uncommon, we can scarcely derive any; unless one were as acute or easy of belief as many collectors47 of petrefactions, who imagine that they can distinguish each species of fish in the impressions which they see in stones. More however might be done towards elucidating the ichthyology of the ancients than has hitherto been attempted. It would be necessary only to make a beginning by collecting the species and names which can with certainty be determined, together with the authorities, and separating them from the rest; and an abstract should be formed of what is said in the ancients respecting the unknown species, or whatever may in any measure serve to make us acquainted with them; but mere conjectures ought never to be given as proofs, nor ought the opinions of commentators, or the explanations of dictionaries to be adopted without sufficient grounds. If these are to be believed without further examination, the names cyprini and lepidoti must be considered as those of carp; and the proposed question would be soon answered: but that opinion has scarcely probability in its favour when one searches after proofs.

I shall not here lay before the reader everything completely that the ancients have said respecting the cyprini, and which is in part so corrupted by transcribers, that no certain meaning can be drawn from it. Were I to treat of the ichthyology of the ancients, it might be necessary; but as that is not the case, I shall only quote such parts of it as have been employed by Rondelet and others to prove that they were our carp. Their principal grounds seem to be, that among all the fish of the ancients no others occur which can with any probability be considered as carp. If the cyprini therefore were not carp, these must not have been named by the ancients; and that undoubtedly will not readily be admitted. It is well known what a high value the ancients, particularly the Orientals, set upon fish, of which they had a great variety; and it appears that they preferred them to all dishes prepared from four-footed animals or fowls. Fish seem to have been the choicest delicacies of voluptuaries, and in that respect they are oftener mentioned by historians than fowls. Physicians also, to whom the most sumptuous tables have in all ages been of the greatest benefit, speak of fish oftener in their writings than of dishes made of the flesh of other animals. In the ancient cookery, the number of dishes prepared from fish is indeed great in comparison of those48 dressed from fowls. Turdi and attagines are much praised; but had pheasants, snipes, partridges, and others, been as much esteemed then as they are now, these would not have been forgotten, or would have occurred oftener. Fish at present form the principal food in Greece, as well as at Constantinople, and a great abundance and variety of them may be found there in the markets; but fowls which have been caught or shot are seldom exposed for sale. When the Egyptian and Greek monks wished to distinguish themselves by abstinence and temperance, they denied themselves all kinds of fish, as the richest delicacies, in the same manner as pretended devotees among the Europeans deny themselves flesh. But though all this may be true, it does not prove that our carp must occur in the writings of the ancients. The Roman voluptuaries, indeed, left very little untried that was likely to gratify their appetite; but it was impossible for them to make a trial of everything. There may have been particular reasons which prevented them from meeting with carp; and who will venture to affirm that all the knowledge of the ancients must be contained in those few of their writings which have been preserved to us by accidents?

If one, freed from these prejudices, should now ask why the cyprinus must be our carp, the answer will be, because what we read of the tongue and scales of the cyprini cannot be applied with so much propriety to any species of fish as to the Cyprinus carpio of Linnæus. Aristotle informs us that the cyprini had properly no tongue, but that their soft fleshy palate might very readily be taken for one112. Athenæus affirms that they had a tongue, but that it lay in the upper part of the mouth or palate; and in confirmation of this he refers to Aristotle113. This assertion of Athenæus however is very dubious; for these words are not to be found in the works of Aristotle which have been preserved, though the same meaning might be indeed forced, in case of necessity, from the passage first quoted. It is possible that Athenæus, as Casaubon114 has already conjectured, may here, as well as in other parts, allude to some book of Aristotle not now extant. Besides, he calls the fish of which he speaks, not cyprinus, but cyprianus; and a question therefore arises, whether49 he may not have meant some other kind. This much at any rate appears certain from the passage of Aristotle, that the cyprinus had a thick fleshy palate; and that indeed is the case with our carp, so that the head, on account of the delicacy and agreeable taste of the palate, is reckoned the most relishing part. By that circumstance however nothing is proved; as it is not peculiar to carp alone, but common to every species of the same family, such as the bream, tench, &c. Fish of this kind, says Bloch, have properly no tongue; that which appears to be one is merely a cartilaginous substance which projects through those band-like parts that enclose it on each side. This proof would have more weight, did we find it related, that in the time of Aristotle, the tongue was considered as an exquisite morsel: but that is not mentioned; and H. Krunitz is mistaken, when he says that Heliogabalus, to satisfy his luxurious appetite, was induced to try a fricassee of the tongues of carp: it consisted only of the tongues of peacocks and nightingales115. Had the ancients really used carp on their tables, we must have ascribed to them the discovery of these delicious fish.

The other proof which is brought from the scales consists in what is said by Dorion, in Athenæus116, that the cyprianus was called also by some lepidotus, or scaly. As nearly all fish have scales, the scales of this species must have been extremely large, as they got that name by way of eminence; and it must be indeed allowed, that the above epithet would suit our carp exceedingly well, as their scales are very large. But this circumstance alone proves nothing, as the Mullus and Mugil have still larger scales; and to the first genus belonged one of the fish most esteemed by the ancients117. Strabo mentions the lepidotus among the sacred fish of the Nile; but50 whether it be the same as that of which Dorion speaks, cannot be determined. It is certain that the Nile contains carp still; for Norden saw them caught at the waterfall near Essuane, which is the ancient Syene. Did we know that the modern Greeks at present call carp cyprini, this would prove more; for it is an undoubted fact that the ancient names have for the most part been retained in Greece. We are assured by Massarius118, that the Greeks still use the name cyprinus; but Gyllius says that it is employed only by a few: and this is confirmed by Bellon, who mentions all the names of carp which he heard in Greece, and which are entirely different from the ancient119; but he adds, that carp in Ætolia are still called cyprini. Both the before-mentioned circumstances respecting the cyprini agree extremely well with our carp; but as they will suit other kinds equally well, they afford no complete proof, but only a probability which amounts to this, that among the large-scaled fish, carp in particular have a fleshy palate; and it is readily admitted that the ancients were acquainted with all kinds, and chose names for them with more foundation than is done at present.

In opposition to this probability it may be said that Oppian and Pliny reckon the cyprini among the sea-fish, to which kind our carp do not belong. This reply however, which some have indeed made, is not of great weight. In the first place, both these writers seem to have been in an error; for what Pliny says of the cyprini is evidently taken from Aristotle, and the latter does not tell us that these fish live in the sea, but rather the contrary. The Roman author, as Dalechamp remarks, added the words in mari, if they were not added by some transcriber. Oppian as a poet does not always adhere strictly to truth; and he makes more of the freshwater fish of Aristotle to be inhabitants of the sea. In the second place, I consider the distinction made between sea-fish, freshwater fish and those kept in ponds, to be not always very certain or well founded. Who knows whether the greater part of the last may not have been originally sea-fish? This is the more51 probable in regard to carp, as Professor Foster says that carp are sometimes caught in the harbour at Dantzic120.

In order to answer the question here proposed, another point may be considered. As all nations at present give these fish the same name, it is probable that it was brought with them from that country where they were first found, and from which they were procured. Cassiodorus, who lived in the sixth century, is the oldest author as yet known in whom that name has been observed121. In a passage where he speaks of the most delicate and costly fish, which at that time were sent to the tables of princes, he says, “Among these is the carpa, which is produced in the Danube.” In the earliest Latin translation of Aristotle, the word cyprinus, as Camus says, is expressed by carpra. In the thirteenth century this fish was called by Vincentius de Beauvais122 carpera, and by Cæsarius carpo; and it is highly probable that both these names allude to our carp. By the above passage of Cassiodorus, the opinion that these fish were the cyprini of the ancients obtains a new, but at the same time a very feeble proof; for the cyprinus was found also in the Danube, as we learn from Ælian123, who among the fish of the Ister, mentions black cyprini; and these, according to the conjecture of Professor Schneider, were the black fish of the Danube which Pliny considers as unhealthful or poisonous, and like which there were some in Armenia. Our carp indeed are not poisonous, but Pliny alludes to a particular variety, and what he says was only report, to which something must have given rise, as also to the idea of carp with a death’s head, and the head of a pug-dog, as some have been represented by writers of the sixteenth century. The carpo of Cæsarius appears to have been our carp, because its scales had a very great resemblance to those of the latter; for we are told in the work already quoted, that the devil, once indulging in a frolic, appeared in a coat of mail, and had scales like the fish carpo. The carpera of Vincent de Beauvais is still less doubtful, as the same craft in avoiding rakes and nets is ascribed to that fish as is known to be employed by our carp. Sometimes they thrust their heads into the mud and suffer the net to pass over them;52 and sometimes they join the head and tail together, and separating them suddenly, throw themselves towards the surface of the water, and springing often four or five feet above the net, make their escape.

But whence did this name arise? The origin assigned by Vincentius, or the anonymous author of the lost books De Natura Rerum, like another mentioned in ridicule by Gesner, is too silly to be repeated. More learned at any rate is the derivation of Menage, who traces it from cyprinus, which was afterwards transformed into cuprinus, cuprius, cuprus, cupra, curpa, and lastly into carpa. For my part, I am more inclined to derive it from a dialect which was spoken on the banks of the Danube, and to believe that it was brought with the fish from the southern part of Europe; but I am too little acquainted with that dialect to be able to render my conjecture very probable; and the etymologists I consulted, such as Wachter, Ihre, Johnson, &c., afforded me no assistance. Fulda gave me some hopes, as he allows the word to be of German extraction; but I must confess that his derivation is too far-fetched, and like the chemistry of the adepts, to me not perfectly intelligible.

It may perhaps not be superfluous here to observe that one must not confound carpa and carpo, or our carp, with carpio. The latter belongs to the genus of the salmon and trout; and in the Linnæan system is called Salmo carpio. It is found chiefly in the Lago di Garda, the ancient Lacus Benacus, on the confines of Tyrol. The oldest account of this fish is to be found in works of the sixteenth century, such as the poems of Pierius Valerianus, and in Jovius de Piscibus. According to Linnæus, it is found in the rivers of England; but that is false. This celebrated naturalist suffered himself to be misled by Artedi, who gives the char or chare, mentioned by Camden in his description of Lancashire, as the Salmo carpio. Pennant however, by whom it is not mentioned among the English fish, says expressly that the char is not the carpio of the Lago di Garda, but rather a variety of the Salmo alpinus124.

That our carp were first found in the southern parts of Europe, and conveyed thence to other countries, is undoubtedly53 certain. Even at present they do not thrive in the northern regions, and the further north they are carried the smaller they become125. Some accounts of their transportation are still to be found. If it be true that the Latin poem on the expedition of Attila is as old as the fifth or sixth century, and if the fish which Walther gave to the boatman who ferried him over the Rhine, and which the latter carried to the kitchen of Gunther king of the Franks, were carp, this circumstance is a proof that these fish had not been before known in that part of France which bordered on the Rhine126. The examination of this conjecture I shall however leave to others. D’Aussy quotes a book never printed, of the thirteenth century, entitled Proverbes, and in which is given an account of the best articles produced at that time by the different parts of the kingdom, and assures us that a great many kinds of fish were mentioned in it, but no carp, though at present they are common all over France.

It appears also that there were no carp in England in the eleventh century, at least they do not occur in the Anglo-Saxon Dictionary of Ælfric, who in 1051 died archbishop of York127. We are assured likewise that they were first brought into the kingdom in the fifth year of the reign of Henry VIII., or in 1514, by Leonard Mascal of Plumsted in Sussex128. What we read in the Linnæan System, that these fish were first brought to England about the year 1600, is certainly erroneous. Where that celebrated naturalist, under whom I had the pleasure of studying, acquired this information, I do not know.

Denmark is indebted for these fish to that celebrated statesman Peter Oxe, who introduced them into the kingdom as54 well as cray-fish, and other objects for the table. He died in the year 1575.

We are told that these fish were brought from Italy to Prussia, where they are at present very abundant, by a nobleman whose name is not mentioned. This service however may be ascribed with more probability to the upper burg-grave, Caspar von Nostiz, who died in 1588, and who in the middle of the sixteenth century first sent carp to Prussia from his estate in Silesia, and caused them to be put into the large pond at Arensberg not far from Creuzburg. As a memorial of this circumstance, the figure of a carp, cut in stone, was shown formerly over a door at the castle of Arensberg. This colony must have been very numerous in the year 1535, for at that period carp were sent from Königsberg to Wilda, where the archduke Albert then resided. At present (1798) a great many carp are transported from Dantzic and Königsberg to Russia, Sweden, and Denmark. It appears to me probable that these fish after that period became everywhere known and esteemed, as eating fish in Lent and on fast-days was among Christians considered to be a religious duty, and that on this account they endeavoured to have ponds stocked with them in every country, because no species can be so easily bred in these reservoirs.

I shall observe in the last place, that the Spiegel-carpen, mirror-carp, distinguished by yellow scales, which are much larger, though fewer in number, and which do not cover the whole body, are not mentioned but by modern writers. Bloch says that they were first described by Johnston under the name of royal carp. The passage where he does so I cannot find; but in plate xxix. there is a bad engraving, with the title Spiegel-karpen, which however have scales all over their bodies, and cannot be the kind alluded to. On the other hand, the Spiegel-karpen are mentioned by Gesner, who, as it appears, never saw them. In my opinion, Balbinus, who wrote in the middle of the sixteenth century, was the first person who gave a true and complete description of them; and according to his account, they seem to have come originally from Bohemia. The first correct figure of them is to be found in Marsigli.


112 Histor. Animal. lib. iv. cap. 8.

113 Lib. vii. p. 309.

114 Animadvers. vii. 17, p. 540.

115 Lampridii Vita Heliogab. c. 20.

116 Lib. vii. p. 309.

117 This fish was a first-rate article of luxury among the Romans, and was purchased at a dear rate. Juvenal says, “Mullum sex millibus emit, æquantem sane paribus sestertia libris.” See Plin. lib. ix. c. 17. The Italians have a proverb, “La triglia non mangia chi la piglia,” which implies, that he who catches a mullet is a fool if he eats it and does not sell it. When this fish is dying, it changes its colours in a very singular manner till it is entirely lifeless. This spectacle was so gratifying to the Romans, that they used to show the fish dying in a glass vessel to their guests before dinner.

118 Fr. Massarii in ix. Plinii. libr. Castigat. Bas. 1537, 4to.

119 A great service would be rendered to the natural history of the ancients, if some able systematic naturalist would collect all the Greek names used at present. Tournefort and others made a beginning.

120 Philosophical Transact. vol. lxi. 1771, part i. 310.

121 Variorum, p. 380.

122 Speculum Naturale.

123 De Nat. Anim. xiv.—Plin. xxxi. sect. 19.—Antig. Car. c. 181.

124 British Zoology, vol. iii. p. 259.

125 Pontoppidan, Natürliche Historie von Norwegen, ii. p. 236.

126 De Prima Expedit. Attilæ, ed. Fischer. Lips. 1780, 4to.

127 Printed at the end of Somneri Dict. Saxonicum.

128 See Anderson’s Hist. of Commerce, and Pennant’s Zoology, p. 300. Both these authors refer to Fuller’s British Worthies. [The carp existed in England before the year 1486: for in Dame Juliana Berners’ work on Angling, which was published at St. Albans (hence called the Book of St. Albans) in 1486, we find the following passage: speaking of the carp, she says “That it is a deyntous fysshe, but there ben but few in Englonde. And therefore I wryte the lesse of hym. He is an euyll fysshe to take. For he is so stronge enarmyd in the mouthe, that there maye noo weke harnays hold him.”]



Under this appellation are understood portable or moveable mills, which can be used, particularly in the time of war, when there are neither wind- nor water-mills in the neighbourhood, and which on that account formerly accompanied armies in the same manner as camp-ovens and camp-forges. Some of these mills have stones for grinding the corn, and others are constructed with a notched roller like those of our coffee-mills. Some of them also are so contrived that the machinery is put in motion by the revolution of the wheels of the carriage on which they are placed; and others, and perhaps the greater part of those used, are driven by horses or men, after the wheels of the carriage are sunk in the ground, or fastened in some other manner.

To the latter kind belongs that mill of which Zonca129 has given a coarse engraving, but without any description. He says it was invented by Pompeo Targone, engineer to the well-known marquis Ambrose Spinola; and he seems to place the time of the invention about the end of the sixteenth century. This mill is the same as that described by Beyer in his Theatrum Machinarum Molarium, and represented in the twenty-seventh plate of that work130. Beyer remarks that it was employed by Spinola.

The inventor, as his name shows, was an Italian, who made himself known, in particular, at the celebrated siege of Rochelle, under Louis XIII., at which he was chosen to assist, because in the year 1603, when with Spinola, who was consulted respecting the operations at Rochelle, he had helped by means of a mole to shut the harbour of Ostend during the tedious siege of that place. He was likewise in the French service, as intendant des machines du roi; but his numerous and expensive undertakings did not succeed according to his56 expectations131. He invented also a particular kind of gun-carriages, and a variety of warlike machines132.

Another old figure of such a mill was shown to me by Professor Meister, in Recueil de Plusieurs Machines Militaires, printed in 1620. This machine was driven by the wheels of the carriage; but whether it was ever used the author does not inform us.

Lancellotti133 ascribes this invention to the Germans, about the year 1633.

Carriages for transporting camp-forges and mill-machinery are mentioned by Leonard Fronsperger134, but he does not say whether complete mills were affixed to them.


129 Novo Teatro di Machine ed Edificii, di Vittorio Zonca. Padoua, 1621, and reprinted in 1656, fol. The greater part of the machines delineated in this scarce book are engines for raising heavy bodies; but many of them are used in various trades and manufactures, and may serve in some measure to illustrate the history of them.

130 J. M. Beyer’s Schauplatz der Mühlen-Bau-kunst. Leipzig, 1735, fol. Reprinted at Dresden, 1767.

131 All those authors who have written expressly on the fate of the Huguenots, the History of Richelieu, Louis XIII., and the siege of Rochelle, make mention of Targone.

132 Histoire de la Milice Françoise, par Daniel. Amst. 1724, i. p. 332.

133 L’Hoggidi, overo gl’Ingegni non inferiori a’ passati. Ven. 1636, 8vo.

134 Kriegsbuch, Frankf. 1596, fol. p. 9.


It is highly probable that a limpid brook was the first mirror136,57 but we have reason to think that artificial mirrors were made as mankind began to exercise their art and ingenuity on metals and stones. Every solid body, capable of receiving a fine polish, would be sufficient for this purpose; and indeed the oldest mirrors mentioned in history were of metal. Those which occur in Job137 are praised on account of their hardness and solidity; and Moses relates138, that the brazen laver, or washing-basin, was made from the mirrors of the women who had assembled at the door of the tabernacle to present them, and which he caused them to deliver up. As the women appeared in full dress at divine worship, it was necessary for them to have looking-glasses after the Egyptian manner. With these the washing-basins, according to the conjecture of most interpretators, were only ornamented, covered, or perhaps hung round; and Michaelis139 himself was once of this opinion. But why should we not rather believe that the mirrors were melted and formed into washing-basins? As soon as mankind58 began to endeavour to make good mirrors of metal, they must have remarked that every kind of metal was not equally proper for that use, and that the best could be obtained only from a mixture of different metals. In the mirrors however which were collected by Moses, the artists had a sufficient stock of speculum metal, and were not under the necessity of making it themselves; and for this reason they could much more easily give to the whole basin a polished surface, in which the priests, when they washed, might survey themselves at full length. At any rate such a basin would not be the only one employed instead of a mirror. Artemidorus140 says that he who dreams of viewing himself in a basin, will have a son born to him by his maid. Dreams indeed are generally as groundless as this interpretation; but one can hardly conjecture that Artemidorus would have thought of such a dream, had it not been very common for people to contemplate themselves in a basin. There were formerly a kind of fortune-tellers, who pretended to show in polished basins to the simple and ignorant, what they wished to know141. The ancients also had drinking-vessels, the inside of which was cut into mirrors, so disposed that the image of the person who drank from them was seen multiplied142. Vopiscus mentions, among the valuable presents of Valerian to the emperor Probus, when a tribune, a silver cup of great weight, which was covered on the inside with mirrors of this sort143.

59 Menard and others conjecture that mirrors in the time of Homer were not much used, because he mentions them on no occasion, not even where he describes in so circumstantial a manner the toilet of Juno144. In answer to this, however, I have two things to observe. In the first place, it is not to be expected that Homer should have mentioned every article with which he was acquainted; and secondly, we are assured by Callimachus, where he evidently has imitated the passage of Homer before-quoted145, that neither Juno nor Pallas employed a mirror when they dressed. Mythology therefore did not allow the poet to introduce a mirror upon the toilet of that deity. Polydore Vergilius, Boccace, Menard, and others have all fallen into the error of making Æsculapius the inventor of mirrors, though Cicero146 seems to say the same thing; but the best commentators have long since observed very justly, that the Roman philosopher alludes not to a mirror but to a probe, the invention of which we may allow to the father of medicine, who was at first only a surgeon.

When one reflects upon the use made of metal mirrors, particularly at Rome, to add to magnificence and for other purposes, and how many artists, during many successive centuries, were employed in constructing them, and vied to excel each other in their art, one cannot help conjecturing that this branch of business must at those periods have been carried to a high degree of perfection. It is therefore to be regretted that they have not been particularly described by any writer, and that on this account the art was entirely lost after the invention of glass mirrors, which are much more convenient. No60 one at that time entertained the least suspicion that circumstances would afterwards occur which would render these metal mirrors again necessary, as has been the case in our days by the invention of the telescope. Our artists then were obliged to make new experiments in order to discover the best mixture for mirrors of metal; and this should be a warning to mankind, never to suffer arts which have been once invented and useful to become again unknown. A circumstantial description of them should at any rate be preserved for the use of posterity, in libraries, the archives of human knowledge.

When we compare metals in regard to their fitness for mirrors, we shall soon perceive that the hardest of a white colour possess in the highest degree the necessary lustre. For this reason platina is preferable to all others, as is proved from the experiments made by the Count von Sickengen. Steel approaches nearest to this new metal, and silver follows steel; but gold, copper, tin and lead, are much less endowed with the requisite property. I have however observed among the ancients no traces of steel mirrors; and it is probable they did not make any of that metal, as it is so liable to become tarnished, or to contract rust. An ancient steel-mirror is indeed said to have been once found, but as some marks of silvering were perceived on it, a question arises whether the silvered side was not properly the face of the mirror147. Besides, every person knows that a steel mirror would not retain its lustre many centuries amidst ruins and rubbish.

The greater part of the ancient mirrors were made of silver, not on account of costliness and magnificence, as many think, but because silver, as has been said, was the fittest and the most durable of all the then known unmixed metals for that use. In the Roman code of laws, when silver plate is mentioned, under the heads of heirship and succession by propinquity, silver mirrors are rarely omitted; and Pliny148, Seneca149, and other writers, who inveigh against luxury, tell us, ridiculing the extravagance of the age, that every young woman in their time must have a silver mirror. These polished silver plates may however have been very slight, for all the ancient mirrors, preserved in collections, which I have ever seen, are61 only covered with a thin coat of that expensive metal; and in the like manner our artists have at length learned a method of making the cases of gold and silver watches so thin and light, that every footman and soldier can wear one. At first the finest silver only was employed for these mirrors, because it was imagined that they could not be made of that which was standard; but afterwards metal was used of an inferior quality. Pliny tells us so expressly, and I form the same conclusion from a passage of Plautus150. Philematium having taken up a mirror, the prudent Scapha gives her a towel, and desires her to wipe her fingers, lest her lover should suspect by the smell that she had been receiving money. Fine silver however communicates as little smell to the fingers as gold; but it is to be remembered that the ancients understood much better than the moderns how to discover the fineness of the noble metals by the smell, as many modes of proof which we use to find out the alloy, were to them unknown. Money-changers therefore employed their smell when they were desirous of trying the purity of coin151. The witty thought of Vespasian, who, when reproached on account of his tax upon urine, desired those who did so to smell the money it produced, and to tell him whether it had any smell of the article which was the object of it, alludes to this circumstance. In the like manner many savage nations at present can by their smell determine the purity of gold152.

We are informed by Pliny, that Praxiteles, in the time of Pompey the Great, made the first silver mirror, and that mirrors of that metal were preferred to all others. Silver mirrors however were known long before that period, as is proved by62 the passage of Plautus above-quoted. To reconcile this contradiction, Meursius remarks that Pliny speaks only of his countrymen, and not of the Greeks, who had such articles much earlier, and the scene in Plautus is at Athens. This therefore seems to justify the account of Pliny, but of what he says afterwards I can find no explanation. Hardouin is of opinion, that mirrors, according to the newest invention, at that period, were covered behind with a plate of gold, as our mirrors are with an amalgam. But as the ancient plates of silver were not transparent, how could the gold at the back part of them produce any effect in regard to the image? May not the meaning be, that a thin plate of gold was placed at some distance before the mirror in order to throw more light upon its surface? But whatever may have been the case, Pliny himself seems not to have had much confidence in the invention.

Mirrors of copper, brass and gold, I have found mentioned only by the poets, who perhaps employed the names of these metals because they best suited their measure, or because they wished to use uncommon expressions, and thought a golden mirror the noblest. By the brass ones perhaps are to be understood only such as were made of mixed copper. Did golden mirrors occur oftener, I should be inclined to refer the epithet rather to the frame or ornaments than to the mirror itself; for at present we say a gold watch, though the cases only may be of that metal.

Mirrors seem for a long time to have been made of a mixture of copper and tin, as is expressly said by Pliny153, who adds, that the best were constructed at Brundisium. This mixture, which was known to Aristotle, produces a white metal, which, on account of its colour, may have been extremely proper for the purpose, and even at present the same mixture, according to the careful experiments made by Mr. Mudge, an Englishman154, produces the best metal for specula. It appears that the ancients had not determined the proportion very accurately; for Pliny assures us twice that in his time mirrors of silver were preferred. It is indeed not easy to ascertain the quantity of each metal that ought to be taken, and the most advantageous degree of heat; upon63 which a great deal depends. One of the principal difficulties is to cast the metal without blisters or air-holes, and without causing any part of the tin to oxidize, which occasions knots and cracks, and prevents it from receiving a fine polish. A passage of Lucian155, which no one as yet has been able to clear up, alludes certainly, in my opinion, to these faults. A mixture of copper and tin is so brittle, that it is very liable to crack; and a mirror formed of it, if not preserved with great care, soon becomes so dim, that it cannot be used till it has been previously cleaned and polished. For this reason a sponge with pounded pumice-stone was generally suspended, from the ancient mirrors, and they were kept likewise in a case or box, as may be seen by the greater part of those still extant. Mirrors of silver were less subject to this inconvenience, and I am inclined to think that the latter on this account made the former be disused, as we are informed by Pliny.

As ancient mirrors of metal are still to be found in collections of antiquities, it might be of some importance to the arts if chemical experiments were made on their composition. Those who have hitherto given us any account of them have contented themselves with describing their external figure and shape. Count Caylus156 is the only person, as far64 as I know, who caused any chemical experiments to be undertaken on this subject. They were made on a mirror found near Naples, by M. Roux, who asserts that the composition was a mixture of copper and regulus of antimony, with a little lead. Antimony however was not known to the ancients. If that metal was really a component part, the mirror must have been the work of more modern times, or it must be allowed that the artist had metal combined with antimony without knowing it; but the latter is not probable. The experiments made by Roux do not seem to me to have65 proved in a satisfactory manner the presence of regulus of antimony; moreover, no certain information can be derived from them, for the antiquity of the mirror was not ascertained; nor was it known whether it ought to be reckoned amongst the best or the worst of the period when it was made.

Those mirrors, which were so large that one could see one’s self in them at full length, must, in all probability, have consisted of polished plates of silver; for to cast plates of such a size of copper and tin would have required more art than we can allow to those periods; and I do not know whether our artists even now would succeed in them157.

We read in various authors, that, besides metals, the ancients formed stones into mirrors, which were likewise in use. It is undoubtedly certain that many stones, particularly of the vitreous kind, which are opake and of a dark colour, would answer exceedingly well for that purpose; but let the choice have been ever so good, they would not, in this respect, have been nearly equal to metals. These of all mineral bodies have the most perfect opacity; and for that reason the greatest lustre: both these properties are produced by their solidity; and hence they reflect more perfectly, and with more regularity, the rays of light that proceed from other bodies. Our glass mirrors, indeed, are properly metallic. Stones, on the other hand, have at any rate some, though often hardly perceptible, transparency; so that many of the rays of light are absorbed, or at least not reflected. Mention of stone mirrors occurs also so seldom in the ancients, that we may conclude they were made rather for ornament than real utility. In general, we find accounts only of polished plates or panels of stone, fixed in the walls of wainscoted apartments, which were celebrated on account of their property of reflection.

Pliny158 praises in this respect the obsidian stone, or, as it is now called, the Icelandic agate. Everything that he says of it will be perfectly intelligible to those who are acquainted with this species of stone or vitrified lava. The image reflected66 from a box made of it, which I have in my possession, is like a shadow or silhouette; but with this difference, that one sees not only the contour, but also the whole figure distinctly, though the colours are darkened. To form it into images and utensils, which Pliny speaks of, must have been exceedingly difficult, on account of its brittleness. I saw at Copenhagen, among other things made of it, a drinking-cup and cover, on which the artist had been employed four years.

Domitian, when he suspected that plots were formed against him, caused a gallery, in which he used to walk, to be lined with phengites, which by its reflection showed everything that was done behind his back159. Under that appellation we are undoubtedly to understand a calcareous or gypseous spar, or selenite, which is indeed capable of reflecting an image; but we cannot therefore pretend to say that the ancients formed mirrors of it; nor do I explain what Pliny says, where he speaks of the phengites, as if whole buildings had been once constructed of it160. That kind of stone, for various reasons, and particularly on account of its brittleness, is altogether unfit for such a purpose. At those periods, the windows of houses were open, and not filled up with any transparent substance, but only covered, sometimes by lattices or curtains. It is probable, therefore, that those openings of the walls of the building mentioned by Pliny, where the windows used to be, were filled up with phengites, which, by admitting a faint light, prevented the place from being dark even when the doors were shut; so that Pliny might say, “It appeared as if the light did not fall into the building, but as if it were inclosed in it.”

I might be accused of omission did I not here mention also a passage of Pliny161, where he seems to speak of a mirror made of an emerald, which Nero used to assist him to see the combats of the gladiators. Cary asserts that Nero was short-sighted, and that his emerald was formed like a concave67 lens. The former is expressly said by Pliny162, but the latter, though by Abat considered not improbable163, I can scarcely allow myself to believe, because such an interpretation of Pliny’s words is too forced, and because they can be explained much better in another manner. As no mention of such an excellent help to short-sighted people is to be found in any other ancient author, we must allow, if Cary’s opinion be adopted, that this property of the concave emerald was casually remarked, and that no experiments were made to cut any other natural or artificial glass in the same form for the like use, because people imagined that this property was peculiar to the emerald alone, which was then commonly supposed to be endowed with the power of greatly strengthening the eye-sight. Much more probable to me is the explanation of an Italian, which Abat also does not entirely reject, that the emerald had a smooth polished surface, and served Nero as a mirror164; and the passage of Pliny alluded to seems to have been thus understood by Isidore165 and Marbodæus. It may here be objected, that real emeralds are too small to admit of being used as mirrors; but the ancients speak of some sufficiently large for that purpose, and also of artificial ones166; so that we may with certainty conclude, that they classed among the emeralds fluor-spar green vitrified lava, or the green Icelandic agate as it is called, green jasper, and also green glass. The piece of green glass in the monastery of Reichenau, which is seven inches in length, three inches in thickness, and weighs twenty-eight pounds three-quarters; and the large cup at Genoa, which is however full of flaws167, have been given out to be emeralds even to the present time.

Mirrors were made also of rubies, as we are assured by Pliny168, who refers to Theophrastus for his authority; but this precious stone is never found now of such a size as to render this use possible; and Gary and the anonymous Italian before-mentioned have proved very properly that Pliny has68 committed a gross mistake, which has not been observed by Hardouin. Theophrastus, in the passage alluded to169, does not speak of a ruby, but of the well-known black marble of Chio, though he calls both carbunculus, a name given to the ruby on account of its likeness to a burning coal, and to the black marble on account of its likeness to a quenched coal or cinder; and the latter, as well as the obsidian stone, was used sometimes for mirrors.

The account how mirrors were formed by the native Americans, before they had the misfortune to become acquainted with the Europeans, is of considerable importance in the history of this art. These people had indeed mirrors which the Europeans could not help admiring. Some of them were made of black, somewhat transparent, vitrified lava, called by the Spaniards gallinazo, and which is of the same kind as the obsidian stone employed by the Romans for the like purpose. Of this substance the Americans had plane, concave, and convex mirrors. They had others also made of a mineral called the Inca’s stone170, which, as has been already said by Bomare, Sage, Wallerius, and other mineralogists, was a compact pyrites or marcasite, susceptible of a fine polish; and on that account often brought to Europe, and worn formerly in rings under the name of the stone of health. Ulloa says the Inca’s stone is brittle, opake, and of a somewhat bluish colour; it has often veins which cannot be polished, and where these veins are it frequently breaks. The mirrors formed of it, which he saw, were from two to three inches in diameter; but he saw one which was a foot and a half. The opinion which some have entertained, that these mirrors were cast, has no other foundation than the likeness of polished marcasite to cast brass. This mineral is very proper for reflecting images; and I am inclined to think that the Peruvians had better mirrors than the Greeks or the Romans, among whom we find no traces of marcasite being employed in that manner. It appears, however, that the Indians had mirrors also of silver, copper, and brass171.

I come now to the question in what century were invented our glass mirrors, which consist of a glass plate covered at69 the back with a thin leaf of metal. This question has been answered by some with so much confidence, that one might almost consider the point to be determined; but instead of real proofs, we find only conjectures or probabilities; and I must here remark, that I cannot help thinking that they are older than has hitherto been supposed, however desirous I may be to separate historical truth from conjecture. When I have brought together everything which I know on the subject, I would say, that attempts were even made at Sidon to form mirrors of glass; but that they must have been inferior to those of metal, because they did not banish the use of the latter. The first glass mirrors appear to me to have been of black-coloured glass, or an imitation of the obsidian stone; and to have been formed afterwards of a glass plate with some black foil placed behind it172. At a much later period, blown glass, while hot, was covered in the inside with lead or some metallic mixture; and still later, and, as appears, first at Murano, artists began to cover plates of glass with an amalgam of tin and quicksilver. The newest improvements are, the casting of glass-plates, and the art of making plates equally large by blowing and stretching, without the expensive and uncertain process which is required for casting.

That glass mirrors were made at the celebrated glass-houses of Sidon, is mentioned so clearly by Pliny that it cannot be doubted173. When I read the passage, however, without prejudice, without taking into consideration what others have said on it, and compare it with what certain information the ancients, in my opinion, give on the same subject, I can understand it no otherwise than as if the author said, that the art of manufacturing glass various ways was invented, principally, at Sidon, where attempts had been made to form mirrors of it. He appears therefore to allude to experiments which had not completely succeeded; and to say that such attempts, at the time when he wrote, had been entirely abandoned and were almost forgotten. Had this circumstance formed an epoch in the art, Pliny, in another place, where he describes the various improvements of it so fully, would not70 have omitted it; but of those experiments he makes no further mention174. All the inventions which he speaks of, evidently relate to metal mirrors only, of which the silver, at that time, were the newest. Had the Sidonian mirrors consisted of glass plates covered at the back, those of metal, the making of which was, at any rate, attended with no less trouble, which were more inconvenient for use on account of their aptness to break, their requiring to be frequently cleaned and preserved in a case, and which were more unpleasant on account of the faint, dull image which they reflected, could not possibly have continued so long in use as they really did; and circumstances and expressions relative to glass mirrors must certainly have occurred. Though glass continued long to be held in high estimation, particularly at Rome; and though many kinds of glass-ware are mentioned in ancient authors, among costly pieces of furniture, mirrors are mentioned only among articles of silver plate. I am acquainted with no certain trace of glass mirrors from the time of Pliny to the thirteenth century; but after that period, at which they are spoken of in the clearest manner, we find them often mentioned in every century; and mirrors of metal at length entirely disappear.

How the Sidonian mirrors were made, is not known; but if I may be allowed a conjecture, I am of opinion that they consisted of dark-coloured glass, which had a resemblance to the obsidian stone. Such is the usual progress of inventions. At those periods one had no other representation of glass mirrors than that afforded by natural glass or vitreous stones. When artists wished to make mirrors of glass, they would try to imitate the latter. After the invention of printing, people endeavoured to render printed books as like as possible to manuscripts; because they imagined that this invention was to be approved only so far as it enabled them to imitate these, without observing that it could far excel the art of writing. But the Sidonian glass mirrors were so much surpassed by the silver or brass ones, which perhaps were invented about the same time, that on this account they were never brought into use. Glass mirrors, perhaps, would have been invented sooner, had mankind employed at an earlier period glass-windows, which often, when they are shut on the outside so71 that no light can pass through them, reflect images in a much better manner than the best mirrors of metal. This observation, which may be made daily, would then, in all probability, have been sooner turned to advantage.

No one has employed a greater profusion of words to maintain an opinion opposite to mine, than Abat; but when his proofs are divested of their ornaments, they appear so weak that one has very little inclination to agree with him. “The observation,” says he, “that a plate of glass is the best mirror, when all other rays of light, except those reflected back from the glass, are prevented, by a metallic covering placed behind it, from falling on the eye, is so easy, that it must have been made immediately after the invention of glass.” Who does not think here of Columbus and his egg? Instances occur in history of many having approached so near an invention, that we are astonished how they could have missed it; so that we may exclaim with a certain emperor, “Taurum toties non ferire difficile est175.” “The Sidonian invention,” continues he, “would not have been worth mentioning, had it not produced better mirrors than those which the ancients had before of the obsidian stone. But these even are mentioned only once, in so short and abrupt a manner, and as it were out of ridicule, that one may easily perceive they were not much esteemed.” “If the Sidonians,” adds he, “were not the inventors, let some other inventor be mentioned;” and he assures us that he had sought information on this subject, in Neri, Kunkel, and Merret, but without success. That I believe; but Abat does not remark that by the same manner of reasoning we may ascribe to the Sidonians the invention of watches, and many other articles, the inventors of which are not to be found in books where they ought as much to be expected as the inventor of glass in Neri. The grounds on which many old commentators of the Bible, Nicholas de Lyra and others, have supposed that glass mirrors were known so early as the time of Moses, are still weaker. If quoting the names of writers who entertain a like opinion be of any weight, I could produce a much greater number of learned men, who, after an express examination of the question, deny altogether that glass mirrors were used by the ancients.

72 Dr. Watson176 also has endeavoured to support the opinion of Abat, but with less confidence and with more critical acumen. His grounds, I think, I have weakened already; but one observation here deserves not to be overlooked, because it suggests an idea that may serve to illustrate a passage of Pliny, which, as I before remarked, has never yet been explained. “If we admit,” says he, “that Pliny was acquainted with glass mirrors, we may thus understand what he says respecting an invention, which was then new, of applying gold behind a mirror.” Instead of an amalgam of tin, some one had proposed to cover the back of the mirror with an amalgam of gold, with which the ancients were certainly acquainted, and which they employed in gilding177. He mentions, also, on this occasion, that a thought had once occurred to Buffon, that an amalgam of gold might be much better for mirrors than that used at present178. This conjecture appears, at any rate, to be ingenious; but when I read the passage again, without prejudice, I can hardly believe that Pliny alludes to a plate of glass in a place where he speaks only of metallic mirrors; and the overlaying with amalgam requires too much art to allow me to ascribe it to such a period without sufficient proof. I consider it more probable that some person had tried, by means of a polished plate of gold, to collect the rays of light, and to throw them either on the mirror or the object, in order to render the image brighter.

Professor Heeren showed me a passage in the Ecloga of Stobæus, which, on the first view, seems to allude to a glass mirror179. It is there said, Philolaus the Pythagorean believed that the sun was a vitreous body, which only received the rays of the æthereal fire and reflected them to us like a mirror. When we compare, however, the words of Stobæus with those by which Plutarch180, Achilles Tatius181, Eusebius182, and others, express the same thing, that meaning cannot be drawn from them. It appears, at first, as if Philolaus had considered the sun to be transparent, and supposed that the73 rays passed through it, and came condensed to our earth, in the same manner as they are brought to a focus by a glass globe. Some commentators have explained the passage in this manner; and on account of the affinity of the Greek words have thought also of a funnel. In that case, however, the comparison of the sun with a mirror would not have been just; and if it be admitted that Philolaus considered the sun as a bright body endowed with the property of reflection, what he says of rays passing or transmitted through it, and of the pores of the sun’s body, will become unintelligible. But even if we adopt the last explanation, that Philolaus imagined the sun to be a mirror, it does not follow that he had any idea of a glass one183; and besides, he only speaks of a body capable of reflecting a strong light; and that glass, under certain circumstances, is fit for that purpose, may have been remarked as soon as it was invented, though men might not find out the art of forming it into proper mirrors by placing some opake substance behind it184. Empedocles also said, that the sun was a mirror, and that the light received by our earth was the reflection of the æthereal fire, which Eusebius compares to the reflection made by water185.

74 In the problems ascribed to Alexander of Aphrodisias, glass mirrors, covered on the back with tin, are clearly mentioned; but this information does not lead us one step further in the history of the art; as it is proved that the above Alexander, who lived in the beginning of the third century, could not have written that work. The author, who must have been a physician, maintains the immortality of the soul, which Alexander of Aphrodisias, with Aristotle, denies. Some therefore have ascribed these problems to Alexander Trallianus, who practised physic in the middle of the sixth century; but this is only a conjecture which no one has as yet rendered probable, especially as there have been many physicians of the name of Alexander. The problem to which I allude is not to be found in every manuscript and edition; so that it is doubtful whether it may not be the production of a later author than that of the rest of the book, particularly as it is certain that many who had it in their possession added problems of various kinds according to their pleasure. However this may be, it is evident that the author of this problem was acquainted with mirrors covered at the back; and the expression which he uses does not merely imply that a leaf of tin was placed behind the glass plate, but that the tin in a liquid state was rubbed over it. The old French translator thinks that the author speaks of windows; but that opinion is undoubtedly false186.

Of as little importance as the above passage of Alexander, is another of Isidore, often quoted in support of the antiquity of glass mirrors. On the first view it appears to be a testimony of great weight; but when closely examined it becomes reduced to very little. “Nothing,” says he, “is so fit for mirrors as glass187.” Abat and others, who have considered these words as decisive, make less hesitation to ascribe to the75 sixth century, in which Isidore lived, a knowledge of mirrors covered on the back with tin and quicksilver, as the same writer, in another place, observes, that quicksilver can be kept in no vessel but one of glass188. It is very true that a glass filled with that metal will form a very good mirror; but I am of opinion that this may have been long known, before people thought of making an amalgam of tin and quicksilver in order to cover the backs of mirrors. The first passage, which is properly the one of any consequence, loses its force when we see that it is taken from Pliny and copied incorrectly. The latter says, that one can give to glass every kind of shape and colour, and that no substance is more ductile, or fitter to be moulded into any form189. Isidore, as is usual, says the same thing, and in the same words, except, that instead of sequacior he substitutes speculis aptior; so that the mention of a mirror is altogether unexpected, and so little suited to what goes before and what follows, that one must believe that this alteration, occasioned perhaps by the similitude of the words, or by an abbreviation, was not made by Isidore, but by some transcriber. But even if we believe that Isidore himself spoke of glass being used at that period for mirrors, we are not able to comprehend, from what he says, how glass mirrors were made in the sixth century.

I have met with no information respecting this subject in the whole period between the age of Isidore and the eleventh century. About the year 1100, at least as is supposed not without probability, Alhazen the Arabian wrote his well-known treatise on Optics, in which I conjectured that I should find mention made of glass mirrors; but I searched that work in vain, though I must confess I did not read it through entirely. Where he begins his catoptrical lessons, he however often speaks of iron mirrors, by which we may understand mirrors of the best steel. In explaining a certain phænomenon, he says, that the cause of it cannot be in the darkness of the iron mirror, because if a mirror of silver be used, the same effects will be produced. Would he not on this occasion have introduced glass mirrors, had he been as well-acquainted with them as with those already mentioned? At first, he never speaks of mirrors without adding of iron,76 of silver; but he mentions them afterwards without any epithet of the kind.

All these mirrors I find also in the Optics of Vitello, who wrote in the middle of the thirteenth century, in Italy, a country which was at that time almost the only one where the arts flourished190. That author has, indeed, borrowed a great deal from Alhazen, though there are many things of his own, and he gives an account of some experiments on the refracting power of glass; but he never, as far as I have observed, mentions glass mirrors. Whether Jordanus Nemorarius, or Nemoratius, who also wrote, in the thirteenth century, a book De Speculorum Natura, makes mention of them, I do not know, because I have never had an opportunity of seeing that work. I am of opinion it was never printed.

It is in the thirteenth century, that I find the first undoubted mention of glass mirrors covered at the back with tin or lead. Johannes Peckham, or Peccam, an English Franciscan monk, who taught at Oxford, Paris, and Rome, and who died in 1292, wrote about the year 1279 a treatise of optics, which was once printed, with the title of Johannis Pisani Perspectiva Communis191. In this work, besides mirrors made of iron, steel, and polished marble, the author not only speaks often of glass mirrors, but says also that they were covered on the back with lead, and that no image was reflected when the lead was scraped off. Vincentius Bellovacensis192 speaks in a manner still clearer, for he tells us that lead was poured over the glass plate while hot. To the same century also belong the concurrent testimonies of Raimundus Lullius193, Roger Bacon194, Antonius di Padua195, and Nicephorus Gregoras196, who died after the year 1360197.

77 That this invention cannot be much older we have reason to conclude, because glass mirrors were extremely scarce in France even in the fourteenth century, while mirrors of metal were in common use; and we are told that the mirror of Anne de Bretagne, consort of Louis XII., was of the latter kind198. Metal mirrors also were made and employed in Persia and the East, where indeed ancient usages continued longest, and glass mirrors were not known there till the commencement of the European trade with these remote regions. The former are still preferred in those countries, because they are not so liable to break, and can be preserved better in a dry hot climate than the amalgam of the latter.

Respecting the progress of this art, I know nothing more than what follows:—At first, melted lead, or perhaps tin, was poured over the glass plate while yet hot as it came from the furnace. This process agrees with that which, since very early periods, has been employed in or around Nuremberg for making convex mirrors by blowing with the pipe into the glass-bubble whilst still hot a metallic mixture, with a little resin or salt of tartar, which prevents oxidation and assists the fusion. When the bubble is covered all over in the inside, and after it has cooled, it is cut into small round mirrors. This art is an old German invention, for it is described by Porta and Garzoni, who both lived in the beginning of the sixteenth century, and who both expressly say, that it was then common in Germany. Curious foreigners often attempted to learn it, and imagined that the Germans kept it a secret. Boyle made various experiments in order to discover the process; and the secretary of the Royal Society endeavoured, by means of the ambassador from Charles II., who, perhaps about 1670, resided at Frankfort, to obtain a knowledge78 of it; but did not succeed, as we are told by Leibnitz199. It was called the art of preparing mirrors without foil; and it was highly esteemed, because it was supposed that it might be useful to those fond of catoptrics, by enabling them to form convex and concave mirrors themselves. This account of Leibnitz seems to have led Von Murr into a slight error, and induced him to believe that the art of making convex mirrors without foil was first found out at Nuremberg in 1670. I introduce this remark because I flatter myself he will not be displeased that I make the above service, rendered by his native city, to be a century and a half older. These small convex mirrors, which reflect a diminished, but a clearer image than our usual mirrors, are perhaps made still, though they are not now carried round so frequently for sale in Germany as they were thirty years ago, at which time, if I remember right, they were called (Ochsen-augen) ox-eyes. They were set in a round painted board, and had a very broad border or margin. One of them, in my possession, is two inches and a half in diameter. It is probable that the low price of plane mirrors, when glass-houses began to be more numerous, occasioned these convex ones to be little sought after. The mixture employed in making them was, according to Porta, antimony, lead, and colophonium; but according to Garzoni, it was una mistura di piombo, stagno, marchesita d’argento, e tartaro, which in the German edition is translated very badly, “lead, tin, flint, silver, and tartar.” The following observation perhaps is not altogether useless: Colophonium, which is employed on many other occasions for soldering, was formerly called mirror-resin, and was sold under that name even in the beginning of the present century. Frisch assigns no reason for this appellation, and Jacobson gives a wrong one, viz. its having a bright shining surface when broken. The true reason was the above-mentioned use; and as that is now very little known, it is called from that to which it is principally applied, violin-resin.

It appears that, instead of pouring melted metal over plates of glass, artists for some time applied to them the before-79mentioned amalgam of tin, or covered them in some other manner, perhaps in the same way as Boyle covered concave glasses in the inside. Porta however saw almost the same process employed at Murano as that which is still followed at present. The tin, hammered to thin leaves, was spread out very smoothly; and quicksilver was poured over it, and rubbed into it, either with the hand or a hare’s foot; and when the tin was saturated it was covered with paper. The glass, wiped exceedingly clean, was then laid above it; and while the workman pressed it down with his left hand, he drew out very carefully with his right the paper that lay between the tin and the glass, over which weights were afterwards placed. This much at any rate is certain, that the method of covering with tin foil was known at Murano so early as the sixteenth century200, and therefore it is much older than J. M. Hoffmann supposes. To conclude, whether this ingenious invention belongs to the Venetians, as several later, and particularly Italian, writers assert, I can neither prove nor contradict; but it is well known that till about the end of the seventeenth century their mirrors were sold all over Europe and in both the Indies. After that period the glass-houses in other countries were improved, and new ones established; and the discovery made in France, that glass, like metal, could be cast into much larger plates than had been before prepared by blowing and rolling, was in more than one respect prejudicial to the sale of those made at Venice.

So early as the year 1634, attempts were made in France to establish glass-houses for manufacturing mirrors, and Eustache Grandmont obtained a patent for that purpose; but his undertaking was not attended with success. As Colbert exerted himself very much to promote manufactures of every kind, Nicholas de Noyer proposed to make mirrors according to the Venetian method. This plan was adopted by Charles Rivière, sieur du Freni, valet-de-chambre to the king; and having procured the royal permission, he sold it80 afterwards for a large sum to De Noyer, who, in 1665, received a confirmation of the patent, and an advance of 12,000 livres for four years, on condition of his procuring workmen from Venice, who, after serving eight years in the kingdom, were to be naturalized. De Noyer was joined by several more, who entered into partnership with him, and particularly by one Poquelin, who had hitherto carried on the greatest trade in Venetian mirrors, and who engaged workmen from Murano. The glass-houses were erected at the village of Tourlaville, near Cherbourg, in Lower Normandy. After the death of Colbert, who was succeeded by Louvois, the charter of the company was in 1684 renewed for thirty years longer, and at that period Pierre de Bagneux was at the head of it.

Scarcely had five years of this period elapsed, when, in 1688, Abraham Thevart made a proposal to the court for casting glass mirrors of a much larger size than any ever before made. This plan, after an accurate investigation, was approved; and in the same year he received the royal permission to use his invention for thirty years, but it was not registered till 1693 or 1694. The first plates were cast at Paris, and astonished every artist who saw them. They were eighty-four inches in height, and fifty in breadth. In order to lessen the excessive expense, the glass-houses were erected at St. Gobin, in Picardy; and to prevent all dispute with the old privileged company, Thevart was expressly bound to make plates at least sixty inches in length and forty in breadth, whereas the largest of those made before had never exceeded forty-five or fifty inches in length. On the other hand, the old company were allowed to make plates of a smaller size, and were prohibited from employing any of the instruments or apparatus invented by Thevart. These however had not been so accurately defined as to remove all cause of litigation between the companies, and for that reason permission was at length granted, in 1695, for both to be united into one, under the inspection of François Plastrier, to whom the king, in 1699, sold the palace of St. Gobin. After this they declined so rapidly, that in 1701 they were not able to pay their debts, and were obliged to abandon several of the furnaces. To add to their misfortune, some of the workmen whom they had discharged retired to other countries, which81 were already jealous of the French invention, and wished to turn it to their advantage. The French writers assert that their attempts never succeeded, and that most of the workmen returned again to France, when a new company was formed in 1702, under the management of Antoine d’Agincourt, who by prudent œconomy improved the establishment, so as to render the profit very considerable. At present mirrors are cast as well as blown, both at St. Gobin and at Cherbourg; and in 1758 the price of them was greatly reduced, in order probably to weaken the competition of the foreign glass-houses, among which there are many not inferior to the French.

This short history of the glass manufactories in France is collected from Savary201 and Expilly202. A more particular account perhaps may be expected of the inventor, of his first experiments, and of their success; but notwithstanding a strict search, I have not been able to find any further information on the subject. We are told only that his name was sieur Abraham Thevart, though the historians who record that circumstance have filled their pages with uninteresting anecdotes, and even with the vices of many of the courtiers of the same period.

The principal benefit which has arisen to the art from this invention, properly is, that much larger mirrors can be obtained than formerly; for when attempts were made to blow very large plates, they were always too thin. Casting, however, besides great expense in apparatus203, requires so many expert workmen, and so tedious and severe labour, and is accompanied with so much danger, that it is only seldom that plates of an extraordinary size succeed, and the greater part of them must be cut into smaller plates which might have been blown. Those cast are never so even and smooth as those that have been blown; they require therefore a great82 deal of polishing, and on that account must be very thick. The monstrous mass requisite for a mirror of the largest size, stands ready melted in a very frail red-hot earthen pot, which is taken from the furnace and placed upon an iron plate, strongly heated, that the mass may be cast upon it into a glass plate. The latter must then be speedily conveyed to the cooling-furnace, and if it be found free from faults, it is ground, polished and silvered; but the last part of the process is generally done at the place where a purchaser can be found for so expensive an article, in order that less loss may be sustained in case it should happen to break by the way.

These great difficulties, which have excited the astonishment of every one who has seen the process, and that of finding sale for so expensive and magnificent wares, have obliged artists to return to the old method of blowing; and many have been so fortunate in improving this branch of manufacture, that plates are formed now by blowing, sixty-four Flemish inches in height and twenty-three in breadth, which it was impossible to make before but by casting.

The mass of matter necessary for this purpose, weighing more than a hundred pounds, is by the workman blown into the shape of a large bag; it is then reduced to the form of a cylinder, and being cut up, is, by stretching, rolling it with a smooth iron, and other means, transformed into an even plane.

[All but the very commonest mirrors are now made of plate-glass; which is also used to a great extent for window-panes, and is manufactured by casting, rolling and polishing. The enormous plates of glass which are seen in many of the large shops of this city are well-calculated to excite the astonishment of those who are not yet aware of the late improvements in this branch of manufacture. An idea of what may be accomplished by blowing was given in 1845, at the Exhibition at Vienna, where a blown glass 7 feet in length and 3½ in breadth was exhibited; and which was of sufficient thickness to admit of polishing. Nevertheless, the casting of plate-glass is now managed with such comparative ease, that there appears to be no limit to the size to which the plates can be brought, so that the blowing of large panes of glass is given up in this country. Private houses may now be seen decorated with single sheets of glass upwards of 20 feet in height and 10 in width.

83 A patent for a very ingenious process for silvering glass was taken out in November 1843 by Mr. Drayton. It consists in depositing silver, from a solution, upon glass, by deoxidizing the oxide of silver in solution, so that the precipitate will adhere to the glass, without the latter having been coated with metallic or other substances. This is effected by mixing 1 oz. of coarsely powdered nitrate of silver with ½ oz. of spirits of hartshorn and 2 oz. of water; after standing for 24 hours, the mixture is filtered (the deposit on the filter, which contains silver, being preserved), and an addition is made thereto of 3 oz. of spirit (by preference, spirit of wine) at 60° above proof, or naphtha; from 20 to 30 drops of oil of cassia are then added, and after remaining for about 6 hours longer, the solution is ready for use. The glass to be silvered must have a clean and polished surface; it is to be placed in a horizontal position, and a wall of putty formed around it, so that the solution may cover the surface of the glass to the depth of from ⅛th to ¼th of an inch. After the solution has been poured on the glass, from 6 to 12 drops of a mixture of oil of cloves and spirit of wine (in the proportion of 1 part by measure of the oil to 3 of spirit of wine) are dropped into it at different places; or the diluted oil of cloves may be mixed with the solution before it is poured upon the glass; the more oil of cloves used, the more rapid will be the deposition of the silver, but the patentee prefers that it should occupy about two hours. When the required deposit has been obtained, the solution is poured off; and as soon as the silver on the glass is perfectly dry, it is varnished with a composition, formed by melting together equal quantities of bees’ wax and tallow. The patentee states that, by experiment, he has ascertained that about 18 grs. of nitrate of silver are used for each square foot of glass.

It has been urged as an objection to this process, that in the course of a few weeks the surfaces of the mirrors formed by it become dotted over with small brownish-red spots, which greatly injures their appearance. Dr. Stenhouse states that these spots are caused by the metallic silver, whilst being deposited on the surface of the glass, carrying down with it mechanically small quantities of a resinous matter, resulting most probably from the oxidation of the oil. This subsequently84 acts upon the metallic surface with which it is in contact, and produces the small brown spots already mentioned. Mr. Drayton, however, states that the brown spots only occur when the oil employed is old and unfit for use.]


135 The works in which this subject has been already treated are the following:—Eberhartus de Weihe, de Speculi origine, usu et abusu. A compilation formed without taste, of which I gave some account in the Article on Chimneys.—Spanhemii Obs. in Callimachi hymn. lavacr. Palladis, p. 615.—Académie des Inscriptions, t. xxiii. p. 140.—Recherches sur les Miroirs des Anciens, par Menard. A short paper, barren of information.—Saggi di Dissertazioni Accad. dell’ Accad. Etrusca dell’ città di Cortona, vii. p. 19: Sopra gli Specchi degli Antichi, del Sig. Cari. A translation from the French, with the figures of some ancient mirrors. It contains an explanation of some passages in Pliny, where he seems to speak of a mirror formed of a ruby, and some conjectures respecting the mirror of Nero. An anonymous member of the Academy, in an appendix, confirms the former, and considers the latter, very properly, as improbable.—Caylus, Recueil d’Antiquités, iii. p. 331, and v. p. 173. A description and figures of ancient mirrors, with some chemical experiments on their composition.—Amusemens Philosophiques. Par le père Bonaventure Abat. Amst. 1763, 8vo, p. 433: Sur l’Antiquité des Mirroirs de Verre. A dissertation worthy of being read on account of the author’s acquaintance with the ancient writers, and his knowledge of technology; but he roves beyond all proof, and employs too much verbosity to decorate his conjectures.

136 Passages of the poets, where female deities and shepherdesses are represented as contemplating themselves in water instead of a mirror, may be found in the notes to Phædri Fab. i. 4, in the edition of Burmann.

137 Chap. xxxvii. ver. 18.

138 Exodus, chap. xxxviii. ver. 8.

139 Historia Vitri apud Judæos, in Comment. Societat. Scient. Gotting. iv. p. 330. Having requested Professor Tychsen’s opinion on this subject, I received the following answer:—“You have conjectured very properly that the mirrors of the Israelitish women, mentioned Exod. xxxviii. 8, were not employed for ornamenting or covering the washing-basins, in order that the priests might behold themselves in them; but that they were melted and basins cast of them. The former was a conceit first advanced, if I am not mistaken, by Nicol. de Lyra, in the fourteenth century, and which Michaelis himself adopted in the year 1754; but he afterwards retracted his opinion when he made his translation of the Old Testament at a riper age. In the Hebrew expression there is no ground for it; and mirrors could hardly be placed very conveniently in a basin employed for washing the feet. I must at the same time confess that the word (מראת) which is here supposed to signify a mirror, occurs nowhere else in that sense. Another explanation therefore has been given, by which both the women and mirrors disappear from the passage. It is by a learned Fleming, Hermann Gid. Clement, and may be found in his Dissertatio de Labro Æneo, Groning. 1732, and also in Ugolini Thesaurus, tom. xix. p. 1505. He translates the passage thus: Fecit labrum æneum et operculum ejus æneum cum figuris ornantibus, quæ ornabant ostium tabernaculi. This explanation however is attended with very great difficulties; and as all the old translators and Jewish commentators have here understood mirrors; and as the common translation is perfectly agreeable to the language and circumstances, we ought to believe that Moses, not having copper, melted down the mirrors of his countrywomen and converted them into washing-basins for the priests.”

140 Oneirocrit. lib. iii. cap. 30. p. 176.

141 Joh. Sarisberiensis, i. cap. 12.

142 Plin. lib. xxxiii. cap. 9. Seneca, Quæst. Nat. i. cap. 5.

143 Vita Probi, cap. iv. p. 926: “Patinam argenteam librarum decem specillatam.” Salmasius chooses rather to read specellatam. I am inclined to think that this word ought to be read in Suetonius instead of speculatum, where he speaks of an apartment which Horace seems to have been fond of. That historian, in his Life of Horace, says, “Ad res venereas intemperantior traditur: nam speculato cubiculo scorta dicitur habuisse disposita, ut quocunque respexisset, ibi ei imago coitus referretur.” Lessing, who in his Miscellanies (Vermischten Schriften, Berlin 1784, 12mo, iii. p. 205) endeavours to vindicate the poet from this aspersion, considers the expression speculatum cubiculum, if translated an apartment lined with mirrors, as contrary to the Latin idiom, and thinks therefore that the whole passage is a forgery. Baxter also before said that this anecdote had been inserted by some malicious impostor. This I will not venture to contradict, but I am of opinion that specillatum or specellatum cubiculum is at any rate as much agreeable to the Roman idiom as patina specillata. This expression Salmasius and Casaubon have justified by similar phrases, such as opera filicata, tesselata, hederata, &c. The chamber in which Claudian makes Venus ornament herself, and be overcome by the persuasion of Cupid, was also covered over with mirrors, so that whichever way her eyes turned, she could see her own image. Did Claudian imagine that this goddess knew how to employ such an apartment, not only for dressing, but even after she was undressed, as well as Horace? I have seen at a certain court, a bed entirely covered in the inside with mirrors.

144 Iliad. lib. xiv. ver. 166.

145 Hymnus in Lavacrum Palladis, v. 15, 21. It was however customary to ascribe a mirror to Juno, as Spanheim on this passage proves; and Athanasius, in Orat. contra Gentes, cap. xviii. p. 18, says that she was considered as the inventress of dress and all ornaments. Should not therefore the mirror, the principal instrument of dress, belong to her? May it not have been denied to her by Callimachus, because he did not find it mentioned in the description which Homer has given of her dressing-room?

146 De Natur. Deorum, iii. 22.

147 Licetus de Lucernis Antiq. lib. vi. cap. 92.

148 Lib. xxxiv. cap. 17, p. 669.

149 Quæst. Nat. at the end of the first book.

150 Mostell. act i. sc. 3. v. 101.

151 Arrianus in Epictet. i. cap. 20, p. 79.

152 Among the remaining passages of the ancients with which I am acquainted, in which mention is made of silver mirrors, the following deserves notice. Chrysostom, Serm. xvii. p. 224, who, in drawing a picture of the extravagance of the women, says, “The maid-servants must be continually importuning the silversmith to know whether their lady’s mirror be yet ready.” The best mirrors therefore were made by the silversmiths. It appears that the mirror-makers at Rome formed a particular company; at least Muratori, in Thesaur. Inscript. Clas. vii. p. 529, has made known an inscription in which collegium speculariorum is mentioned. They occur also in Codex Theodos. xiii. tit. 4, 2. p. 57, where Ritter has quoted more passages in which they may be found. But perhaps the same name was given to those who covered walls with polished stones, and in latter times to glaziers.

153 Lib. xxxiii. c. 9. p. 627, and lib. xxxiv. c. 17, p. 669.

154 Philosophical Transactions, vol. lxvii. p. 296.

155 Quomodo Historia sit conscrib. cap. 51, Bipont edition, iv. p. 210, 535. Commentators have found no other way to explain κέντρον (a word which occurs in Lucian’s description of the mirror), than by the word centre, to which, according to their own account, there can be here no allusion. In my opinion κέντρον signifies those faulty places which are not capable of a complete polish, on account of the knots or cracks which are found in them. Lucian therefore speaks of a faultless mirror which represents the image perfect, as he afterwards informs us.

156 As the account of these experiments is given only in an expensive work, which may not often fall into the hands of those who are best able to examine it, I insert it here. “The ancient mirror, which I examined, was a metallic mixture, very tender and brittle, and of a whitish colour inclining to grey. When put into the fire, it remained a long time in a state of ignition before it melted. It was neither inflammable nor emitted any smell like garlic, which would have been the case had it contained arsenic. It did not either produce those flowers which are generally produced by all mixtures in which there is zinc. Besides, the basis of this mixture being copper, it would have been of a yellow colour had that semi-metal formed a part of it. I took two drams of it and dissolved them in the nitrous acid. A solution was speedily formed, which assumed the same colour as solutions of copper. It precipitated a white powder, which I carefully edulcorated and dried. Having put it into a crucible with a reductive flux, I obtained lead very soft and malleable.

“Having filtered the solution, I took a part of it, upon which I poured an infusion of gall-nuts, but it produced no change. A solution of gold, which I poured upon another part, made it assume a beautiful green colour; but no precipitate was formed: which is sufficient to prove that there was neither iron nor tin in the mixture.

“On the remaining part of the solution I poured a sufficient quantity of the volatile alkali to dissolve all the copper that might be contained in it. The solution became of a beautiful sapphire blue colour, and a white precipitate was formed. Having decanted the liquor, and carefully edulcorated the precipitate, I endeavoured to reduce it; but whether it was owing to the quantity being too small, or to my not giving it sufficient heat, I could not succeed. I had recourse therefore to another method.

“I took the weight of two drams of the mixture, which I brought to a high state of ignition in a cuppel. When it was of a whitish-red colour, I threw upon it gradually four drams of sulphur, and when the flame ceased, I strengthened the fire in order to bring it to complete fusion. By these means I obtained a tender brittle regulus, whiter than the mixture, in which I observed a few small needles. Being apprehensive that some copper might still remain, I sulphurated it a second time, and then obtained a small regulus which was almost pure antimony.

“It results from these experiments, that the metal of which the ancients made their mirrors was a composition of copper, regulus of antimony, and lead. Copper was the predominant, and lead the smallest part of the mixture; but it is very difficult, as is well known, to determine with any certainty the exact proportion of the substances contained in such compositions.”

[In the examination of an Etruscan mirror, which was placed in my hands for analysis by Professor Gerhardt of Berlin, it was found to consist, in 100 parts, of 67·12 copper, 24·93 tin, and 8·13 lead, approximating closely to an alloy of eight parts of copper to three of tin and one of lead. The oxide of tin obtained in the course of analysis was carefully examined, before the blowpipe, for antimony, but I did not succeed in detecting a trace of that metal. A similar mirror had been likewise analysed by Klaproth; he found 62 per cent. copper, 32 tin, and 6 per cent. lead, but no trace of antimony.—W. F.]

157 Of such large mirrors Seneca speaks in his Quæst. Nat. lib. i. Of the like kind was the mirror of Demosthenes mentioned by Plutarch, Lucian, and Quintilian.—Institut. Orat. xi. 3, 68, p. 572.

158 Lib. xxxvi. c. 26, p. 758.

159 Sueton. in Vita Domit. cap. xiv. p. 334.

160 Lib. xxxvi. 22, p. 752.—“Cappadociæ lapis, duritia marmoris, candidus atque translucidus, ex quo quondam templum constructum est a quodam rege, foribus aureis, quibus clausis claritas diurna erat.”—Isidor. Origin. 16, 4. Our spar is transparent, though clouds and veins occur in it, like the violet and isabella-coloured, for example, of that found at Andreasberg. Compare this explanation with what Salmasius says in Exercitat. Plin. p. 184.

161 Lib. xxxvii. cap. 5, p. 774.

162 Lib. xi. cap. 37, p. 617.

163 This dissertation of Abat may be found translated in Neuen Hamburg. Magazin. i. p. 568.

164 Academia di Cortona, vii. p. 34.

165 Origin. xvi. 7.

166 Goguet, ii. p. 111. Fabricii Biblioth. Græca. vol. i. p. 70.

167 Keyssler, i. pp. 17 and 441.

168 Lib. xxxvii. cap. 7.

169 De Lapid. § 61.

170 [This stone acquired its name from its being much used in ornaments by the Incas or Princes of Peru.]

171 De la Vega, ii. 28.

172 Montamy in Abhandlung von den Farben zum Porzellan, Leipzig, 1767, 8vo, p. 222, asserts that he saw, in a collection of antiquities, glass mirrors which were covered behind only with a black foil.

173 Lib. xxxvi. cap. 26, p. 758.

174 Lib. xxxiii. cap. 9, p. 627.

175 Trebell. Pollio, Vita Gallien. cap. 12.

176 Chemical Essays, vol. iv. p. 246.

177 Plin. lib. xxxiii.: Æs inaurari argento vivo, aut certe hydrargyro, legitimum erat. The first name here seems to signify native quicksilver, and the second that separated from the ore by an artificial process.

178 Hist. Nat. Supplem. i. p. 451.

179 Stob. Eclog. Antv. 1575, fol. p. 56.

180 De Placitis Philos. ii. cap. 20.

181 In Aratum, cap. 19.

182 Lib. i. cap. 8.

183 It is undoubtedly certain, that ὕαλος, which is translated vitreous or glassy, means any smooth polished body capable of reflecting rays of light. Originally it signified a watery body; and because watery bodies have a lustre, it was at length used for glass. See Salmas. ad Solin. p. 771.

184 More observations respecting the opinion of Philolaus may be found in the edition of Plutarch’s work De Placitis Philosophorum by Ed. Corsinus, Flor. 1750, 4to, p. 61, and p. 23.

185 Professor Heeren having given me his opinion on this passage of Stobæus, I shall here insert it for the satisfaction of the learned reader. The critics, says he, will hardly be persuaded that the words καὶ τὸ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ πυροειδὲς κατὰ τὸ ἐσοπτροειδὲς are correct, as they can be translated different ways. With regard to the explanation of the matter, I build only on the plain meaning of the words. The author tells us, that Philolaus thought the sun to be a mirror; but we must conclude that he speaks of a mirror such as were then in use; a smooth plate of metal, and not a globe. In this case the first explanation of a glass globe falls to the ground. This is confirmed by Eusebius, who calls it ὑαλοειδὴς δίσκος, though it is possible that the latter word may be a gloss added by some grammarian, or by Eusebius himself. If we enter further into the explanation, we must adopt the plain idea, that the rays of the sun fall upon this plate, and are reflected to us. I am however of opinion, that ὕαλος ought to be translated glass, ὑαλοειδὴς glassy or vitreous; for the intention of Philolaus evidently was to define the substance of the sun’s body. The result of the whole is, Philolaus considered the sun as a plain plate of glass which reflected the rays or brightness of the æthereal fire. But that he was acquainted with a proper glass mirror does not thence follow with certainty.

186 Pourquoy reluient les fenestres de verre si fort? Pourtant que la nature de l’estain, duquel elles sont basties par dedans, fort clere, meslée avec le verre cler aussi de lui mesme reluyst d’avantage; et le quel estain outrepassant ses raïons par les petits pores du verre, et augmentant doublement la face extérieure du dit verre, la rend grandement clere.—Problemes d’Alexandre Aphrod., traduit par M. Herret. Paris 1555, 8vo, p. 50.

187 Origin. lib. xvi. 15, p. 394.

188 Origin. lib. xvi. 18, p. 396.

189 Lib. xxxvi. cap. 26, p. 759.

190 Bayle, Diction. Histor. vol. iv. p. 462.

191 Printed at Leipzig, 1504, in small folio. There is an edition also printed at Cologne in 1624, and Fabricius quotes a Venetian edition. Pisanus seems to have been a by-name given by some one to Peckham.

192 Specul. Natur. ii. 78, p. 129.

193 Ars Magna, cap. lxvii. p. 517, in Lullii Opera. Argent. 1607, 8vo.

194 Opus Majus, ed. Jebb. Lond. 1733, fol. p. 346.

195 Franc. Assisiatis et Ant. Paduani Opera. Lugd. 1653, fol.

196 Nicephori Schol. in Synesium, in Synesii Op. Par. 1612, fol. p. 419.

197 In the collection of antiquities at St. Denis, an ancient mirror was shown, which was said to have belonged to Virgil. It was oval, and before Mabillon let it fall, was fourteen inches in length and twelve in breadth, and weighed thirty pounds. It is transparent, and of a brownish-yellow colour. According to experiments made on purpose, it was found to consist of artificial glass, mixed with a considerable portion of lead; and as it had been preserved in the above collection from the earliest periods, the practice of adding lead to glass must be very old. But whether this mirror was covered at the back, and how it was covered, though these are the most important points, I find nowhere mentioned. In the collection of the Grand Duke of Tuscany there is a piece of the same kind, said also to have been the mirror of Virgil. See Le Veil, Kunst auf Glas zu malen, Nurnb. 1779, 4to, p. 23, and Hist. de l’Acad. des Sciences, 1737, p. 412.

198 Villaret, Hist. de France. Par. 1763, xi. p. 142.

199 In Miscellanea Berolinensia, i. p. 263; but nothing further is said respecting the art, than that it was daily used in the glass-houses. Had I an opportunity, I should make experiments of every kind in order to discover a method of forming plane mirrors also in the like manner.

200 Wecker, in his book De Secretis, lib. x. p. 572, seems to say, that one must lay the saturated tin leaf so carefully on the glass plate, that no air can settle between them. According to Garzoni, the tin leaf is spread out on a smooth stone table, and after it has been rubbed over with quicksilver, the glass is placed above it.

201 Tome iii. p. 87, art. Glace.

202 Dict. Géog. de la France. Amst. 1762, fol. v. pp. 415, 672.

203 A furnace for casting large glass plates, before it is fit to be set at work, cost, it is said, 3500l. It seldom lasts above three years, and even in that time it must be repaired every six months. It takes six months to rebuild it, and three months to repair it. The melting-pots are as big as large hogsheads, and contain above 200 cwt. of metal. If one of them burst in the furnace, the loss of the matter and time amounts to 250l.Trans.


I do not here mean to enter into the history of engraving on stone, as that subject has been already sufficiently illustrated by several men of learning well acquainted with antiquities. I shall only observe, that the ancient Greek artists formed upon glass both raised and engraved figures; as may be seen by articles still preserved in collections, though it is probable that many pieces of glass may have been moulded like paste; for that art also is of very great antiquity204. It appears likewise that they cut upon plates of glass and hollow glass vessels all kinds of figures and ornaments, in the same manner as names, coats of arms, flowers, landscapes, &c. are cut upon drinking-glasses at present205. If we can believe that learned engraver in stone, the celebrated Natter, the ancients employed the same kind of instruments for this purpose as those used by the moderns206. They undoubtedly had in like manner a wheel which moved round in a horizontal direction above the work-table, or that machine which by writers is called a lapidary’s wheel.

If this conjecture be true, what Pliny says respecting the various ways of preparing glass is perfectly intelligible. It is turned, says he, by the wheel, and engraven like silver. In my opinion we are to understand by the first part of this sentence, that the glass was cut by the wheel, like stone, both hollow and in relief, though it is possible that drinking-cups or vessels may have been formed from the glass metal by means85 of the wheel also207. In the latter part of the sentence we must not imagine that Pliny alludes to gravers like those used by silversmiths, for the comparison will not apply to instruments or to the manner of working, which in silver and glass must be totally different; but to the figures delineated on the former, which were only cut out on the surface in a shallow manner; and such figures were formed on glass by the ancient artists, as they are by our glass-cutters, by means of a wheel.

Many, however, affirm that the art of glass-cutting, together with the necessary instruments, was first invented in the beginning of the seventeenth century. The inventor is said to have been Casper Lehmann, who originally was a cutter of steel and iron; and who made an attempt, which succeeded, of cutting crystal, and afterwards glass, in the like manner. He was in the service of the emperor Rodolphus II., who, in the year 1609, besides presents, conferred on him the title of lapidary and glass-cutter to the court, and gave him a patent by which every one except himself was forbidden to exercise this new art. He worked at Prague, where he had an assistant named Zacharias Belzer; but George Schwanhard the elder, one of his scholars, carried on the same business to a far greater extent. The latter, who was a son of Hans Schwanhard, a joiner at Rothenburg, was born in 1601; and in 1618 went to Prague to learn the art of glass-cutting from Lehmann. By his good behaviour he so much gained the esteem of his master, who died a bachelor in 1622, that he was left his heir; and obtained from the emperor Rodolphus a continuation of Lehmann’s patent. Schwanhard, however, removed to Nuremberg, where he worked for many of the principal nobility; and by these means procured to that city the honour of being accounted the birth-place of this new art. In the year 1652 he worked at Prague and Ratisbon by command of the emperor Ferdinand III., and died in 1667, leaving behind him two sons, who both followed the occupation of the father. The elder, who had the same christian name as the father, died so early as 1676; but the other, Henry, survived him several years. After that period Nuremberg produced86 in this art more expert masters, who, by improving the tools and devising cheaper methods of employing them, brought it to a much higher degree of perfection208.

That the art is of so modern date seems to be confirmed by Zahn, who speaks of it as of a new employment carried on at that time, particularly at Nuremberg. He describes the work-table as well as the other instruments; and gives a figure of the whole, which he appears to have considered as the first209. It may be seen, however, from what I have already quoted, that this invention does not belong entirely to the moderns; and, to deny that the ancients were altogether unacquainted with it, would be doing them an injustice. It was forgotten and again revived; and this is the opinion of Caylus.

I must here remark, that before this invention there were artists, who, with a diamond, cut or engraved figures on glass, which were everywhere admired. Without entering, however, into the history of diamonds, which would require more materials than I have yet been able to collect, I will venture to assert that the ancient artists employed diamond dust for polishing or cutting other kinds of stones. Pliny210 speaks of this in so clear a manner that it cannot be doubted. The same thing has been repeated by Solinus211, Isidore212, and Albertus Magnus213, in a manner equally clear, and Mariette214 considers it as fully proved; but it does not appear that the ancients made any attempts to cut this precious stone with its own dust; I mean to give it different faces and to render it brilliant. Whether they engraved on it in that manner I cannot pretend to decide, as the greatest artists are not agreed on the subject. Mariette215 denies that they did; whereas Natter216 seems not to deny it altogether, and Klotz217 confidently asserts it as a thing certain. But the last-mentioned author knew nothing more of this circumstance than what he had read in the above-quoted writers.

The question which properly belongs to my subject is,87 whether the Greeks and the Romans used diamond pencils for engraving on other stones. That many ancient artists assisted their labour by them, or gave their work the finishing touches, seems, according to Natter, to be shown by various antique gems. But even allowing this to have been the case (for at any rate I dare not contradict so eminent a connoisseur), I must confess that I have found no proofs that the ancients cut glass with a diamond. We are however acquainted with the means employed by the old glaziers to cut glass: they used for that purpose emery, sharp-pointed instruments of the hardest steel, and a red-hot iron, by which they directed the rents according to their pleasure.

The first mention of a diamond being used for writing on glass occurs in the sixteenth century. Francis I. of France, who was fond of the arts, sciences, and new inventions, wrote the following lines with his diamond ring upon a pane of glass, at the castle of Chambord, in order to let Anne de Pisseleu, duchess of Estampes, know that he was jealous:

Souvent femme varie,
Mal habil qui s’y fie.

The historian recorded this not so much on account of the admonition, which is not new, as because it was then thought very ingenious to write upon glass218. About the year 1562, festoons and other ornaments, cut with a diamond, were extremely common on Venetian glasses, which at that period were accounted the best. George Schwanhard the elder was a great master in this art219; and in more modern times, John Rost, an artist of Augsburg, ornamented in a very curious manner with a diamond pencil, some drinking-glasses which were purchased by the emperor Charles VI.

I now come to the art of etching on glass, which properly was the subject of this article. As the acid which dissolves siliceous earth, and also glass, was first discovered in the year 1771, by Scheele the chemist220, in fluor-spar, one might imagine that the art of engraving with it upon glass could88 not be older. It has indeed been announced by many as a new invention221; but it can be proved that it was discovered as early as the year 1670, by the before-mentioned artist Henry Schwanhard. We are told that some aquafortis having fallen by accident upon his spectacles, the glass was corroded by it; and that he thence learned to make a liquid by which he could etch writing and figures upon plates of glass222. How Schwanhard prepared this liquid I find nowhere mentioned; but at present we are acquainted with no other acid but that of fluor-spar which will corrode every kind of glass; and it is very probable that his preparation was the same as that known to some artists as a secret in 1721. The inventor however employed it to a purpose different from that for which it is used at present.

At present the glass is covered with a varnish, and those figures which one intends to etch are traced out through it; but Schwanhard, when the figures were formed, covered them with varnish, and then by his liquid corroded the glass around them; so that the figures, which remained smooth and clear, appeared when the varnish was removed, raised from a dim or dark ground. He perhaps adopted this method in order to render his invention different from the art known long before of cutting the figures on the glass as if engraven. Had he been able to investigate properly what accident presented to him, he might have enriched the arts with a discovery which gave great reputation to a chemist a hundred years after.

I mentioned this old method of etching in relief to our ingenious Klindworth, who possesses great dexterity in such89 arts, and requested him to try it. He drew a tree with oil varnish and colours on a plate of glass, applied the acid to the plate in the usual manner, and then removed the varnish. By these means a bright, smooth figure was produced upon a dim ground, which had a much better effect than those figures that are cut into the glass. I recommend this process, because I am of opinion that it may be brought to much greater perfection; and M. Renard, that celebrated artist of Strasburg, whose thermometers with glass scales, in which the degrees and numbers are etched, have met with universal approbation, was of the same opinion, when I mentioned the method to him while he resided here, banished from his home by the disturbances in his native country.

It is probable that Schwanhard and his scholars kept the preparation of this liquid a secret, as the receipt for that purpose was not made known till the year 1725, though it is possible that one older may be found in some of those books which treat on the arts. In the above-mentioned year, Dr. John George Weygand, from Goldingen in Courland, sent to the editor of a periodical work a receipt which had been written out for him by Dr. Matth. Pauli of Dresden, then deceased, who had etched, in this manner on glass, arms, landscapes, and figures of various kinds223. We find by it that a strong acid of nitre was used, which certainly disengages the acid of fluor-spar, though the vitriolic acid is commonly employed for that purpose224. That the Bohemian emerald or90 hesphorus, mentioned in the receipt, is green fluor-spar, cannot be doubted, and will appear still more certain from the history of this species of stone, as far as I am acquainted with it, which I shall here insert.

In the works of the old mineralogists, fluor-spar is either not mentioned, or is classed among their natural glasses and precious stones; and in those of the first systematic writers it is so mingled with quartz and calcareous and gypseous spars, that it is impossible to discover it. The old German miners, however, distinguished it so early as the sixteenth century, and called it fluss; because they used it to accelerate the fusion of ores that were difficult to be reduced to that state. Agricola, who first remarked this, changed the German name into fluor, an appellation, which, like many others, formed by him from German words, such for example as quarzum from quarz, spatum from spat, wismuthum, zincum, cobaltum, &c., became afterwards common. If a passage of the ancients can be quoted that seems to allude to fluor-spar, it is that of Theophrastus, where he says that there are certain stones which, when added to silver, copper, and iron ores, become fluid225. The first systematic writer who mentioned this kind of stone as a particular genus, was Cronstedt.

Besides being known by its metallurgic use, fluor-spar is known also by having the colours of some precious stones, so that it may be sold, or at least shown as such to those who are not expert judges; because the first time when heated in the dark it shines with a bluish-green lustre. It is possible that fluor-spar may have been among the number of that great variety of stones which the ancients, with much astonishment, tell us shone in the dark; though it is certain that the principal part of them were only light-magnets, as they are called, or such as retain for a certain period the light they have absorbed in the day-time. The observation, however, that fluor-spar emits light after it is heated, seems to have been first made when artificial phosphorus excited the inquiry of naturalists and chemists; and when they began to search in their own country for stones which, in the property of emitting91 light, might have a resemblance to the Bologna spar, made known about the year 1630. It is well known that the latter is prepared for that purpose by calcination. Stones of the like kind were sought for; and among these fluor-spar, which is not scarce in Germany.

In my opinion, the observation was made in the year 1676; for in that year Elsholz informed the members of the Society for investigating Nature, that he was acquainted with a phosphorus which had its light neither from the sun nor from fire, but which, when heated on a metal plate over glowing coals, shone with a bluish-white lustre; so that by strewing the powder of it over paper, one might form luminous writing. I doubt much whether this experiment was ever tried; at least I find no further account of it in the papers of the Society, nor in the re-publication of the above author’s first dissertation, which appeared in 1681226.

As far as I know, Kirchmaier, professor at Wittenberg, was the first who disclosed the secret, in the year 1679227. Both call this phosphorus the smaragdine; because the ancients speak much of luminous emeralds, and because green fluor-spar is often exhibited as an emerald. Kirchmaier calls this mineral also hesperus and vesperugo; and these names have been often given since to fluor-spar, as in the receipt before-mentioned for making a liquid to etch on glass. Kirchmaier’s information, however, must have been very little known; for the Jesuit Casatus, who, in 1684, wrote his Treatise on Fire, was not acquainted with it, as he has inserted only the words of Elsholz. This observation must have been new to Leibnitz himself, and to the Academy of Sciences at Berlin, in 1710; for the former then mentioned it to the Society as a philosophical novelty228.

I shall remark, in the last place, that the manufacturing of vessels and ornaments of every kind from solid fluor-spar was92 begun in Derbyshire in the year 1765229. The articles formed of it are in England called spar ornaments, and sometimes blue John. Many beautiful colours must, as is said, be brought forward by means of fire. But the heat must be applied with great caution; for fluor-spar, as is well known, by a strong and particularly a sudden heating, cracks, and loses its transparency. Since writing the above, I find that M. Raspe230 denies this bringing forward of colours by fire.


204 Mariette, Traité des Pierres gravées. Par. 1750, fol.

205 The two ancient glasses found at Nismes, and described in Caylus’ Recueil d’Antiquités, ii. p. 363, were probably of this sort.

206 Natter, Traité de la Méthode antique de graver en Pierres fines, comparé avec la Méthode moderne. Lond. 1754, fol.

207 Of this kind were the calices audaces of Martial, xiv. 94, and those cups which often broke when the artist wished to give them the finishing touch.

208 See Sandrart’s Teutsche Akademie, vol. i. part 2, p. 345, where there is much valuable information respecting the German artists. Compare also Doppelmayer’s Nachricht von Nürnberg. Künstlern.

209 Oculus Artificial. iii. p. 79.

210 Lib. xxxvii.

211 Cap. 52, p. 59.

212 Origin. xvi. 8.

213 De Miner. lib. ii. 2.

214 Traité des Pierres gravées, i. pp. 90, 156.

215 Ibid. p. 156.

216 In the preface, p. 15.

217 Ueber den Nutzen d. geschnitt. Steine. Altenb. 1768, p. 42.

218 Le Veil, iii. p. 19. This anecdote however is not mentioned by Mezeray, Castelnau, or Laboureur; and Bayle must have been unacquainted with it, or he would have introduced it into his long article on the Duchesse d’Estampes.

219 Doppelmayer, p. 232.

220 Abhandlungen der Schwed. Akad. xxxiii. p. 122.

221 Halle, Fortgesetzte Magie. Berlin, 1788, 8vo, i. p. 516. This author says that the invention came from England, where it was kept very secret; but the honour of the second invention belongs to H. Klaproth.

222 Schwanhard, by the acuteness of his genius, proved what was before considered as impossible, and found out a corrosive so powerful that the hardest crystal glass, which had hitherto withstood the force of the strongest spirits, was obliged to yield to it, as well as metals and stones. By these means he delineated and etched on glass, figures of men, some naked and some dressed, and all kinds of animals, flowers, and plants, in a manner perfectly natural; and brought them into the highest estimation.—Sandrart, Teutsche Akademie, i. 2, p. 346.—Doppelmayer, p. 250, says, “After 1670 he accidentally found out by the glass of his spectacles, upon which some aquafortis had fallen, becoming quite soft, the art of etching on glass.”

223 Breslauer Sammlung zur Natur- und Medicin-Geschichte. 1725, January, p. 107. “Invention of a powerful acid by which figures of every kind, according to fancy, can be etched upon glass.—When spiritus nitri per distillationem has passed into the recipient, ply it with a strong fire, and when well dephlegmated, pour it, as it corrodes ordinary glass, into a Waldenburg flask; then throw into it a pulverised green Bohemian emerald, otherwise called hesphorus (which, when reduced to powder and heated, emits in the dark a green light), and place it in warm sand for twenty-four hours. Take a piece of glass well cleaned and freed from all grease by means of a lye; put a border of wax round it, about an inch in height, and cover it all equally over with the above acid. The longer you let it stand the better, and at the end of some time the glass will be corroded, and the figures, which have been traced out with sulphur and varnish, will appear as if raised above the plane of the glass.” This receipt has been inserted by H. Krunitz in his Œkonomische Encyclopedie, xi. p. 678.

224 Klindworth covers the glass with the etching ground of the engravers; but in the Annals of Chemistry for 1790, ii. p. 141, a solution of isinglass in water, or a turpentine oil varnish, mixed with a little white lead, is recommended. Complete instructions for acquiring this art may be found there also.

225 De Lapidibus, sect. 19.

226 See Ephemerid. ac Nat. Cur. 1676, Dec. 1, obs. 13, p. 32; and Elsholtii De Phosphoris Observationes, Berol. 1681, 4to.

227 G. C. Kirchmaieri De Phosphoris et Natura Lucis, necnon de Igne, Commentatio Epistolica. Wittebergæ, 1680, 4to.

228 Miscellanea Berolin. 1710, vol. i. p. 97. The fluor-spar earth, or phosphoric earth, as it is called, which in later times has been found in marble quarries, and which some at present consider as an earth saturated with phosphoric acid, is mentioned by the Swede Hierne, in Prodromus Hist. Nat. Sueciæ. Henkel had never seen it.

229 Watson’s Chemical Essays, ii. p. 277.

230 Descriptive Catalogue of Tassie’s Engraved Gems, Lond. 1791, 2 vols. 4to, i. p. 51.


That the first express mention of soap occurs in Pliny and Galen, and that the former declares it to be an invention of the Gauls, though he prefers the German to the Gallic soap231, has already been remarked by many. Pliny says that soap232 was made of tallow and ashes; that the best was made of goats’ tallow and the ashes of the beech-tree, and that there were two kinds of it, hard and soft. The author of a work on simple medicines, which is ascribed to Galen, but which however does not seem to have been written by that author, and of which only a Latin translation has been printed, speaks of soap being made by a mixture of oxen, goats’, or sheep’s tallow, and a lye of ashes strengthened with quicklime. He says the German soap was the purest, the fattest, and the best, and that the next in quality was the Gallic233. This account corresponds more exactly with the process used in Germany at present; whereas the French use mineral alkali, and instead of tallow, employ oil, which appears to be a later invention.93 Pliny in his description does not speak of quicklime; but as he mentions a mixture of goats’ tallow and quicklime a little before, it is probable that the use of the latter was then known at Rome. Gallic and German soap are often mentioned by later writers234, as well as by the Arabians, sometimes on account of their external use as a medicine, and sometimes on account of their use in washing clothes. The latter purpose is that for which soap is principally employed in modern times; but it does not seem to have been the cause of German soap being introduced at Rome. Washing there was the occupation of indigent scourers, who did not give themselves much trouble concerning foreign commodities. The German soap, with which, as Pliny tells us, the Germans coloured their hair red, was imported to Rome for the use of the fashionable Roman ladies and their gallants. There is no doubt that the pilæ Mattiacæ, which Martial recommends as a preventive of gray hair235; the caustica spuma with which the Germans dyed their hair236; and the Batavian froth or lather which the Romans employed for colouring theirs237, were German soap. It is probable that the Germans tinged it with94 those plants which were sent to Rome for dyeing the hair238; and according to the modern manner of speaking, it was more properly a kind of pomade than soap.

It appears that the Romans at first considered hair-soap as an ointment made from ashes; for we read in various passages of ancient authors, that the hair was dyed by means of ashes, or an ointment made of ashes and a certain kind of oil. It is however possible that they may have had such an ointment, which undoubtedly would be of a saponaceous nature, before they were acquainted with the German soap, or that they imitated the German pomade with different variations239.

As soap is everywhere used for washing at present, a question arises what substitutes were employed before it was invented. Those with which I am acquainted I shall mention and endeavour to illustrate. They are all still used, though not in general; and they are all of a soapy nature, or at least have the same effects as soap; so that we may say the ancients used soap without knowing it.

Our soap is produced by a mixture of lixivious salts and tallow, by which means the latter becomes soluble in water. The greater part of the dirt on our linen and clothes consists of oily perspiration or grease, or dust which that grease attracts, and which either cannot be washed out, or, but very imperfectly, by water alone. But if warm water, to which lixivious salts have in any manner been added, be taken, and if dirty cloth be rubbed in it, the greasy dirt unites with the salts, becomes saponaceous, and is so far soluble in water that95 it may be washed out. There are also natural juices which are of a soapy quality, in the state in which we find them, and which can be employed in the stead of artificial soap. Of this kind is the gall of animals and the sap of many plants. The former being less strong in its effects on account of its slimy nature, is used at present particularly for coloured stuffs, the dye of which is apt to fade. As far as I know, however, it was not employed by the ancients240, but it is certain that in washing they used saponaceous plants.

In the remotest periods it appears that clothes were cleaned by being rubbed or stamped upon in water, without the addition of any substance whatever. We are told by Homer, that Nausicaa and her attendants washed their clothes by treading upon them with their feet in pits, into which they had collected water241. The epithet black, which the poet gives to the water, might induce one to conjecture that it had been mixed with ashes, which would convert it into a lye; but where were the ashes to be found? Had they brought them along with them, the bard, where he before enumerates everything that they carried with them, and even oil, would not have failed to mention them; and such a conjecture is rendered entirely groundless by his applying the same epithet to pure water, in other places, where nothing can be supposed to have coloured it242. Water, when it stands in deep pits, reflects so few rays of light, that in a poetical sense it may very properly be called black.

We find however mention made at later periods of ashes, and a lye of ashes employed for washing; but I think very seldom, and I do not know how old the use of them may be. According to Julius Pollux, konia, mentioned by Aristophanes and Plato, was a substance used for washing; and he says expressly, that we are to understand by it a lye of ashes. This I mention for the sake of those, who, like me, place little confidence in the terms of art given in dictionaries. With the above lye, oil- and wine-jars were cleaned243; and it was employed also for washing the images of the gods244. The method of strengthening the lye by means of unslaked96 lime was known, at any rate, in the time of Paulus Ægineta; but it appears that the Romans were not acquainted with the salt itself, which is procured by dissolving common wood-ashes in water: I mean, they did not understand the art of producing it in a dry solid form, or of boiling potashes.

On the other hand, that fixed lixivious salt, the mineral which nature presents in many of the southern countries, was long known and used in washing. This was the nitrum, or, as the people of Attica pronounced it, the litrum, of the ancients, as has already been remarked by others245. It would however be worth the trouble to investigate the proofs still further. By examining them with more mineralogical and chemical knowledge than have hitherto been employed for that purpose, they might be further strengthened, and serve to illustrate many obscure passages. For my part, I have neither leisure nor room here to undertake such a task, though I have collected many observations relative to that subject. It is certain at any rate, that the ancients employed nitrum for washing, and it is evident from the testimony of various authors, that it was much used in the baths246.

That the people of Egypt, in the time of Pliny, made mineral alkali also from the ashes of some plants, we have reason to conclude, because he says that it was necessary to put the Egyptian nitre into vessels well-corked, else it became liquid. Natural alkali is never liable to do so, unless it be very much burnt; and as no reason is assigned for its assuming that form, we may believe that the Egyptian alkali was the strongly burnt ashes of those plants which are still used in Egypt for making salt, and perhaps the same with which the Spaniards were made acquainted by the Arabians, and which they cultivate for making soda.

Strabo speaks of an alkaline water in Armenia, which was used by the scourers for washing clothes247. Of this kind also must have been the lake Ascanius, which is mentioned by Aristotle248, Antigonus Carystius249, and Pliny250. It is worthy97 of remark, that the ancients made ointments of this mineral alkali and oil, but not hard soap, though by these means they approached nearer to the invention than the old Germans in their use of wood-ashes; for dry solid soap can be made with more ease from the mineral than the vegetable alkali; and when Hungarian, French, and German soap are of equal goodness, the last does more credit to the manufacturers because they cannot employ the mineral alkali. I shall here observe, that this alkali was used for washing by the Hebrews, and that it occurs in the sacred writings under the name of borith251.

The cheapest however, and the most common article used for washing, was the urine of men and animals. When this excrement becomes old, the alkali disengages itself, which may be perceived by its fœtid smell; and such alkalised urine being warmed, and employed to wash greasy clothes, produces the same effects as the nitrum of the ancients. It is still used for the like purpose in our cloth manufactories.

To procure a supply of it, the ancient washers and scourers placed at the corners of the streets, vessels which they carried away after they had been filled by the passengers, who were at liberty to use them; and the practice of having such conveniences was certainly more decent than that of employing the walls of churches and other buildings, which the police of Dresden forbade some years ago, but with no effect. At Rome, that which at present spoils and renders filthy our noblest edifices, was converted to use. When clothes were washed, they were trod upon with the feet, as was the case in the cloth manufactories at Leeds, Halifax, and other places of England, where the urine was collected by servants, and sold by measure to the manufacturers under the98 name of old lant. On account of the disagreeable smell attending their employment, scourers at Rome were obliged to reside either in the suburbs or in some of the unfrequented streets252.

My readers here will undoubtedly call to remembrance the source of taxation devised by the emperor Vespasian, who, as his historians tell us, urinæ vectigal commentus est253. It is not certainly known in what manner this impost was regulated. Did the emperor declare that article, which was not subterraneum rarius, to be a regale as a res derelicta, so that the scourers were obliged to pay him what he thought a reasonable sum proportioned to the benefit which they derived from it? Or was it imposed only as a poll-tax? For every tax upon anything indispensably necessary to all, is, to speak in the language of finance, the same as what is called a poll-tax, or a tax paid by every one who has a head. The latter conjecture is the most probable, especially as this tax continued two centuries, till the time of Anastasius, and as we read also of vectigal pro urina jumentorum et canum, which was exacted from every person who kept cattle. Vespasian therefore was not fortunate in the choice of a name for his tribute, which on that account must have been undoubtedly more detested. A poll-tax at present is called by those who do not speak favourably of it, the Turkish-tax, because the Turks impose it on all unbelievers. When it was introduced by Louis XIV. in 1695, he called it la capitation.

Of plants with a saponaceous juice, the ancients, at any rate, used one instead of soap; but it is difficult or rather impossible to define it. I shall not therefore content myself merely with transcribing the passages where it is mentioned, but I shall arrange whatever I can find respecting it in such a manner, as, according to my opinion, the names of plants ought to be explained in dictionaries.

Στρουθίον, Struthium, Latinis Herba lanaria, et Plinio etiam Radicula.


The above is all that the ancients have told us respecting this plant. The information is indeed very scanty, and at the same time it is not altogether certain; but even if it were, it would be sufficient only to confute some conjectures, but not to establish the systematic name of the plant. I call the properties of it described to us uncertain: first, because I do not know whether Pliny did not mean to distinguish the wild plant from that which was cultivated, and many have understood as alluding to the former that which I have applied to both: secondly, because the words of Theophrastus, being in one passage evidently corrupted, will admit of various constructions; and because in another, on account of some exceptions, of which he speaks, they appear at least to me unintelligible: thirdly, because Pliny, who gives us the best account of it, is the only author who calls the struthium or soap-plant radicula, a name by which is rather to be understood a dye-plant of the same kind as madder. We have reason therefore to suspect that he has confounded the properties of the two plants, especially as the fourth property was ascribed by others to a Rubia, Asperula, or Galium, which was cultivated in Syria, and named often radicula Syriaca. On the other hand, this diminutive is very ill-suited to a root which Pliny himself calls large.

The words of that author, “tingenti, quicquid sit cum quo decoquatur,” have been by some explained as if he meant that the struthium was a dye-plant, though as a soapy plant it must have been destitute of colour; and they have hence deduced a proof that Pliny confounded the struthium with100 the radicula used in dyeing. On the other hand, Hardouin reads unguentis instead of tingenti. He assures us that he found the former in manuscripts, and is of opinion that the sap of the struthium was used also for ointments.

In my opinion, however, tingenti must be retained; and the meaning is that when cloth was to be dyed it was necessary to prepare it for that purpose by soaking it and washing it with the sap of this plant. This he expressly tells us himself; “tingentibus et radicula lanas præparat.” It is probable that the ancient dyers mixed their dye-liquors with the juice of the struthium, for the same purpose as bran and the seeds of fenugreek are added to dye-liquors at present; that is, to render them thicker and more slimy, in order that the colouring particles may be longer and more equally suspended in or diffused through them254. The words quidquid sit cum quo decoquatur will now become intelligible. Whatever may be employed for dyeing, says the author, the addition of the juice of the struthium is serviceable.

As what has been said contains nothing that can enable us to determine the genus of the struthium according to the rules of botany, we may be allowed to conjecture that it was one of those plants still used for the like purpose in Italy and other neighbouring countries. Fuchs thinks it must have been the Saponaria officinalis (soap-wort), the roots of which indeed contain a saponaceous juice that readily changes the saliva into froth. The root was employed for that purpose by the impostor in Lucian; and the juice is used at present for cleaning wool and cloth. In the Helvetian Alps, the sheep, before they are shorn, are washed with a decoction of the plant and its roots; and with a mixture of ashes it serves for cleaning linen. The taste of it is so sharp, that it is compared by some to that of the small burnet-saxifrage.

This Saponaria officinalis however differs too much from the remaining properties255 of the struthium. Its root is as thick only as a quill, or at most as one’s finger. The stem, which is three feet in height, throws out many branches, and cannot be called caulis ferulaceus, tenuis. It is not rough and prickly, and, instead of growing in poor rocky soil, it is rather fond of deep ground and the borders of corn-fields.

We may therefore conjecture with more probability that101 the Gypsophila Struthium, Linn.256, a plant still used for washing in the lower part of Italy and Spain, is the struthium of the ancients. This opinion acquires some strength by its being adopted among the Italians and Spaniards; and because the plant, as Pliny says, grows in a rocky soil and on the mountains. It is also still called lanaria by the Calabrian peasants. It has a tender stem; its leaves are so like those of the olive-tree that they might be compared to them by those who are not botanists; and its root is large, but it is neither rough nor prickly. This contradiction may be accounted for by supposing that Pliny, through a mistake, of which I have already accused him, ascribed falsely to the soap-plant the prickly or rough leaves of the dye-plant which had an affinity to madder. But even after this explanation there still remains to be got over a dubious passage of Theophrastus, who indeed seems to make the plant prickly also.

I do not therefore place entire confidence in this opinion; but suspect rather that we shall receive from the East an account of a plant, still used there, which will correspond more exactly with the soap-plant described by Pliny. I am inclined to think that I have already found some precursory information respecting it in Bauhin, who says that in Syria there is another kind of soap-plant, which has prickly leaves like the thistle, and a thick root of a sharp acrid taste. The root, he adds, was employed for washing clothes and wool; and the confectioners of Damascus formed of it, with honey and wine, a kind of sweetmeat which appeared as white as if it had been made of the finest flour and sugar, and which was so hard that it could scarcely be broken with the teeth. This plant seems to belong to those, the cultivation of which102 was abandoned in Europe, after the use of them was rendered superfluous by newer discoveries.

That the ancients employed their struthium for washing wool is confirmed by various authorities; but I do not remember to have found any evidence of its being used for cleaning clothes which had been worn. Salmasius however quotes a passage from the works, unfortunately never printed, of the old chemist Zosimus, in which he gives directions for restoring, by means of the soap-plant, the lustre of pearls which have become yellow257.

The meal of many kinds of seeds may be used for washing, as well as various kinds of bran. That of almonds, which on account of its oil is remarkably soft, is employed at present for washing the hands by those who are desirous of having a white delicate skin. Cloth, the colours of which easily fade, and which will neither endure soap nor hard rubbing, may be washed extremely well with bran. Our fullers, therefore, and stocking manufacturers use oat-, barley- and bean-meal, especially when they wish the cloth to be slowly milled. Whether the ancients employed bran in the same manner I have not had an opportunity of examining. I am rather inclined to think that they did; and there is a passage of Galen which seems to allude to the use of bean-meal258. In all probability the beans of the ancients were the smallest and roundest variety of our horse-beans, or those used as fodder.

In the last place, the ancients, at those periods of which I speak, used fullers-earth much oftener than it is used at present. Till the countries where it was procured be described by travellers who unite a knowledge of antiquities with skill in mineralogy, the species of this earth, mentioned in the works of ancient authors, cannot be distinguished with accuracy. But from the purposes to which they were applied, we can with certainty conclude that they must have been partly of the nature of marl and partly of the nature of soapstone.

According to the then usual method of washing, by which the clothes were stamped with the feet, the cretæ fulloniæ, as103 Pliny259 calls them, acted in the same manner as our fullers-earth employed at present, partly by scouring and partly by absorbing the greasy dirt. The ancients, after their manner, gave them names only from the countries where they were produced; and hence we find mention made of terra Cimolia260, Chia261, Lemnia262, Sarda263, Umbria264, Samia, Tymphæa265, and others. Many of them, like that brought from Sardinia, could not be used in cleaning coloured stuffs; and for this reason, perhaps, because some colours would not stand hard scouring, or endure their caustic nature.

The fullers, however, did not use these earths merely for washing, but also for whitening many kinds of cloth. This was done by rubbing fine white earth into the cloth, in the same manner as soldiers do to give some parts of their dress a brighter appearance. A like process is employed by glovers and those who wash or clean leather. The earth used by the latter is a yellowish-white iron-ochre, called from the purpose to which it is applied collar-earth266. When a perfect white was required, a kind of white potters-clay or marl was employed; and the closer it adhered to the cloth, and the less easily it could be rubbed out, it was so much the better. The poor at Rome rubbed it over their clothes on festivals, in order that they might appear brighter267.

It deserves here to be particularly remarked, that some of these earths, such as that of Chios, were employed in the baths instead of nitrum; and this is the case in the Levant still. De la Valle extols in this respect a kind of reddish earth, and says that people of the first distinction never bathe without it. Perfumes are often mixed with it; and it is formed into small balls, which when used are suffered to dissolve in the water. Different kinds of vessels, and particularly those in which wine and oil had been kept, were cleansed with these earths also268.104 Glass flasks which have had oil in them, cannot be cleansed better or more speedily than by shaking in them a mixture of fullers-earth or potters-clay. When these are not to be had, blotting-paper may be used. The oil is absorbed by the earth or the paper, and with them can be easily washed out.

To render cloth perfectly white, it was also fumigated with sulphur by the fullers, who were not ignorant that many colours were destroyed by its vapours269. We are told by Apuleius that the wife of a scourer concealed her gallant under a vessel of basket-work, over which cloth used to be laid to whiten by the effects of sulphur kindled under it. Our washer-women employ a cask in this mode of bleaching, and our clothiers a small close apartment, in which the wet cloth is suspended upon hooks.

Pliny has described the method of washing used at Rome, but many things respecting it appear to me obscure270. The cloth was first washed with Sardian earth; it was then fumigated with sulphur, and afterwards rinsed with real Cimolian earth. The word desquamatur was undoubtedly a term of art, which cannot be further explained, because we are unacquainted with the operation to which it alludes. Pliny seems to have been particular in mentioning real Cimolian earth, because the false kind became black by the steam of the sulphur which the cloth absorbed. Was it adulterated with some metallic oxide or with white lead? It was dear enough to induce people to mix it with such articles; and in that case it must necessarily have become black.

The expression funditur sulphure seems to be attended with no less difficulty. In comparing the different readings, I find that the oldest editions have offunditur, which has been changed into effunditur, and lastly into funditur. It is probable however that instead of offunditur we ought to read offenditur, which would make the whole clear. I am much surprised that this reading was not adopted by Hardouin. As Pliny says in other parts of his work “offendit stomachum,” and “offendit aciem oculorum,” he might undoubtedly have applied that word to the earth and its colour.

Fast colours, which the acid of sulphur might render pale, but could not entirely destroy, would by washing with Cimolian105 earth be improved or rather restored, as the earth would absorb and carry off the acid. There was also another kind of earth (saxum) which was useful in the preparation of cloth fumigated with sulphur, but which injured the dye, probably because it was too calcareous, and which was perhaps our common chalk.

I do not intend to treat here of the whole art of Roman fullers, which belongs rather to the history of weaving or manufacturing cloth in general; but I hope I shall be forgiven if I add the few following observations. The fullers received the cloth as it came from the loom, in order that it might be scoured, walked and smoothed. It was walked by being stamped upon with the feet. The rough wool raised by this operation was combed off, partly with the skin of a hedgehog, and partly with the tops of some plants of the thistle kind, in order to give the cloth a nap. Shearing seems not then to have been known: I have at least met with no passage where it is mentioned: and the case is the same with the use of presses; which, in my opinion, were not invented till the sixteenth century. The whole process of smoothing seems to have consisted in making the wool or nap lie as evenly as possible one way, which certainly must have given to the cloth a much better appearance.

As cloth at present is more dressed and shorn on one side than another, the ancient fullers prepared theirs in the like manner; so that clothes could be turned, after the inside of them had been new dressed. Whether they made felt, also, I have not yet inquired; but I conjecture that the manufacturing it was the occupation of those called lanarii, coactores, and coactilarii.

The occupation of the fullers was at Rome very extensive, and afforded employment to a great number of people, but it at length entirely decayed. Schöttgen is of opinion that it belongs to those arts which have been lost. But other writers have declared arts which are exercised now in greater perfection than formerly to be lost, merely because they were not acquainted with them; or because, on account of the alterations they have undergone, they did not know where to find them. All the different operations of fulling have become so complex by new methods, improvements, and inventions, that they can no longer be conducted by one man; and the whole106 business has for that reason been separated or divided into several distinct branches.

The scouring of cloth when it comes from the loom, was, together with walking, separated from the rest, after the invention of the walk-mill. How old that invention may be, I cannot accurately determine; but we find it mentioned in the beginning of the thirteenth, and even at the end of the tenth century. Such a mill formerly was call fullencium, or molendinum cum fullone271. The dressing and smoothing of cloth, since the invention of shearing and pressing, requires so much art, that these operations can be performed only by skilful workmen, who are called cloth-shearers or cloth-dressers. The scouring of cloth dirtied in manufacturing, is by the invention of soap, bleaching, and other processes, become so easy that it can be performed by women. The Romans for the most part wore a white dress made in the form of a cloak; which indeed, as shirts were not then used, must have often stood in need of being cleaned272. We, on the other hand, wear in general short close clothes of coloured cloth; which by the fashion in which they are made, are less exposed to be dirtied; and we are more accustomed also to use clothes of linen or cotton, which can be washed with much less labour. Felt, which is employed almost for hats alone, is manufactured by our hat-makers. Whoever takes a general view of all these employments together, will be readily convinced that they maintain more people, and in a better manner, than the whole ars fullonia did at Rome.

107 [The principal kinds of soap manufactured in this country are,—white soap, composed chiefly of tallow and soda, but for some purposes of olive oil and soda; yellow soap, made of tallow, rosin and soda, a little palm oil being occasionally added; mottled soap, formed of tallow, kitchen stuff and soda, its peculiar appearance being communicated by dispersing the lees through it towards the end of the operation; brown soap, made from palm oil, rosin and soda. Soft soap is made with potash and drying oils, either alone or mixed with tallow, and other coarse fatty matters. The fatty matter is mixed with the alkaline ley, and the whole boiled gently for some time, until the fat is completely saponified, which may be known by its becoming clear and transparent, and its susceptibility of being drawn into long threads. A quantity of common salt is then added to the boiling mixture, until the soap loses its thready character, and drops from the spatula in short thick lumps. The soap is then removed, either after cooling, or at once ladled out. Common fatty matters, as tallow, fat-oils, &c., are compounds of a fatty acid with a base, thus resembling salts; the base is a peculiar sweet principle, glycerine; by ebullition with the caustic lye, the neutral fatty compound is decomposed, the fatty acid combining with the base soda, and forming the soap, whilst the glycerine with the excess of alkali remains in the liquid.

The so-called silicated soap, of which large quantities are now manufactured, is made by combining silicate of soda with hard soap in the hot and pasty state; in this way from 10 to 30 per cent. of the silicate may be introduced. Such soap possesses, according to Dr. Ure, very powerful detergent qualities, but it is apt to feel hard and somewhat gritty in use. The silicated soda is obtained by boiling ground flints in a strong caustic lye. Many substances are used to adulterate soap, such as potatoe-starch, clay, &c., for which improvements, as they are termed, numerous patents have been granted in this country.

In Great Britain the hard kind of soap is chiefly made at Liverpool and London, but in considerable quantities also at Runcorn, Bristol, Brentford, Hull, Bromsgrove, Plymouth and Sethwick, and at Glasgow and Leith in Scotland; the soft soap is made principally at Liverpool, Glasgow and Bradford;108 and silicated soap is likewise extensively manufactured at Liverpool.

From the excise returns, it appears that 140,712,535 pounds of hard, 9,788,851 pounds of soft, and 3,921,862 pounds of silicated soap were made in England in 1841; and 10,708,464 pounds of hard, and 4,535,030 pounds of soft soap in Scotland; making in all 169,666,742 pounds, which is an increase of about 30 per cent. since 1832273.

The excise duty on soap was first imposed in Great Britain in 1711, when it was fixed at 1d. per pound. It was raised in 1713 to 1½d. per pound; and again, in 1782, when hard and soft soap were first distinguished, the former being rated at 2¼d., and the latter at 1¾d. per pound. In 1816, that on hard soap was increased to 3d. per pound. But since May 31, 1833, the duty has been 1½d. per pound on hard soap, and 1d. per pound on soft. In 1839, the number of soap manufacturers in England was 177; in Scotland 19; and in Ireland 183. Each requires an annual license, costing 4l.

An allowance of duty is made on soap used in the woollen, silk, flax, and cotton manufactures, which in 1841 was granted on 10,190,160 pounds of hard, and 9,090,184 pounds of soft soap; the allowances amounting to 78,112l. In the same year the net amount yielded by the soap-duty to the public revenue was 815,864l. Ireland is not subject to the soap-duty.

The soap-maker was formerly subjected to an arbitrary and vexatious interference from the excise; but of late years the regulations have been greatly improved, and there is now no superintendence of the process of manufacture, which may be conducted in any way and of any material.]


231 Plin. xviii. 12, sect. 51, p. 475.

232 It is beyond all doubt that the words sapo and σάπων were derived from the German sepe, which has been retained in the Low German, the oldest and original dialect of our language. In the High German this derivation has been rendered a little more undistinguishable by the p being changed into the harder f. Such changes are common, as schap, schaf; schip, schiff, &c.

233 De Simplicibus Medicaminibus, p. 90, G.

234 According to Aretæus De Diuturnis Morbis, ii. 13, p. 98, soap appears to have been formed into balls.

235 Mart. xiv. 27. This soap acquired the epithet of Mattiacum from the name of a place which was in Hesse.


Caustica Teutonicos accendit spuma capillos,
Captivis poteris cultior esse comis.—Mart. xiv. 26.

These lines are generally explained in this manner:—“Dye thy hair with soap, and it will become more beautiful than that of the Germans.” But in this case all the wit of the advice is lost; and the expression, “eris cultior quam comæ captivæ,” seems to me to be very improper. I should rather translate them as follows:—“Let the Germans dye their hair with pomade; as they are now subdued, thou mayst ornament thyself better with a peruke made of the hair of these captives.” This was a piece of delicate flattery to Domitian and the Roman pride. That prince thought he had conquered the Germans; and the most beautiful German hair, that which was not dyed, could be procured, therefore, at Rome, much easier than before. If the title of this epigram was written by Martial himself, it contains the first mention of the word sapo.


Fortior et tortos servat vesica capillos,
Et mutat Latias spuma Batava comas.—Mart. viii. 23, 19.

The first line of the above proves that people then covered their heads, in the night-time, with a bladder to keep their hair, after it was dressed, from being deranged; and a bladder was undoubtedly as fit for that use as the nets and cauls employed for the like purpose at present.


Femina canitiem Germanis inficit herbis.
Ovidius De Arte Amandi, iii. 163.


Valer. Max. i. 5, p. 135: Capillos cinere rutilarunt.
Ad rutilam speciem nigros flavescere crines,
Unguento cineris prædixit Plinius auctor.
Q. Serenus, De Medic. iv. 56.

Serenus seems to allude to a passage of Pliny, xxiii. 2, p. 306, where he speaks of an ointment made from the burnt lees of vinegar and oleum lentiscinum. The same thing is mentioned in Dioscorides, v. 132, p. 379. Servius, Æn. iv. quotes the following words from Cato: “Mulieres nostræ cinere capillum ungitabant, ut rutilus esset crinis.” Alex. Trallianus, 1, 3, gives directions how to make an ointment for gray hair from soap and the ashes of the white flowers of the Verbascum. The Cinerarii, however, of Tertullian, lib. ii. ad uxor. 8, p. 641, seem to have been only hair-dressers, who were so called because they warmed their curling-irons among the hot ashes.

240 Pliny says that spots of the skin may be removed by ox-gall.

241 Odyss. vi. 91.

242 Iliad, ix. 14, and xvi. 4.

243 Geopon. vii. 6.—Plin. xiv. cap. 21.—Columella, xii. 50. 14.

244 Arnobius, vii. p. 237.

245 The word λίτρον in Pollux ought not to have been translated sapo.

246 Cicer. Ep. Fam. viii. 14.—Pollucis Onom. viii. 9, 39; x. 135.—Ovid. De Medicam. Faciei, ver. 73 et 85.—Phavorini Dictionar. p. 527. Gynesius calls clothes washed with nitrum, νιτρούμενα, nitro perfricata.

247 Lib. xi. p. 801.

248 De Mirabil. Auscult. c. 54.

249 Hist. Mirab. c. 162, p. 216.

250 Lib. xxxi. 10, p. 564.

251 J. D. Michaelis Commentationes, 4to, p. 151. I must mention also C. Schoettgenii Antiquitates Fulloniæ, Traj. 1727, 8vo. My readers will do me a pleasure if they compare the above work with this article. No one will accuse me of vanity when I pretend to understand the theory of washing better than the learned Schöttgen; but if I have explained the passages which he quotes in a more satisfactory manner, and turned them to more advantage, I must ascribe this superiority to my knowledge of that art. I shall here take occasion to remark, that there is no subject, however trifling, which may not be rendered useful, or at least agreeable, by being treated in a scientific manner; and to turn such into ridicule, instead of displaying wit, would betray a want of judgment.

252 Plin. xxviii. 6; xxviii. 8.—Martial. vi. ep. 93.—Athenæus, xi. p. 484. Macrobius, ii. 12, speaking of drunken people, “Dum eunt, nulla est in angiporto amphora, quam non impleant, quippe qui vesicam plenam vini habeant.” This passage is quoted also in Joh. Sarisberg. Polior. viii. 7, p. 479.

253 Sueton. in Vita Vespas. viii. 23.

254 Porner’s Anleitung zur Farbekunst, p. 31.

255 Those numbered 3, 4, 5, 6.

256 This plant was sent by Imperati to Casp. Bauhin, under the name of lanaria veterum; and the latter made it first known in his Pinax Plant. iv. p. 206. The former described it himself, and gave a bad engraving of it, in Hist. Nat. p. 871. Löffling found this plant on the Spanish mountains, as well as in the neighbourhood of Aranjuez; and he relates, that in the province of La Mancha the people boil clothes that are to be washed with the root of this plant instead of soap. Linnæus did not hesitate to declare the struthium of the ancients and the struthium of his system to be the same plant; and he gave his countrymen reason to hope that their Gypsophila fastigiata, which has a great resemblance to it, might be employed in the like manner.—Amœnitat. Academ. v. p. 329.

257 Salmas. ad Solin. p. 818. a.

258 De Alimentor. Facultate, i. cap. 19. in Op. vol. iv. p. 315.

259 Lib. xvii. 18.

260 Pollux.—Plin.

261 Dioscor.

262 This terra Lemnia is entirely different from sealing-earth. See Galen. De Simplic. Med.

263 Plin.

264 Plin. The Sarda was cheap, and purchased by measure; the Umbria was dearer, and sold by weight.

265 Theophrast. Dioscor.

266 I here mean that it got its name from being employed to clean that piece of armour, formerly used, which covered only the breast and the back, and which was called a koller. The Swedes also call yellow iron-ochre kiöllerfärg or kyllerfarg.

267 See Taubmann’s Annotations to Plauti Aulular. iv. sc. 9, 6.

268 Geopon. vii. 6.—Plin. xiv. cap. 21.—Columella, xii. 50, 14.

269 Pollux, vii. 11, 41, 715.—Plin. xxxv. 17, p. 719; and xxxv. 15, p. 714.—Isidor. Origin. xvi. 1.

270 Lib. xxxv. cap. 17, sec. 57.

271 Du Cange in his Glossarium.

272 I acknowledge myself one of those who cannot form a proper idea of the Roman toga. It is certain that the weavers made each piece of cloth only large enough to be fit for this article of dress; or that when one toga was wove, it was cut from the loom, in order that another might be begun. On this account we find so often the expressions texere vestes, texere togas. It appears, also, that the toga, when it came from the hands of the weaver, was quite ready for use; and we therefore never read of tailors, but when torn clothes were to be mended. The toga had no sleeves, and perhaps no seam. If it was stitched along the edges before, half-way up, the assistance of a tailor would not be necessary for that purpose. It was bound round the body with a girdle, and fastened with clasps. Such a mantle could be easily made and easily scoured. One may now readily comprehend why the Roman authors never mention cloth manufactories, or cloth, among the articles of commerce, but speak only of clothes; and why we never read of cloth being measured.

273 Waterston’s Encyclopædia of Commerce.


This plant, the root of which is either dried and bruised, or used fresh, for dyeing red, has a weak, square, jointed stem;109 and rises to the height of eight feet when supported, otherwise it creeps along the ground. At each joint there are from four to six leaves, about three inches in length, almost an inch broad in the middle, and pointed at both ends. The upper side of the leaves is smooth; but the middle nerve of the under side is armed with small rough prickles; and others of the same kind may be found on the stem. On this account, the leaves, which drop annually, adhere readily to other bodies, like those of the asperugo. The branches, which in June bear flowers divided into four yellow leaves, proceed from the joints. The fruit, a kind of berry, which, towards the time of its ripening, though that seldom happens among us, is first of a brownish colour, and then black, contains a round seed. The roots grow sometimes to the thickness of one’s finger, push themselves deep into the earth, are surrounded by many small fibres, have a yellowish-red pith, and are covered with a black bark or rind. This plant grows wild in the Levant, as well as in Italy, the southern parts of France, and in Switzerland. The cultivated kind is well known, and is propagated with much advantage in various countries of Europe.

When one compares this short description with what Dioscorides says of a plant which he calls ereuthodanon, it will be readily seen that he meant our madder. He even compares its long square stem, armed with a great many hooks, to that of the asperugo; and he tells us that the leaves stand in the form of a star around the joints. The fruit was at first green, then red, and lastly black. The thin long roots, adds he, which are red, serve for dyeing; and on that account the cultivated kind (he must therefore have been acquainted with the wild sort) is reared with much benefit in Galilee, around Ravenna in Italy and in Caria, where it is planted either among the olive-trees, or in fields destined for that purpose. It is remarked in some manuscripts, that this plant had a name given it by the Romans, which, as Marcellus Virgil observes, meant the same thing as Rubia sativa, and that it was called in Etruria Lappa minor, doubtless because, like the bur, it adhered to other bodies. On account of the colour which it communicated, it was called also sometimes cinnabaris274.

110 In opposition to this asserted identity I find only one doubt; namely, that among those plants which, on account of the position of their leaves, were called stellatæ, and which were all so like that we must reduce them to one natural order, there are more sorts, the roots of which dye red, and which on that account are very improperly called wild madder. Why, therefore, should the plant of Dioscorides be our madder, and not some other plant of the like nature? For this reason, in my opinion: because the ancients, who were acquainted with all these plants, which grew wild in their lands, were equally prudent as the moderns, and cultivated that kind only which was the most productive or beneficial, viz. our Rubia tinctorum.

This opinion will be strengthened by comparing the accounts given of that plant by other ancient writers. Theophrastus111 agrees almost perfectly with Dioscorides; and adds, that it did not grow upright, but was fond of reclining. The comparison, therefore, with the leaves of ivy cannot be just; but that I shall leave to the critics. Pliny says expressly, that the erythrodanum or ereuthodanum was in his mother-tongue called rubia; and that its red roots were used to dye wool and leather red275.

In the middle ages this plant was called varantia, a name which must have arisen from verantia. The latter means the real, genuine dye; as aurantia signified a golden yellow. Till the year 1736, this plant was little regarded, except among dyers, farmers and merchants, who purchased it from the farmers, in order to sell it to the dyers with profit; and among a few herb-dealers and physicians, who, on the authority of the ancients, ascribed to it eminent virtues, which others doubted or altogether denied. In the above year, however, a property of it was discovered by accident, as usual, which rendered it an object of more attention. John Belchier, an English surgeon, having dined with a cotton-printer, observed that the bones of the pork which was brought to the table were red. As he seemed surprised at this circumstance, his host assured him that the redness was occasioned by the swine feeding on the water mixed with bran in which the cotton cloth was boiled, and which was coloured by the madder used in printing it. Belchier276, to whom this effect was new, convinced himself by experiments that the red colour of the bones had arisen from the madder employed in printing the cotton, and from no other cause; and he communicated his discovery to the Royal Society, in a paper which was printed in their Transactions.

This singularity was now soon known to all the naturalists, several of whom made new experiments, the result of which brought to light many truths useful to physiology. Besides the roots of madder, those of the Galium (yellow112 ladies-bed-straw) and other plants which have an affinity to madder, produce the like effects; but this is the case neither with saffron nor woad, nor with many others much used in dyeing. The colouring takes place soonest in young animals; and is strongest where the bones are hardest and thickest. On the other hand, it does not reach the soft parts; appears only a little in the milk; and in general is not perceptible in the animal juices277.

As the English calico-printers were acquainted with this effect of madder before it was known to naturalists, it is not improbable that it was known much sooner in other places, where the plant has been much cultivated and used since the earliest periods. From what J. E. Stief says, we have reason to believe that the people in the neighbourhood of Breslau, his native city, who gave the stalks of the madder plant to their cows instead of straw, must have first discovered that it possessed the property of communicating a red colour to the bones278.

As many truths not yet investigated by means of new experiments, and which on that account have not yet been acknowledged, are concealed among the evidently false assertions to be found in the works of the ancients, and as these works were thrown aside too early, before their contents were properly examined, I was induced to suspect that some hints of this colouring property might also be mentioned in them, which indeed is the case.

113 We learn from the works of Galen and Dioscorides, that the ancient physicians remarked that the use of certain roots, which they administered to their patients, communicated a colour to their urine and excrements; and this observation has been repeated by Cardan, Thurneisser, Porta, Castor, Durantes, and others. Had those ancient physicians, who often prescribed these roots, and paid attention to the colour of the excrements of their patients, been accustomed to open their bodies when they died under their hands, they would have perhaps remarked, in human bones, what was observed long after in the bones of animals, when the roots were no longer used in medicine; and what, if I am not mistaken, was never yet observed in the bones of the human species279.

Böhmer, who made researches respecting the antiquity of this observation, found it neither in Rombert. Dodonæus, Mich. Ettmuller, Morin, Will. Salmon, nor others, who, however, speak of coloured urine. In his opinion the oldest writer who speaks of coloured bones is Mizaldus; but what he relates is all taken from the treatise of Lemnius De Miraculis Occultis Naturæ; and the latter therefore is the oldest writer that I at present can mention as acquainted with this property. He was a physician in Zealand, where madder has been cultivated since the earliest ages, and where he had an opportunity of remarking it. He says that the bones of animals became red, as had been observed when the flesh was dressed, by their eating only the leaves, and not the roots. In the first edition of the above work, printed in octavo, in the year 1559, which consists of two books, this information will not be found; but it may be contained in the second of 1564, which comprehends four books.

[The madder plant is much cultivated in Holland, but Macquei observes that the Dutch were first indebted to the Flemish refugees for their knowledge of the method of preparing this plant. Its culture has often been attempted in114 England, but always without success280. It is also largely cultivated in Alsace and Provence in France, especially near Avignon, in Asiatic Turkey, and in Italy; from which places it is largely exported. The Turkey and Provence madder is procured from Rubia peregrina; the remainder from R. tinctorum. To prepare the root, which is the part used in dyeing, it is removed from the ground, picked, dried and ground.

Madder contains three distinct colouring principles; two of these are red, viz. alizarine and purpurine, and one, xanthine, is yellow.

Since 1836, two new products have been introduced into commerce, which are destined to replace madder in the operations of dyeing and calico-printing; one is called garancine, the other colorine. Garancine is prepared by washing and macerating madder, and filtering through linen. The grounds are then crushed and mixed with sulphuric acid, equal to half the amount of madder first employed; the acid should be somewhat dilute. It is then poured hot upon the madder, agitated, and when the mixture appears intimate, the temperature is raised to 212°, and maintained for about an hour. It is then again mixed with water, filtered, and thoroughly washed. It is finally pressed, dried and passed through the sieve. This is the process patented by MM. Lagier, Robiquet and Colin, in 1828.

It was first introduced into commerce by the house of Lagier and Thomas, at Avignon, in 1829.

The great advantage of garancine over madder is that it does not change the white, and that the bleaching of the stuffs dyed with it is reduced to a mere nothing. Hot water or bran are the only means used for clearing them. Madder is an adjective colour, that is to say, one which requires to be combined with some basic substance or mordant to render its fixture upon the dye-stuff permanent.]


274 Some also may with equal propriety have called it sandyx; and I am of opinion that under this name we are to understand our madder, at least in a passage of Virgil, Eclogue iv. 45, where he says, “Sponte sua sandyx pascentes vestiet agnos.” As the wool of the sheep became red by eating the madder which grew in the fields, it could be immediately manufactured, without dyeing it artificially. We manufacture the wool of our brown sheep in its natural colour, and this was done also by the ancients. Cloths of this kind were the panni nativi coloris, as they are called by Pliny, xxxvi. 7; and the words of Martial, xiv. 133, allude to a dress made of such cloth:

Non est lana mihi mendax, nec mutor aëno,
... me mea tinxit ovis.

I shall here take occasion to remark, that the word lutum, in the line preceding the above passage of Virgil, must be translated yellow-weed, and not woad. The former, Reseda luteola, dyes yellow; but the latter, Isatis, dyes blue. Lutum, however, in Cæsar De bello Gallico, v. 14, seems to have been woad: “Omnes se Britanni luteo inficiunt, quod et cæruleum efficit colorem.” It appears, therefore, that both names were liable to be confounded in the Latin, as they are in the German; unless Davis be right, who, instead of luteo, reads vitro. That sandyx, in Virgil, signifies a plant rather than a mineral, is to me far more probable. The author speaks of plants which the sheep ate while feeding (pascentes); and both the above-mentioned dye-plants, yellow-weed and woad, grow wild in Italy. The opinion of Pliny, who understood the passage so, is not to be despised; and therefore the poetical account, that the pasture dyed the wool, is not altogether without foundation; especially as not only the roots, but also the leaves of madder, communicate a colour to the solid parts of animal bodies. I will however allow that most people readily fall into the error of being led away by imagination; and often suppose that they find in passages of ancient authors more than others can discover, or perhaps even than they contain.

275 Lib. xxiv. 9, p. 341.

276 The first account of this circumstance may be found in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. xxxix. n. 442, p. 287; n. 443, p. 299. Among the principal experiments made on this subject, are those of the Italian Matth. Bazanus, in Comment. Bononiens. and of J. H. Benj. Böhmer, in a dissertation entitled Radicis Rubiæ tinctorum effectus in Corpore Animali, Lips. 1751. Other works and observations relative to this singularity are mentioned in Haller’s Elementa Physiologiæ, v. p. 327.

277 That the Rubia colours the milk has been denied by many, who are mentioned in Haller’s Physiol. viii. p. 328. Young, in his Treatise De Lacte, says only that it has no effect on carnivorous animals. Being once engaged in making experiments on the madder dye, I gave the plant to a cow for several days, and I found that the milk became reddish and streaked with veins which were of a darker colour than the other parts. That well-known farmer, Gugenmus, gave the madder-plant, formed into hay, to his cows, who ate it readily. Their milk was somewhat reddish, and the butter and cheese acquired by these means in winter an agreeable colour. Perhaps the effects do not take place when the animals get other food at the same time. Or may not the state of their health occasion some difference? This much is certain, that Chelidonium (swallow-wort) makes the milk of cows that are weak appear bloody, while the same effect does not follow, or at least immediately, in those that are strong. Ruellius, De Natura Stirpium, Basiliæ, 1543, fol. p. 572, says of the Rubia, “Folia capillum tingunt.” If he meant that the hair became red by eating the leaves, he committed a mistake.

278 Dissertatio de Vita Nuptiisque Plantarum. Lipsiæ, 1741, p. 11.

279 I do not know that any one ever remarked human bones to have been dyed by madder, though the proposal for using the roots of it against the rachitis might have given occasion to make observations on that subject. See G. L. Hansen, Diss. de Rachitide. Gottingæ, 1762, p. 36. Professor Arnemann, who has a very numerous and valuable collection of skeletons, and who carefully examined many of the like kind during his travels, assured me that he never saw any bones that had been dyed by madder in the human body.

280 On Vegetable Substances, by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.



Under this title I comprehend not only those properly called jugglers, who, for the sake of money, by quick and artful motions of their hands, bodies, and limbs, and by various preparations, delude the senses in an agreeable manner, or practise an innocent deception on the spectators, so that they think they hear and see what they do not really hear and see, but also rope-dancers; people who place their bodies in positions according to all appearance dangerous; and those who for pay exhibit animals taught to perform uncommon tricks, as well as automata, which by their concealed construction seem to produce wonderful effects.

But is it worth while to inquire into the antiquity of all these arts, unprofitable to the public, which form the favourite amusements of the populace? The selfish question cui bono, which is often thrown out by way of reproach to men of letters, but oftener to naturalists, and even to jurists, when, in their researches, they advance beyond the beaten track, I might easily get rid of by civilly telling the querists to pass over this article if they think they are not likely to derive benefit from it. I might also apologise for employing my time and labour on this subject, by using the words of a certain historian: “Frivola hæc fortassis cuipiam et nimis levia esse videantur, sed curiositas nihil recusat.” I shall however adopt neither of these methods; as I flatter myself that this essay may afford as much amusement as many that are read daily; and that therefore it may not only be excused, but even justified.

Those arts and employments which are most necessary in life were undoubtedly the earliest, and they have still continued to be the most important; but when these were sufficiently occupied, or carried on by as many persons as could live by them, the rest, who were excluded from them, conceived the idea of amusing the former when tired with their labour, that by these means they might obtain from them a part of the fruits of their industry. I request my readers to reflect how many occupations have been devised for no other purpose. They will find that several of these have acquired116 a pre-eminence over the necessary or useful arts; and to the same class belong jugglers.

All political writers tell us, as a fundamental principle of government, that population ought to be increased. This maxim however is just only under certain circumstances; that is, when employment can be procured to a greater number of inhabitants than a country already possesses. Of beggars we have to maintain too many. All our trades and occupations are not only filled up with workmen, but overflow. Our farmers can employ no more labourers, and our manufacturers no more hands than they have at present; our regiments are full; and in every employment there are more candidates and more supernumeraries than is consistent with the good of the public. Must it not therefore give us pleasure, when necessity invents new means of acquiring a livelihood, although they could be dispensed with? It is much better that those who have learned no useful art; who have lost their youth in the service of others; or who are destitute, through any other cause, should gain their bread by amusing their fellow-citizens, than that they should either beg or steal.

These arts are indeed not unprofitable, for they afford a comfortable subsistence to those who practise them; but their gain is acquired by too little labour to be hoarded up; and, in general, these roving people spend on the spot the fruits of their ingenuity; which is an additional reason why their stay in a place should be encouraged. I have however known some who saved so much from their earnings, that, in their old age, they were enabled to enter into some business more certain as well as more profitable.

People of this description will never want encouragement and support while they exhibit with confidence anything uncommon, and know how to suit the nature of their amusements to the taste of the spectators. The greater part of mankind love deception so much, that they reward liberally those who impose on their senses, as is proved by the ready sale of gilt articles, artificial gems, and a thousand other things which are not in reality what they appear to be. I do not know whether Montagne is right in considering it as a sign of the weakness of our judgement, that we take a pleasure in beholding objects on account of their rarity, novelty, or the difficulty that attends them, though they may be subservient117 to no useful purpose281. This appears to me to proceed from that innate curiosity which serves as a spur to incite us to enlarge our knowledge, and to engage in researches and undertakings that often lead to discoveries of greater importance.

Jugglers indeed seldom exhibit anything that can appear wonderful to those acquainted with natural philosophy and mathematics; but these even often find satisfaction in seeing truths already known to them applied in a new manner; and they readily embrace every opportunity of having them further illustrated by experiments. Many however are too precipitate, and attempt to explain before they have sufficiently examined, of which the golden tooth at the end of the sixteenth century, the conjuring-rod at the end of the seventeenth, and the chess-player and speaking-machine at the end of the eighteenth, may serve as instances. But it often happens, that what ignorant persons first employ, merely as a show, for amusement or deception, is afterwards ennobled by being applied to a more important purpose. The machine with which a Savoyard, by means of shadows, amused children and the populace, was by Lieberkühn converted into a solar microscope; and to give one example more, which may convince female readers, if I can hope for such, the art of making ice in summer, or in a heated oven, enables guests, much to the credit of their hostess, to cool the most expensive dishes. The Indian discovers precious stones, and the European, by polishing, gives them a lustre.

But if the arts of juggling served no other end than to amuse the most ignorant of our citizens, it is proper that they should be encouraged for the sake of those who cannot enjoy the more expensive deceptions of an opera. They answer other purposes however than that of merely amusing; they convey instruction in the most acceptable manner, and serve as a most agreeable antidote to superstition, and to that popular belief in miracles, exorcism, conjuration, sorcery, and witchcraft, from which our ancestors suffered so severely. Wherever the vulgar were astonished at the effects of shadows, electricity, mirrors, and the magnet, interested persons endeavoured by these to frighten them; and thus misapplied the powers of nature to promote their own advantage. The118 pontiffs and their clergy ought, undoubtedly, to be detested for discouraging experimental philosophy. That science they considered as a formidable enemy; and they thought they gained no small advantage when they induced the house of Medici, by granting it the cardinalship, to suppress the Academy del Cimento. When Gasner exhibited his deceptions, some one proposed to him to try his art at Berlin or Göttingen, and to drive out there if it were only the smallest of all the devils; but these cities were not theatres where he was likely to succeed, and he never ventured to appear in them282. It is however better that the populace, if they will absolutely pay for being deceived, should be exposed to a momentary deception from jugglers than to a continual deception from priests. As the former are not covered with the sacred cloak of religion, their deceptions are more easily seen through and detected; and they consequently soon cease to be hurtful. So late as the year 1601, a horse, which had been taught to perform a number of tricks, was tried, as possessed by the devil, and condemned to be burnt283. At present horses of this kind are so often exhibited publicly in the heretical countries of Europe, that the Spanish Inquisition, perhaps, will soon be ashamed of considering such proofs of the docility of these animals, and of the patient dexterity of their teachers, as the work of the devil, as they did at the above period. Those who view the art of the juggler in the same light as I do, will, I hope, forgive me for introducing these observations, and allow me to continue them while I inquire into the antiquity of this employment; especially as I shall endeavour by these means to illustrate more fully my subject.

Had that book which Celsus wrote against the Magi been119 preserved, we should have been much better acquainted with the art of the ancient conjurors or jugglers. This Celsus, without doubt, is the same author whose virulent attack against the Christians was refuted by Origen; and we have, therefore, greater cause to regret that a work on the above subject, by so learned and acute a philosopher, should have been lost. He is mentioned with respect by Lucian, and even by Origen; and the former derived from him the account which he gives of Alexander the impostor284. More ancient authors also wrote upon the same subject. Some of them are mentioned by Diogenes Laërtius in his preface; and Suidas quotes the Magicon of Antisthenes, though neither of these speaks of Celsus; but of all those writings none are now extant.

The deception of breathing out flames, which at present excites in a particular manner the astonishment of the ignorant, is very ancient. When the slaves in Sicily, about a century and a half before our æra, made a formidable insurrection, and avenged themselves in a cruel manner for the severities which they had suffered, there was amongst them a Syrian named Eunus285, a man of great craft and courage, who, having passed through many scenes of life, had become acquainted with a variety of arts. He pretended to have immediate communication with the gods; was the oracle and leader of his fellow-slaves; and, as is usual on such occasions, confirmed his divine mission by miracles. When, heated by enthusiasm and desirous of inspiring his followers with courage, he breathed flames or sparks among them from his mouth while he was addressing them. We are told by historians, that for this purpose he pierced a nut-shell at both ends, and, having filled it with some burning substance, put it into his mouth and breathed through it. This deception, at present, is performed much better. The juggler rolls together some flax or hemp, so as to form a ball about the size of a walnut; sets it on fire; and suffers it to burn till it is nearly consumed; he then rolls round it, while burning, some more flax; and by these means the fire may be retained in it for a long time. When he wishes to exhibit, he slips the ball unperceived into his mouth and breathes through it; which again revives the fire, so that a number of weak sparks proceed120 from it; and the performer sustains no hurt, provided he inspire the air not through the mouth, but the nostrils286.

By this art the rabbi Bar-Cocheba, in the reign of the emperor Hadrian, made the credulous Jews believe that he was the hoped-for Messias287; and two centuries after, the emperor Constantius was thrown into great terror, when Valentinian informed him that he had seen one of the body-guards breathing out fire and flames in the evening288.

For deceptions with fire the ancients employed also naphtha, a liquid mineral oil, which kindles when it only approaches a flame. Galen informs us, that a person excited great astonishment by extinguishing a candle and again lighting it, without any other process than holding it immediately against a wall or a stone. The whole secret of this consisted in having previously rubbed over the wall or stone with sulphur. But as the author, a few lines before, speaks of a mixture of sulphur and naphtha, there is reason to think that he alludes to the same here. Plutarch289 relates how Alexander the Great was astonished and delighted with the secret effects of naphtha, which were exhibited to him at Ecbatana. The same author, as well as Pliny, Galen, and others, has already remarked, that the substance with which Medea destroyed Creusa, the daughter of Creon, was nothing else than this fine oil290. She sent to the unfortunate princess a dress besmeared with it, which burst into flames as soon as she approached the fire of the altar. The blood of Nessus, wherein the dress of Hercules, which took fire likewise, had been dipped, was undoubtedly naphtha also291; and this oil must have been always employed when offerings caught fire in an imperceptible manner292. In all periods of the world priests have acted as jugglers to simple and ignorant people.

In modern times, persons who could walk over burning coals or red-hot iron, or who could hold them in their hands and their teeth, have often excited wonder. In the end of121 the seventeenth century, an Englishman, named Richardson, who, as we are assured, could chew burning coals, pour melted lead upon his tongue, swallow melted glass, &c., rendered himself very famous by these extraordinary feats293. Laying aside the deception294 practised on the spectators, the whole of this secret consists in rendering the skin of the soles of the feet and hands so callous and insensible, that the nerves under them are secured from all hurt, in the same manner as by shoes and gloves. Such callosity will be produced if the skin is continually compressed, singed, pricked, or injured in any other manner. Thus do the fingers of the industrious sempstress become horny by being frequently pricked; and the case is the same with the hands of fire-workers, and the feet of those who walk bare-footed over scorching sand295.

122 In the month of September, 1765, when I visited the copper-works at Awestad, one of the workmen, for a little drink-money, took some of the melted copper in his hand, and after showing it to us, threw it against a wall296. He then squeezed the fingers of his horny hand close to each other; put it a few minutes under his armpit, to make it sweat, as he said; and, taking it again out, drew it over a ladle filled with melted copper, some of which he skimmed off, and moved his hand backwards and forwards, very quickly, by way of ostentation. While I was viewing this performance, I remarked a smell like that of singed horn or leather, though his hand was not burnt. The workmen at the Swedish melting-houses showed the same thing to some travellers in the seventeenth century; for Regnard saw it in 1681, at the copper-works in Lapland. It is highly probable that the people who hold in their hands red-hot iron, or who walk upon it, as I saw done at Amsterdam, but at a distance, make their skin callous before, in the123 like manner. This may be accomplished by frequently moistening it with oil of vitriol; according to some the juice of certain plants will produce the same effect; and we are assured by others that the skin must be very frequently rubbed, for a long time, with oil, by which means, indeed, leather also will become horny.

Of this art, traces may be found also in the works of the ancients. A festival was held annually on Mount Soracte, in Etruria, at which the Hirpi, who lived not far from Rome, jumped through burning coals; and on this account they were indulged with peculiar privileges by the Roman senate297. Women also, we are told, were accustomed to walk over burning coals at Castabala in Cappadocia, near the temple dedicated to Diana298. Servius remarks, from a work of Varro now lost, that the Hirpi trusted not so much to their own sanctity as to the care which they had taken to prepare their feet for that operation.

I am not acquainted with everything that concerns the trial by ordeal, when persons accused were obliged to prove their innocence by holding in their hands red-hot iron; but I am almost convinced that this also was a juggling trick of the priests, which they employed as might best suit their views. It is well known that this mode of exculpation was allowed only to weak persons, who were unfit to wield arms, and particularly to monks and ecclesiastics, to whom, for the sake of their security, that by single combat was forbidden. The trial itself took place in the church entirely under the inspection of the clergy; mass was celebrated at the same time; the defendant and the iron were consecrated by being sprinkled with holy water; the clergy made the iron hot themselves; and they used all these preparatives, as jugglers do many motions, only to divert the attention of the spectators. It was necessary that the accused persons should remain at least three days and three nights under their immediate care, and continue as long after. They covered their hands both before and after the proof; sealed and unsealed the covering: the former, as they pretended, to prevent the hands from being prepared any how by art; and the latter to see if they were burnt.

124 Some artificial preparation was therefore known, else no precautions would have been necessary. It is highly probable that during the first three days the preventive was applied to those persons whom they wished to appear innocent; and that the three days after the trial were requisite to let the hands resume their natural state. The sacred sealing secured them from the examination of presumptuous unbelievers; for to determine whether the hands were burnt, the last three days were certainly not wanted. When the ordeal was abolished, and this art rendered useless, the clergy no longer kept it a secret. In the thirteenth century an account of it was published by Albertus Magnus, a Dominican monk299. If his receipt be genuine, it seems to have consisted rather in covering the hands with a kind of paste than in hardening them. The sap of the Althæa (marsh-mallow), the slimy seeds of the flea-bane, which is still used for stiffening by the hat-makers and silk-weavers, together with the white of an egg, were employed to make the paste adhere; and by these means the hands were as safe as if they had been secured by gloves. The use of this juggling trick is very old, and may be traced back to a pagan origin. In the Antigone of Sophocles, the guards placed over the body of Polynices, which had been carried away and buried contrary to the orders of Creon, offered, in order to prove their innocence, to submit to any trial: “We will,” said they, “take up red-hot iron in our hands, or walk through fire300.”

The exhibition of balls and cups, which is often mentioned in the works of the ancients as the most common art of jugglers, is also of great antiquity. It consists in conveying speedily and with great dexterity, while the performer endeavours by various motions and cant phrases to divert the attention of the simple spectators from observing his movements too narrowly, several light balls, according to the pleasure of any person in company, under one or more cups; removing them sometimes from the whole; and conveying them again back in an imperceptible manner. In general, three leaden cups are used, and as many balls of cork; and to prevent all discovery by their slipping from the thumbs of125 the juggler, or making a noise, as he must lay hold of them with much quickness, the table before which he sits is covered with a cloth.

These small balls were by the ancients called calculi; and the cups acetabula, or paropsides. Casaubon301 has already quoted most of those passages in ancient authors which relate to this subject; and they have been repeated by Bulenger302; but neither of these writers makes mention of the fullest and clearest description given in the letters of Alciphron303. We have there an account of a countryman who came to town, and was conducted by a merchant to the theatre, where he saw with great astonishment the exhibition of cups and balls. “Such an animal,” says he, “as the performer I would not wish to have near me in the country; for in his hands my property would soon disappear.” The art of oratory, because it deceives the auditors, is frequently compared to that of balls and cups. From the Latin word gabata, mentioned by Martial, together with paropsides, the French have made gobelets and hence their common expressions jouer des gobelets, and joueur des gobelets, which they use when speaking of jugglers.

In all ages of the world there have been men who excited great wonder by extraordinary strength. Instances of this have been already collected; but they do not belong to my present subject304. I can, however, prove that above fifteen hundred years ago there were people who, by applying a knowledge of the mechanical powers to their bodies, performed feats which astonished every ignorant spectator; though it is certain that any sound man of common strength could perform the same by employing the like means. Of these one may say with Celsus, “Neque hercule scientiam præcipuam habent hi, sed audaciam usu ipso confirmatam.”

About the beginning of the last century, such a strong man, or Samson, as he called himself, a native of Germany, travelled over almost all Europe; and his pretended art has126 been mentioned by so many writers, that we may conclude it had not been often exhibited before; and that it was then considered as new. His name was John Charles von Eckeberg; he was born at Harzgerode in Anhalt; and at that time was thirty-three years of age. When he fixed himself between a couple of posts, on any level place, two or more horses were not able to draw him from his position; he could break ropes asunder, and lift a man up on his knee while he lay extended on the ground. But what excited the greatest astonishment was, that he suffered large stones to be broke on his breast with a hammer, or a smith to forge iron on an anvil placed above it.

This last feat was exhibited even in the third century, by Firmus or Firmius, who, in the time of Aurelian, endeavoured to make himself emperor in Egypt. He was a native of Seleucia in Syria; espoused the cause of Zenobia, the celebrated queen of Palmyra; and was at length executed publicly by order of the emperor Aurelian. It is of this Firmus, and not of another, who a century after was overcome in Africa by the father of the emperor Theodosius, that Vopiscus speaks where he relates that he could suffer iron to be forged on an anvil placed on his breast. For this purpose he lay on his back; but he put himself in such a position, by resting with his feet and shoulders against some support, that his whole body formed an arch; so that he seemed rather to be suspended than to lie at full length305. This art, which is explained and illustrated by Desaguliers306 and Professor Kuhn307 of Dantzic, has now become so common that it is often exhibited without occasioning much surprise.

In the works of the ancients, rope-dancers are frequently mentioned. The passages where they occur have been collected127 by various authors, though never completely; and I am inclined to think that those who have seen many performers of this kind would be able to clear up some that are obscure. I have seen many myself; but I have forgot the greater part of what I observed; and there are other reasons also which prevent me from undertaking that task: I dread the reproach of “multum agendo nihil agis.” That I may not, however, pass over this subject entirely, I shall present the reader with what follows308. We meet with various appellations given to rope-dancers, which do not, as some have imagined, point out different kinds, but allude only to new-invented arts, leaps, or dexterities, which, while recommended by novelty, were much wondered at, though they were afterwards imitated by all. To these belong the schœnobatæ, oribatæ, neurobatæ, petaminarii, funambuli, &c. Some of the ancient rope-dancers seem to have used a balancing-pole, or at least to have had weights in their hands to preserve an equipoise309. It is certain also that rope-dancers were not wanting in the middle ages. In the year 1237 they were very common in Italy310; and in 1393 there were some of them at Augsburg, who exhibited their dexterity on the rope, and received from each spectator three German halfpence311.

To place men upon the shoulders of each other in such a manner that every row consists of a man fewer, till they form a pyramid ending in a single person, upon whose head a boy often stands with his feet upwards, is likewise an ancient piece of dexterity. This exhibition is varied many ways; and on that account it is difficult to form even conjectures respecting it, especially as the description given of it by a Roman poet is very unintelligible312.

128 I am however still less acquainted with an art in which hoops and wheels were employed by the petauristæ, who excited great astonishment among the populace. The first part of the art may have consisted in nothing more than the varied contortions and tumbling which we still see practised by children trained for that purpose. Cilano explains a well-known passage of Manilius, as if the performers had darted through suspended iron hoops, made often red-hot. Of this I entertain less doubt than how we ought to understand the corpora jactata petauro of Juvenal313; and the corpora valido excussa petauro of Manilius314, which many have attempted to explain already. At any rate this wheel was different from that upon which a female dancer, as mentioned by Xenophon, wrote and read while it turned round with great velocity315.

The art of exhibiting various feats of horsemanship, which has been practised so much in modern times, seems to have come first from the East. At any rate, those performers in that way who, in the thirteenth century, were at the Byzantine court, and who travelled all over Europe, came from Egypt.129 They could stand on the horses when at a gallop; mount and dismount while on full speed at the chase; tumble on horseback, and do many other things equally extraordinary316. At the end of the sixteenth century, an Italian, who had learned this art while a slave in Turkey, went about exhibiting his dexterity in various parts of Europe. Montagne saw him at Rome in 1581317; and the year following he was at Paris318. Some of these feats were performed by the ancient desultores.

Whether the ancients taught horses, dogs, birds, and other animals, to perform various tricks which are frequently exhibited at present for money, I do not know; but it is certain that what they made the elephant, which undoubtedly is the most sagacious and tractable of all animals, perform, exceeds everything yet known of the kind. Without repeating what has been so often related, I shall only mention the elephant which walked upon a rope backwards and forwards, as well as up and down; and which Galba first caused to be shown to the Roman people. After this, so much confidence was placed in the dexterity of the animal, that a person sat on an elephant’s back while he walked across the theatre upon a rope extended from the one side to the other. Lipsius, who has collected the testimonies, thinks they are so strong that they cannot be doubted319.

The training of horses to obey a private signal, imperceptible to the most attentive spectator, and to perform actions130 which appear, to those unacquainted with the art, to display rational faculties, I have never found mentioned in the works of the ancients. That the Sybarites however taught their horses to dance to the sound of music, is asserted by a variety of authors320. In the sixteenth century, dogs trained in the like manner excited great wonder321.

In the year 1766, an Englishman, named Wildman, made himself much known by taming or training bees, in such a manner that they not only followed him wherever he went, but settled even on his face and hands without stinging him, and seemed as if obedient to his orders322. Some years after, a person who practised the like art, travelled about through Germany, and gave himself out to be Wildman; but M. Riem proved that he was not Wildman, and published the secret by which he acquired so much power over these insects323. I cannot say whether the ancients were acquainted with this art; but I shall here remark, that it was known in the kingdom of Galam, at Senegal, a hundred years before Wildman; for when Brue, a Frenchman, was there in 1698, he was visited by a man who called himself the king of the bees324. “Let his secret,” says that traveller, “consist in what it may, this much is certain; that they followed him wherever he went, as sheep do their shepherd. His whole body, and particularly his cap, was so covered with them that they appeared like a swarm just settled. When he departed they went along with him; for besides those on his body, he was surrounded by thousands which always attended him325.”

131 In modern times, persons destitute of arms and hands, or who have these limbs formed very imperfectly, but who possess the art of supplying that want by the use of their feet and toes, show themselves sometimes for money; and as they entertain the spectators by exciting their wonder, they deserve from them that support which they are not able to obtain in any other manner. Instances of such people who had acquired this art, have been very common within the last two centuries326; but in the works of the ancients I have found only one. An Indian king, named Porus, sent to the emperor Augustus an embassy with presents, among which were some rare animals, and a man without arms, who with his feet, however, could bend a bow; discharge arrows; and put a trumpet to his mouth and blow it. Dio Cassius confesses that he did not know how this was possible; but Strabo refers for his authority to Nicolaus of Damascus, who saw all the presents as they passed through Antioch327. Had this deformed person, whom Strabo compares to a Hermes, travelled about, according to the modern practice, as a show, he would have been better known, and in all probability his example would have induced others to imitate his art328. Manilius says, however, that there were people, who, in playing at ball, could use their feet with as much dexterity as their hands, who could catch the ball with them, and again throw it back; but the poet, perhaps, did not allude to the small hand-ball, but to the large one which is struck with the fist, and which may be stopped also by the foot. Besides, the passage is read and explained different ways329.

132 Figures or puppets, which appear to move of themselves, were employed formerly to work miracles; but they could hardly be used for that purpose at present in any catholic country of Europe, though they still serve to amuse the vulgar. Among these are the marionettes330, as they are called, the different parts of which are put in motion imperceptibly by a thread. Of a still more ingenious construction are those which are moved by the turning of a cylinder, as is the case in the machines with which some of the old miners in Germany earn a livelihood; but the most ingenious of all are those which are kept in continual movement for a certain time, by the help of wheels with a weight or spring. The latter are called automata; and, when they represent human figures, androides. Under the former general name are comprehended our watches, the most useful of all, and also jacks331, with many others. The latter appellation is given to small puppets, which, when their inner works have been wound up, run upon the table or pavement, and as they advance move their head, eyes, and hands. They have been exhibited sometimes under the name of courrante Margarethe, which gave rise perhaps to the word marionette.

The proper marionettes are very old. They were common among the Greeks, and from them they were brought to the Romans. They were known by the name of neurospasta, and were much used at their shows. Aristotle speaks of some133 which moved their head, eyes, hands and limbs in a very natural manner332. They are mentioned with equal precision by Galen, Xenophon, Antoninus, Horace, Gellius, and others. To these belong the phalli, which were carried round during the festivals of Osiris and Bacchus, and of which one member only, that properly meant by the name, and which was almost as large as the whole body, moved upon certain threads being pulled333. Count Caylus has given an engraving of the body of a small puppet, made of ivory or bone; but he requires too much when he desires us to consider that fragment, merely on his word, as a piece of Greek or Roman antiquity. He at least ought to have informed us where it was found, and by what means he procured it. In regard to such articles, it is as easy to deceive as to be led into an error; and objects of bone are certainly of no great duration334.

The question concerning the antiquity of automata, properly so called, which are moved by wheels, weights and springs, I shall leave to those who have read the works of the ancient mathematicians, and who may be desirous of writing on the history of mechanics. As far as I know, the ancients were not acquainted with the art of making them, unless some propositions of Ctesibius, mentioned by Vitruvius, allude to that subject. When clocks were brought to perfection, some artists added to them figures, which at the time of striking performed various movements; and as they succeeded in these, some attempted to make, detached from clocks, single figures, which either moved certain limbs, or advanced forward and ran. In the middle of the sixteenth century, when Hans Bullmann335, a padlock-maker at Nuremberg, constructed figures of men and women which moved backwards and forwards by clock-work, beat a drum, and played on the lute according to musical time, they excited universal astonishment as a new invention. It was about the same period that watches came into use. The accounts however which speak of much older automata deserve to be examined with more attention.

The most ancient of all are undoubtedly the tripods constructed134 by Vulcan336, which being furnished with wheels, advanced forwards to be used, and again returned to their places. But what was impossible to the gods of Homer? An unbeliever might conjecture that these tripods, which are mentioned also by Aristotle337, and which perhaps were only a kind of small tables or dumb-waiters, had wheels so contrived that they could be put in motion and driven to a distance on the smallest impulse, like the fire-pans in our country beer-houses, at which the boors light their pipes.

That Dædalus made statues which could not only walk, but which it was necessary to tie, in order that they might not move, is related by Plato338, Aristotle, and others. The latter speaks of a wooden Venus, and remarks that the secret of its motion consisted in quicksilver having been poured into it. What the author here means I cannot comprehend; but I do not imagine that this Venus threw itself topsy-turvy backwards, like the Chinese puppets. However this may be, it is astonishing that the Chinese should have fallen upon the invention of giving motion to puppets by means of quicksilver, and in so ingenious a manner, that Muschenbroek339 thought it worth his while to describe their whole construction, and to illustrate it by figures. But before this method was known in Europe, Kircher had an idea of putting a small waggon in motion by adding to it a pipe filled with quicksilver, and heating it with a candle placed below it340. The account of Aristotle is more mysterious, for he does not inform us how the quicksilver acted.

Callistratus, another writer, who was the tutor of Demosthenes, gives us to understand that the statues of Dædalus were made to move by the mechanical powers341. But what has been asserted by Palæphatus, and by Gedoyn342, Banier, Goguet, and others among the moderns, is most probable. The first statues of the Greeks were imitations of those of the Egyptians, for the most part clumsy figures, with their eyes135 shut, their arms hanging down close to the body on each side, and their feet joined together. Those made by Dædalus had their eyes open, as well as their feet and hands free; and the artist gave them such a posture, that they seemed either reclining, or appeared as if ready to walk or to run. As Anacreon343, struck with wonder, exclaimed when he saw a waxen image of his favourite object, “Begone, wax, thou wilt soon speak!” the astonished Greeks in like manner cried out, when they beheld the statues of Dædalus, “They will soon walk.” The next generation affirmed that they really walked; and their posterity, adding still to what was told them, asserted that they would have run had they not been bound.

Equally imperfect is the account given of the wooden pigeon constructed by Archytas of Tarentum. We are informed that it flew; but when it had once settled, it could not again take flight. The latter is not incredible; but even if we allow that aërostatic machines were then known, it is impossible to believe the former. At present one cannot determine with any probability, what piece of mechanism gave rise to this relation344. The head of Albertus Magnus, which is said not only to have moved, but to have spoken, is too little known for any opinion to be formed concerning it. The construction of it must have been very ingenious and complex, if it be true that he was employed upon it thirty years345.

In the fourteenth and following centuries, automata, as I have said, were frequently made. Among these was the iron fly of John Müller or Molitor, or, as he is sometimes called, Regiomontanus, which is said to have flown about; and his artificial eagle, which flew to meet the Emperor Maximilian on his arrival at Nuremberg, June the 7th, 1470. None of the contemporary writers, however, though they often speak of this very learned man, make the least mention of these pieces of mechanism; and it is probable that the whole tale originated with Peter Ramus346, who never was at Nuremberg till the year 1571. J. W. Baier347 endeavours to prove that the136 above-mentioned fly, moved by wheel-work, leaped about upon a table; and that the eagle perched upon the town-gate, stretched out its wings on the emperor’s approach, and saluted him by an inclination of its body. We know that Charles V., after his abdication, amused himself during the latter period of his life with automata of various kinds348.

The most ingenious, or at least the most celebrated automata, were those made by Vaucanson, which he exhibited publicly at Paris, for the first time, in 1738. One of them, which represented a flute-player sitting, performed twelve tunes, and, as we are assured, by wind issuing from its mouth into a German-flute, the holes of which it opened and shut with its fingers. The second was a standing figure, which in the like manner played on the Provençal shepherd’s pipe, held in its left hand, and with the right beat upon a drum or tambour de Basque. The third was a duck, of the natural size, which moved its wings, exhibited all the gestures of that animal, quacked like a duck, drank water, ate corn, and then after a little time let drop behind it something that resembled the excrement of a duck349. These pieces must have been often imitated. I saw some of the like kind in the year 1764, at the palace of Zarsko-Selo, near Petersburg, and was told that they had been purchased from Vaucanson350. As far as I can remember, the tambourin was damaged. I saw there also a regiment of soldiers, which went through their exercise, moved by wheel-work351.

137 In the year 1752, one Du Moulin, a silversmith, travelled about through Germany with automata like those of Vaucanson. In 1754, he wished to dispose of them to the margrave of Bayreuth; but he was obliged to pawn them in Nuremberg, at the house of Pfluger, who offered to sell them for 3000 florins, the sum lent upon them. They were afterwards purchased by counsellor Beireis, at Helmstadt, who kindly showed them to me. It is much to be regretted that the machinery of them is greatly deranged; the flute-player emits only some very faint tones; but the duck eats, drinks, and moves still. The ribs, which are of wire, had been covered with duck’s feathers, so as to imitate nature; and as these are now lost, one can see better the interior construction; respecting which I shall only observe, that the motion is communicated by means of a cylinder and fine chains, like that of a watch, all proceeding through the feet of the duck, which are of the usual size. Nicolai352 says that Du Moulin came to Petersburg in 1755, and died at Moscow in 1765. It is probable that he made the automata which I saw in Russia. Those which he left behind him at Nuremberg seem either not to have been completed, or to have been designedly spoiled by him; for they appeared to have defects which could not be ascribed to any accident. M. Beireis however has begun to cause them to be repaired.

Of all these automata, the duck I confess appeared to me the most ingenious; but I can prove that like pieces of mechanism were made before the time of Vaucanson. We are told by Labat353, that the French general De Gennes, who, about the year 1688, defended the colony of St. Christopher against the English, constructed a peacock which could walk about, pick up from the ground corn thrown before it, digest it, according to appearance, and afterwards drop something that resembled excrement. This man was of an ancient noble family in Brittany, which had however been so reduced, that the father carried on a handicraft. The son became acquainted with the marquis de Vivonne, who, on account of138 his promising talents, bred him to the sea. He rose to be commander of a vessel, conducted a squadron to the Straits of Magellan, where it was intended to form a colony, and obtained in Cayenne a tract of land, which he got erected into a county, under the name of Oyac. He invented machines of various kinds useful in navigation and gunnery, and, as we are told, constructed clocks that moved without weights or springs.

The flute-player also of Vaucanson was not the first of its kind. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, the anonymous author of that well-known poem Zodiacus Vitæ, saw at Rome a figure made in the like manner by a potter. It is much to be regretted that no account is given of its construction.

Vidi ego dum Romæ, decimo regnante Leone,
Essem, opus a figulo factum, juvenisque figuram,
Efflantem angusto validum ventum oris hiatu354.

I shall here beg leave to say a few words respecting an object of juggling, which, however old it may be, still excites astonishment, and has often imposed upon the credulity of men of learning355: I mean those speaking machines, which, according to appearance, answer various questions proposed to them, sometimes in different languages, sing, and even blow a huntsman’s horn. The figure, or only a head, is often placed upon a box, the forepart of which, for the better deception, is filled with a pair of bellows, a sounding-board, cylinder, and pipes, supposed to represent the organs of139 speech. At other times the machine is only like a peruke-maker’s block, hung round with a Turkish dress, furnished with a pair of arms, and placed before a table, and sometimes the puppet stands upon the table, or against a wall. The sounds are heard through a speaking-trumpet, which the figure holds in its mouth.

Many jugglers are so impudent as to assert that the voice does not proceed from a man, but is produced by machinery, in the same manner as the music of an organ. Some, like the last whom I saw, are more modest or timorous, and give evasive answers to the questions asked them respecting the cause of the voice, with as much art as those who exhibit with balls and cups. Concerning these speaking machines, however, different opinions are entertained. Some affirm that the voice issues from the machine; others, that the juggler answers himself, by speaking as ventriloquists do, or by having the power to alter his voice; and some believe that the answers are given by a man somewhere concealed. The violence with which these opinions are maintained exposes the juggler often to the danger of losing his life; for, when the illusion is detected, the populace, who in part suffer themselves willingly to be deceived, and who even pay the juggler for his deception, imagine that they have a right to avenge themselves for being imposed on. The machines are sometimes broken; and the owners of them are harshly treated as impostors. For my part, I do not see why a juggler, with a speaking machine, is a more culpable impostor than he who pretends to breathe out flames and to swallow boiling oil, or to make puppets speak, as in the Chinese shadows. The spectators pay for the pleasure which they receive from a well-concealed deception, and with greater satisfaction the more difficult it is for them to discover it. But the person who speaks or sings through a puppet, is so well hid, that people of considerable penetration have imagined that such concealment was impossible. At present this art is well known.

Either a child or a woman is concealed in the juggler’s box; or some person, placed in a neighbouring apartment, speaks into the end of a pipe which proceeds through the wall to the puppet, and which conveys the answers to the spectators. The juggler gives every necessary assistance140 to the person by signs previously agreed on. I was once shown, in company with M. Stock, upon promising secrecy, the assistant in another apartment, standing before the pipe, with a card in his hand on which the signs were marked; and he had been brought into the house so privately that the landlady was ignorant of the circumstance. The juggler, however, acknowledged that he did not exhibit without fear; and that he would not venture to stay long at a place like Göttingen, or to return with his Turks, though the populace were so civil as to permit him to depart peaceably with what he had gained.

The invention of causing statues to speak by this method seems so simple, that one can scarcely help conjecturing that it was employed in the earliest periods to support superstition; and many have imagined that the greater part of the oracles spoke in the same manner356. This, however, is false, as has been proved by the Jesuit Baltus, and the anonymous author of a Reply to Fontenelle’s History of Oracles357. It appears that the pagan priests, like our jugglers, were afraid that their deceptions, if long practised, might be discovered. They considered it therefore as more secure to deliver the answers themselves; or cause them to be delivered by women instructed for that purpose, or by writing, or by any other means. We read, nevertheless, that idols358 and the images of saints once spoke; for at present the latter will not venture to open their mouths. If their votaries ever really heard a voice proceed from the statue, it may have been produced in the before-mentioned manner.

Whether the head of Orpheus spoke in the island of Lesbos, or, what is more probable, the answers were conveyed to it by the priests, as was the case with the tripod at Delphi, cannot with certainty be determined. That the impostor Alexander, however, caused his Æsculapius to speak in this manner, is expressly related by Lucian359. He took, says that author, instead of a pipe, the gullet of a crane, and transmitted the voice through it to the mouth of the statue.141 In the fourth century, when bishop Theophilus broke to pieces the statues at Alexandria, he found some which were hollow, and placed in such a manner against a wall that a priest could slip unperceived behind them, and speak to the ignorant populace through their mouths360. I am acquainted with a passage which seems to imply that Cassiodorus, who, it is well known, constructed various pieces of mechanism, made also speaking machines; but I must confess that I do not think I understand the words perfectly361.

That people ventured more than a hundred years ago to exhibit speaking machines for money, has been proved by Reitz in his annotations to Lucian, where he produces the instance of one Thomas Irson, an Englishman, whom he himself knew, and whose art excited much wonder in king Charles II. and his whole court. When the astonishment, however, became general, one of the pages discovered, in the adjoining chamber, a popish priest who answered in the same language, through a pipe, the questions proposed to the wooden head by whispering into its ear. This deception Irson often related himself362.

I shall now add only a few observations respecting the Chinese shadows, which I have occasionally mentioned before. This ingenious amusement consists in moving, by pegs fastened to them, small figures cut out of pasteboard, the joints of which are all pliable, behind a piece of fine painted gauze placed before an opening in a curtain, in such a manner142 as to exhibit various scenes, according to pleasure; while the opening covered with gauze is illuminated, towards the apartment where the spectators sit, by means of light reflected back from a mirror; so that the shadows of the pegs are concealed. When it is requisite to cause a figure to perform a variety of movements, it is necessary to have several persons, who must be exceedingly expert. When a snake is to be represented gliding, the figure, which consists of delicate rings, must be directed at least by three assistants.

This amusement, which one can hardly see the first time without pleasure, is really a Chinese invention. Many years ago, I have seen Chinese boxes on which such moveable figures were apparent only when the box was held against the light. In China, these shadows are used at the well-known feast of lanterns; and a description of them may be found in the works of some travellers. That they were common also in Egypt, we are informed by Prosper Alpinus363, who admired them much; but he was not able to discover the method by which they were produced, as it was kept a secret. I was told by an Italian, who exhibited them at Göttingen some years ago, that they were first imitated, from the Chinese, at Bologna.


281 Essais, i. 54.

282 The juggler mentioned in Xenophon requested the gods to allow him to remain only in places where there was much money and abundance of simpletons.

283 Le Siècle de Louis XIV. Berlin, 1751, 12mo, i. p. 44. This horse was seen in the above-mentioned year by Casaubon, to whom the owner, an Englishman, discovered the whole art by which he had been trained. See Casauboniana, p. 56. We are assured by Jablonski, in his Lexicon der Künste und Wissenschaften, p. 547, that he was condemned to the flames at Lisbon. In the year 1739, a juggler in Poland was tortured till he confessed that he was a sorcerer, and without further proof he was hanged. The whole account of this circumstance may be found in the Schlesischen gelehrten Neuigkeiten for the year 1739.

284 See Luciani Opera, ed. Bipont. v. pp. 388, 407.

285 Florus, iii. 19, 4.

286 Directions for performing this trick may be found in various works, such as Joh. Wallbergen’s Zauberkünste, Stuttgard, 1754, 8vo, and Natürliches Zauberbuch, Nurnberg, 1740, 8vo.

287 See Bayle’s Diction. i. p. 450, art. Barchochebas.

288 Philostorgii Hist. Eccles. vii. 7, p. 93.

289 Vita Alexandri, p. 687.

290 Galen, l. c.

291 Ovid. Met. lib. ix. 160.

292 Instances may be found collected in Huetii Alnetanæ Quæstion. lib. ii. and in Bayle’s Dictionary, art. Egnatia.

293 Journal des Sçavans, 1667, pp. 54, 222; and 1680, p. 292. Deslandes, Mémoires de Physique, ii. and Bremenscher Magazin, i. p. 665. See also Busbequii Omnia, Basil, 1740, 8vo, p. 314.

294 [Deception might have been easily practised in this case. Fusible metal, as suggested by Sir David Brewster, Nat. Magic, p. 301, which consists of mercury, tin and bismuth, and which melts at a low temperature, might easily have been substituted in place of lead; and fluids, the boiling-point of which is lower than water, might easily have been substituted for that liquid.

A solution of spermaceti in sulphuric æther, tinged with alkanet root, which solidifies at 50° F., and melts and boils with the heat of the hand, is supposed to be the substance which is used at Naples, when the dried blood of St. Januarius melts spontaneously and boils over the vessel which contains it.

The experiments of M. Tillet, Dr. Fordyce and Sir Charles Blagden, will show the great heat which may be endured by the human body. Some of these gentlemen remained in a room where the heat was one or two degrees above 260° F. for eight minutes; a beaf-steak was cooked in the same atmosphere, and was overdone in thirty-three minutes; when the steak was blown upon with a pair of bellows, it was found to be pretty well done in thirteen minutes. But Sir F. Chantry exposed himself to a still greater heat in the furnace used for drying his moulds. When raised to its highest temperature, the thermometer indicated 350° F., and the iron floor was red-hot. The workmen often entered it at 340°. On one occasion Sir F., accompanied by five or six of his friends, entered the furnace, and after remaining two minutes, they brought out a thermometer which indicated 320°. Some of the party experienced sharp pains in the tips of their ears, and in the septum of the nose, whilst others felt a pain in their eyes.—Brewster, l. c.]

295 [The peculiar property of minerals and various salts, as alum, in forming and protecting articles of dress, &c. from the effects of fire, has long been known. But the art of practically applying it, is due to the ingenuity of the Chevalier Aldini of Milan. His dress consisted of a strong cloth covering which had been steeped in a solution of alum, for the body, arms and legs; whilst the head-dress was a large cap enveloping the whole head down to the neck, with holes for the nose, eyes and mouth; the covering for the feet was composed of asbestos, or amianthus cloth. The stockings and cap were single, but the gloves were double, to enable the fireman to take burning or red-hot bodies into his hands. A metallic dress was added to this, consisting of a cap, with a mask, leaving a space between it and the asbestos cap; a cuirass; a piece of armour for the trunk and thighs; a pair of boots of double wire-gauze; and an oval shield five feet long by two and a half wide, made by stretching the wire-gauze over a slender frame of iron. All these pieces were made of wire-gauze.

It was found, that when armed with this apparatus, a man could walk upon hot iron, in the midst of high flames, keep his head over a pan of flaming fire, &c. for several minutes, and this in some cases where the heat was so intense that bystanders were obliged to stand at the distance of eight or ten yards. This was remarkably shown in 1829, in the yard of the barracks of St. Jervais. Two towers were erected, two stories high, and were surrounded with heaps of inflamed faggots and straw. One of the firemen, with a child on his back, in a wicker basket covered with metallic gauze, and having a cap of amiantheric cloth, rushed into a narrow place, where the flames were raging eight yards high. The violence of the fire was so great that he could not be seen, while a thick black smoke spread around, throwing out a heat which was insupportable to the spectators. The man remained so long invisible that serious doubts were entertained of his safety. He at length, however, issued from the fiery gulf uninjured.]

296 The same thing was performed by Schreber in 1760.

297 Plin. vii. 11.—Virg. Æn. xi.—Silius Ital. v.—Strabo, v.

298 Strabo, xii.

299 In his work De Mirabilibus Mundi, at the end of his book De Secretis Mulierum, Amstelod. 1702, 12mo, p. 100.

300 Antigone, 270.

301 Animad. in Athen. lib. i. 15.

302 De Theatro, lib. i. 40, in Grævii Thes. Ant. Rom. ix.

303 Lib. iii. epist. 20.—Seneca, Epist. 45. Compare Suidas, Pollux, and Athenæi Deipn. 4. It is probable that Quintilian alludes to this art in his Institut. x. 7, 11.

304 Plin. vii. 20, p. 385.—Martial. v. 12.—Suidas, speaking of Theogenes Thasius.—Haller, Elem. Physiol. iv. p. 486.

305 Vopiscus, Vita Firmi. See the figure in Desaguliers, tab. xix. fig. 5. He describes the position thus:—The pretended Samson puts his shoulders (not his head, as he used to give out) upon one chair, and his heels upon another (the chairs being made fast), and supports one or two men standing on his belly, raising them up and down as he breathes, making with his backbone, thighs and legs, an arch whose abutments are the chairs.

306 A course of Experimental Philosophy. Lond. 1745, 4to, i. p. 266. [A popular account of these extraordinary feats, with illustrations and explanations of the principles on which they depend, is given by Sir David Brewster in his interesting volume on Natural Magic, p. 246.]

307 Versuche und Abhandl. der Naturforsch. Geselsch. in Danzig.

308 A great many of these passages of the ancients have been collected by Bulenger, in his work De Theatro, i. cap. 41. See also Des Camps in a dissertation contained in Recherches Curieuses d’Antiquité, par Spon. A Lyon 1683.—Mercurialis De Arte Gymnast. and Fabricii Biblioth. Antiq. p. 995.

309 An epigram, ascribed to Petronius, at page 542 of the edition of Hadrianides, belongs to this subject.

310 Muratori Antiquit. Ital. Med. Ævi, ii. p. 846.

311 Von Stetten, Kunstgeschichte von Augsburg, ii. p. 177.

312 Claudian. de Mallii Consul. 320. In Cilano’s Römischen Alterthümer, ii. fig. 8, there is a representation like what I have often seen exhibited. But the most dangerous and the most curious is that of which an engraving is given in Splendor Urbis Venetiarum, to be found in Grævii Thesaurus Antiquit. Italiæ, v. 3. p. 374.

313 Sat. xiv. 265.

314 Lib. v. 433.

315 Symposium, p. 655, edition of Basle, 1555. fol. Εἰσεφέρετο τῇ ὀρχηστρίδι τροχὸς τῶν κεραμεικῶν ἐφ’ οὗ ἔμελλε θαυμασιουργήσειν. In the old edition of J. Ribittus, this passage is thus translated: “Allata est saltatrici orbis saltatorius, in quo admiranda erat editura.” The first question that arises is, what was τροχὸς τῶν κεραμεικῶν. The last word alluded to a place at Athens where wrestling was exhibited every year; and on that account Aristophanes uses the expression πληγαὶ κεραμεικαί. This however affords no explanation. Bulenger, who quotes the same passage, translates it in the following manner: “Illata est saltatrici figularis rota, per quam se trajiceret, et miracula patraret.” He means here therefore a potter’s wheel, the invention of Anacharsis, but that was always called κεραμικὸς τροχὸς, and not τροχὸς τῶν κεραμεικῶν. But even allowing that a potter’s wheel is meant, it is wrong to add per quam se trajiceret; for the potter’s wheel is not like a hoop, but like a plate or dish; and when turned round revolves not vertically, but horizontally. Besides, how the performer could write or read on a wheel that she jumped through, he has not thought proper to explain. “Scribere et legere in rota dum versatur, mirabile quiddam est.” If a potter’s wheel be meant, I consider it as certainly possible for a person to stand upon it whilst it revolves with the greatest velocity, and even to read or write; but it would be necessary to lift up the legs, in turn, with the utmost quickness.

316 Nicephorus Gregor. viii. 10. p. 215. This company of rope-dancers came from Egypt. They travelled through the greater part of Asia, and all Europe, as far as the extremity of Spain. At Constantinople they extended the ropes, on which they first exhibited their art, between the masts of ships. One is almost induced to believe that stupid superstition did not then prevail so much in Europe as at the beginning of the last century. The historian says that the company at first consisted of forty persons; but that the half of them were cast away on their passage to Constantinople. He does not, however, tell us that they or their horses were anywhere burnt as conjurors, or possessed with the devil.

317 See the German translation of his Travels, ii. p. 238.

318 Journal du Règne de Henri III. p. 57.—Recueil de Pièces servant à l’Hist. de Henri III. Cologne, 1666, 12mo.

319 Epistolarum Selectarum Centuria. Antverpiæ, 1605, 4to, i. epist. 50. p. 59.—Plin. viii. 1 and 3.—Seneca, epist. 86.—Suetonii Vit. Galbæ.—Dio Cassius. A great many also may be found collected in Hartenfels Elephantographia, Erfordiæ, 1715, 4to. It appears that in the thirteenth century some ventured to ride a horse upon a rope. See the Chronicle Alberichi Monachi Trium-Fontium, inserted by Leibnitz in Accessiones Historicæ, vol. ii., where a description is given of the solemnities at the wedding of Robert, brother to the king of France, in the year 1237.

Several instances of the dexterity of the elephant may be found in Lipsii Laus Elephantis, inserted in Dissertat. Ludicrarum et Amœnitatum Scriptores varii, Lugd. Bat. 1638.—Trans.

320 Æliani Hist. An. xvi. 23. vi. 10.—Athenæus, lib. xii.—Plinius.

321 One instance may be found in Theophanis Chronographia, which was printed at Paris 1655, fol. It occurred in the seventeenth year of the reign of Justinian, or 543.

322 Universal Magazine, 1766, October, p. 217.

323 Der entlarvte Wildman, Betrüger grosser Höfe. Berlin, 1774, 8vo. See also Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeig. 1775, p. 816. The name of impostor given to Wildman was, however, too harsh; for I do not think that he who performs anything extraordinary, never done by any one before, becomes an impostor when another discovers his art.

324 The voyage of Brue is in Labat’s Afrique Occidentale, iv.

325 [A curious exhibition of this kind has been made public for several years in the Strand, viz. the “industrious fleas.” These noxious animals are here seen to draw and drive a coach and four; fire off a small cannon; and various other performances of a similar kind.]

326 Several instances of the like kind may be found also in Monstrorum Historia Memorabilis a J. G. Schenkio a Grafenberg filio, Francof. 1609, 4to, p. 28 et seq. One of the most curious is that of Thomas Schweicker, born at Halle in Prussian Saxony, in the year 1586. Camerarius saw him not only write, but even make a pen with his feet.—Trans.

327 Strabo, lib. xv. p. 1048. ed. Almel.—Dio Cassius, lib. liv. p. 739. Suetonius, Eutropius, Eusebius and Orosius, speak of this embassy, but make no mention of the presents.

328 [In modern times the idle portion of the public has been gratified by the exhibition of the Siamese twins; the diminutive monster Tom Thumb; and quite recently a child with three legs. The birth of such monsters is equivalent to a legacy or fortune to the parents, who by their exhibitions realise large sums: the morbid taste of the public, especially the weaker portion, for such sights is truly deplorable.]

329 Man. Astron. lib. v. 165.

330 Frisch derives this word from morio, a fool or buffoon.

331 This piece of kitchen furniture was known in the middle of the sixteenth century. Montagne saw one at Brixen, in Tyrol, in the year 1580, and wrote a description of it in his Journal, as a new invention. He says it consisted entirely of wheels; that it was kept in motion by a heavy piece of iron, as clocks are by a weight, and that when wound up in the like manner, it turned the meat for a whole hour. He had before seen, in some other place, another driven by smoke.—Reise, i. pp. 155, 249. The latter kind seem to be somewhat older. Scappi, cook to pope Pius V., gave a figure of one in his book Opera di M. Bartolomeo Scappi, printed at Venice 1570, which is exceedingly scarce. I lately saw a copy, which, instead of eighteen, had twenty-four engravings. It was printed twice afterwards at the same place, viz. in 1571 and 1605, in quarto. The third edition says, “con due aggiunte, cio é il Trinciante et il Maestro di casa.” Bayle seems to confound this book with that of Platina De Honesta Voluptate, or to think that the latter was the real author of it. This however cannot be, as there were more than a hundred years between the periods when Scappi and Platina lived. Platina died in 1481, and not in 1581, as we read in Bayle.

332 De Mundo. cap. vi.

333 Herodot. ii. 48. p. 127.—Lucian. de Syria Dea, 16, ed. Bipont. ix. p. 99.

334 Recueil des Antiquit. iv. p. 259.

335 Doppelmayer, p. 285.

336 Iliad, xviii. 373. It deserves to be remarked, that there were also such τρίποδες αὐτόματοι at the banquet of Iarchas. See Philostrat. Opera, ed. Olearii, pp. 117, 240.

337 Polit. i. 3.

338 In his Menon, p. 426.—Euthyphron, pp. 8, 11.

339 Introd. in Philos. Nat. i. p. 143.

340 Physiologia Kircheriana, fol. p. 69.

341 In Philostrati Opera, ed. Olearii, p. 899.

342 In Mém. de l’Acad. des Inscr. xiii. p. 274.

343 Ode xxvii.

344 Aulus Gellius, x. 12.

345 See Naudé’s Apology, Bayle’s Dictionary, &c. Thomas Aquinas is said to have been so frightened when he saw this head, that he broke it to pieces, and Albertus thereupon exclaimed, “Periit opus triginta annorum!”

346 Schol. Mathemat. lib. ii. p. 65.

347 Dissertat. de Regiomontani Aquila et Musca Ferrea. Altorfi, 1709.—See Mémoires de Trevoux, 1710, Juillet, p. 1283.—Doppelmayer, p. 23.—Fabricii Bibl. Med. Ætat. iv. p. 355.—Heilbronner Hist. Math. p. 504.

348 Strada De Bello Belgico. Mogunt. 1651, 4to, p. 8. He calls the artist Jannellus Turrianus Cremonensis.

349 In the year 1738, Le Méchanisme du Fluteur Automate, par Vaucanson, was printed at Paris, in a thin 4to. It contains only a short description of the flute-player, which is copied into the Encyclopédie, i. p. 448, under the article Androide. The duck, as far as I know, has been nowhere described.

350 Vaucanson died at Paris in 1782.

351 [The publisher is in possession of an elegantly formed mechanical bird-cage, in which two artificial bullfinches wheel about on a perch, flutter their wings, and move their beaks, while emitting musical sounds in imitation of their natural note. A fountain constructed of spiral glass plays in the centre. Beneath the cage is a clock which sets the whole in motion hourly, for three or four minutes; but it may be set going independently, like a musical snuff-box. It is presumed to have been made by Vaucanson about a hundred years ago, and was at one time a principal attraction at Weeks’s celebrated Museum, where that singular piece of mechanism the Tarantula spider was first exhibited.]

352 Nicolai, Reise, i. p. 287.

353 Nouveau Voyage aux Iles de l’Amerique. A la Haye 1724, 2 vols. 4to, ii. pp. 298, 384. From his county he was called Count de Gennes.

354 Zodiacus Vitæ, xi. 846.

355 See a small treatise Ueber H. D. Muller’s Redende Maschine, und über redende Maschinen überhaupt. Nurnberg, 1788, 8vo.—Algem. Teutsches Biblioth. vol. lxxxvii. p. 473. The Speaking Figure and the Automaton Chess-player exposed and detected. London, 1784, 8vo.—[This celebrated chess-playing automaton, invented by M. Vankempelin, was repaired and exhibited in London in 1820, by the ingenious mechanician Maelzel, with considerable success. The figure and machinery were always submitted to the inspection of the visitors, and shifted along the floor in various directions before the game commenced, and the deception was so adroitly managed as to escape the detection of the most scrutinizing. The proprietor always took care to secure the best chess-player in the town before he commenced operations, the wonder therefore was greatly increased by the superiority of the automaton’s play. Mr. Lewis directed it in London. It is now generally admitted that a boy was concealed inside.]

356 Van Dale De Oraculis. Amstelod. 1700, 4to, i. 10, p. 222.

357 Réponse à l’Histoire des Oracles de M. de Fontenelle.

358 A few instances are related by Livy, Valerius Maximus, and Plutarch. Among the fables of the Christian church they are more numerous.

359 Vol. v. p. 90. editio Bipont.

360 Theodoreti Hist. Eccles. v. 22.

361 Cassiodori Variar. i. ep. 45.

362 [Speaking Automaton.—There is a piece of mechanism now exhibiting to the public at the Egyptian Hall—the work of Professor Faber, of Vienna, and the result, as he states, of twenty-five years of labour and preparation. The name which he has given to this product of his ingenuity is the Euphonia; and the work, as that name implies, is another of those many combinations which have attempted, by the anatomical and physiological study of the structures that contribute to the human voice, to attain to an imitation of that organ as regards both sound and articulation. As an example of inductive and mechanical skill this exhibition is well deserving of attention. The professor himself, by an arrangement of bellows-pipes, pedal and keys, which he plays somewhat like the keys of a piano, prompts the discourse of his automaton; which certainly does enunciate both sounds and words. When we entered the room we found it singing to a select society. It requires all our sense of the ingenuity and perseverance which have been bestowed on the work to induce our assent to the proposition which calls the voice human; but undoubtedly it is a remarkable result of contriving skill and scientific patience.—Athæneum.]

363 Historia Ægypti Natural. Lugd. Bat. 1735, 4to, p. 60.


The art of preserving snow for cooling liquors during the summer, in warm countries, was known in the earliest ages. This practice is mentioned by Solomon364, and proofs of it are so numerous in the works of the Greeks and the Romans, that it is unnecessary for me to quote them, especially as they have been collected by others365. How the repositories for keeping it were constructed, we are not expressly told; but what I know on the subject I shall here lay before the reader.

That the snow was preserved in pits or trenches, is asserted143 by many366. When Alexander the Great besieged the city of Petra, he caused thirty trenches to be dug and filled with snow, which was covered with oak branches, and which kept in that manner for a long time367. Plutarch says that a covering of chaff and coarse cloth is sufficient368; and at present a like method is pursued in Portugal. Where the snow has been collected in a deep gulf, some grass or green sods, covered with dung from the sheep-pens, is thrown over it; and under these it is so well preserved, that the whole summer through it is sent the distance of sixty Spanish miles to Lisbon369.

When the ancients therefore wished to have cooling liquors, they either drank the melted snow or put some of it in their wine, or they placed jars filled with wine in the snow, and suffered it to cool there as long as they thought proper. It appears that in these trenches it could not remain long clean; on the contrary, it was generally so full of chaff, that the snow-water was somewhat coloured with it, and had a taste of it, and for this reason it was necessary to strain either it or the wine that had been cooled by it370.

That ice also was preserved for the like purpose, is probable from the testimony of various authors371; but it appears not to have been used so much in warm countries as in the northern. Even at present snow is employed in Italy, Spain, and Portugal; but in Persia, ice372. I have never anywhere found an account of Grecian or Roman ice-houses. By the writers on agriculture they are not mentioned.

Mankind however soon conceived the idea of cooling water without snow or ice, from having remarked that it became cold more speedily when it had been previously boiled, or at least warmed, and then put in a vessel among snow, or in a place much exposed to the air. Pliny seems to give this as an invention of Nero373; and a jocular expression in Suetonius374144 makes it at any rate probable that he was fond of water cooled by this method; but it appears to be much older. It seems to have been known even to Hippocrates: at least Galen375 believes so. And Aristotle376 was undoubtedly acquainted with it; for he says that some were accustomed, when they wished water to become soon cold, to place it first in the sun and suffer it to grow warm. He relates also that, the fishermen near the Black Sea poured boiling water over the reeds which they used in fishing on the ice to cause them to freeze sooner. Galen377 on this subject is still more precise. He informs us that the above practice was not so much used in Italy and Greece, where snow could be procured, as in Egypt and other warm countries, where neither snow nor cool springs were to be found. The water after it had been boiled was put into earthen vessels or jars, and exposed in the evening on the upper part of the house to the night air. In the morning these vessels were put into the earth (perhaps in a pit), moistened on the outside with water, and then bound round with fresh or green plants, by which means the water could be preserved cool throughout the whole day. Athenæus378, who gives a like account from a book of Protagorides, remarks, that the pitchers filled with water, which had become warm by standing all day long in the sun, were kept continually wet during the night, by servants destined to that office, and in the morning were bound round with straw. In the island of Cimolus379, water which had become warm in the day-time was put into earthen jars, and deposited in a cool cellar, where it grew as cold as snow. It was generally believed therefore, that water which had been warmed or boiled, was soonest cooled, as well as acquired a greater degree of refrigeration; and on this account boiled water is mentioned so often in the works of the ancients380.

The same opinion prevails at present in the southern countries of Asia, and people there still let their water boil before they expose it to the air to cool381. The experiments however145 which have been made on this subject by philosophers, have proved very different in the result. When one indeed places boiling and cold water, all other circumstances being equal, in frosty air, the latter will become ice before the former has cooled; but when one exposes to the cold, water that has been boiled, and unboiled water of equal temperatures, the former will be converted into ice somewhat sooner.

The experiments made by Mariotte382, Perrault383, the Academy del Cimento384, Marian385 and others, showed no perceptible difference in the time of freezing, between boiled and unboiled water; but the former produced ice harder and clearer, the latter ice more full of blisters. In later times, Dr. Black of Edinburgh has, from his experiments, asserted the contrary. Boiled water, he says, becomes ice sooner than unboiled, if the latter be left at perfect rest; but if the latter be stirred sometimes with a chocolate stick, it is converted into ice as soon as the former. This difference he explains in the following manner:—Some motion promotes congelation; this arises in the boiled water through its re-imbibing air; and therefore it must necessarily freeze before the unboiled, provided the latter be kept at perfect rest. Fahrenheit had before remarked that water not moved, would show a cold several degrees below the freezing-point, without becoming ice386.

M. Lichtenberg, with whom I conversed on these contradictory results, assured me that he was not surprised at this difference in the experiments. The time of congelation is regulated by circumstances, with which philosophers are not yet sufficiently acquainted. A certain, but not every degree of stirring hastens it; so that every icy particle which is formed on the side of the vessel, or which falls from the atmosphere, may convert the water sufficiently cooled into ice instantaneously; and such unavoidable accidents must, where all other circumstances are equal, cause a great difference in the period of freezing.

I am inclined to think that the cooling of water, in ancient146 times, of which I have already spoken, is not to be ascribed so much to the boiling as to the jars being kept continually wet, and to the air to which it was exposed. A false opinion seems therefore to have prevailed respecting the cause; and because it was considered to be the boiling, many have not mentioned the real cause, which appeared to them only to afford a trifling assistance, though it has been remarked both by Galen and Athenæus. We know at present that coolness is produced by evaporation. A thermometer kept wet in the open air falls as long as evaporation continues387. With sulphuric æther, and still better with that of nitre, which evaporates very rapidly, water may be made to freeze even in the middle of summer; and Cavallo saw in summer a Fahrenheit’s thermometer, which stood at 64°, fall in two minutes, by means of æther, to +3, that is to 29° below the freezing-point388.

On this principle depends the art of making ice at Calcutta and other parts of India, between 25° 30′ and 23° 30′ of north latitude, where natural ice is never seen unless imported. Trenches two feet deep, dug in an open plain, are strewed over with dry straw; and in these are placed small shallow unglazed earthen pans, filled with water at sunset. The ice which is produced in them is carried away before sunrise next morning, and conveyed to an ice-cellar fifteen feet deep; where it is carefully covered with straw to be preserved from the external heat and air. A great deal, in this process, depends upon the state of the atmosphere. When calm, pure and serene, it is most favourable to the congelation; but when the winds are variable, or the weather heavy and cloudy,147 no ice is formed; and the same is often the case when the nights are raw and cold389.

It was once believed that this freezing was occasioned principally by the water having been boiled; but it seems to be owing much rather to evaporation390. It is not however said that the vessels are kept continually wet on the outside, but that they are unglazed, and so porous or little burnt, that the water oozes through them; and on that account their exterior surface appears always moist391. By vessels of this kind the trouble of wetting is saved. What has been said respecting the influence of the weather serves, in some measure, to confirm my conjecture. The more it favours evaporation, the ice is not only formed more easily, but it is better; and when evaporation is prevented by the wind or the weather, no ice is produced. The latest accounts how ice is made at Benares, say expressly that boiled water is not employed; and that all those vessels, the pores of which are stopped by having been used, do not yield ice so soon or so good. In porcelain vessels none is produced; and this is the case also when the straw is wet392.

Another method of cooling water also seems to have been known to Plutarch. It consisted in throwing into it small pebbles or plates of lead393. The author refers to the testimony of Aristotle; but this circumstance I cannot find in148 the works of that philosopher which have been preserved. It seems to be too unintelligible to admit of any opinion being formed upon it; and the explanation given by Plutarch conveys still less information than the proposition itself. This is the case, in general, with almost all the propositions of the ancients. We indeed learn from the questions that they were acquainted with many phænomena; but the answers scarcely ever repay the trouble which one must employ in order to understand them. They seldom contain any further illustration; and never a satisfactory explanation.

It appears that the practice of cooling liquors, at the tables of the great, was not usual in any country besides Italy and the neighbouring states, before the end of the sixteenth century. In the middle of that century there were no ice-cellars in France; for when Bellon relates, in the Account of his travels, in 1553, how snow and ice were preserved at Constantinople throughout the whole summer, for the purpose of cooling sherbet, he assures us that the like method might be adopted by his countrymen; because he had found ice-cellars in countries warmer than France. The word glacière also is not to be met with in the older dictionaries; and it does not occur even in that of Monet, printed in 1635394. Champier, the physician who attended Francis I. when he had a conference with the emperor Charles V. and pope Paul III. at Nice, saw the Spaniards and Italians put snow, which they caused to be brought from the neighbouring mountains, into their wine in order to cool it. That practice, which excited his astonishment, he declared to be unhealthful; and this proves that in his time it had not been introduced at the French court395.

Grand d’Aussy quotes an anecdote, related by Brantome, from which he forms the same conclusion. The dauphin, son of Francis I., being accustomed to drink a great deal of water at table, even when he was overheated, Donna Agnes Beatrix Pacheco, one of the ladies of the court, by way of precaution, sent to Portugal for earthen vessels, which would render the water cooler and more healthful; and from which all the water used at the court of Portugal was drunk. As these vessels are still used in Spain and Portugal, where the149 wine is cooled also with snow, both methods might have been followed in France. I have in my collection of curiosities, fragments of these Portuguese vessels; they are made of red bole; are not glazed, though they are smooth, and have a faint gloss on the surface like the Etruscan vases. They are so little burnt that one can easily break them with the teeth; and the bits readily dissolve to a paste in the mouth. If water be poured into such vessels, it penetrates their substance; so that, when in the least stirred, many air-bubbles are produced; and it at length oozes entirely through them396. The water that has stood in them acquires a taste which many consider as agreeable; and it is probable that it proceeds from the bark of the fir-tree, with which, as we read, they are burnt. When the vessels are new, they perform their service better; and they must then also have a more pleasant smell. If they really render water cold, or retain it cool, that effect, in my opinion, is to be ascribed to the evaporation. Their similarity to those in which the Indians make ice is very apparent.

Towards the end of the sixteenth century, under the reign of Henry III., the use of snow must have been well known at the French court, though it appears that it was considered by the people as a mark of excessive and effeminate luxury. In the witty and severe satire on the voluptuous life of that sovereign and his favourites, known under the title of L’Isle des Hermaphrodites397, a work highly worthy of notice but150 which is exceedingly scarce, we find an order of the Hermaphrodites that large quantities of ice and snow should everywhere be preserved, in order that people might cool their liquors with them, even though they might occasion extraordinary maladies, which, it seems, were then apprehended. In the description of an entertainment we are told that snow and ice were placed upon the table before the king; and that he threw some of them into his wine; for the art of cooling it without weakening it was not then known. The same method was practised even during the whole first quarter of the seventeenth century398.

Towards the end of the above century this luxury must have been very common in France. At that period there were a great many who dealt in snow and ice; and this was a free trade which every person might carry on. Government, however, which could never extort from the people151 money enough to supply the wants of an extravagant court, farmed out, towards the end of the century, a monopoly of these cooling wares. The farmers, therefore, raised the price from time to time; but the consumption and revenue decreased so much that it was not thought worth while to continue the restriction; and the trade was again rendered free. The price immediately fell; and was never raised afterwards but by mild winters or hot summers.

The method of cooling liquors by placing them in water in which saltpetre has been dissolved, could not be known to the ancients, because they were unacquainted with that salt. They might however, have produced the same coolness by other salts which they knew, and which would have had a better effect; but this, as far as I have been able to learn, they never attempted. The above property of saltpetre was first discovered in the first half of the sixteenth century; and it was not remarked till a long period afterwards, that it belongs to other salts also.

The Italians at any rate were the first people by whom it was employed; and about the year 1550, all the water, as well as the wine, drunk at the tables of the great and rich families at Rome, was cooled in this manner. Blasius Villafranca, a Spaniard, who practised physic in that capital, and attended many of the nobility, published, in the before-mentioned year, an account of it, in which he asserts, more than once, that he was the first person who had made the discovery publicly known. In his opinion it was occasioned by the remark that salt water in summer was always cooler than fresh water. According to his directions, which are illustrated by a figure, the liquor must be put into a bottle or globular vessel with a long neck, that it may be held with more convenience; and this vessel must be immersed in another wide one filled with cold water. Saltpetre must then be thrown gradually into the water; and while it is dissolving, the bottle must be driven round with a quick motion on its axis, in one direction. Villafranca thinks that the quantity of saltpetre should be equal to a fourth or fifth part of the water; and he assures us, that when again crystallized, it may be employed several times for the same use, though this, before that period, had by many been denied. Whether other salts would not produce the like effect, the author did152 not think of trying; but he attempts to explain this of saltpetre from the principles of Aristotle; and he tells his noble patrons what rules they should observe for the preservation of their health, in regard to cooling liquors.

Towards the end of the sixteenth century this method of cooling liquors was well known, though no mention is made of it by Scappi, in his book on cookery. Marcus Antonius Zimara, however, speaks of it in his Problems399. I do not know at what time this Appulian physician lived. In a list of the professors of Padua, his name is to be found under the year 1525, as Explicator philosophiæ ordinariæ; and because another is named under the year 1532, we have reason to conjecture that he died about that time. But in that case the physician Villafranca would probably have been acquainted with the Problemata of Zimara; and would not have said that no one had spoken of this use of saltpetre before him.

Levinus Lemnius400 also mentions the art of cooling wine by this method so much, that the teeth can scarcely endure it. We are informed by Bayle that the earliest edition of his work, which has been often reprinted, was published at Antwerp, in the year 1559, in octavo. It contains only the first two books; but as the above account occurs in the second book, it must be found in this edition.

Nicolaus Monardes, a Spanish physician, who died about the year 1578, mentions this use of saltpetre likewise. It was invented, as he says, by the galley-slaves; but he condemns it as prejudicial to health. From some expressions which he uses, I am inclined to think that he was not sufficiently acquainted with it; and that he imagined that the salt itself was put into the liquor. At a later period we find some account of it in various books of receipts; such as that written by Mizaldus in 1566, and which was printed for the first time the year following401.

In the Mineralogy of Aldrovandi, first printed in 1648, this process is described after Villafranca; but where the153 editor, Bartholomæus Ambrosianus, speaks of common salt, he relates that it was usual in countries where fresh water was scarce to make deep pits in the earth; to throw rock-salt into them; and to place in them vessels filled with water, in order that it might be cooled. This remark proves that the latter salt was then employed for the same purpose; but it has led the editor into a very gross error. He thinks he can conclude from it, that the intention of potters, when they mix common salt with their clay, is not only to render the vessel more compact, but also to make it more cooling for liquors. But the former only is true. The addition of salt produces in clay, otherwise difficult to be fused, the faintest commencement of vitrification; a cohesion by which the vessel becomes so solid that it can contain fluids, even when unglazed; but for this very reason it would be most improper for cooling, which is promoted by the evaporation of the water that oozes through.

The Jesuit Cabeus, who wrote a voluminous commentary on the Meteorologica of Aristotle, which were printed at Rome in 1646, assures us that with thirty-five pounds of saltpetre one can not only cool a hundred pounds of water, by quickly stirring it, but convert it also into solid ice; and for the truth of this assertion he refers to an experiment which he made. Bartholin says that for the above account he can give him full credit402; but the truth of it is denied by Duhamel, who suspects that this Jesuit took the shooting crystals of the salt to be ice403.

Who first conceived the idea of mixing snow or ice with saltpetre and other salts, which increases the cold so much, that a vessel filled with water, placed in that mixture, is congealed into a solid mass of ice that may be used on the table, I cannot with certainty determine; but I shall mention the earliest account of it that I have been able to find. Latinus Tancredus, a physician and professor at Naples, whose book De Fame et Siti was published in 1607, speaks of this experiment; and assures us that the cold was so much strengthened by saltpetre, that a glass filled with water, when quickly moved in the above mixture, became solid ice404.

154 In the year 1626, the well-known commentary on the works of Avicenna, by Sanct. Sanctorius, was published at Venice. The author in this work relates, that in the presence of many spectators, he had converted wine into ice, not by a mixture of snow and saltpetre, but of snow and common salt405. When the salt was equal to a third part of the snow, the cold was three times as strong as when snow was used alone.

Lord Bacon, who died in 1626, says that a new method had been found out of bringing snow and ice to such a degree of cold, by means of saltpetre, as to make water freeze. This, he tells us, can be done also with common salt; by which it is probable he meant unpurified rock-salt; and, he adds, that in warm countries, where snow was not to be found, people made ice with saltpetre alone; but that he himself had never tried the experiment406. Boyle, who died in 1691, made experiments with various kinds of salts; and he describes how, by means of salt, a piece of ice may be frozen to another solid body407. Descartes says that in his time this was a well-known phænomenon, but highly worthy of attention408.

Since that period the art of making ice has been spoken of in the writings of all philosophers where they treated on heat and cold, and with many other experiments has been introduced into various books of receipts. It was then employed155 merely for amusement409; and no one suspected that it would ever form an important item of luxury. In the like manner Fugger’s first bills of exchange were said to be useful only for gambling, and gunpowder was called a trifling discovery.

In the beginning of the seventeenth century, drinking-cups made of ice and iced fruit were first brought to the table; but towards the end of that century it appears that the French began to congeal in this manner all kinds of well-tasted juices, which were served up as refreshments at the tables of the great and wealthy410. This was a grand invention for the art of cookery; which became common among the German cooks, both male and female, about the middle of the last century; and since that time our confectioners sell single glasses of iced articles at balls and in the theatres.

I am acquainted with no older information respecting this invention than what is contained in Barclay’s Argenis, which is, indeed, a romance; but the author’s account makes the possibility of its being used so clear, that we may certainly conclude it was then employed; especially as he mentions it several times. Arsidas finds in the middle of summer, at the table of Juba, fresh apples, one-half of which was encrusted with transparent ice. A basin, made also of ice and filled with wine, was handed to him; and he was informed that to prepare all these things in summer was a new art. Snow was preserved throughout the whole year in pits lined with straw. Two cups made of copper were placed the one within the156 other, so as to leave a small space between them, which was filled with water; the cups were then put into a pail, amidst a mixture of snow and unpurified salt coarsely pounded, and the water in three hours was converted into a cup of solid ice, as well-formed as if it had come from the hands of a pewterer. In the like manner apples just pulled from the tree were covered with a coat of ice.

The first edition of the Argenis was printed at Paris in 1621, and in that year the author died at the age of thirty-nine.

After brandy, from being a medicine, came into general use as a liquor at table, and was drunk in common by the populace, the Italians, above all, endeavoured to render it weaker and more pleasant by various mixtures; and by raising its value to make it more respectable, and at the same time more useful to people of the first rank. That their wares might be distinguished with more certainty, they gave them the name of liquori; and under that appellation sold them to foreign nations. The French were the first who adopted the use of these articles; particularly after the marriage of Henry II., when duke of Orleans, with Catharine de Medici, in the year 1533. This event brought to France great numbers of Italians, who made the French acquainted with these delicacies of their native country; and who taught them to prepare and to use them. They were the first, therefore, who made and sold the fine liqueurs at Paris; and in order to serve those who could not bear heating liquors, or rather to serve themselves by filling their pockets with money, their successors in this business invented about the year 1630 or 1633 that beverage called lemonade, because the juice of lemons or oranges was its chief component part. This liquor soon came into high repute, as it not only served for cooling and refreshing people during the sultry heats of summer, but was even recommended by physicians against putrid diseases.

The limonadiers, or venders of lemonade, endeavoured to increase the first property, which occasioned the far greatest consumption, by the means of ice; and one of them, Procope Couteaux, an Italian from Florence, about the year 1660, conceived the happy idea of converting such beverage entirely into ice, by a process which had been before employed only by jugglers. The ready sale which he found for his invention induced others to make articles of the like kind. His157 example, therefore, was followed by Le Fevre and Foi; and these three for some years enjoyed a monopoly of this new-fashioned commodity. About the year 1676, liquors cooled by, or changed into ice, must however have been the principal things sold by the limonadiers; for being then formed into a company, the following delicacies were mentioned in the patent which they received on that occasion: “Eaux de gelée et glaces de fruits et de fleurs, d’anis et de canelle, franchipanne, d’aigre de cetre, du sorbec,” &c. There were at that time in Paris two hundred and fifty masters in this employment. In 1690, when De la Quintiny wrote, iced liquors were extremely common411.

People, however, long imagined that such articles could be used only during the hot months of summer. In the year 1750, Dubuisson, successor to the celebrated Procope, au café de la rue des Fossés de S. Germain des Près, and author of the Art du Déstillateur, began to keep ready prepared, the whole year through, ices of every kind for the use of those who were fond of them. At first they were little called for, except in the dog-days; but some physicians recommended them in certain disorders. Have the physicians then, by their opinion, done most service to the venders of liqueurs and to cooks, or the latter to the physicians? This would make a fine subject for an inaugural dissertation. It is, however, certain, for we are told so by Dubuisson himself, that after two cures, in which ices had been of the greatest service, the more discerning part of the public made use of them in every season of the year. That this part of the public might never lose their conceit, the venders of liqueurs always employed their thoughts upon new inventions. Among the latest is that of iced butter, which acquired its name on account of some likeness to that substance. It was first known at the Parisian coffee-house (caveau) in 1774. The Duke de Chartres often went thither to enjoy a glass of iced liquor; and the landlord, to his great satisfaction and surprise, having158 one day presented him with his arms formed of eatable ice, articles of a similar kind immediately became fashionable.

[Ice is now used extensively for a variety of œconomical purposes, such as packing salmon, cooling liquors, &c. Of late years it has become a regular article of commerce. In September 1833, a cargo of ice, shipped at Boston, was discharged at Calcutta. It was sold at threepence per pound, while the native ice fetched sixpence. It was packed in solid masses, within chambers of double planking, with a layer of refuse tan or bark between them. The quantity shipped was 180 tons, of which about 60 wasted on the voyage, and 20 on the passage up the river to Calcutta. Thousands of tons are now annually shipped from Boston (United States) to our East Indies, to the West Indian Archipelago, and to the Continent of South America, and quite recently ‘The Wenham Lake Ice Company’ have erected extensive ice-houses in London and at Liverpool, and arranged for the transportation to this country of thousands of tons of ice. One surprising circumstance connected with the trade, is the fact that their ice, though transported to this country in the heat of summer, is scarcely reduced in bulk. The masses are so large that they expose a very small surface to atmospheric action in proportion to their weight, and therefore do not suffer from exposure to it, as the smaller and thinner fragments do, which are obtained in our own or other warmer climates. It appears, also, that ice frozen upon very deep water, is more hard and solid than ice of the same thickness obtained from shallow water; and even when an equal surface is exposed, melts more slowly. In this country, the collection of ice, even by those largely engaged in the trade, is an occasional and fitful undertaking; depending, both as to time and quantity, upon the accidental occurrence of severe frost; and when the process of collection is carried on, it is with very few artificial aids. In America, on the other hand, this labour can be regularly carried on through the whole winter; while the adjuncts of machinery for cutting and storing, and of steam for transporting it, are brought extensively into action.

The details connected with this trade, as carried on in America, are so novel and so interesting, that we lay them before our readers with the confident belief that the result of our labours will prove attractive to them. Wenham Lake,159 whence a large proportion of the ice now imported to this country is obtained, is eighteen miles from Boston, in the State of Massachusets; it occupies a very elevated position, and lies embosomed in hills of majestic height and bold rugged character. The lake has no inlet whatever, but is fed solely by the springs which issue from the rocks at its bottom, a depth of 200 feet from its surface. The ice-house, which is capable of storing 20,000 tons of ice, is built of wood, with double walls, two feet apart, all around; the space between which is filled with sawdust; thus interposing a medium, that is a non-conductor of heat, between the ice and the external air; the consequence of which is, that the ice is scarcely affected by any condition or temperature of the external atmosphere, and can be preserved without waste for an indefinite time.

The machinery employed for cutting the ice is very curious, and was invented for that express purpose. It is worked by men and horses in the following manner:—From the time when the ice first forms, it is carefully kept free from snow until it is thick enough to be cut; that process commences when the ice is a foot thick. A surface of some two acres is then selected, which at that thickness will furnish about 2000 tons, and a straight line is then drawn through its centre from side to side each way. A small hand-plough is pushed along one of these lines, until the groove is about three inches deep and a quarter of an inch in width, when the ‘Marker’ is introduced. This implement is drawn by two horses, and makes two new grooves, parallel with the first, twenty-one inches apart; the gauge remaining in the original groove. The marker is then shifted to the outside groove, and makes two more. Having drawn these lines over the whole surface in one direction, the same process is repeated in a transverse direction, marking all the ice out into squares of 21 inches. In the meantime, the ‘Plough,’ drawn by a single horse, is following in these grooves, cutting the ice to a depth of 6 inches. One entire range of blocks is then sawn out, and the remainder are split off toward the opening thus made with an iron bar. This bar is shaped like a spade and of a wedge-like form. When it is dropped into the groove, the block splits off; a very slight blow being sufficient to produce that effect, especially in very cold weather. The labour of ‘splitting’ is slight or otherwise, according to the temperature of the atmosphere.160 ‘Platforms,’ or low tables of frame-work, are placed near the opening made in the ice, with iron slides extending into the water, and a man stands on each side of this slide, armed with an ice-hook. With this hook the ice is caught and by a sudden jerk thrown up the ‘slide’ on to the ‘platform.’ In a cold day everything is speedily covered with ice by the freezing of the water on the platforms, slides, &c., and the enormous blocks of ice, weighing some of them more than two cwt., are hurled along these slippery surfaces, as if they were without weight. Beside this platform, stands a ‘sled’ of the same height, capable of containing about three tons; which, when loaded, is drawn upon the ice to the front of the store-house, where a large stationary platform of exactly the same height, is ready to receive its load; which, as soon as discharged, is hoisted block by block, into the house.

Forty men and twelve horses will cut and stow away 400 tons a day. In favourable weather 100 men are sometimes employed at once. When a thaw or a fall of rain occurs, it entirely unfits the ice for market, by rendering it opake and porous; and occasionally snow is immediately followed by rain, and that again by frost, forming snow-ice, which is valueless, and must be removed by the ‘plane.’ The operation of ‘planing’ is somewhat similar to that of ‘cutting.’ A plane gauged to run in the grooves made by the ‘marker,’ and which shaves the ice to the depth of three inches, is drawn by a horse, until the whole surface of the ice is planed. The chips thus produced are then scraped off; and if the clear ice is not reached, the process is repeated. If this makes the ice too thin for cutting, it is left in statu quo, and a few nights of hard frost will add below as much as has been taken off above. In addition to filling their ice-houses at the lake and in the large towns, the company fill a large number of private ice-houses during the winter, all the ice for these purposes being transported by railway. It will easily be believed, that the expense of providing tools, building houses, furnishing labour, and constructing and keeping up the railway, is very great; but the traffic is so extensive, and the management of the trade so good, that the ice can be furnished, even in England, at a very trifling cost412 (it is retailed at twopence per pound).]


364 Proverbs, xxv. ver. 13.

365 Bartholini de Nivis Usu Medico Observationes, Hafn. 1661.

366 Seneca, Quæst. Natur. iv. 13.

367 Athenæus, iii. p. 124.

368 Sympos. vi. quæst. 6.—Augustinus De Civitate Dei, xxi. 4, p. 610.

369 Mémoires Instructifs pour un Voyageur. How the snow repositories at Constantinople are constructed, is related by Bellon in his Observat. iii. 22.

370 The dissipated Heliogabalus caused whole mounts of snow to be heaped up in summer in order to cool the air. See Lampridius, Vita Heliogab. cap. 23.

371 Plin. xix. 4.—Latinus Pacatus in Panegyr. Theodos.

372 De la Valle, iii. p. 60, where the Persian ice-pits are described, as well as in Chardin, iv. p. 195.

373 Hist. Nat. xxxi. 3, 23, p. 552.

374 Vita Neronis, cap. 48: Hæc est Neronis decocta.

375 In lib. vi. Hippocrat. de Morbis Vulgar. comment. 4, 10.

376 Meteorol. i. cap. 12.

377 In the place before quoted.

378 Deipnos. iii. p. 124.

379 Ibid. p. 123.

380 See Pitisci Lex. Antiq. Rom. under the word Decocta.

381 Philosoph. Transact. vol. lxv. part i. p. 126.

382 Traité du Mouvement des Eaux.

383 Du Hamel, Hist. de l’Academ. l. i. c. 3, p. 99.

384 Tentamina Experimentorum Acad. del Cim. p. 183.

385 Dissertation sur la Glace. Paris, 1749, 12mo, p. 187.

386 Philosoph. Transact. vol. lxv. part i. p. 124.

387 [In India, one mode of cooling wines, is to suspend the bottle in a thick flannel bag, or folds of blotting-paper, kept constantly wetted, and placed in the sun’s rays, or a current of air, or both; by which means the evaporation, and therewith intense coldness, is produced.]

388 Philosoph. Transact. vol. lxxi. part ii. p. 511. [M. Boutigny’s beautiful experiment of making ice in a red-hot crucible is a striking phænomenon of this kind. It is thus performed:—A deep crucible of platinum is heated to a glowing red heat; liquid sulphurous acid, which has been preserved in the fluid state by a freezing mixture, and some water are then at the same instant poured into the crucible. The rapid evaporation of the volatile sulphurous acid, which boils below the freezing-point of water, produces such an intense degree of cold as to freeze the water, which is then thrown out of the crucible as a solid lump.]

389 Philosoph. Transact. vol. lxxi. part ii. p. 252: the process of making ice in the East Indies; by Robert Barker.

390 [There is no question that this refrigeration is caused by the evaporation of a portion of the water, whereby a very large quantity of heat becomes latent in the vapour. A clear serene sky being necessary for the success of the production of the ice, would tend to show that the further loss of heat by radiation, which always ensues to a great extent at nights, when the sky is clear, is necessary.]

391 ... a number of small, shallow, earthen pans. These are unglazed, scarce a quarter of an inch thick, about an inch and a quarter in depth, and made of an earth so porous, that it was visible from the exterior part of the pans, the water had penetrated the whole substance. [Our ordinary wine-coolers, which consist of extremely porous vessels, act from evaporation. A portion of the water, which is placed in the interior of the cooler, evaporates through its pores, and produces cold by rendering a considerable amount of heat latent.]

392 See the account of Lloyd Williams, in the Universal Magazine, June 1793, p. 410. Thin unglazed vessels are employed at present in Egypt also for cooling water, as we are told in several books of travels.

393 Sympos. vi. 5, p. 690.

394 The word however may be found in Dictionnaire par Richelet, Genève 1680, 4to.

395 J. B. Campegii Libri xxii. de re cibaria, xvi. 9, p. 669.

396 Most vessels of this kind in Portugal are made at Estremos, in the province of Alentejo. The description given of them by Brantome is as follows:—“Cette terre étoit tannée, si subtile et si fine qu’on diroit proprement que c’est une terre sigillée; et porte telle vertu, que quelque eau froide que vous y mettiez dedans, vous la verrez bouillis et faire de petits bouillons, comme si elle estoit sur le feu; et si pourtant elle n’en perd sa froideur, mais l’entretient, et jamais l’eau ne fait mal à qui la boit, quelque chaud qu’il fasse, ou quelque exercice violent qu’il fasse.” This clay seems to be the same as that which the ladies in Spain and Portugal chew for the sake of its pleasant taste, though to the prejudice of their health. They are so fond of it that their confessors make them abstain from the use of it some days by way of penance for their transgressions. See Madame D’Aunoi, Voy. en Espagne, ii. pp. 92, 109. Mémoires Instructifs pour un Voyageur. A vessel of the above kind is called bucaro and barro. See Diccion. de la Lengua Castellana, Madrid, 1783, fol.

397 This curious work contains so much valuable information respecting the French manners in the sixteenth century, that some account of it may not prove unacceptable to my readers. The title is, Déscription de L’Isle des Hermaphrodites, nouvellement découverte ... pour servir de Supplement au Journal de Henri III. The preface, to which there is no signature, says that the book was printed for the first time in 1605. In the first editions neither date nor place is mentioned; but one edition is dated 1612. It appears to have been written in the reign of Henry IV., after the peace of Vervins, concluded in 1598, which the author mentions in the beginning. Henry IV. would not suffer any inquiry to be made respecting the author that he might be punished, because, he said, though he had taken great liberty in his writing, he had written truth. He is not therefore known. Some have conjectured that it was the production of cardinal Perron, and others of sieur d’Emery, Thomas Artus. But the former would not have chosen to lash vices such as those mentioned in this satire, with so much wit and severity; and the latter could not have done it. The one was too vicious, and the other too vehement. The cardinal must have delineated his own picture; and Artus have exceeded what he was capable of. The same opinion respecting Artus is entertained by Marchand, in his Dict. Historique. The frontispiece, which in many editions is wanting, represents an effeminate voluptuary with a womanish face, dressed half in men’s and half in women’s clothing. Marchand says the inscription is Les Hermaphrodites. In some editions however it is much more cutting: “Pars est una patris; cætera matris habet.” This pentameter is taken from Martial, lib. xiv. ep. 174. The whole work is inserted also in Journal de Henri III., par Pierre de l’Estoiles, à la Haye 1744, 8vo, iv. p. 1. For further information on this subject see Le Long, Bibliothèque Historique de la France, ii. p. 326, n. 19128.

398 In the Contes de Gaillard, printed in 1620, it is said, “Il alla un jour d’esté souper chez un voluptueux, qui lui fit mettre de la glace en son vin.”

399 Problema 102. These Problemata are often printed with the Problemata Aristotelis, Alexandri Aphrodis. and others. The collection which I have was printed at Amsterdam, 1685, 12mo.

400 De Miraculis, libri iv. Colon. 1581, 8vo, p. 288.

401 Centuriæ ix Memorabilium. Francof. 1599, 12mo, p. 67.

402 De Nive, p. 38.

403 J. B. Du Hamel, Opera Philosophica, Norimb. 1681, 4to.

404 L. Tancredi de Fame et Siti libri tres. Ven. 1607, 4to, lib. iii.

405 When snow or ice is mixed with salt, both begin to be liquid. This process is employed in Russia to clean windows covered with frost. They are rubbed with a sponge dipped in salt, and by these means they become immediately transparent. [The rationale of this appears to consist in the salt absorbing water and deliquescing, and in this fluid the snow subsequently dissolves, the mixture requiring a much lower temperature for its assuming the solid state.]

406 Historia Vitæ et Mortis, § 44.—De Augmentis Scient. v. 2.—Silva Silvarum, cent. i.

407 History of Cold, title i. 17; title v. 3; title xv. 7. [The method of making one or two freezing or cooling mixtures will not perhaps be without interest here. Where snow is not at hand, a mixture of 5 parts of powdered nitre and 5 of powdered sal-ammoniac may be mixed with 16 parts of water. This reduces the thermometer from +50° to about +10° F., or, 9 parts of phosphate of soda, 6 of nitrate of ammonia, and 4 of dilute nitric acid, reduce the thermometer from +50° to -21°; 5 parts of common salt, 5 of nitrate of ammonia and 12 of snow, reduce it from the ordinary temperature to -28°. The most intense degree of cold, probably known, has been produced by Dr. Faraday in his experiments upon the liquefaction of gases. This was effected by placing solid carbonic acid mixed with æther, under the air-pump, and exhausting.]

408 Des Cartes Specimina Philosophiæ. Amst. 1650, 4to, p. 216.

409 Von Hohberg says, in his Adliches Landleben, “The following, which serves more for amusement than use, is well-known to children. If one put snow and saltpetre into a jug, and place it on a table, over which water has been poured, and stir the snow and salt well round in the jug with a stick, the jug will be soon frozen to the table.” This baron, therefore, who, after he had sold his property in Austria on account of the persecution against the Protestants, wrote at Regensburg (Ratisbon), where he died in 1688, at the age of seventy-six, was not acquainted with iced delicacies. Had they been known to him, he would have certainly mentioned them where, in his Book of Cookery, he gives ample directions for laying out a table of the first rank.

410 [The application of ice to the purposes of confectionary, has, within the last few years, become much more extensive; encouraged, no doubt, by the facility with which it is now procurable at all seasons of the year, and in any quantity. Imitations of peaches, nectarines, apricots, and other fruits, are now produced in ice paste in such perfection, as at first sight to deceive the most practised eye; and such elegances are no longer confined to the tables of the wealthy.]

411 Instruction pour les Jardins. Paris, 1730, 4to, i. p. 263. The author says that ice in summer is indeed useful; but, as a gardener, he wishes that frost could be prevented; and that ice might be imported from the North, as olives and oranges are from the South. Some years ago, as no ice could be procured on account of the great mildness of the preceding winter, the merchants at Hamburg sent a ship to Greenland for a load of it, by which they acquired considerable profit.

412 For the above account of the mode of collecting the ice at Wenham Lake, we are indebted to the ‘Illustrated London News’ for May 17, 1845.



This instrument, called in Latin hydrometrum, hygroscopium, hygrobaroscopium, hydroscopium, areometrum, and baryllion, serves to determine the weight or specific gravity of different fluid masses, by the depth to which it sinks in them.

The laws respecting the comparative specific gravity of fluids and solid bodies immersed in them were discovered by Archimedes, when he tried the well-known experiment, by order of Hiero king of Sicily, to find the content of a golden crown, made for that sovereign. Upon these is founded the construction of the hydrometer; and it is not improbable that Archimedes, who was killed in the year 212 before the Christian æra, was the inventor of it, though no proofs to warrant this conjecture are to be found in the writings of that great man, or in those of any other author.

The oldest mention of the hydrometer occurs in the fifth century, and may be found in the letters of Synesius to Hypatia. Of the lives of these two persons I must here give some anecdotes, as they deserve to be known on account of the singular fate which attended them. Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, a well-known mathematician of Alexandria, some of whose writings are still extant. By her father she was instructed in mathematics, and from other great men, who at that time abounded in Alexandria, she learned the Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, and acquired such a complete knowledge of these sciences, that she taught them publicly with the greatest applause. She was young and beautiful, had a personable figure, was sprightly and agreeable in conversation, though at the same time modest; and she possessed the most rigid virtue, which was proof against every temptation. She conducted herself with so much propriety towards her lovers, that they never could obtain more than the pleasure of her company and of hearing her discourse; and with this, which they considered as an honour, they were contented. Those who wished to intrude further were dismissed; and she destroyed the appetite of one who would not suffer her to philosophise, by means of some strong preparation, which, as far as I know, remained a secret. She was162 not baptized, and with all her knowledge, adopted the blind superstition of paganism. Had she been a Christian, and suffered a cruel death from heathen persecution, she would have merited a place in the martyrology of the saints: but the case was reversed; for, by the conduct of the Christians towards her, she became entitled to have her name enrolled in the martyrology of the philosophers.

The patriarch of Alexandria, at the time when she lived, was Cyril, whose family for a hundred years before had produced bishops, who were of more service to their relations than to the church. This prelate was a proud, litigious, vindictive and intolerant man, who thought every thing lawful which he conceived to be for the glory of God; and who, as prosecutor and judge, condemned Nestorius without hearing his defence. In the city of Alexandria, which was then very flourishing on account of its commerce, the emperor allowed greater toleration than he imagined could be justified to the clergy in any other place; and it contained a great many Jews, who carried on an extensive trade, as well as a number of pagan families who were of service to the city, or at least did it no harm. This, in the eyes of Cyril, was not proper; he would have the sheep-fold clean, and the Jews must be banished. Orestes, however, the governor, who was a man of prudence, and better acquainted with the interests of the city, opposed a measure that was likely to be attended with mischief, and he even caused to be condemned to death a Christian profligate, who had done some injury to the Jews. This malefactor was, by the order of Cyril, buried in the church as a martyr; and he immediately collected five hundred monks, who ill-treated Orestes in the streets, and excited an insurrection among the people, who plundered the unfortunate Jews, and expelled them from a city in which they had lived since the time of Alexander the Great.

Cyril, observing one day a great number of horses and servants belonging to persons of the first rank, before a certain house in the city, inquired the cause of their being assembled in that manner. He was informed that the house was the habitation of the celebrated female philosopher Hypatia, who, on account of her extensive learning and eminent talents, was visited not only by people of the highest distinction, but even by the governor himself. This was sufficient163 to excite the bishop’s jealousy against the unbelieving Hypatia, and he resolved to effect her ruin. As he had instigated the people against the Jews, he in like manner encouraged them to attack Hypatia. They seized her in the street, hurried her to the church, stripped off her clothes, tore her flesh to pieces with potsherds, dragged her mangled limbs about through the city, and at length burned them. This bloody tragedy, which took place in the year 415, could tend only to inspire the heathens with a greater hatred to Christianity, and to make sensible Christians ashamed of the conduct of their brethren. To Cyril, however, it occasioned no shame; on the contrary, he endeavoured to divert the emperor from punishing those who had been guilty of so gross a violation of the principles of justice, and in this he was assisted by his numerous adherents and friends. In some circumstances of this relation historians are not agreed, but they all concur in bestowing praise on Hypatia, whose memory was honoured and preserved by her grateful and affectionate scholars413.

Among these was Synesius, of a noble pagan family, who cultivated philosophy and the mathematics with the utmost ardour, and who had been one of her most intimate friends and followers. On account of his learning, talents, and open disposition, he was universally esteemed, and he had been employed with great success on public occasions of importance. The church at Ptolemais at length wished to have him for their bishop. After much reluctance he accepted the office, but on condition that they should not require him to acknowledge the resurrection of the dead, which he doubted. The people having consented to allow him this indulgence, he suffered himself to be baptized, and became their bishop. He was confirmed by the orthodox patriarch Theophilus, the predecessor of Cyril, to whose jurisdiction Ptolemais belonged; and he afterwards renounced his errors, and declared himself convinced of the truth of the resurrection. This learned man showed his gratitude to Hypatia, by the honourable mention which he made of her in some letters that are still preserved among his writings.

In his fifteenth letter, he tells Hypatia that he was so unfortunate,164 or found himself so ill, that he wished to use a hydroscopium, and he requests that she would cause one to be constructed for him. “It is a cylindrical tube,” adds he, “of the size of a reed or pipe. A line is drawn upon it lengthwise, which is intersected by others, and these point out the weight of water. At the end of the tube is a cone, the base of which is joined to that of the tube, so that they have both only one base. This part of the instrument is called baryllion. If it be placed in water, it remains in a perpendicular direction, so that one can discover by it the weight of the fluid.”

Petavius, who published the works of Synesius in the year 1640, acknowledges in his annotations, that this passage he did not understand. An old scholiast, he says, who had added some illegible words, seemed to think that it referred to a water-clock; but this he considers improbable, as a clepsydra was not immersed in water, but filled with it. He conjectures, therefore, that it may allude to some such instrument as that which Vitruvius calls chorobates. The latter however was employed for leveling; and it appears that Synesius, who complains of the bad state of his health, could not think of leveling. Besides, no part of the description in Vitruvius agrees with that which is given in so clear a manner by Synesius.

Petau published his edition of the works of this philosopher in the time of Peter de Fermat, conseiller au parlement de Toulouse, a man of great learning, who was an excellent mathematician, and well-acquainted with antiquities and the works of the ancients. We have by the latter a commentary upon some obscure passages of Athenæus, annotations on the writings of Theon of Smyrna, and emendations from a manuscript to the Stratagemata of Polyænus, which may be found also in his Miscellanies. Mursinna, in his edition of the same author, has added them to the end of the preface. As Fermat was often consulted respecting difficult passages of the ancients, he could not be unacquainted with that in the new edition of Synesius. He drew up an explanation of it, and gave it to a friend who was then about to publish a French translation of Bened. Castelli’s book, Della Misura dell’Acque Correnti, and who caused it to be printed along with that work. Fermat died in the year 1665. After his death his165 son published some of his writings under the title of Varia Opera Mathematica414; and in this collection is inserted his short treatise on the hydroscopium, from which I have extracted the following explanation.

It is impossible, says he, that the hydroscopium could be the level or chorobates of Vitruvius, for the lines on the latter were perpendicular to the horizon, whereas the lines on the former were parallel to it. The hydroscopium was undoubtedly a hydrometer of the simplest construction. The tube may be made of copper, and open at the top; but at the other end, which, when used, is the lowest, it must terminate with a cone, the base of which is soldered to that of the tube. Lengthwise, along the tube, are drawn two lines, which are intersected by others, and the more numerous these divisions are, the instrument will be so much more correct. When placed in water, it sinks to a certain depth, which will be marked by the cross lines, and which will be greater in proportion to the lightness of the water. A figure, which is added, illustrates this explanation more than was necessary. When a common friend of Fermat and Petavius showed it to the latter, he considered it to be so just, that he wished to have an opportunity of introducing it in a new edition.

Mersenne, on the other hand, entertains some doubt415 respecting this instrument, though he does not mention Fermat, with whom he was well-acquainted; for in the dispute which the latter had with Descartes, Mersenne was the bearer of the letters that passed between them, as we learn from the Life of Descartes, by Baillet. His objections however are of little weight. Why should Synesius, asks Mersenne, consider himself unfortunate, because he had not a hydrometer? It may be here replied, that he was in an infirm state, and that the physicians seem to have ordered him to drink no water but what was pure and light. We know that in former times, when so many artificial liquors were not in use, people were accustomed, more than at present, to good water. We read in the works of the ancient physicians, such as Galen and Celsus, directions how to examine the lightness and purity of water. He might have tried it, says Mersenne, with a166 common balance. He indeed might, but not so conveniently. That Synesius was in a bad state of health is apparent from several of his letters; otherwise one might say that in a letter many expressions may be only jocular, respecting some circumstance known to the friend to whom one writes; and that every expression is not to be taken according to its literal meaning. One might confess also, without weakening a received explanation, not to know what Synesius alludes to in the first line of his letter. But even if we allow that the instrument was not a hydrometer, but a water-clock, or a level; it may be asked how the want of these could make him unfortunate? Mersenne thinks further, that the cone, added to the end of the tube, would have been unnecessary in a hydrometer; but it serves to keep the instrument with more ease in a perpendicular direction in the water. Such is the opinion of H. Klugel, whom I shall soon have occasion to quote.

For the explanation of Fermat one may produce a still stronger testimony, with which he seems not to have been acquainted. It can be proved that this instrument was used in the next, or at least in the sixth century. Of that period, we have a Latin poem on weights and measures, which contains a very just description of a hydrometer. The author, in manuscripts, is called sometimes Priscianus, and sometimes Rhemnius Fannius Palæmon; but we know, from grounds which do not belong to this subject, that the former was his real name. Two persons of that name are known at present. The one, Theodore Priscian, was a physician, and lived in the time of the emperor Valentinian, towards the end of the fourth century. As more physicians have written on weights and measures, with which it is indispensably necessary they should be acquainted, one might conjecture that this Priscian was the author of the above poem. The rest of his writings, however, still preserved, are in so coarse and heavy a style, that one can scarcely ascribe to him a work which is far from being ill-written; especially as it is nowhere said that he was a poet. With much more probability may we consider as the author the well-known grammarian Priscian, who died about the year 528.

This poem has been often printed, and not unfrequently at the end of Q. Sereni Samonici De Medicina Præcepta.167 The best edition is that inserted by Wernsdorf in the fifth part of the first volume of his Poetæ Minores, where an account may be found of the other editions.

Be the author who he may, this much is evident, that he was acquainted with the hydrometer of Synesius, and has described it in a very clear manner.

“Fluids,” says he, “are different in weight, as may be proved by the specific gravity of oil and honey compared with that of pure water;” and the given proportion agrees almost with that found by modern experiments. “This,” adds he, “may be discovered by an instrument,” which he thus describes:—“It consists of a thin metallic cylinder made of silver or copper, about as large as the joint of a reed between two knots, to the end of which is added a cone. This cone makes the lower end so heavy, that the instrument, without sinking or floating on the surface, remains suspended perpendicularly in the water. Lengthwise, upon the cylinder, is drawn a line, which is divided by cross lines into as many parts as are equal to the weight of the instrument in scripla. If placed in light fluids, more of the divisions will be covered than when put into heavy fluids; or it sinks deeper into those which are light than into those which are heavy. This difference of gravity may be found also,” continues he, “by filling vessels of equal size with the fluids and weighing them; for the heavier must then weigh most; but when one takes an equal weight of two fluids, the lighter will occupy more space than the heavier. If twenty-one divisions of the instrument are covered in water, and twenty-four in oil, and if one take twenty-four scripla of water, twenty-one scripla of oil only can be contained in the space occupied by the water.” Such is the manner in which Professor Klugel has conjectured the meaning of the author from hydrostatic principles; though neither he nor Wernsdorf has ventured to give a literal translation of the words which ought to convey this explanation. But however obscure they may be, it evidently appears that they allude to a hydrometer.

This poem was once published together with Celsus De Re Medica, in 1566, by Robert Constantin, who died at an advanced age in 1605, and who added a few, but excellent notes, which have been inserted by Wernsdorf in his edition. This Constantin seems to have known that the instrument of168 Priscian and the hydroscopium of Synesius were the same; and that they were used for determining the weight of fluids. He explains the use of them very properly; but is mistaken in supposing the cone to have been of wood, though it served to render the lower part of the instrument heavier, as the poet himself says: “cui cono interius modico pars ima gravatur.” I am almost induced to think that interius implies that additional weight was given to the cone by throwing some small heavy bodies into it, through the opening above; and at present grains of leaden shot are employed for that purpose. It appears therefore that the honour of having first given a good explanation of the before-quoted passage of Synesius belongs rather to Constantin than to Fermat; but I can readily believe that the latter was not acquainted with the observations made on it by the former. Before I conclude the history of this instrument among the ancients, I shall add two remarks further. It is evidently wrong when one, with Muschenbroek and others, whose opinion I adopted before I engaged in this research, considers Hypatia as the inventress of the hydrometer. It was known at her time, and was made at Alexandria; but it seems not to have been very common, as Synesius wrote to Hypatia to procure him one, and even thought it necessary to give her a description of it.

Those are mistaken likewise, who say that this instrument was called also baryllium. That word, as far as I have been able to learn, occurs only in Synesius, who expressly tells us that the small heavy cone alone was meant by it. In the same manner has it been understood by Constantin. In the Dictionary of Basle it is said to be hydroscopii pars; and in Stephen’s Dictionary it is explained by pondusculum, as well as in that of Ernest, where it is given as the diminutive of baros. It signified therefore the heavy part of the hydrometer only.

It is equally erroneous when one says, with Muschenbroek and others, that those who among the Romans made it their employment to examine the quality of water with the hydrometer, were called baryllistæ or barynilæ. These words do not occur in the works of the ancient Latin authors, nor in any of the completest dictionaries. We read only the following passage in some editions of the Commentary of Servius upon Virgil: “Scrutatores et repertores aquarum (aquilices169 dicuntur) barinulas dixerunt416.” If these words were really written by Servius, who lived in the fifth century, he either confounded the water-searchers, aquilices, those who sought for springs, with those who examined the nature of water when found, as the hydrometer was of no service to the former in their business; or both employments must at that time have been followed by the same people, and these must have acquired their name from a part only of one instrument they used, which is not at all probable.

I think we may with certainty believe that the hydrometer was not known to Seneca, Pliny, or Galen, who died about the end of the second century. Were not this the case, it would certainly have been mentioned by the first, where he speaks so minutely of the specific gravity of hard and fluid bodies417; by the second, where he says that the weight of water was ascertained by a common balance418; and by the last, where he gives directions how to discover its lightness. Galen adds, that in his time a method had been invented of determining the quality of salt-lye by placing an egg in it, and observing whether it floated419. Have we not reason to think that on this occasion the hydrometer must have occurred to him had it been then used?

But however well-known it may have been in the fifth century, it seems that it was afterwards entirely forgotten, and that towards the end of the sixteenth it was again for the first time revived or invented anew. To George Agricola it was scarcely known; for where he speaks of the weight of different kinds of water, and particularly of that of salt springs420, he does not mention it. Constantin, however, who lived at the same time, must have been acquainted with it,170 else he could not have explained the before-mentioned passages of Synesius and Priscian.

I am inclined to think that the first account of the hydrometer being again brought into use must be found in the oldest German books on salt-works. It is at any rate certain that from these the modern philosophers became first acquainted with it. One of the earliest who has described it is the Jesuit Cabeus, who wrote about the year 1644421; but he confesses that he acquired his information from a German treatise by Tholden, whom Kircher422 calls a German artist. He was however not properly an artist. He was a native of Hesse; a good chemist for his time; and resided about the year 1600 or 1614 as overseer of the salt-works at Frankenhausen in Thuringia. His treatise, which Cabeus had in his possession, was entitled Tholden’s Haligraphia, printed at Leipsic in 1603. Another edition, printed at the same place in 1613, is mentioned by Draudius; but at present I have not been able to find it; and can say only from Cabeus and Leupold, that Tholden’s hydrometer had a weight suspended to it; and that he speaks of the instrument not as a new but a well-known invention, and on that account has described it only imperfectly.

Kircher, whose works were generally read, seems to have principally contributed towards making it publicly known; and Schott423, Sturm424 and others, in their account of it, refer to his writings. The artists at Nuremberg, who worked in glass, and who constructed a great many hydrometers which were everywhere sold, assisted in this likewise. One, above all, made by Michael Sigismund Hack, was highly valued about the beginning of the last century, as we are told by J. Henry Muller, professor at Altorf. Of this artist, often mentioned by Sturm and other philosophers, an account has been given by Doppelmayer. He died in 1724.

Many improvements, or perhaps only alterations, have been made in this instrument in later times by a variety of artists. The task of collecting these completely in chronological171 order with explanations, I shall leave to others; and only mention a few of them. One of the first who endeavoured to adapt the hydrometer for determining the specific gravity and purity of metals was Monconys. Almost about the same period Cornelius Mayer and Boyle seem to have conceived the idea of facilitating the weighing of solid bodies by a weighing-scale added to the instrument. The former affirms that this improvement was invented by him as early as the year 1668425; whereas Boyle did not make his known till 1675426. Besides these the following also are worthy of notice: Feuille427, Fahrenheit, Clark428, and Leutmann429, whose improvements have been described by Wolf430, Leupold431, Gesner, Weigel and others.

[The principal hydrometer now in use is that of Sykes, this is adopted in estimating excise duties on liquids. That of Baumé is principally employed abroad. Those of Beck or Cartier are but rarely used. These instruments differ merely in their graduation. Sykes’s plan of increasing the extent of the indications without enlarging the instrument is ingenious. It is effected by means of a number of weights which may be appended as collars to the stem of the instrument.

A useful method of ascertaining specific gravities for commercial purposes, consists in using a series of glass beads, previously adjusted and numbered. When thrown into any liquid, the heavier ones sink and the lighter float on the surface; but the one which has the same density as the liquid will remain indifferent, or perhaps slightly below the surface. The specific gravity is then found by the number with which it is marked.]


413 A fuller account of Hypatia may be found in Menagii Histor. Mulier. Philosoph. Lugd. 1690; Bruckeri Hist. Crit. Philos. ii. p. 351; and Wolfii Fragmenta Mulierum Græc. Gott. 1739, 4to.

414 Varia Opera Mathematica D. Petri de Fermat, Tolosæ, 1679, folio.

415 Cogitata Physico-Mathem. Par., 1644, and in Phænomena Hydraulica.

416 On Georg. i. 109. These words are quoted by Emmenessius, the editor of the Variorum edition of Virgil, but in the edition of Servius, Venetiis, 1562, fol., they are not to be found. The Commentary of Servius may at present be no longer indispensable for explaining Virgil; but it deserves to be printed once more as completely and accurately as possible. It contains much useful information, as well as many fragments of works now lost; and on this account cannot well be entirely dispensed with.

417 Quæst. Nat. iii. 25, p. 726.

418 Hist. Nat. xxxi. 3, sect. 23, p. 552.—Athen. ii. p. 46.—Plutarchi Quæst. Nat. 7.

419 De Simplic. Med. Facultatibus, iv. 20.

420 De Natura eorum quæ effluunt ex Terra, lib. ii. p. 124.

421 Philosophia Experimentalis, sive Commentaria in Aristotelis Meteorolog. lib. ii. textus 26, quæst. 2, tom. ii. p. 158, b.

422 Mundus Subterraneus, vol. i. p. 254.

423 Cursus Mathemat. p. 455, icon. 20.

424 Collegii Experiment. pars ii. Norimb. 1715, 4to.

425 Nuovi Ritrovamenti. Roma, 1696, fol.

426 Philosoph. Transact. 1675: where an engraving is given of all the parts.

427 Journal des Observations Physiques et Math. Par. 1714, 4to.

428 Philosoph. Transact. No. 384, p. 140; and No. 413, p. 277.

429 Comment. Acad. Petrop. v. p. 274.

430 In his Versuchen. Halle, 1737, 8vo, i. p. 556.

431 Theatrum Hydrostaticum.



The lighting of streets, while it greatly contributes to ornament our principal cities, adds considerably also to the convenience and security of the inhabitants. But of whatever benefit it may be, it is generally considered as a modern invention. M. St. Evremond says, “The invention of lighting the streets of Paris during the night, by a multitude of lamps, deserves that the most distant nations should go to see what neither the Greeks nor the Romans ever thought of for the police of their republics.” This opinion appears to be well-founded; for I have never yet met with any information which proves that the streets of Rome were lighted. Some passages, indeed, in ancient authors rather indicate the contrary; and according to my ideas, the Romans would not have considered the use of flambeaux and lanterns so necessary on their return from their nocturnal visits, as they seem to have done, had their streets been lighted; though I will allow that the public lighting of the streets in our cities does not render links or lanterns altogether superfluous. Whoever walked the streets of Rome at night without a lantern, was under the necessity of creeping home in perfect darkness, and in great danger432, like Alexis in Athenæus. Meursius endeavours to make it appear that the streets of Rome were lighted; and in support of this opinion quotes Ammianus Marcellinus, and the Life of Julius Cæsar in Suetonius; but his arguments to me are far from being convincing433. That Naples was not lighted, appears from the return of Gito in the night-time, mentioned by Petronius434. Some circumstances however related by ancient authors make it probable that Antioch, Rome and a few other cities had public lanterns, if not in all the streets, at least in those which were most frequented.

173 Libanius, who lived in the beginning of the fourth century, says in his Panegyric435, where he praises his native city Antioch, “The light of the sun is succeeded by other lights, which are far superior to the lamps lighted by the Egyptians on the festival of Minerva of Sais. The night with us differs from the day only in the appearance of the light: with regard to labour and employment everything goes on well. Some work continually; but others laugh and amuse themselves with singing.” I cannot allow myself to imagine that the sophist here considers it as a subject of praise to his native city, that the inhabitants after sun-set did not sit in darkness, but used lights to work by. It appears, therefore, that he alludes to the lighting of the streets.

In another passage, in the oration to Ellebichus436, the same author tells us, that the ropes from which the lamps that ornamented the city were suspended, had been cut by some riotous soldiers, not far from a bath. “Proceeding,” says he, “to a bath not far off, they cut with their swords the ropes from which were suspended the lamps that afforded light in the night-time, to show that the ornaments of the city ought to give way to them.” This quotation indicates, at any rate, that there were lamps suspended from ropes near the baths and places of greatest resort. The following passage of Jerome, however, seems to make it probable, or rather certain, that the streets of Antioch were lighted. In the altercation between a Luciferan and an Orthodox, he relates that an adherent of the schismatic Lucifer disputed in the street with a true believer till the streets were lighted, when the listening crowd departed; and that they then spat in each other’s face, and retired.

In the elegant edition of the works of that father, by Dominicus Vallarsius, we have a short dissertation on the time when this unmannerly dispute took place; and the editor shows that it happened at Antioch in the year 378437.

Basilius the Great, in a letter to Martinianus, giving an account of the miserable situation of his native city Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, in the year 371, says they had nights without lights (noctes non illustratas). Most commentators explain174 this passage as if it meant that the lamps in the streets had not been lighted438.

That the streets, not only of Antioch, but also of Edessa, in Syria, were lighted in the fifth century, seems proved by a passage in the History of Jesue Stylites. It is there expressly said, that Eulogius, governor of Edessa, about the year 505, ordered lamps to be kept burning in the streets during the night; and that he employed for that purpose a part of the oil which was before given to the churches and monasteries439.

With regard to the public lighting of whole cities on festivals, and particularly on joyful occasions, which we call illuminations, that practice seems to be of great antiquity. Of this kind was a particular festival of the Egyptians440, during which lamps were placed before all the houses throughout the country, and kept burning the whole night441. During that festival of the Jews, called festum encæniorum, the feast of the Dedication of the Temple, which, according to common opinion, was celebrated in December, and continued eight days, a number of lamps were lighted before each of their houses. A passage in Æschylus shows that such illuminations were used also in Greece. At Rome, the forum was lighted when games were exhibited in the night-time; and Caligula, on a like occasion, caused the whole city to be lighted442. As Cicero was returning home late at night, after Catiline’s conspiracy had been defeated, lamps and torches were lighted in all the streets in honour of that great orator. The emperor Constantine caused the whole city of Constantinople to be illuminated with lamps and wax candles on Easter eve443. The fathers of the first century frequently inveigh against the Christians, because, to please the heathens, they often illuminated their houses, on idolatrous festivals,175 in a more elegant manner than they. This they considered as a species of idolatry444. That the houses of the ancients were illuminated on birth-days, by suspending lamps from chains, is too well known to require any proof445.

Of modern cities, Paris, as far as I have been able to learn, was the first that followed the example of the ancients by lighting its streets. As this city, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, was much infested with street robbers and incendiaries, the inhabitants were, from time to time, ordered to keep lights burning, after nine in the evening, before the windows of all the houses which fronted the street. This order was issued in the year 1524, and renewed in 1526 and 1553446; but in the month of October 1558, falots were erected at the corners of the streets, or, when the street was so long that it could not be lighted by one, three were erected in three different parts of it. These lights had, in a certain measure, a resemblance to those used in some mines; for we are told, in the Grand Vocabulaire François447, that falot is a large vase filled with pitch, rosin, and other combustibles, employed in the king’s palace and houses of princes to light the courts. At that period there were in Paris 912 streets; so that the number of lights then used must have been less than 2736.

In the month of November, the same year, these lights were changed for lanterns of the like kind as those used at present. The lighting of the streets of Paris continued, however, for a long time to be very imperfect, till the abbé Laudati, an Italian of the Caraffa family, conceived the idea of letting out torches and lanterns for hire. In the month of March 1662, he obtained an exclusive privilege to this establishment for twenty years; and he undertook to erect, at176 certain places, not only in Paris, but also in other cities of the kingdom, booths or posts where any person might hire a link or lantern, or, on paying a certain sum, might be attended through the streets by a man bearing a light. He was authorised to receive from every one who hired a lantern to a coach, five sous for a quarter of an hour; and from every foot-passenger, three sous. To prevent all disputes in regard to time, it was ordered that a regulated hour-glass should be carried along with each lantern.

In 1667, however, the lighting of the city of Paris was put on that footing on which it is at present. At the same time the police was greatly improved, and it afterwards served as a pattern to most of the other cities in Europe. Affairs of judicature, and those respecting the public police, instead of being committed, as before, to one magistrate, called the “Lieutenant civil du prevost de Paris,” were by a royal edict, of the month of March in the above year, divided between two persons. One of them, who had the management of judicial affairs, retained the old title; and the other, who superintended the police, had that of “Lieutenant du prevost de Paris pour la police,” or “Lieutenant général de police.” The first lieutenant of police was Nicholas de Reynie, a man who, according to the praises bestowed on him by French writers, formed an epoch in the history of modern police. In the History of Paris, so often already quoted, he is called an enlightened, upright, and vigilant magistrate, as zealous for the service of the king as for the good of the public, and who succeeded so well in this new office, that we may say, adds the author, it is to him, more than to any other, that we are indebted for the good order which prevails at present in Paris. The first useful regulation by which La Reynie rendered a service to the police, was that for improving the (guet) night-watch, and the lighting of the streets. I can find no complete account of the changes he introduced; but four years after, that is, on the 23rd of May 1671, an order was made that the lanterns every year should be lighted from the 20th of October till the end of March in the year following, and even during moonlight; because the latter was of little use in bad weather, and even in fine weather was not sufficient to light some of the most dangerous streets.

177 Before this period the streets were lighted only during the four winter months; and on account of the numberless atrocities committed in the night-time, when there were no lights, the Parisians offered to contribute as much money as should be sufficient to defray the expense of keeping the lamps lighted throughout the whole winter. The lamps employed by La Reynie were, on account of their likeness to a bucket, called lanternes à seau, and succeeded those invented by one Herault, called lanternes à cul-de-lampe.

When De Sartines held the office of lieutenant de police, a premium was offered to whoever should discover the most advantageous means of improving the lighting of the streets; and the Academy of Sciences were to decide on the different plans that might be proposed. In consequence of this offer, a journeyman glazier, named Goujon, received a premium of 200 livres, and Messrs. Bailly, Le Roy, and Bourgeois de Chateaublanc 2000 livres. To the last-mentioned gentleman is ascribed the invention of the present reverberating lamps, described by La Vieil, which were introduced in 1766.

In a small work, called an Essay on Lanterns, by a society of literary men448, which, though written to ridicule antiquarian researches and certain persons at Paris, contains some authentic information respecting the lighting of the streets, we are told that reverberating lamps were invented by an abbé P., who therefore, says the author humorously, is the second abbé who can boast of having enlightened the first city in the world. The superiority of these lamps cannot be denied; but, besides their expense, they are attended with this disadvantage when they hang in the middle of the street, that they throw a shade over it, so that one cannot be known by those who pass. In cities also, where people walk principally in the middle of the streets, or where the streets are broad, they are not very convenient, and they occasion a stoppage when it is necessary to clean them.

In the year 1721, the lamps in Paris are said to have amounted to 5772; but in the Tableau de Paris, printed in 1760, the number is reckoned to be only 5694, and in the Curiosités de Paris, 1771, they are stated to be 6232.

In 1777, the road between Paris and Versailles, which is about nine miles in length, was lighted at the yearly expense178 of 15,000 livres by the same contractors who lighted Paris. The city of Nantes was lighted the same year; and in 1780 had 500 lamps. Strasburg began to be lighted in 1779.

If what Maitland says in his history449 be true, that in the year 1414 an order was issued for hanging out lanterns to light the streets, and if that regulation was continued after the above period, which I very much doubt, then must it be allowed that London preceded Paris in this useful establishment. Maitland refers for his authority to Stow’s Survey of London; but in the edition of that work published in 1633, I find only, where a list of the magistrates is given, the following information:—“1417, Mayor, Sir Henry Barton, skinner. This Henry Barton ordained lanthorns with lights to bee hanged out on the winter evenings, betwixt Hallontide and Candlemasse.” Nothing more occurs in the edition by Strype, published in 1720.

In the year 1668, when several regulations were made for improving the streets, the Londoners were reminded that they should hang out lanterns duly at the accustomed time450. In the year 1690 this order was renewed, and every housekeeper was required to hang out a light or lamp every night as soon as it was dark, between Michaelmas and Lady-day; and to keep it burning till the hour of twelve at night. In the year 1716 it was ordained by an act of common council, that all housekeepers, whose houses fronted any street, lane, or public passage, should, in every dark night, that is, every night between the second night after every full moon till the seventh night after every new moon, set or hang out one or more lights, with sufficient cotton wicks, that should continue to burn from six o’clock at night till eleven o’clock of the same night, under the penalty of one shilling. All these regulations, however, seem to have been ineffectual, owing to bad management. The city was lighted by contract, and the contractors for liberty to light it were obliged to pay annually to the city the sum of six hundred pounds. Besides, the contractors received only six shillings per annum from every housekeeper whose rent exceeded ten pounds; and all179 persons who hung out a lantern and candle before their houses were exempted from paying towards the public lamps. The streets were lighted no more than one hundred and seventeen nights; and as this gave great opportunity to thieves and robbers to commit depredations in the night-time, the lord mayor and common council judged it proper, in the year 1736, to apply to parliament for power to enable them to light the streets of the city in a better manner; and an act was accordingly passed, by which they were empowered to erect a sufficient number of such sort of glass lamps as they should judge proper, and to keep them burning from the setting to the rising of the sun throughout the year. Instead therefore of a thousand lamps, the number was now increased to 4679; but as these even were not sufficient, several of the wards made a considerable augmentation, so that the whole could amount to no less than 5000. This, however, was not the amount of all the lamps in London, but of those in what is properly called the city and liberties. As this division forms only a fifth part of London, Maitland reckons the whole number of public and private lamps to have been, even at that period, upwards of 15,000. The time of lighting also, which before had been only 750 hours annually, was increased to 5000. In our cities of Lower Saxony, the streets of which are not so dark as those of London, the lighting continues 1519 hours.

In the year 1744, owing to the great number of robberies committed in the streets during the night, it was found necessary to apply for another act of parliament to regulate still farther the lighting of the city; and at that period this establishment was placed upon that footing on which it now stands.

The lamps of London, at present (1786), are all of crystal glass; each is furnished with three wicks; and they are affixed to posts placed at the distance of a certain number of paces from each other. They are lighted every day in the year at sunset. Oxford-street alone is said to contain more lamps than all Paris. The roads, even, seven or eight miles round London, are lighted by such lamps; and as these roads from the city to different parts are very numerous, the lamps seen from a little distance, particularly in the county of Surrey, where a great many roads cross each other, have a180 beautiful and noble effect. Birmingham was lighted, for the first time, in 1733, with 700 lamps.

It appears that the streets of Amsterdam were lighted by lanterns as early as 1669; for in the month of February that year, the magistrates, who in 1665 had forbidden the use of torches, issued an order against destroying the lamp-posts, to which it was customary to fasten horses. This order, as well as the instructions given to the lamp-lighters in 1669, may be found in a work called the Privileges of the city of Amsterdam. The lanterns were not of glass, but of horn; for the lamp-lighters were ordered, in their instructions, to wipe off every day the smoke of the train-oil which adhered to the horn of the lanterns.

At the Hague an order was issued in the month of October 1553, that the inhabitants should place lights before their doors during dark nights; and afterwards small stone buildings were erected at the corners of the principal streets, in which lights were kept burning; but in the year 1678 lamps were fixed up in all the streets.

The streets of Copenhagen were first lighted by lamps in 1681; and on the 16th of July 1683 new regulations were made, by which the plan was much improved, as well as that of the night-watch.

The streets of Rome are not yet lighted. Sixtus V. was desirous to introduce this improvement in the police, but he met with insurmountable obstacles. That the benefit of lighting might be enjoyed in some measure, he ordered the number of the lights placed before the images of saints to be augmented. De la Lande says, in his Travels, that Venice had been lighted for some years before the period when he wrote, by 3000 lamps. Messina and Palermo, in Sicily, are both lighted.

Madrid, which till lately was the dirtiest of all the capital cities of Europe, is at present as well lighted as London451. Valencia in Spain was some years ago indebted for this improvement to Joachim Manuel Fos, then inspector of the manufactories. Barcelona is lighted also452. Lisbon however has no lights.

181 The streets of Philadelphia are lighted, and on each side there is a foot-pavement.

In the year 1672 the council of Hamburg made a proposal to the citizens for lighting the streets. The year following this proposal was accepted, but the lamps were not fixed up till two years after, that is to say in 1675.

In the year 1679, Berlin had advanced so far towards this improvement, that the inhabitants were obliged in turns to hang out a lantern with a light at every third house. In 1682, the Elector Frederick William caused lamp-posts with lamps to be erected, notwithstanding the opposition made by the inhabitants on account of the expense. In a petition which they presented in 1680, they stated that the lamps cost 5000 dollars, and that 3000 were required yearly to keep them lighted. At present Berlin has 2354 lamps, which are kept lighted from September till May, and at the king’s expense. Potsdam has 590453.

Vienna began to be lighted in the year 1687. The lights were hung out in the evening on a signal given by the fire-bell. In 1704 lamps were introduced; but at first the light which they afforded was very imperfect, as the lamps burned badly, and because, to save the expense of lamp-lighters, every housekeeper was obliged daily to remove the empty lamps, to carry them to the lamp-office to be filled, and to light them again on a signal given with a bell. In 1776, the lamps, which before amounted to 2000, were increased to 3000, and a contract was entered into for lighting them at the rate of 30,000 florins. These lamps were invented by counsellor Sonnenfels, and amounted in 1779 to 3445. They are made of white glass, in a globular form, and have a covering of tin-plate, painted red on the outside and polished within. They are supported by lamp-irons, fixed in the houses at the height of fifteen feet from the earth. Each lantern is only sixteen paces distant from the other, so that the streets are completely illuminated. They are kept lighted both summer and winter, whether the moon shines or not; and this is more necessary at Vienna than anywhere else, on account of the height of the houses and the narrowness and crookedness of the streets. The lamp-lighters wear an uniform, and are under182 military discipline. In 1783 the yearly expense of the lamps was estimated at only 17,000 florins454.

Leipzig was lighted in 1702, and Dresden in 1705. In 1766, the number of lamps at the latter amounted only to 728, for the lighting of which oil of rape-seed was employed.

In Cassel the streets began to be lighted under the Landgrave Charles, in 1721; but as regulations were not made sufficient to support this improvement, it was at length dropped. It was however revived in 1748, and in 1778 the number of the lamps was increased to 1013, besides those at the landgrave’s palace.

Hanover was lighted in 1696, Halle in 1728, and Göttingen in 1735. Brunswick since 1765 has had 1565 lamps. Zurich has been lighted since 1778, but the lamps are very few in number.

[Such was the state of street-lighting towards the end of the last century, and many of the readers of this work will remember the round glass lamps and their dismal oil-light, which long after the streets of London were illuminated with gas, still continued to be employed in the outskirts of this immense metropolis. How changed is all this now, and how surprising must it appear, that a thing so simple as the employment of the combustible gases produced in the distillation of coal and other bodies of organic origin should date from so recent a period! But such is the case with most of the improvements which tend to the comfort and happiness of the human race; slow and by degrees they progress towards perfection,—a fact most admirably illustrated by numerous articles contained in these volumes.

The first idea of applying coal-gas to œconomical purposes is generally attributed to Mr. William Murdoch, who in 1792 employed coal-gas for lighting his house and offices at Redruth in Cornwall, and in 1798 constructed the apparatus for the purpose of lighting Boulton and Watt’s celebrated manufactory at Soho, near Birmingham, which on the occasion of the peace in 1802 was publicly illuminated by the same means. This display vastly attracted public attention to the subject, and soon after several manufacturers whose works required light and heat adopted the use of gas; a button manufactory183 at Birmingham used it largely for soldering; Halifax, Manchester and other towns soon followed. A single cotton-mill in Manchester used above 900 burners, and had several miles of pipe laid down to supply them. Mr. Murdoch, who erected the apparatus used in this mill, sent a detailed account of his operations to the Royal Society in 1808, and received the gold medal of that body. It appears, however, from an interesting paper by R. C. Taylor on the coal-fields of China455, that the Chinese, if not manufacturers, are nevertheless gas consumers and employers on a grand scale, and have evidently been so ages before the knowledge of its application was acquired by Europeans. Beds of coal are frequently pierced by the borers for salt water; and the inflammable gas is forced up in jets twenty or thirty feet in height. From these fountains the vapour has been conveyed to the salt-works in pipes, and there used for the boiling and evaporation of the salt; other tubes convey the gas intended for lighting the streets and the larger apartments and kitchens. As there is still more gas than required, the excess is conducted beyond the limits of the salt-works, and there forms separate chimneys or columns of flame. But this, like many other discoveries of the Chinese, remained, owing to their exclusive habits, unknown to us till within a recent period, and the world may fairly be said to be indebted to Mr. Winsor, for the vast benefit conferred upon it by gas-illumination. After several experiments, this gentleman in 1803–1804 lighted the Lyceum theatre, and shortly afterwards, in 1807, one side of Pall-Mall with gas distilled from coal. Soon after that period companies were formed for carrying on the manufacture of gas upon an extensive scale, oil-lamps were banished from all the great thoroughfares of the metropolis, and in the course of fifteen years not only was every street and alley illuminated from the same source, but it was generally introduced into shops and houses, was carried into the suburbs, and has now become general in every town and city of the empire.

It would lead us too far to enter into minute details concerning the structure, uses and arrangement of the various apparatus employed in the production of gas; it will suffice to observe that when coal is heated to redness in a close184 vessel, it yields a variety of products which may be classed under three heads, as,—1st, permanent gases; 2ndly, vapours condensable into the liquid or solid state by cooling; and 3rdly, the residuary matter, coke, which remains in the retort. The object of gas manufacture is to separate these from each other, and to purify the gaseous products by washing and other means, so as to render them fit for combustion.

The following particulars, taken from Brande’s Dictionary of Science, may serve to give an idea of the quantity of gas annually consumed in London. The oldest of the London gas-works is the establishment belonging to the original chartered company. They have three stations; the largest situated in Peter-street, Westminster; the second in Brick-lane, St. Luke’s, and the third in the Curtain-road, Shoreditch. This company consumes 50,000 chaldrons of coals annually, the produce of which in gas may be estimated at about six hundred million cubic feet, or about eighteen million seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds weight of gas. It may be assumed that each chaldron of coals weighs 2880 lbs., and yields an average produce of 12,000 cubic feet of purified gas. The prime cost of gas is about four or five shillings per 1000 cubic feet; the usual retail price is from seven to ten shillings per 1000 cubic feet.

The chartered company probably supplies about a fifth part of the whole of the gas consumed in London and the suburbs; so that the total annual consumption of coal employed for this important manufacture in the London district only, probably exceeds two hundred and fifty thousand chaldrons, and the quantity of gas produced for the supply of this district amounts annually to three thousand million cubic feet. The weight of this quantity of gas exceeds seventy-five millions of pounds; and the light produced by its combustion may be considered as equivalent to that which would be obtained by the combustion of one hundred and sixty millions of pounds of mould-candles of six to the pound.

The operations of the London Gas-light Company, which was established in the year 1833, are also on a scale of great magnitude. Their works, situated at Vauxhall, are not only the most powerful, but the most complete in arrangement of any in the world. From this point their mains ramify to a prodigious extent in Middlesex as well as Surrey, and by the185 admirable mode in which they are laid, aided by the power of their works, they are enabled to supply gas at Highgate Hill (seven miles distance) with the same precision and in the same abundance as at Vauxhall. The extent of their pipes exceeds one hundred and fifty miles.

The cost of light equivalent to that of seven mould candles (six to the pound) is in coal-gas three farthings per hour, in an Argand oil-lamp 3d. per hour, in mould candles 3½d. per hour, and in wax candles 1s. 2d. per hour.

Gas has also been manufactured from oil, rosin and other substances. Oil-gas is procured abundantly by the decomposition of oil, trickled into a red-hot retort, half-filled with coke or brick. It contains no sulphuretted hydrogen, requires no purification, and is much richer in carburetted hydrogen than coal-gas. Its expense has however led nearly to the entire disuse of this kind of gas.

In London there are eighteen public gas establishments and twelve companies; the capital invested in works and apparatus is estimated at 3,000,000l.]


432 Athen. Deipn. vi. 8. p. 236.

433 Joh. Meursii Opera, ex recensione Joannis Lami. Florent. 1745, fol. v. p. 635.

434 Pet. cap. lxxix. That the author here speaks of Naples, I conclude from cap. lxxxi., where the city is called Græca urbs. Others, however, with less probability, are of opinion that Capua is meant.

435 Libanii Opera, Lutet. 1627, fol. ii. p. 387.

436 Ib. 526.

437 See vol. ii. p. 170.

438 Valesius informs us, in his observations on Ammianus Marcellinus, that to denote public sorrow, on occasions of great misfortune, it was customary not to light the streets; and in proof of this assertion he quotes a passage of Libanius, where it is said that the people of Antioch, in order to mitigate the anger of the emperor, bethought themselves of lighting either no lamps or a very small number.

439 Assemani Bibliotheca Orientalis. Romæ, 1719, fol. i. p. 281.

440 It was called by the Greeks λυχνοκαία.

441 Herodot. lib. ii. cap. 62.

442 Suet. Vita Calig. c. 18.

443 Euseb. lib. iv. De Vita Constantini, cap. 22. Compare with the above Greg. Naz. Orat. 19, and Orat. 2, where the author alludes to the festival of Easter.

444 Tertuliian. de Idololatria, cap. xv. p. 523. See also his Apologet. cap. 35, p. 178. In both places La Cerda quotes similar passages from other writers. In Concilio Eliberitano, cap. 37, it was decreed “prohibendum etiam ne lucernas publice accendant.” See also Joh. Ciampini Vetera Monumenta, in quibus musiva opera illustrantur. Romæ, 1690, 2 vols. fol. i. p. 90, where, on a piece of mosaic work, said to be of the fifth century, some lamps are represented hanging over a door.

445 J. Lipsii Electa, lib. ii. cap. 3.

446 This order may be seen in that large and elegant work, entitled Histoire de la Ville de Paris, Felibien, revue, augmentée par Lobineau, Paris, 1725, 5 vols. folio. See vol. ii. pp. 951, 977, and vol. iv. pp. 648, 676, 764.

447 Paris, 1770, x. p. 265.

448 Essai sur les Lanternes. A Dole, 1775.

449 History of London. London, 1756, 2 vols. fol. i. p. 186.

450 Noorthouck’s History of London. Lond. 1773, 4to, p. 233. For the safety and peace of the city, all inhabitants were ordered to hang out candles duly at the accustomed hour.

451 See Twiss and Dalrymple’s Travels.

452 Swinburne’s Travels through Spain, 1779, 4to.

453 Nicolai Beschreibung von Berlin und Potsdam, pp. 308, 971.

454 Nicolai Beschreibung einer Reise, iii. pp. 212, 214.

455 Philosophical Magazine for March, 1846.


The establishment of those people who are obliged to keep watch in the streets of cities during the night, belongs to the oldest regulations of police. Such watchmen are mentioned in the Song of Solomon, and they occur also in the book of Psalms. Athens and other cities of Greece had at least sentinels posted in various parts; and some of the thesmothetæ were obliged to visit them from time to time, in order to keep them to their duty456. At Rome there were triumviri nocturni, cohortes vigilum, &c.

186 The object of all these institutions seems to have been rather the prevention of fires than the guarding against nocturnal alarms or danger; though in the course of time attention was paid to these also. When Augustus wished to strengthen the night-watch, for the purpose of suppressing nocturnal commotions, he used as a pretext the apprehension of fires only. The regulations respecting these watchmen, and the discipline to which they were subjected, were almost the same as those for night-sentinels in camps during the time of war; but it does not appear that the night-watchmen in cities were obliged to prove their presence and vigilance by singing, calling out, or by any other means. Signals were made by the patroles alone, with bells, when the watchmen wished to say anything to each other. Singing by sentinels in time of war was customary, at least among some nations; but in all probability that practice was not common in the time of peace457.

Calling out the hours seems to have been first practised after the erection of city gates, and, in my opinion, to have taken its rise in Germany; though indeed it must be allowed that such a regulation would have been very useful in ancient Rome, where there were no clocks, and where people had nothing in their houses to announce the hours in the night-time. During the day people could know the hours after water-clocks had been constructed at the public expense, and placed in open buildings erected in various parts of the city. The case seems to have been the same in Greece; and rich families kept particular servants both male and female, whose business it was to announce to their masters and mistresses certain periods of the day, as pointed out by the city clocks. These servants consisted principally of boys and young girls, the latter being destined to attend on the ladies. It appears, however, that in the course of time water-clocks were kept also in the palaces of the great: at any rate Trimalchio, the celebrated voluptuary mentioned in Petronius, had one in his dining-room, and a servant stationed near it to proclaim the progress of the hours, that his master might know how much of his lifetime was spent; for he did not wish to lose a single moment without enjoying pleasure.

187 I have not read everything that has been written by others on the division of time among the ancients; but after the researches I have made, I must confess that I do not know whether the hours were announced in the night-time to those who wished and had occasion to know them. There were then no clocks which struck the hours, as has been already said; and as water-clocks were both scarce and expensive, they could not be procured by labouring people, to whom it was of most importance to be acquainted with the progress of time458. It would therefore have been a useful and necessary regulation to have caused the watchmen in the streets to proclaim the hours, which they could have known from the public water-clocks, by blowing a horn, or by calling out.

It appears, however, that people must have been soon led to such an institution, because the above methods had been long practised in war. The periods for mounting guard were determined by water-clocks; at each watch a horn was blown, and every one could by this signal know the hour of the night459; but I have met with no proof that these regulations were established in cities during the time of peace, though188 many modern writers have not hesitated to refer to the night-watch in cities what alludes only to nocturnal guards in the time of war. On the contrary, I am still more strongly inclined to think that ancient Rome was entirely destitute of such a police establishment. The bells borne by the night watchmen were used only by the patroles, as we are expressly told, or to give signals upon extraordinary occasions, such as that of a fire, or when any violence had been committed. Cicero, comparing the life of a civil with that of a military officer, says, “The former is awaked by the crowing of the cock, and the latter by the sound of the trumpet.” The former therefore had no other means of knowing the hours of the night but by attending to the noise made by that animal460. An ancient poet says that the cock is the trumpeter which awakens people in the time of peace461. The ancients indeed understood much better than the vulgar at present, who are already too much accustomed to clocks, how to determine the periods of the night by observing the stars; but here I am speaking of capital cities, and in these people are not very fond of quitting their beds to look at the stars, which are not always to be seen.

Without entering into further researches respecting watchmen among the ancient Greeks and Romans, I shall prove, by such testimonies as I am acquainted with, that the police establishment of which I speak is more modern in our cities than one might suppose. But I must except Paris; for it appears that night-watching was established there, as at Rome, in the commencement of its monarchy. De la Mare462 quotes the ordinances on this subject of Clothaire II., in the year 595, of Charlemagne, and of the following periods. At first the citizens were obliged to keep watch in turns, under the command of a miles gueti, who was called also chevalier. The French writers remark on this circumstance, that the term guet, which occurs in the oldest ordinances, was formed from the German words wache, wacht, the guard, or watch; and in like manner several other ancient German military189 terms, such as bivouac, landsquenet, &c.463 have been retained in the French language. In the course of time, when general tranquillity prevailed, a custom was gradually introduced of avoiding the duty of watching by paying a certain sum of money, until at length permanent compagnies de guet were established in Paris, Lyons, Orleans, and afterwards in other cities.

If I am not mistaken, the establishment of single watchmen, who go through the streets and call out the hours, is peculiar to Germany, and was copied only in modern times by our neighbours. The antiquity of it however I will not venture to determine464. At Berlin, the elector John George appointed watchmen in the year 1588465; but in 1677 there were none in that capital, and the city officers were obliged to call out the hours466. Montagne, during his travels in 1580, thought the calling out of the night-watch in the German cities a very singular custom. “The watchmen,” says190 he, “went about the houses in the night-time, not so much on account of thieves as on account of fires and other alarms. When the clocks struck, the one was obliged to call out aloud to the other, and to ask what it was o’clock, and then to wish him a good night467.” This circumstance he remarks also when speaking of Inspruck. Mabillon likewise, who made a literary tour through Germany, describes calling out the hours as a practice altogether peculiar to that country.

The horn of our watchmen seems to be the buccina of the ancients, which, as we know, was at first an ox’s horn, though it was afterwards made of metal468. Rattles, which are most proper for cities, as horns are for villages, seem to be of later invention469. The common form, “Hear, my masters, and let me tell you,” is very old. I am not the only person to whom this question has occurred, why it should not rather be, “Ye people, or citizens.” The chancellor von Ludwig deduces it from the Romans, who, as he says, were more liberal with the word Master, like our neighbours with Messieurs, than the old Germans; but the Roman watchmen did not call out, nor yet do the French at present. If I may be allowed a conjecture on so trifling an object, I should say that the city servants or beadles were the first persons appointed to call out the hours, as was the case at Berlin. These therefore called out to their masters, and “Our masters” is still the usual appellation given to the magistrates in old cities, particularly in the central and southern portions of Germany, and in Switzerland. At Göttingen the ancient form was abolished in the year 1791, and the watchmen call out now, “The clock has struck ten, it is ten o’clock.”

Watchmen who were stationed on steeples by day as well as by night, and who, every time the clock struck, were obliged to give a proof of their vigilance by blowing a horn, seem to have been first established on a permanent footing in Germany, and perhaps before watchmen in the streets. In England there are none of these watchmen; and in general191 they are very rare beyond the boundaries of Germany. That watchmen were posted on the tops of towers, in the earliest ages, to look out for the approach of an enemy, is well known. In the times of feudal dissension, when one chief, if he called in any assistance, could often do a great deal of hurt to a large city, either by plundering and burning the suburbs and neighbouring villages, or by driving away the cattle of the citizens, and attacking single travellers, such precaution was more necessary than at present. The nobility therefore kept in their strong castles watchmen, stationed on towers; and this practice prevailed in other countries besides Ireland and Burgundy470. It appears by the laws of Wales, that a watchman with a horn was kept in the king’s palace471. The German princes had in their castles, at any rate in the sixteenth century, tower-watchmen, who were obliged to blow a horn every morning and evening.

At first, the citizens themselves were obliged to keep watch in turns on the church-steeples, as well as at the town-gates; as may be seen in a police ordinance of the city of Einbeck472, in the year 1573. It was the duty of these watchmen, especially where there were no town clocks, to announce certain periods, such as those of opening and shutting the city-gates. The idea of giving orders to these watchmen to attend not only to danger from the enemy but from fire also, and, after the introduction of public clocks, to prove their vigilance by making a signal with their horn, must have naturally occurred; and the utility of this regulation was so important, that watchmen on steeples were retained, even when cities, by the prevalence of peace, had no occasion to be apprehensive of hostile incursions.

After this period persons were appointed for the particular purpose of watching; and small apartments were constructed for them in the steeples. At first they were allowed to have their wives with them; but this was sometimes prohibited, because a profanation of the church was apprehended. In192 most, if not in all cities, the town-piper, or as we say at present, town-musician, was appointed steeple-watchman; and lodgings were assigned to him in the steeple; but in the course of time, as these were too high and too inconvenient, a house was given him near the church, and he was allowed to send one of his servants or domestics to keep watch in his stead. This is the case still at Göttingen. The city musician was called formerly the Hausmann, which name is still retained here as well as at the Hartz, in Halle, and several other places; and the steeple in which he used to dwell and keep watch was called the Hausmann’s Thurm473. These establishments, however, were not general; and were not everywhere formed at a period equally early, as will be shown by the proofs which I shall here adduce.

If we can credit an Arabian author, whose Travels were published by Renaudot, the Chinese were accustomed, so early as the ninth century, to have watchmen posted on towers, who announced the hours of the day as well as of the night, by striking or beating upon a suspended board. Marco Paulo, who, in the thirteenth century, travelled through Tartary and China, confirms this account; at least in regard to a city which he calls Quinsai, though he says that signals were given only in cases of fire and disturbance. Such boards are used in China even at present474; and in Petersburg the watchmen who are stationed at single houses or in certain parts of the city, are accustomed to announce the hours by beating on a suspended plate of iron. Such boards are still193 used by the Christians in the Levant to assemble people to divine service, either because they dare not ring bells or are unable to purchase them. The former is related by Tournefort of the inhabitants of the Grecian islands, and the latter by Chardin of the Mingrelians. The like means were employed in monasteries, at the earliest periods, to give notice of the hours of prayer, and to awaken the monks475. Mahomet, who in his form of worship borrowed many things from the Christians of Syria and Arabia, adopted the same method of assembling the people to prayers; but when he remarked that it appeared to his followers to savour too much of Christianity, he again introduced the practice of calling out.

The steeple-watchmen in Germany are often mentioned in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the year 1351, when the council of Erfurt renewed that police ordinance which was called the Zuchtbrief, letter of discipline, because it kept the people in proper subjection, it was ordered, besides other regulations in regard to fire, that two watchmen should be posted on every steeple. A watchman of this kind was appointed at Merseburg and Leisnig so early as the year 1400. In the beginning of the seventeenth century the town-piper of Leisnig lived still in apartments in the steeple. In the year 1563, a church-steeple was erected in that place, and an apartment built in it for a permanent watchman, who was obliged to announce the hours every time the clock struck.

In the fifteenth century the city of Ulm kept permanent watchmen in many of the steeples. In the year 1452 a bell was suspended in the tower of the cathedral of Frankfort-on-the-Maine, which was to be rung in times of feudal alarm, and all the watchmen on the steeples were then to blow their horns and hoist their banners. In the year 1476, a room for the watchman was constructed in the steeple of the church of St. Nicholas. In the year 1509, watchmen were kept both on the watch-towers and steeples, who gave notice by firing a musket when strangers approached. The watchman on the tower of the cathedral immediately announced, by blowing a trumpet, whether the strangers were on foot or on horseback; and at the same time hung out a red flag towards the194 quarter in which he observed them advancing. The same watchman was obliged, likewise, to blow his horn on an alarm of fire; and that these people might be vigilant day and night, both in winter and summer, the council supplied them with fur-cloaks, seven of which, in the above-mentioned year, were purchased for ten florins and a half.

In the year 1496, the large clock was put up in the steeple of Oettingen, and a person appointed to keep watch on it476. In 1580, Montagne was much surprised to find on the steeple at Constance a man who kept watch there continually; and who, on no account, was permitted to come down from his station.

[One of the greatest improvements of modern times, in this country, is the establishment of that highly efficient body, the new police. The first introduction of the police was made by the magistrates of Cheshire in 1829, under an authority from parliament (Act 10 Geo. IV. c. 97). The first metropolitan establishment was also made in 1829. Before this time the total old force of the metropolitan watchmen consisted of 797 parochial day officers, 2785 night-watch, and upward of 100 private watchmen; including the Bow-street day and night patrol, there were about 4000 men employed in the district stretching from Brentford Bridge on the west to the river Lea on the east, and from Highgate on the north to Streatham on the south, excluding the city of London. The act of parliament creating the new police force (10 Geo. IV. c. 44) placed the control of the whole body in the hands of two commissioners, who devote their whole time to their duties. The total number of the metropolitan police in January 1840 consisted of 3486 men. These are arranged in divisions, each of which is employed in a distinct district. The metropolis is divided into “beats” and is watched day and night. Since August 1839, the horse-patrol, consisting of seventy-one mounted men, who are employed within a distance of several miles around London, has been incorporated with the metropolitan police. The Thames police consists of195 twenty-one surveyors, each of whom has charge of three men and a boat when on duty. The establishment is under the immediate direction of the magistrates of the Thames police-office.

The police affairs of the city of London are still under its own management. In 1833, the number of persons employed in the several wards of the city was,—ordinary watchmen, 500; superintending watchmen, 65; patrolling watchmen, 91; beadles, 54; total, 710. There are about 400 men doing duty in the city at midnight. In addition to the paid watchmen, about 400 ward-constables are appointed. The expense of the day-police, consisting of about 120 men, amounts to about £9000 a year, and is defrayed by the corporation: and the sum levied on the wards for the support of the night-watch averages about £42,000 per annum.

The police of the metropolis and the district within fifteen miles of Charing Cross (exclusive of the city) is regulated by the acts 10 Geo. IV. c. 44, and 2 and 3 Vict. c. 47. In nearly all the boroughs constituted under the Municipal Reform Act, a paid police force has been established on the same footing as the metropolitan police.]


456 They were called bell-bearers or bellmen, because while going the rounds they gave a signal with their bells, which the sentinels were obliged immediately to answer. See the Scholiasts on the Aves of Aristophanes, ver. 841. Dio Cassius, lib. liv. 4, p. 773, says, “The watchmen in the different quarters of the city have small bells, that they may make signals to each other when they think proper.” The bells therefore did not serve for announcing the hours, as some have imagined.

457 The Persian sentinels sung in this manner when they were surprised in the city by the Romans.—Ammianus Marcell. xxiv. 15.

458 That the servants in many houses were wakened by the ringing of a bell, appears from what Lucian says in his treatise, De iis qui mercede conducti in divitum familiis vivunt, cap. xxiv. p. 245, and cap. xxxi. p. 254, Bipont edition, vol. iii. It does not however follow that there were then striking or alarm-clocks, as some have thence concluded. See Magius De Tintinnabulis, cap. 6, in Sallengre, Thesaurus Antiquit. ii. p. 1177.

459 Vegetius De Re Milit. iii. 8. That Cæsar had such clocks may be concluded from the observation which he makes in his Commentaries, on the length of the day in the islands near Ireland, lib. v. 13. Maternus, in Romische Alterthümer, iii. p. 47, endeavours to prove by what Suetonius relates of Domitian, cap. 16, that this prince had in his palace neither a sun-dial nor a water-clock. But what kind of a proof! Domitian asked what the hour was, and some one answered, the sixth. Such insignificant dicta probantia have been banished from philosophy by the moderns, and ought they not to be banished from antiquities likewise? The often-quoted passage also of Valerius Maximus, viii. 7, 5, proves nothing, unless we first adopt the amendment of Green. Carneades, it is said, was so engaged in the study of philosophy, that he would have forgot his meals had not Melissa put him in mind of them. Green reads monitrix domestica; but Valerius says, “Melissa, quam uxoris loco habebat.” See Sallengre, Thes. Antiq. Rom. i. p. 721. A passage likewise in Pliny’s Epistles, iii. 1, p. 181, “ubi hora balinei nunciata est,” does not properly prove that it alludes to one of those boys who announced the hours. That such servants however were kept, is evident from the undoubted testimony of various authors. Martial, viii. ep. 67.—Juven. Sat. x. 216.—Seneca De Brevit. Vitæ, c. 12.—Alciphron, Epist. lib. iii. p. 282.—Sidon. Apollin. ii. ep. 9, p. 120.

460 Cic. Orat. pro Muræna, cap. 22.

461 Sil. Ital. vii. 155.

462 Traité de la Police, vol. i. in the Index under the word Guet.

463 Bivouac, from the German beiwacht, is an additional night-guard during a siege, or when an army is encamped near the enemy. Lansquenets were German soldiers added by Charles VIII. of France to his infantry, and who were continued in the French army till Francis I. introduced his legions.—Trans.

464 [With respect to the institution of night-watch in this country, Stow says, “For a full remedy of enormities in the night, I read, that in the year 1253 Henry III. commanded watches in the cities and borough towns to be kept, for the better observing of peace and quietness among his people.... And further, by the advice of them of Savoy, he ordained, that if any man chanced to be robbed, or by any means damnified by any thief or robber, he to whom the charge of keeping that country, city, or borough, chiefly appertained, where the robbery was done, should competently restore the loss. And this was after the use of Savoy, but yet thought more hard to be observed here than in those parts; and therefore, leaving those laborious watches, I will speak of our pleasures and pastimes in watching by night.” (Survey of London, Thoms’s edition, 1842, p. 39.) He then describes the marching watches which were instituted in the months of June and July, on the vigils and evenings of festival days; with the cresset lights, &c. But he does not state whether these watches were continued in his time; nor does he state the author of the information which he gives us from his reading. The statute of Winchester, 13 Edward I. c. 4, enforces a continuation of the watches as they had previously been made, from Ascension-day to Michaelmas-day; the night-watch from sun-set to sunrise, in every city by six men at each gate, in every borough by twelve men, in every open town by six or four men.]

465 Nicolai Beschreib. von Berlin, i, p. 38.

466 Ib. p. 49.

467 Iter Germanicum. Hamburgi, 1717, 8vo, p. 26.

468 Lipsius De Milit. Rom. iv. 10, p. 198.—Bochart. Hierozoic. i.

469 From the name of this instrument, called in some places of Germany a ratel, arose the appellation of ratelwache, which was established at Hamburg in 1671. In the Dutch language the words ratel, ratelaar, ratelen, ratelmann, ratelwagter (a night-watchman), are quite common.

470 Stanihurst De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis, lib. i. p. 33.

471 Leges Walliæ. Lond. 1730, fol.

472 The person whose turn it was to watch at the gates, was obliged to perform the duty himself, or to cause it to be performed by a fit and proper young citizen. Those who attended to trade and neglected the watch, paid for every omission one mark to the council. The case was the same with the watch on the tower in the market-place.

473 In the Berlin police ordinance of the year 1580, it was ordered that the Raths-thurn oder Hausmann, steeple-watchman or city-musician, should attend at weddings with music for the accustomed pay, but only till the hour of nine at night, in order that he might then blow his horn on the steeple, and place the night-watch.

474 Martini Atlas Sinens. p. 17. Matches or links, to which alarums are sometimes added, are employed in China to point out the hours; and these are announced by watchmen placed on towers who beat a drum. See Kæmpfer’s Japan, where the mention of matches is omitted. Thunberg says, “Time is measured here not by clocks or hour-glasses, but by burning matches, which are plaited like ropes, and have knots on them. When the match burns to a knot, which marks a particular lapse of time, the hour is announced, during the day, by a certain number of strokes on the bells in the temples; and in the night by watchmen who go round and give a like signal with two pieces of board, which they knock against each other.”

475 A great deal of important information, which is as yet too little known, has been collected on this subject by Reiske, on Constantini Lib. de Ceremoniis Aulæ Byzant. ii. p. 74.

476 This is related in the Oettingisches Geschichts-almanach, p. 7, on the authority of an account in the parish books of Oettingen, said to be extracted from an ancient chronicle of that town. The author of this almanac, which is now little known, was, as I have been told, Schablen, superintendant at Oettingen.


Plants, as well as animals, are organised bodies, and like them their parts may be dissected and decomposed by art; but the anatomy of the former has not been cultivated so long and with so much zeal and success as that of animals. Some naturalists, about the beginning of the last century, first began to make it an object of attention, to compare the structure of plants with that of animals; and for that purpose to employ the microscope. Among these, two distinguished themselves in a particular manner; Marcellus Malpighi, an Italian; and Nehemiah Grew, an Englishman; who both undertook almost the same experiments and made them known at the same time; so that it is impossible to determine196 which of them was the earlier. It appears, however, that Grew published some of his observations a little sooner; but Malpighi was prior in making his known in a complete manner. But even allowing that the one had received hints of the processes of the other, they are both entitled to praise that each made experiments of his own, and from these prepared figures, which are always more correct the nearer they correspond with each other.

Among the various helps towards acquiring a knowledge of the anatomy of plants, one of the principal is the art of reducing to skeletons leaves, fruit and roots; that is, of freeing them from their soft, tender and pulpy substance, in such a manner, that one can survey alone their internal, harder vessels in their entire connexion. This may be done by exposing the leaves to decay for some time soaked in water, by which means the softer parts will be dissolved, or at least separated from the internal harder parts, so that one, by carefully wiping, pressing and rinsing them, can obtain the latter alone perfectly entire. One will possess then a tissue composed of innumerable woody threads or filaments, which, in a multiplicity of ways, run through and intersect each other. By sufficient practice and caution one may detach, from each side of a leaf, a very thin covering, between which lies a delicate web of exceedingly tender vessels. These form a woody net-work, between the meshes of which fine glandules are distributed. This net is double, or at least can be divided lengthwise into halves, between which may be observed a substance that appears as it were to be the marrow of the plant. Persons who are expert often succeed so far, with many leaves, as to separate the external covering on both sides from the woody net, and to split the latter into two, so that the whole leaf seems to be divided into four.

One might conjecture that this method of reducing leaves to skeletons must have been long known, as one frequently finds in ponds leaves which have dropped from the neighbouring trees, and which by decomposition, without the assistance of art, have been converted into such a woody net-work, quite perfect and entire. It is however certain that a naturalist, about the year 1645, first conceived the idea of employing decomposition for the purpose of making leaf-skeletons, and of assisting it by ingenious operations of art.

197 This naturalist, Marcus Aurelius Severinus, professor of anatomy and surgery at Naples, was born in 1580, and died of the plague in 1656. In his Zootomia Democritæa, printed in 1645, he gave the figure, with a description of a leaf of the Ficus Opuntia reduced to a skeleton. Of the particular process employed to prepare this leaf, the figure of which is very coarse and indistinct, he gives no account. He says only that the soft substance was so dissolved that the vessels or nerves alone remained; and that he had been equally successful with a leaf of the palm-tree. A piece of a leaf of the like kind he sent by Thomas Bartholin to Olaus Wormius, who caused it to be engraved on copper, in a much neater manner, without saying anything of the method in which it had been prepared477. The process Severin kept secret; but he communicated it to Bartholin, in a letter, on the 25th of February 1645, on condition that he would not disclose it to any one. At that period, however, it excited very little attention, and was soon forgotten, though in the year 1685 one Gabriel Clauder made known that he had reduced vine-leaves, the calyx of the winter cherry, and a root of hemlock, to a net or tissue by burying them in sand during the heat of summer, and hanging them up some months in the open air till they were completely dried.

This art was considered to be of much more importance when it was again revived by the well-known Dutchman, Frederick Ruysch. That naturalist found means to conduct all his undertakings and labours in such a manner as to excite great wonder; but we must allow him the merit of having brought the greater part of them to a degree of perfection which no one had attained before. By the anatomy of animals, in which he was eminently skilled, he was led to the dissection of plants; and as it seemed impossible to fill their tender vessels, like those of animals, with a coloured solid substance478, he fell upon a method of separating the hard parts from the soft, and of preserving them in that manner.

198 For this purpose he first tried a method which he had employed with uncommon success, in regard to the parts of animals. He covered the leaves and fruit with insects, which ate up the soft or pulpy parts, and left only those that were hard. But however well these insects, which he called his little assistants, may have executed their task, they did not abstain altogether from the solid parts, so that they never produced a complete skeleton. He dismissed them, therefore, and endeavoured to execute with his own fingers what he had before caused the insects to perform, after he had separated the soft parts from the hard by decomposition. In this he succeeded so perfectly, that all who saw his skeletons of leaves or fruit were astonished at the fineness of the work and wished to imitate them.

I cannot exactly determine the year in which Ruysch began to prepare these skeletons. Trew thinks that it must have been when he was in a very advanced age, or at any rate after the year 1718; for when he was admitted to Ruysch’s collection in that year, he observed none of these curiosities. Rundmann, however, saw some of them in his possession in the year 1708479. At first Ruysch endeavoured to keep the process a secret, and to evade giving direct answers to the questions of the curious. We are informed by Rundmann, that he attempted to imitate his art by burying leaves at the end of harvest in the earth, and leaving them there till the spring, by which their soft parts became so tender that he could strip them off with the greatest ease. He produced also the same effect by boiling them.

The first account which Ruysch himself published of his process, was, as far as I know, in the year 1723. After he had sufficiently excited the general curiosity, he gave figures of some of his vegetable skeletons, related the whole method of preparing them, and acknowledged that he had accidentally met with an imperfect engraving of a leaf-skeleton in the Museum199 of Wormius, which had at one time occasioned much wonder480. It is not improbable that he knew how the Italian, whom he does not mention, though he is mentioned by Wormius, and though he must certainly have been acquainted with his Zootomia, prepared his skeletons. I must however observe, that it is remarked by those who knew Ruysch, that he had read few books, and was very little versed in the literature of his profession.

In the year following, Ruysch described more articles of the like kind, and gave figures of some pears prepared in this manner. In 1726, when Vater, professor at Wittenberg, expressed great astonishment at the fineness of his works, he replied, in a letter written in 1727, that he had at first caused them to be executed by insects, but that he then made them himself with his fingers481. He repeated the same thing also in 1728, when he described and gave engravings of more of these curious objects482. The progress of this invention is related in the same manner by Schreiber, in his Life of Ruysch.

When the method of producing these skeletons became publicly known, they were soon prepared by others; some of whom made observations, which were contrary to those of Ruysch. Among these in particular were J. Bapt. Du Hamel, who, so early as the year 1727, described and illustrated with elegant engravings the interior construction of a pear483; Trew484, in whose possession Keysler saw such skeletons in 1730; P. H. G. Mohring485; Seba486; Francis Nicholls487, an Englishman; Professor Hollmann488 at Göttingen, Ludwig489, Walther490, Gesner491 and others. Nicholls seems to have been200 the first who split the net of an apple- or a pear-tree leaf into two equal parts, though Ruysch split a leaf of the opuntia into three, four, and even five layers, as he himself says.

In the year 1748, Seligmann, an engraver, began to publish, in folio plates, figures of several leaves which he had reduced to skeletons492. As he thought it impossible to make drawings sufficiently correct, he took impressions from the leaves or nets themselves, with red ink, and in a manner which may be seen described in various books on the arts. Of the greater part he gave two figures, one of the upper and another of the under side. He promised also to give figures of the objects as magnified by a solar microscope; and two plates were to be delivered monthly. Seligmann however died soon after, if I am not mistaken; and a lawsuit took place between his heirs, by which the whole of the copies printed were arrested, and for this reason the work was never completed, and is to be found only in a very few libraries.

Cobres says that eight pages of text, with two black and twenty-nine red copper-plates, were completed. The copy which is in the library of our university has only eight pages of text, consisting partly of a preface by C. Trew, and partly of an account of the author, printed in Latin and German opposite to each other. Trew gives a history of the physiology of plants and of leaf-skeletons; and Seligmann treats on the methods of preparing the latter. The number of the plates however is greater than that assigned by Cobres. The copy which is now before me contains thirty-three plates, printed in red; and besides these, two plates in black, with figures of the objects magnified. Of the second plate in red, there is a duplicate with this title, “Leaves of a bergamot pear-tree, the fruit of which is mild;” but the figures in both are not the same; and it appears that the author considered one of the plates as defective, and therefore gave another. The leaves represented in the plates are those of the orange-tree, lemon-tree, shaddock-tree, butcher’s-broom, walnut-tree, pear-tree, laurel, lime-tree, ivy, medlar, chestnut-tree, maple-tree, holly, willow, white hawthorn, &c.

I shall take this opportunity of inserting here the history of the art of raising trees from leaves. The first who made201 this art known was Agostino Mandirola, doctor of theology, an Italian minorite of the Franciscan order. In a small work upon Gardening, which, as I think, was printed for the first time at Vicenza, in duodecimo, in the year 1652, and which was reprinted afterwards in various places, he gave an account of his having produced trees from the leaves of the cedar- and lemon-tree493; but he does not relate this circumstance as if he considered it to be a great discovery. On the contrary, he appears rather to think it a matter of very little importance. His book was soon translated into German; and his account copied by other writers, such as Böckler494 and Hohberg495, who were at that time much read. A gardener of Augsburg, as we are told by Agricola, was the first who imitated this experiment, and proved the possibility of it to others. He is said to have tried it with good success in the garden of count de Wratislau, ambassador at Ratisbon from the elector of Bohemia.

But never was this experiment so often and so successfully repeated as in the garden of baron de Munchhausen, at Swobber. A young tree was obtained there from a leaf of the Limon a Rivo, which produced fruit the second year. It was sent to M. Volkamer, at Nuremberg, who caused a drawing to be made from it, which was afterwards engraved, in order that it might be published in the third volume of his Hesperides; but as the author died too early, it was not printed. The exact drawing, as it was then executed at Nuremberg, and an account of the whole process employed in the experiment at Swobber, have been published by the baron de Munchhausen himself, from authentic papers in his grandfather’s own writing496.

No one, however, excited so much attention to this circumstance as the well-known George Andrew Agricola, physician at Ratisbon, who, with that confidence and prolixity which were peculiar to him, ventured to assert that trees could be propagated in the speediest manner by planting the leaves, after being steeped in a liquor which he had invented; and for the truth of his assertion he referred to his own experiments497.202 Among the naturalists of that period none took more trouble to examine the possibility of this effect than Thummig498, who endeavoured to prove that not only leaves with eyes left to them, could, in well-moistened earth, throw out roots which would produce a stem, but that leaves also without eyes would grow up to be trees. Baron Munchhausen, on the other hand, assures us, that according to the many experiments made in his garden, one can only expect young plants from the leaves of those trees which do not bring forth buds; that experiments made with the leaves of the lemon-tree had alone succeeded, but never those made with the leaves of the orange- or lime-tree; and that Agricola and Thummig had erroneously imagined that the leaves themselves shot up into trees, their middle fibre (rachis) becoming the stem, and the collateral fibres the branches. But the leaf decays as soon as it has resigned all its sap to the young tree, which is springing up below it.

To conclude: It is probable that the well-known multiplication of the Indian fig, or Opuntia, gave the first idea of this experiment; for every joint of that plant, stuck into the earth, and properly nurtured, throws out roots and grows. As these joints were commonly considered to be leaves, people tried whether other leaves would not grow in the like manner. Luckily, those of the lemon-tree were chosen for this purpose; and what was expected took place. Thus from a false hypothesis have new truths often been derived; and thus was Kepler, by a false and even improbable opinion, led to an assertion, afterwards confirmed, that the periodical revolutions of the planets were in proportion to their distance from the sun. But the raising of trees from leaves was too rashly declared to be a method that might be generally employed; for it is certain that it now seldom succeeds.

[Beckmann certainly overrates the value of these plant-skeletons in assisting the acquirement of a knowledge of the anatomy of plants. By macerating plants in water, all but the woody fibres are decomposed by the putrefactive fermentation which ensues. From an examination of these, a knowledge of structure merely is attainable, which may be now203 truly said to be thoroughly understood. It gives us no insight into its functions. The modern microscope has revealed to us the structure of all the components of vegetable tissues, and has most materially assisted in developing the functions of several; many, however, remain in the hands of the physiologist. Nevertheless, these plant-skeletons exhibit the true course and arrangement of the woody fibres, and form most beautiful objects. The leaves are not the only parts which can be thus prepared; the petals of many plants are even more delicate and beautiful in their ligneous structure, as evidenced in the hydrangea and several others. Their preparation is exceedingly simple, but tedious, and can only be well effected by maceration in water, which frequently requires to be considerably prolonged. The pulpy half-decomposed portions are gradually removed by a camel-hair pencil, or other means, with great delicacy and care; they are finally washed and bleached, if necessary, with chloride of lime or soda. By washing in considerably diluted muriatic acid and water, all traces of this reagent are removed; they are then dried, and will keep for an indefinite period.]


477 Museum Wormianum. Lugd. Bat. 1655, fol. p. 149.

478 The well-known Sir John Hill, an Englishman, has proved, however, in later times, the possibility of injecting a substance into the vessels of plants also. He dissolved sugar of lead in water, suspended in it bits of the finest wood, so that one-half of them was under water and the other above it, and covered the vessel in which they were placed with an inverted glass. At the end of two days he took the bits of wood out, cut off the parts which had been immersed in the water, dipped them in a warm lye made of unslaked lime and orpiment, like what was used formerly for proving wine; and by these means the finest vessels, which had been before filled with sugar of lead, acquired a dark colour, and their apertures became much more distinct. This process he describes himself in his work on the Construction of Timber.

479 Rariora Naturæ et Artis. Breslau and Leipsic, 1737, fol. p. 421.

480 Adversariorum decas iii. in Ruyschii Opera Omnia Anat. Med.

481 A. Vateri Epist. ad Ruyschium de Musculo Orbiculari, 1727. Of employing different kinds of insects, particularly the dermestes, as they are called, for reducing animal and vegetable bodies to skeletons, Hebenstreit has treated in Program. de Vermibus Anatomicorum administris. Lips. 1741. Figures of the insects and of some of their preparations are added.

482 Acta Eruditorum, 1729, Febr. p. 63.

483 Mémoires de l’Acad. des Sciences, ann. 1730, 1731, 1732.

484 Commerc. Litter. Norim. 1732, p. 73.

485 Ib.

486 Phil. Transact. 1730, ccccxvi. p. 441.

487 Ib. ccccxiv. p. 371.

488 Ib. cccclxi. p. 789, and cccclxiii. p. 796.—Commerc. Litter. Norimb. 1735, p. 353.

489 Institutiones Regni Vegetabil. In the part on Leaves.

490 Programma de Plantarum Structura. Lips. 1740, 4to, § 5, 6.

491 Dissertat. Phys. de Vegetabilibus, printed with Linnæi Orat. de Necessitate Peregrinat. intra Patriam. Lugd. B. 1743.

492 Die Nahrungs-Gefässe in den Blättern der Bäume. Nurnb. 1748.

493 Many editions of this book may be found mentioned in Halleri Bibl. Botan. i. p. 484; Böhmeri Bibl. Hist. Nat. iii. p. 679.

494 Haus- und Feld-Schule, i. 26.

495 Georgica Curiosa, i. p. 787.

496 Hausvater, vol. v. p. 662.

497 Versuch der Universal-vermehrung aller Bäume. Regensb. 1716, fol., or the edition by Brauser. Regensb. 1772.

498 Thummigii Meletemata. Brunsw. 1727, 8vo, p. 5.


I shall not here repeat what has been collected by many learned men respecting the important history of this noble invention, but only lay before my readers an ordinance of the year 1394, concerning the acceptance of bills of exchange, and also two bills of the year 1404, as they may serve to illustrate further what has been before said on the subject by others. These documents are, indeed, more modern than those found by Raphael de Turre499 in the writings of the jurist Baldus500, which are dated March 9, 1328; but they are attended with such circumstances as sufficiently prove that the method of transacting business by bills of exchange was fully established so early as the fourteenth century; and that204 the present form and terms were even then used. For this important information I am indebted to Von Martens, who found it in a History, written in Spanish, of the maritime trade and other branches of commerce at Barcelona, taken entirely from the archives of that city, and accompanied with documents from the same source, which abound with matter highly interesting501.

Among these is an ordinance issued by the city of Barcelona in the year 1394, that bills of exchange should be accepted within twenty-four hours after they were presented; and that the acceptance should be written on the back of the bill502.

In the year 1404, the magistrates of Bruges, in Flanders, requested the magistrates of Barcelona to inform them what was the common practice, in regard to bills of exchange, when the person who presented a bill raised money on it in an unusual manner, in the case of its not being paid, and by these means increased the expenses so much that the drawer would not consent to sustain the loss. The bill which gave occasion to this question is inserted in the memorial. It is written in the short form still used, which certainly seems to imply great antiquity. It speaks of usance; and it appears that first and second bills were at that time drawn, and that when bills were not accepted, it was customary to protest them.

[It may not, perhaps, be uninteresting to the reader to give a short account of the present mode of conducting transactions of bills of exchange; this we condense from Waterston’s205 Encyclopædia of Commerce, which contains the most recent and practical account.

The individual who issues the bill is called the drawer, the person to whom it is addressed the drawee, until he consent to honour the draft or obey the order or bill, by writing his name on the face of it, after which he is called the acceptor. The bill may be passed from hand to hand by delivery or indorsation, and in the latter case the person who makes over is called the indorser, and the person who receives the indorsee. The indorser commonly puts his name on the back, with or without a direction to pay to a particular person. He who is in legal possession of the bill and the obligation contained in it, is called the holder or the payee. There is no particular form for a bill of exchange required by law, further than that the mandate to pay in money be distinct, and the person who is to pay, the person who is to receive, and the time of payment shall be ascertainable beyond a doubt. By special statute in England, all bills under 20s. are void; and those between that sum and £5 must be made payable within twenty-one days after date, contain the name and description of the payee, and bear date at the time of making. Bills of exchange must be on a proper stamp.

Bills, though they are of the nature of a “chose in action,” which is not strictly assignable, may be transferred from hand to hand or negociated. To allow of this, there must be negotiable words, as “or order” or “bearer.” The various parties upon a bill, besides the acceptors, indorsers, drawers and others, become liable for its payment on failure of the acceptor.

Bills of exchange cease in England to be documents of debt on the expiration of six years from the time named for payment.

In foreign bills, the term “usance” is sometimes employed to express the period of running in foreign bills. It means a certain time fixed by custom, as between any two places. An usance between this kingdom and Rotterdam, Hamburg, Altona, or Paris, or any place in France, is one calendar month from the date of the bill; an usance between us and Cadiz, Madrid or Bilboa, two; an usance between us and Leghorn, Genoa, or Venice, three.]


499 Disp. i. quæst. 4. n. 23.

500 Consil. 348.

501 Memorias Historicas sobre la Marina Commercio, etc. de Barcelona, por D. Ant. de Capmany. Madrid, 1779, 2 vols. 4to. The following important articles will be found in this work:—A custom-house tariff, written in Latin, of the year 1221, in which occur a great number of remarkable names and articles of merchandise not explained. Another of the like kind, of the year 1252. Letters of power to appoint consuls in distant countries, such as Syria, Egypt, &c., dated in the years 1266, 1268, and 1321. An ordinance of the year 1458, respecting insurance, which required that under-writing should be done in the presence of a notary, and declared polices o scriptures privades to be null and void. A privilegium of the emperor Andronicus II. to the merchants of Barcelona, written in Greek and Spanish, in 1290. Account of the oldest Spanish trade with wool, silk, salt, and saffron; and of the oldest guilds or incorporated societies of tradesmen at Barcelona, &c.

502 Vol. ii. p. 382.



It is generally believed that the metal called at present tin was known and employed in the arts, not only in the time of Pliny, but as early as that of Herodotus, Homer, and Moses. This I will not venture to deny; but I can only admit that it is probable, or that the great antiquity of this metal cannot be so fully proved as that of gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, and quicksilver.

Tin is one of those minerals which hitherto have been found in quantity only in a few countries, none of which ever belonged to the Greeks or the Romans503, or were visited, at an early period, by their merchants. As it never occurs in a native state504, the discovery of it supposes some accident more extraordinary than that of those metals which are commonly, or at any rate, often found native. I cannot, however, attach much importance to this circumstance, as the ancients became acquainted with iron at an early period, though not so early as with copper. I must also admit that tin might have been more easily discovered, because it is frequently found near the surface of the earth; does not require a strong heat or artificial apparatus for fusing it, and therefore can be more easily won than copper.

But if tin was known so early as has hitherto been believed, it must, on account of the circumstance here first remarked, have been scarce and therefore exceedingly dear.207 In this manner the aurichalcum or Corinthian brass, according to the expression of Plautus, was “auro contra carum.” The metal of the ancients, however, which is believed to have been tin, was not so rare and costly. Vessels of it are not often mentioned, in general; but they never occur among valuable articles. The circumstance also, that vessels of tin have never or very seldom been found among Greek or Roman antiquities, and that when discovered the nature of the metal has been very doubtful, though tin is not apt to change from the action of the air, water, or earth, and at any rate far surpasses in durability copper and lead, ancient articles made of which are frequently found, appears to me worthy of attention. It possesses also so many excellent properties, that it might be expected that the people of every age, to whom it was known, would have employed it in a great variety of ways. It recommends itself by its superior silvery colour; its ready fusion; the ease with which it can be hammered and twisted; its lightness, and its durability. It is not soon tarnished; it is still less liable to rust or to become oxidized; it retains its splendour a long time, and when it is lost easily recovers it again. It is not so soon attacked by salts as many other metals; and this till lately has been considered a proof of its being less pernicious than it possibly may be. After an accurate investigation, should everything said by the ancients of their supposed tin be as applicable to a metallic mixture as to our tin, my assertion, that it is probable, but by no means certain, that the ancients were acquainted with our tin, will be fully justified.

The oldest mention of this metal, as generally believed, is to be found in the sacred scriptures. In the book of Numbers, chap. xxxi. ver. 22, Moses seems to name all the metals then known; and, besides gold, silver, brass (properly copper), iron, and lead, he mentions also bedil, which all commentators and dictionaries make to be tin. When Ezekiel, chap. xxvii. ver. 12, gives an account of the commerce of Tyre, he names, among the commodities, silver, iron, copper, and bedil. In Zechariah, chap. iv. ver. 10, the plummet of the builder or architect is said to be made of the bedil stone. In Isaiah, chap. i. ver. 25, the word occurs in the plural number, and appears there to denote either scoriæ, or all those inferior metallic substances which must be separated from the noble208 metals. In the old Greek versions of these Hebrew books, bedil is always translated by cassiteros, except in the passage of Isaiah, where no metal is mentioned. In Zechariah, the translator calls the bedil stone τὸν λίθον κασσιτέρινον. There can hardly be a doubt, that for the purpose here mentioned, people would employ, not the lighter metal tin, but lead, and that the plummet was called the lead-stone, because at first a stone was used.

It seems, however, probable that in the first-quoted passage bedil is our tin; but must it not appear astonishing that the Midianites, in the time of Moses, should have possessed this metal? Is it not possible that the Hebrew word denoted a metallic mixture or artificial metal, which formerly was an article of commerce, as our brass is at present505?

209 The Greek translators considered bedil to be what they called cassiteros; and as the moderns translated this by stannum, these words have thus found their way into the Latin, German, and other versions of the Hebrew scriptures, which therefore can contribute very little towards the history of this metal. The examination of the word cassiteros would be of more importance; but before I proceed to it, I shall make some observations on what the ancients called stannum.

This, at present, is the general name of our tin; and from it seem to be formed the estain of the French, the tin of the Low German and English, and the zinn of the High German. It can, however, be fully proved that the stannum of the ancients was no peculiar metal; at any rate not our tin, but rather a mixture of two other metals, which, like our brass, was made into various articles and employed for different purposes, on which account a great trade was carried on with it. This, at least, may with great certainty be concluded from a well-known passage of Pliny506; though to us, because210 we are not fully acquainted with the metallurgic operations of the ancients, it is not sufficiently intelligible. What I have been able to collect, however, towards illustrating the passage, with the assistance of my predecessors, and by comparing myself the account of the Roman with our works, I shall here lay before the reader; and perhaps it may induce others to improve and enlarge it.

But I must first observe, that there can be no doubt that the nigrum plumbum of the ancients was our lead. This metal, according to Pliny’s account, they obtained in two ways. First, from their own lead mines or lead ore, which immediately on its fusion gave pure or saleable lead. To comprehend this, it is necessary to know that most kinds of lead ore contain also silver, and many of them in such quantity that they might with more propriety be called silver ores, or rather argentiferous lead ores or plumbiferous silver ores. Those which contain no silver are so scarce, that I am ignorant whether any other has yet been found, except that of Bleyberg, not far from Villach, in Carinthia. As Villach lead, according to some experiments made on a large scale, is entirely free from silver, it is well-known, and particularly useful for assaying.

It may therefore appear singular that the ancients had lead of this kind in such abundance that Pliny was able to make of it a particular division. But it is to be observed, that in ancient times people paid little attention to a small admixture of silver; and that they were accustomed to separate this metal only when it was capable, by the old imperfect process of smelting, to defray the expenses, which certainly would not be the case, when a quintal of ore contained only a few ounces, or even a pound of silver. Strabo says this expressly of some Spanish ores. Such poor ores were then used merely for lead; and our silver refiners, without doubt, would separate silver with considerable advantage from the lead of the ancients. Hence has arisen the common opinion, that lead and also copper, with which some of the oldest buildings are covered, had in the course of time become argentiferous. This is impossible; but it is possible for us to separate from them the noble metal, which the ancients either could not do, or did not think it worth the trouble to attempt.

Secondly, the ancients obtained, as we do, a great deal of211 lead from argentiferous ores, from which they separated the silver and revived the lead. The ore was pounded very fine, or, as we say, stamped; it was then washed and roasted, and formed into a powder or paste. This was then put into the furnace, and by the first fusion gave a regulus consisting of silver and lead, which was called stannum, and was the same substance as that known to our metallurgists by the name of werk. If it was required to separate the silver, it was again fused, not in the first furnace, but in a particular refining furnace with a hearth of lixiviated ashes. This circumstance Pliny has not mentioned; perhaps it appeared to him unnecessary; perhaps he did not fully understand every part of the process; and were one inclined to say anything in his defence, modern travels and other works might be quoted, in which metallurgic operations are described in a manner no less imperfect. The produce obtained by the second fusion, called in German treiben or abtreiben, was silver, and besides that half-vitrified lead, glätte, which in part falls into the hearth. This substance, called by Pliny galena, a word which denotes also molybdæna507, was once more fused or revived, and then gave lead. In this manner were obtained three different productions, which were all used in commerce, namely, stannum, argentum and galena, or revived lead, plumbum nigrum. These Pliny seems to have considered as component parts of lead ore; but not indeed according to the present signification508.

212 Though it must be confessed that this passage of Pliny cannot be fully understood by any explanation, it proves to conviction that the stannum of the ancients was neither our tin nor a peculiar metal, but the werk of our smelting-houses. This was long ago remarked by those writers who were acquainted with metallurgy, of whom I shall here mention Agricola509, Encelius510, Fallopius511, Savot512, Bernia513, and Jung514.

The ancients used, as a peculiar metal, a mixture of gold and silver, because they were not acquainted with the art of separating them, and afterwards gave it the name of electrum. In the like manner they employed werk or stannum, which was obtained almost in the same manner in the fusion of silver. In all probability it was employed before people became acquainted with the art of separating these two metals, and continued in use through habit, even after a method of separating them was discovered. If the ore subjected to fusion was abundant in silver, this mixture approached near to the noble metals; if poor in silver, it consisted chiefly of lead. When it consisted of silver and lead only, it was soft and ductile; but if other metals, difficult of fusion, such as copper, iron, or zinc, were intermixed, it was harder and more brittle, and in that case approached nearer to what the German silver refiners call abzug and abstrich.

That this stannum was employed as an article of commerce, and that the ancients made of it vessels of various kinds, cannot be doubted. The vasa stannea however may be considered as vessels which were covered with tin only in the inside; for that this was customary I shall prove hereafter. In general, these vasa stannea are named where mention is made of saline or oily things, or such as would readily acquire a taste and smell from other metals, were they boiled or preserved in them for any length of time515.

213 It has been long ago remarked that most of the Roman vessels were made of copper, and that these people were acquainted with the art of tinning or silvering them; but that tinned vessels have never been found, and silvered ones very rarely. Hence so many things appear to have been made of what is called bronze, which is less liable to acquire that dangerous rust or oxide, known under the name of verdigris, than pure copper. This bronze is sometimes given out as Corinthian and sometimes Syracusan brass, as the gold-coloured coins of the first size were considered to be Corinthian brass also. But in my opinion, a great and perhaps the greater part of all these things were made of stannum, properly so called, which by the admixture of the noble metals, and some difficult of fusion, was rendered fitter for use than pure copper. We are told by Suetonius, that the emperor Vitellius took away all the gold and silver from the temples and substituted in their stead aurichalcum and stannum516.

Whether the Greeks worked stannum, and under what name, I do not know: perhaps we ought to class here the κασσιτέρινα of the oldest times, of which I shall speak hereafter.

What I have already said in regard to werk will be rendered more certain by the circumstance, that even two centuries ago, vessels of all kinds called halbwerk were made of it in Germany. This we are told by Encelius517 as a thing well-known in his time, which however I should wish to see214 further examined. I have searched in vain for this name in a great many works of the sixteenth century; but I have long entertained an idea, which I shall take this opportunity of mentioning:—Among the oldest church vessels I have seen some articles which I considered to be vasa stannea, I mean such as when newly scoured and polished had a silvery brightness, and when they remained long without being cleaned acquired a dull gray colour, and a greater weight than bronze. Those who show these things commonly say that the method of composing the metal is lost; but that it contains silver, and according to the assertion of many, even gold. Such articles deserve, undoubtedly, to be examined by our chemists.

I shall further remark, on this subject, that the abstrich, as it is called, which in many respects has a resemblance to stannum, and contains also lead and silver, but at the same time metals difficult of fusion, is employed in the arts, and collected for the use of the letter-founders518. For this purpose it is well-adapted, on account of its hardness and durability; and in want of it lead must be mixed with regulus of antimony. At the Lower Harze the workmen began so early as 1688 to revive this abstrich in particular; and as the lead thence obtained, on account of its hardness, could not be disposed of like common lead, it was sold to the letter-founders at Brunswick, at first at the rate of a hundred weight for two and a half dollars, and in the year 1689 for three dollars. But in Schlüter’s time a small quantity of it only was made annually, because the abstrich could be used with more advantage for other purposes. This lead, says Schlüter, had the appearance of bronze, and was so brittle, that a piece of it broke into fragments when struck519.

Speise also, which is obtained at the blue colour-works, can be employed in the same manner. Under this term is understood a metallic mixture deposited during the preparation of blue glass, and which is composed of various metals combined with cobalt, but particularly nickel, iron, copper,215 arsenic, and perhaps also bismuth. It is hard, brittle, sonorous, and assumes a good polish, though it is not always of the same quality in all manufactories. As it contains some colouring particles, it is in general again added to the glass residuum. But when I lately paid a visit to the colour-mill at Carlshafen, M. Birnstein the inspector told me, that the speise was manufactured at Halle into buttons of every kind. This probably is the case there in those button-manufactories established by G. H. Schier, in which buttons of all patterns are made annually to the value of 30,000 dollars520. The ancients, in my opinion, employed in a similar manner the werk of their silver smelting-houses.

I shall now proceed to examine that metal which the Greeks named κασσίτερος, or, as Pliny says, Cassiteron, and which he expressly adds was called by the Latins plumbum candidum (white lead). I have no new hypothesis to recommend; my sole object is truth. I wish for certainty, and, when that is not to be obtained, probability; at the same time, however, I cannot rest satisfied with the judgement given by the compilers of dictionaries, and the translators and commentators of ancient authors, because I firmly believe that they never made any researches themselves on the subject.

That the ancients were acquainted with our tin as early as we find the word cassiteros mentioned by them, I am not able to prove, and I doubt whether it is possible to do so; the contrary seems to me to be more probable. In my opinion, it was impossible for the Phœnicians, at so early a period, to obtain this metal from Portugal, Spain, and England, in such quantity that it could be spread all over the old world. The carriage of merchandise was not then so easy. If all the cassiteron was procured from the north-west parts of Europe, it appears to me that it must have been much dearer than it seems to have been in the oldest times, to judge from the information that has been preserved.

In my opinion, the oldest cassiteron was nothing else than the stannum of the Romans, the werk of our smelting-houses,216 that is, a mixture of lead, silver, and some other accidental metals. That this has not been expressly remarked by any Greek writer, is to me not at all surprising. The works of those who might be supposed to have possessed knowledge of this kind have not been handed down to us. We should not have known what stannum was, had not the only passage of Pliny which informs us been preserved. I am as little surprised that Herodotus should say he did not know where cassiteron was obtained. How many modern historians are ignorant of the place from which zinc, bismuth, and tombac are brought! and however easy it might be for our historians to acquire knowledge of this kind if they chose, it was in the same degree difficult for Herodotus, in whose time there were not works on mineralogy, technology, and commerce, to furnish such information. At the period when he lived, cassiteron perhaps was no metallurgic production of any neighbouring mines, but a foreign commodity, a knowledge of which, mercantile people endeavoured in those early ages, much more than is the case in modern times, to conceal, and which also could be better concealed than at present.

That real tin was afterwards known to the Greeks, I readily believe; but I find no proof of it, nor can I determine the time at which they first became acquainted with this metal. It is not improbable that they considered it only as a variety of their old cassiteron, or the stannum of the Romans, as the latter declared both to be a variety of lead. It might be expected that the Greeks would have given a peculiar name to the new tin, in order to distinguish it from the old, as the Romans really did; but this appears not to have been the case. I think, however, to have remarked that, so early as the time of Aristotle, real foreign tin was called the Tyrian or Celtic, because Tyre undoubtedly was, at that period, the market for this commodity.

According to the conjectural accounts hitherto given, there is no necessity for believing the word cassiteron to be Phœnician or Celtic. The Greeks seem to have used it before they had Phœnician tin; and because they afterwards considered the Phœnician ware as a kind of their cassiteron, and at the same time heard of islands from which it was brought, they named these islands the Cassiterian, as Herodotus has done, though he expressly says that he did not know where they217 were situated. This ancient historian seems to have entertained nearly the same opinion in regard to the origin of the name, for he adds, “At any rate the name Eridanus is not foreign, but originally Greek521.” It is, however, very possible that every thing said of these islands, in the time of Herodotus, was merely a fabrication of the Greek merchants, none of whom had the least knowledge of the Phœnician trade to England522. In this case the bedil of the Hebrews might be only stannum, and thus would be removed the wonder of Michaelis, how the Midianites could have obtained tin so early523. I will not, however, deny that the contrary of what has been here stated is equally possible. The Greeks might have obtained real tin at a very early period by trade, and along with it the foreign name, from which was formed cassiteros. The art of preparing stannum may not have been known among them, and therefore under the cassiteron of the Greeks we must undoubtedly understand tin. In this case one could comprehend why stannum is not mentioned in the works of the Greeks; and if the plumbum album of Pliny be our tin, of which there can be scarcely a doubt, his testimony that the cassiteron of Homer was the same belongs to this place.

In regard to the question, which opinion seems the most probable, I will not enter into any dispute; but I must maintain that, in regard to the periods of Homer and Herodotus, no certainty can be obtained. To justify this assertion, I shall here point out everything I have found relating to cassiteron, and, as far as possible, in the original words, quoting the different works in the manner in which all the words for dictionaries of natural history ought to be arranged.

I. Vocatur Latinis plumbum candiduma sive albumab, et Græcis jam Iliacis temporibus teste Homero cassiterona.

II. Mineræ (calculi) coloris nigri, quibus eadem gravitas quæ auroa.

III. Non nascitur cum argento, quod ex nigro fita.

IV. Nascitur summa tellure arenosaa; sed etiam ex profunda effoditurh.

218 V. Arenæ istæ lavantur a metallicis, conflatæque in album plumbum resolvuntura.

VI. Plumbum candidum est pretiosius nigroa.

VII. Facile in igne fluit, ita ut plumbi albi experimentum in charta sit, ut liquefactum pondere videatur, non calore rupisseac. Celticum citius quam plumbum fluit, atque adeo in aqua; colore inficit, quæcunque tangatc.

VIII. Nulli rei sine mixtura utilea.

IX. Adulteratur plumbo nigrod.

X. Stannum adulteratur addita æris candidi tertia portione in plumbum albuma.

XI. Incoquitur æris operibus, Galliarum invento, ita ut vix discerni possit ab argento, eaque incoctilia vocanta.

XII. Adhibetur ad ocreas heroump; ad thoraces exornandosqr; ad scuta ornandast; ad speculay.

XIII. Ex eo nummos percussit Dionysius tyrannus Syrac.uv.

XIV. Secum jungi nequit sine plumbo nigro, nec plumbum nigrum inter se jungi potest sinealboax.

XV. Gignitur in Hispaniah; Lusitaniaah Gallæciaa, in Iberiakl, apud Artabrosh, in Britanniaj: in insulis quæ Cassiterides dictæ sunt Græcisefhkw, in insula quam Mictim vocat Timæus, et a Britannia sex dierum navigatione abesse refertg; in insulis Hesperidibusmno apud Drangas populos Persicos regionis Arianæi.524

To this I shall add the following illustration. The name cassiteron is supposed, in general, to be derived from the Phœnician or Chaldaic525; but on this point I am not able to219 decide. Mela, where he explains the name of the Cassiterian islands, calls it only plumbum, without the addition of any epithet, unless it has been lost in transcribing. But Pliny himself says526, “Cassiterides dictæ Græcis a fertilitate plumbi.” It is possible, therefore, that the leaden vessels, which are often mentioned in the works of the ancients, were in part tin; but I cannot possibly agree with Millin527, who makes the cyanos of Homer to be tin. This word evidently denotes mountain-green, or some species of stone coloured by it, which in former times, like the lapis lazuli at present, was employed for making various kinds of ornaments. Besides, cyanos and cassiteros are mentioned in the Iliad528 as two different things529.

What Pliny says of the colour and weight of those minerals that produced tin, corresponds exceedingly well with tin ore, which, as is well known, is among the heaviest of minerals, though the specific gravity of the metal itself is but small. It is also true that lead is seldom found without silver; and tin perhaps has never been found with the latter. What we read in regard to the obtaining of tin ore, agrees very well with our washing-works. Even at present the greater part of the tin ores are found in fragments and washed.

The smelting of this metal, even when all the rules of art are not employed, is attended with little difficulty, though Goguet is of a different opinion. As of all metals it melts easiest in the fire, it requires only a small degree of heat and no artificial furnace; but as it is readily calcined, and after repeated reduction loses its malleability, care must be taken that the reduced metal can immediately flow off; and on that account our furnaces have an aperture always kept open. It is probable that the ancients, in their small furnaces, could easily make a similar arrangement.

Tin at all times must have been dearer than lead, as the latter was found in abundance, but the former in small quantities. In England at present tin costs about four times as much as lead. At Hamburg, in 1794, a pound of English block tin cost eleven schillings and a half, and tin in bars thirteen220 schillings; but a hundred pounds of English lead were worth at that time only fourteen marks, and Goslar lead eleven and a half marks ready money.

That tin melts easier than lead is very true. According to the latest experiments the former fuses at 442°, whereas lead requires 612° of Fahrenheit’s thermometer. Both metals can be fused in paper when it is closely wrapped round them. Aristotle and Pliny meant to say the same thing of their paper; and the latter adds that the paper, even when it became torn, was not burnt. What the first says of melting in water, some have too inconsiderately declared to be a fable; but it is not entirely false. Tin, when mixed with lead and bismuth in certain proportions, is so fusible that it melts in boiling water, because it requires less heat to be fused than water does to be brought to a state of ebullition. That the Celtic tin contained a great deal of lead, appears from the observation, that when rubbed it made the fingers black; an effect which would not have been produced by pure tin.

That tin in the time of Pliny was mixed with lead, and in various proportions, we are told by himself. At that period a mixture of equal parts tin and lead was called argentarium; and that of two parts lead and one part tin, tertiarium. Others mixed the latter composition with an equal quantity of tin, and named the mixture also argentarium, and this was commonly used for tinning.

I must, however, acknowledge that the last words of Pliny I do not fully comprehend. They have not indeed been noticed by any commentator; but I do not on that account believe that I am the only person to whom they have been in part unintelligible. Savot and Watson530, who were undoubtedly capable of giving some decisive opinion on them, have purposely left that part, which to me appears obscure, untranslated and without any explanation. Pliny says, “Improbiores ad tertiarium additis æquis partibus albi, argentarium vocant, et eo quæ volunt, incoquunt.” He seems here to throw out a reproach against those who melted together equal quantities of tertiarium and pure tin, and then gave it the name of argentarium, as if it had been of an inferior quality to the argentarium first named. But equal quantities of tertiarium and pure tin produced a mixture, in which for221 one part of lead there were two of tin. How then could those who made this mixture be called improbiores? To answer this question I shall venture to give my conjecture. Pliny perhaps meant to say, that tinning properly ought to be done with pure tin, but that unprincipled artists employed for that purpose tin mixed with lead. If this be the true meaning, his reproach was not unfounded. On the same account, because all tin was then adulterated with lead, Galen gives cautions against the use of tinned vessels, and advises people to preserve medicines rather in glass or in golden vessels. But why does Pliny add, “ideo album nulli rei sine mixtura utile?” In using these words, it is possible he may have alluded, not to tinning, but to things cast of tin, which, according to the ideas of that time or the nature of the tin, if of that metal alone, would be too brittle. This seems to be said by the preceding words, to which the ideo refers: “albi natura plus aridi habet, contraque nigri tota humida est, ideo album....” I hope the reader will forgive me for entering so deeply into criticism; but if Pliny’s valuable work is ever to become intelligible, occasional contributions of this kind must not be despised.

Of the process employed in tinning in ancient times, we have no account; but the words of Pliny incoquere and incoctilia seem almost to denote that it was performed, as in tinning our iron wares, by immersing the vessels in melted tin. It appears also to have been done at an early period in a very perfect manner, both because the tinned articles, as Pliny says, could scarcely be distinguished from silver, and because the tinning, as he adds, with an expression of wonder, did not increase the weight of the vessels. The metal, therefore, was applied so thin that it could make no perceptible addition to the weight. This is the case still, when the work has been skilfully executed; and it affords a remarkable proof of the astonishing divisibility of metal. Dr. Watson caused a vessel, the surface of which contained 254 square inches, and which weighed twenty-six ounces, to be tinned, and found that the weight was increased only half an ounce; consequently half an ounce of tin was spread over 254 square inches.

But, notwithstanding all this dexterity, which must be allowed to the Romans, they appear to have employed tinning at any rate for kitchen utensils and household furniture very222 seldom. It is scarcely ever mentioned, and never where one might expect it, that is to say, in works on cookery and domestic œconomy, where the authors give directions for preparing and preserving salt provisions. When they speak of the choice of vessels, they merely say that new earthen ones should be employed. Some of the physicians only have had the foresight to recommend tinned vessels. It does not appear indeed that the Romans, though copper vessels were in general use among them, employed any precautions to prevent them from being injurious to the health. Pliny only says that a coating of stannum improved the taste of food, and guarded against verdigris. The former part is to be thus understood; that the bad taste occasioned by copper was prevented; but he does not say that the health was secured by it. The term also incoctilia, usual in the time of Pliny, is found in his works alone. It is likewise remarkable, that among the numerous vessels found at Herculaneum, as I have already remarked, the greater part of them were of copper or stannum, few of which were silvered, and none tinned. Had tinning been then as much used as at present, some tinned vessels must have been found.

I shall further remark, that Pliny ascribes the invention of tinning to the Gauls; and that he extols in particular the work of the Bituriges, the old inhabitants of the province of Berry, and those articles made at Alexia or Alegia, which is considered to have been Alise in Auxois; that he speaks of tinning copper and not iron, and that according to his account not only tin was used for that purpose, but also stannum. By the passages already quoted, it is proved that in the time of Homer cassiteron was employed for ornamenting shields and certain kinds of dresses; but the further illustration of them I shall leave to others. The shields perhaps were inlaid with tin; and it is not improbable that threads were then made of this metal, and used for embroidering. That this art was at that period known may be readily believed, since the women of Lapland embroider their dresses, and particularly their fur cloaks, in so delicate and ingenious a manner, with tin threads drawn out by themselves, as to excite astonishment531.

223 What Pliny says is true, that lead cannot be soldered without tin, or tin without lead. For this operation a mixture of both metals, which fuses more readily than each of them singly, is employed. Instead of oil, mentioned by Pliny, workmen use at present in this process colophonium, or some other resin.

That vessels were made of cast tin at an early period is highly probable; but I do not remember to have seen any of them in collections of antiquities. I am acquainted only with two instances of their being found, both of which occurred in England. In the beginning of the last century some pieces of tin were discovered in Yorkshire, together with other Roman antiquities532; and in 1756 some tin vessels of Roman workmanship with Roman inscriptions were dug up in Cornwall533.

I shall pass over the history of the tin trade of the Phœnicians, the Greeks, the Gauls and the Romans, respecting which only scanty and doubtful information is to be found in the works of the ancients, but in those of the moderns a greater number of hypotheses. The situation even of the Cassiterides islands cannot with certainty be determined, though it is supposed in general, and not without probability, that they were the Scilly islands, which lie at the distance of about thirty miles from the most western part of the English coast; that is, the extremity of Cornwall, or, as it is called, the Land’s End. At the same time we must adopt the opinion of Ortelius, that under that appellation were included the coasts of Cornwall and Devonshire534. To those who are on the Scilly islands, Cornwall, as Borlase remarks, appears to be an island; and as it is impossible that the Scilly islands, which were called also Silures, could furnish tin sufficient for the ancient trade, especially as few and very small traces of old works are observed in them, it is more probable that the greater part of the metal was obtained from Cornwall. That the Phœnicians themselves worked mines there, cannot be proved; it is rather to be supposed that they procured the metal from the inhabitants by barter; but, on the other hand, there is reason224 to believe, from various antiquities, that the Romans dug up the ore themselves from the mine, and had works for extracting the metal.

The island Ictis of Diodorus Siculus, to which the ancient Britons carried tin, and from which it was conveyed by the Gallic merchants, is generally considered as the Isle of Wight; but Borlase remarks very properly535, that Ictis, according to the account of the ancients, must have been much nearer to the coast of Cornwall. He conjectures therefore, and with great probability, that this word was the general appellation of a peninsula, or bay, or a place of depôt for merchandise536. If the Mictis of Timæus and the Vectis of Pliny are not this island Ictis, it will be difficult to find them. It is very singular, that Dionysius, a later writer, and his follower Priscian, and Avienus, call the Cassiterides islands the Hesperides537.

That the Drangians had tin mines appears to me highly improbable; Strabo is the only writer who says so, in a few words; and nothing of the kind is to be found in any other author. If Drangiana be considered as a part of Persia, to which that district belongs at present, it is stated by all modern travellers that tin is not to be found anywhere in the Persian empire538. If we reckon it a part of India, Pliny asserts that no tin-works were then known in that country. In his time, this metal was sent thither as an article of commerce, and was purchased with precious stones and pearls. This last circumstance has by some been considered as a proof of the high price of the metal at that period; but he says nothing further than that tin was among the imports of India at that time, and that jewels and pearls formed a part of the exports. It may be said that the inhabitants of the Spanish colonies in America gave their silver for our linen, but we cannot thence prove that it bears a high price.

That the word stannum, in the time of Pliny, did not signify tin but a compounded metal, is as certain as that in225 later times it became the common name of tin. Hence arises the question, Since what time has our tin been known under the appellation of stannum?

This question, as far as I know, has never yet been examined; and this, I hope, will be a sufficient excuse if I should not be able to give an answer completely satisfactory. The first author in whom I find the Greek word cassiteros translated by stannum is Avienus, in the free translation of Dionysius; who, as proved by Wernsdorf, lived about the middle of the fourth century. The next who translates the Greek word in the same manner, is Priscian; who, according to the grounds alleged by Wernsdorf, must have lived in the beginning of the sixth century.

From what I already know, I suspect that the long and improper name plumbum candidum began in the fourth century to be exchanged for stannum; and it is probable that, at that time, tin was so abundant that it banished the old stannum, to which it might have a resemblance. In later centuries, then, stannum always signified tin; and in the middle ages various words were arbitrarily formed from it which do not occur in the Latin authors. The stannea tecta, or roof of the church at Agen, on the Garonne, in Guienne, described by the ecclesiastical poet Fortunatus539, about the end of the sixth century, consisted undoubtedly of tinned plates of copper. Stagnare occurs often for tinning, as stagnator does for a tin-founder. In the thirteenth century, Henry III. of England gave as a present a stagnarium or a stannaria, a tin mine or tin work, or as others say, fodina stanni. In the fourteenth century, there was in England, under Edward III., a stannaria curia; and in the same century, besides various other ornaments, lunulæ stanneatæ were forbidden to the clergy. In a catalogue of the year 1379, the following articles occur: “tria parva stanna modici valoris ... item unum stannum parvum ... item duo magna stanna540.”

In regard to the tin trade of the Spaniards, I can unfortunately say nothing: the tin-works in Spain, we are told, were abandoned under the government of the Moors. England, as is generally asserted, enjoyed an exclusive trade in this226 metal till the thirteenth century, when the tin mines were discovered and worked in Bohemia. But the exact time when this took place I am not able to determine. The Bohemian works, in all probability, are older than the Saxon; but it is still more certain that the account given by Hagec, that they were known so early as the year 798, is entirely void of foundation541.

When the English writers542 treat on the history of this metal, they seldom fail to repeat what has been said on the subject by Matthew Paris. This Benedictine monk, who was by birth an Englishman, and died in 1259, relates, in his History of England, that a Cornish-man having fled to Germany, on account of a murder, first discovered tin there in the year 1241. He adds, that the Germans soon after furnished this metal at so cheap a rate, that they could sell it in England, on which the price there fell, very much to the loss of Richard Earl of Cornwall, so well known by his having been elected king of the Romans543. Since Matthew relates this as an event which took place in his time, it would perhaps be improper to doubt it; but it still appears strange that no mention is to be found of this circumstance in the Bohemian or German Annals. Gmelin also must not have met with any account of it, else he would have announced it. Peithner likewise is silent respecting it: on the contrary, he says that the tin mines in the neighbourhood of the town of Grauppen were discovered as early as the year 1146, by a peasant named Wnadec, belonging to the village of Chodicze. Of the antiquity of the Saxon mines I can give no account: had any information on that subject existed, it would certainly have been noticed by Gmelin.

Brusch, who was murdered by two noblemen in 1559, seems to place the discovery of the tin mines at Schlackenwalde,227 which he says are younger than those of Schönfeld, in the thirteenth or twelfth century544. Albertus Magnus, who died in 1280, says that in his time a great deal of tin was dug up in various parts of Germany. At present the principal tin works are at Geyer, Ehrenfriedersdorf and Altenberg.

The art of tinning plate-iron was invented either in Bohemia or Germany, and introduced at a later period into England, France, and other countries. But as the whole history of the German mines is very defective and uncertain, the period when this useful and highly profitable branch of business was begun is not known. Yarranton, an English writer, of whom I shall speak more hereafter, relates that the first tinning of this kind was made in Bohemia; that a Catholic clergyman, who embraced the Lutheran religion, brought the art, about the year 1620, to Saxony, and that since that time all Europe has been furnished with tin-plate from Germany.

This much, however, is certain, that the tinning of iron is more modern than the tinning of copper. The first articles made by the bottle-makers were flasks of copper tinned, which in old times were used in war and on journeys, like the stagnone, still employed in Spain and Portugal, in which all kinds of distilled waters are sent from Malta545.

Among the English, who formerly had a monopoly of the tin trade, and who still possess the best and richest tin mines, the introduction of this art of employing their native production did not at first succeed; and this circumstance afforded Becher a subject for raillery546. But about the year 1670, a company sent to Saxony, at their expense, an ingenious man named Andrew Yarranton, in order to learn the process of tinning. Having acquired there the necessary knowledge, he returned to England with some German workmen, and manufactured tin-plate, which met with general approbation. Before the company, however, could carry on business on an extensive scale, a man of some distinction, having made himself acquainted with Yarranton’s process, obtained a patent for this art; and the first undertakers228 were obliged to give up their enterprise, which had cost them a great deal of money, and yet no use was made of the patent which had been obtained547.

About the year 1720, which, on account of the many new schemes and the deceptive trade carried on in consequence of them, will ever be memorable in the history of English folly, among the many bubbles, as they were then called, was an establishment for making tin-plate; and this was one of the few speculations of that period which were attended with advantage. The first manufactory of this kind was established in Monmouthshire, perhaps at the village of Pontypool, where tin-plate was at any rate made so early as 1730548. In France, the first experiment to introduce this branch of manufacture was made under Colbert, who procured workmen, some of whom were established at Chenesey, in Franche-Comté, and others at Beaumont-la-Ferriere in the Nivernois. But the want of skill and proper support rendered this expensive undertaking fruitless. Some manufactories, however, were brought to be productive in the last century; the oldest of which was established at Mansvaux in Alsace, in the year 1726. This was followed, in 1733, by another at Bain in Lorraine, which obtained its privilege from Duke Francis III., and this was confirmed by Stanislaus in 1745549.

That tin, in modern times, has been brought from the East Indies to Europe is well-known; but I have never been so fortunate as to discover when this trade began. It is, however, known, that at the commencement of the sixteenth century a good deal of information had been obtained in229 Europe in regard to East Indian tin. Louis Barthema, who was then in India, speaks of Malacca tin550, as does also F. Mendez Pinto, who was there in 1537, and Odoard Barbosa mentions that which was carried from Caranguor to Malacca. Barbosa wrote in 1516551. Munster, Mercator, and other old geographers relate, that before the establishment of the Portuguese dominion in India, large tin coins were in circulation in the island of Sumatra.

The greater part of the East-Indian tin comes from Siam, Malacca, and Banca. In the last-mentioned place, which is an island near the south-east coast of Sumatra, the mines are said to have been discovered in 1711. In 1776 there were ten pits, which were worked by Chinese, on account of the king of Palimbang. One hundred and twenty-five pounds cost him only five rix dollars; and for this quantity he received from the Dutch East-India company, to whose government he was subject, from thirteen to fifteen dollars. The greater part went to China, or was used in India; but in the year 1778 the company sent 700,000 pounds to Europe, which was sold at the rate of a hundred pounds for forty-two florins. Malacca furnishes yearly about three or four hundred thousand pounds; but the principal part of it remains in India. In the year 1778 the company sold 100,000 pounds in Amsterdam. A great deal of tin is sold also in its factory at Siam. All the tin sold by it at Amsterdam between the years 1775 and 1779 amounted to 2,421,597 pounds.

[Tin occurs native in two forms, as peroxide and as sulphuret of tin and copper. The last is rare; the former constitutes the great source of tin, and in its native state mixed with arsenic, copper, zinc and tungsten, is called tin-stone; but when occurring in rounded masses, grains, or sand in alluvial soil, is called stream-tin. The metal reduced from the tin-stone forms block-tin; whilst that from the stream-tin, and which is the purest, is called grain-tin.

The annual produce of the tin mines and works of Cornwall is estimated at 4000 tons, worth from £65 to £80 a ton. About 30,000 cwt. of unwrought tin are annually exported from Britain, chiefly to France, Italy and Russia; which is, exclusive of tin and pewter wares and tin-plates, in declared value nearly £400,000, sent to the United States, Italy,230 Germany, France, the colonies, &c. Moreover, from 10,000 to 30,000 cwt. of Banca and Malay tin are imported for re-exportation to the continent and the United States.

An important enamel has lately been patented for lining the interior of cast iron vessels and utensils used in cooking, chemical operations, &c., which will probably replace tinned articles in a great degree. To apply the process, the vessels are cleansed with weak sulphuric acid, then washed and dipped into a thin paste made with quartz first melted with borax, felspar and clay free from iron, then reduced to an impalpable powder, and sufficient water added to form thinnish paste. The vessels are then powdered inside with a linen bag, containing a very finely powdered mixture of felspar, carbonate of soda, borax, and a little oxide of tin. The articles are then dried and heated in an enamelling furnace. The coating is very white, bears the action of fire without cracking, and completely resists acid or alkaline solutions.]


503 [Tin-stone however occurs in Spain and Portugal; and Watson, in his Chemical Essays, states that Spain furnished the ancients with considerable quantities of tin.]

504 Native tin never, or at any rate, very rarely occurs. In the year 1765 a piece was supposed to be found, of which an account may be seen in the Phil. Trans. vol. lvi. p. 35, and vol. lix. p. 47. But the truth of this was denied by most mineralogists, such for example as Jars in Mémoires de l’Acad. à Paris, année 1770, p. 540. Soon after the above-mentioned piece of tin was found in Cornwall, some dealers in minerals sold similar pieces to amateurs at a very dear rate; but all these had been taken from roasting-places, where the tin exudes; and very often what is supposed to be tin is only exuded bismuth, as is proved by some specimens in my collection.

I shall here observe, that it may not be improper, in the history of tin, to show that it was believed more than two hundred years ago that this metal was found in a native state.

505 Having requested Professor Tychsen, to whose profound knowledge of Oriental history, languages, and literature I have been already indebted for much assistance, to point out the grounds on which bedil is considered to be our tin, I received the following answer, with permission to insert it in this place.

Bedil, בדיל, according to the most probable derivation, means the separated. It may therefore, consistent with etymology, be what Pliny calls stannum, not tin, but lead from which the silver has not been sufficiently separated. The passage in Isaiah, chap. i. ver. 25, appears to afford a confirmation, because the word there is put in the plural, equivalent to scoriæ, as something separated by fusion.

“Others derive bedil from the meaning of the Arabic word بدل badal, that is, substitutum, succedaneum. In this case indeed it might mean tin, which may be readily confounded with silver.

“The questions, why bedil has been translated tin, and how old this explanation may be, are answered by another: Is κασσίτερος tin? If this be admitted, the explanation is as old as the Greek version of the seventy interpreters, who in most passages, Ezekiel, chap. xxii. ver. 18 and 20, and chap. xxvii. ver. 12, express it by the word κασσίτερος. In the last-mentioned passage, tin and iron have exchanged places. The Targumists also call it tin; and some, with the Samaritan translation, use the Greek word, but corrupted into kasteron, kastira. It is also the usual Jewish explanation, that bedil means tin, as oferet does lead.

“In the oldest passage, however, where bedil occurs, that is in Numbers, chap. xxxi. ver. 22, the Seventy translate it by μόλιβος, lead, and the Vulgate by plumbum, and vice versâ, the Seventy for oferet put κασσίτερος, and the Vulgate stannum. This, as the oldest explanation which the Latin translator found already in the Septuagint, is particularly worthy of notice. According to it, one might take בדיל, μόλιβος, stannum, for the stannum of Pliny, lead with silver; the gradation of the metals still remains; the κασσίτερος of the Seventy may be tin or real lead. It may have denoted tin and lead together, and perhaps the Seventy placed here κασσίτερος, in order that they might have one metal more for the Hebrew oferet. But from this explanation it would follow that Moses was not acquainted with tin.

“The East has still another name for lead and tin, אנך, anac, which occurs only in Amos, chap. vii. ver. 7 and 8, but is abundant in the Syriac, Chaldaic, and Armenian, and comprehends plumbum, nigrum, and candidum.

“In the Persian tin is named kalai, resâs, arziz, which are all of Arabic, or, like kalai, of Turkish extraction. None of these have any affinity to κασσίτερος and bedil.

“As tin is brought from India, it occurred to me whether the oldest name, like tombak, might not be Malayan. But in the Malayan, tima is the name for tin and lead. Relandi Dissertat. Miscell. iii. p. 65. It would indeed be in vain to look for Asiatic etymologies in regard to κασσίτερος, since, according to the express assertion of Herodotus, the Greeks did not procure tin from Asia, but from the Cassiterides islands. The name may be Phœnician; and though Bochart has not ventured to give any etymology of it, one, in case of necessity, might have been found equally probable as that which he has given of Britannia. But it appears to me more probable that the word is of Celtic extraction, because similar names are found in Britain, such as Cassi, an old British family; Cassivelaunus, a British leader opposed to Cæsar; Cassibelanus, in all probability, the same name in the time of Claudius. Cassi-ter, with the Greek termination ος, seems to be a Celtic compound, the meaning of which might perhaps be found in Pelletier, Bullet, &c.”

506 Plin. lib. xxxiv. cap. 16, § 47, p. 669.

507 The last meaning is found in Pliny, xxxiii. 6, § 31, and xxxiv. 18, § 53:—“Est et molybdæna, quam alio loco galenam vocavimus, vena argenti plumbique communis. Adhærescit et auri et argenti fornacibus; et hanc metallicam vocant.” Here then there are both the significations, first bleyglanz, secondly ofenbruch. The name galena seems to have been borrowed from foreign metallurgic works, perhaps from the Spanish, as was conjectured by Agricola in Bermannus, p. 434. This, at any rate, is more probable than the derivation of Vossius from γέλειν, splendere, especially as the Greeks have not the word galena.

508 I explain the passage in this manner, but I acknowledge that difficulties still remain. I have however thought that it might perhaps be thus understood; that in the process of fusion, as then used, the galena formed the third part of the weight of the ore or paste, and lead a third part of the galena; though I doubt whether the products of metallic works were then so accurately weighed. I shall leave the reader to determine whether the two explanations of Savot are better. He supposes either that Pliny gives three ways of obtaining lead, namely, from lead ore, argentiferous ore, and galena; or that he says that silver forms a third, lead a third, and slag the remaining third. But if the first opinion be correct, why did Pliny say “Plumbi origo duplex?”

509 Bermannus, pp. 450, 485.

510 De Re Metallica, lib. iii. Franc. (1551), 8vo.

511 De Metallis, cap. 22. Franc. 1606, fol. i. p. 322.

512 Discours sur les médailles antiques par Louis Savot. Paris, 1627, 4to, ii. 2, p. 48. This work contains valuable information in regard to the mineralogy of the ancients.

513 In Aldrovandi Musæum Metallicum. Bonon. 1648, fol. p. 181.

514 J. Jungii Doxoscopia, Hamb. 1662, cap. 5, de metalli speciebus.

515 I shall here point out a few passages where such vessels are mentioned. Dioscorides, ii. 84, p. 109.—Plin. xxix. 2, § 20; xxx. 5, § 12, and xxx. 7, § 19.—Columella, xii. 41.—Vegetius, i. 16.—Scribonius Largus Composit. Med. Patavii, 1655, 4to, § 230.

516 Sueton. Vitell. 6, p. 192; where it is said tin, which was of a white colour, was to serve instead of silver.

517 In the work already quoted, i. cap. 32, p. 64: “Vides stannum Plinio esse quiddam de plumbo nigro, nempe primum fluorem plumbi nigri;” so that when our lead ore is fused, the first part that flows would be the stannum of Pliny. “Et hoc docet Plinius adulterari plumbo candido;” with our tin, and properly considered the stannum of Pliny is merely our halbwerk, of which those cans called halbwerk are made.

Entzel deserves that I should here revive the remembrance of him. He was a native of Salfeld; preacher, pastor Osterhusensis, and a friend of Melancthon, who recommended the book for publication to Egenholf, a bookseller of Frankfort, in a letter dated 1551, in which year it was first printed. It was reprinted at the same place in 1557, and at Basle in 1555, 8vo.

518 The French letter-founders take four-fifths of lead and one-fifth regulus of antimony; those of Berlin use eleven pounds of antimony, twenty-five of lead, and five of iron. Many add also tin, copper, and brass. [Those of England use three parts of lead and one of antimony.]

519 Von Hutten-werken, p. 376.

520 A good account of this manufactory may be found in the Journal für Fabrik, Manufact. Handlung und Mode, 1793. We are told there that the buttons were made of a composition which had a white silver-like colour, and was susceptible of a fine polish. [This was probably some alloy of nickel, one of the principal constituents of German silver.]

521 Lib. iii. p. 254.

522 That the merchants, in the oldest periods, endeavoured by false information to conceal the sources of their trade, might be proved by various instances.

523 Supplementa in Lexica Hebraica p. 151.

524 The authors here quoted, corresponding to the above letters, are as follows:—

a Plinius, xxxiv. 16, p. 668.

b Cæsar De Bello Gallico, v. 12.

c Aristot. Auscult. Mirab. cap. 51, p. 100.

d Galenus De Antidot. i. 8. p. 209. ed. gr. Basil. vol. ii. p. 431.

e Plin. iv. 22. p. 630.

f Herodot. lib. iii. p. 254. edit. Wess.

g Plin. iv. 16, p. 223.

h Strabo, lib. iii. p. 219. ed. Almel.

i Strabo, lib. xv. p. 1055.

j Diodor. Sic. lib. v. p. 347. ed. Wess.

k Diod. Sic. lib. v. p. 361.

l Stephan. Byzant. v. Tartessus, p. 639.

m Dionys. Periegesis, v. 563.

n Prisciani Perieg. v. 575.

o Avienus Descript. Urbis, v. 743.

p Homeri Iliad. xviii. 612.

q Iliad. xi. 25.

r Iliad. xxiii. 561.

s Iliad. xviii. 565, 574.

t Hesiod. Scut. Herculis, v. 208.

u Aristot. Œconom. lib. ii. p. 594.

v Pollux Onomast. p. 1055.

w Pomp. Mela, iii. 6, 24, p. 275.

x Plin. xxxiii. 5, p. 621.

y Plin. xxxiv. 17, § 48, p. 669; and lib. xxxiii. § 45: Optima specula apud majores fuerant Brundisiana stanno et ære mixtis. From a similar mixture the best metallic specula are cast at present.

525 Borlase’s Antiquities of Cornwall. Ox. 1754, fol. p. 29.

526 Lib. iv. cap. 22, p. 230.

527 Minéralogie Homerique, Par. 1790, 8vo. A small treatise much esteemed.

528 Lib. xi. 24, 25.

529 See what I have already said, vol. i. p. 472.

530 Savot, p. 53.—Watson’s Chemical Essays, iv. p. 187.

531 Schefferi Lapponia, Francof. 1673, 4to, pp. 210, 261, where a figure is given of a Lapland woman drawing threads.

532 Phil. Trans. 1702, 1703, vol. xxiii. p. 1129.

533 Phil. Trans. 1759, vol. li. p. 13, where figures of the vessels are given. Whitaker’s Hist. of Manchester, i. p. 306.

534 Borlase’s Cornwall, p. 30; and his Observations on the Islands of Scilly. Oxf. 1756, 4to.

535 Natural Hist. of Cornwall, p. 177.

536 In the Antiquities of Cornwall, p. 394: Ik, yk, ick, a common termination of creeks in Cornwall, as Pordinik, Pradnik.

537 Dionysii Orbis Descriptio. Londini, 1679, 8vo, p. 220, where Hill’s observations deserve to be read.

538 Voyages de Chardin. Rouen, 1723, 12mo, iv. 65, where it is expressly said that Persia has no tin, but that it obtains it from India. The same thing is confirmed by Tavernier.

539 Fortunati Opera. Romæ, 1786, 4to, i. p. 14, lib. i. cap. 8.

540 Proofs may be found in Dufresne.

541 Wencesl. Hagec Böhmische Chronik. Nürnb. 1697, fol. p. 53.

542 For example, Borlase in Natur. Hist.—Speed’s Theatre of Great Britain.—Camden’s Britannia.—Anderson’s Hist. of Commerce, &c.

543 This metal, however, must have remained long dear; for it is remarked in the Archæologia, vol. iii. p. 154, from an expense-book of the Earls of Northumberland, that vessels of tin, about the year 1500, in consequence of their dearness, had not become common. This is confirmed also by a regulation respecting the household of Henry VIII., printed also in the Archæologia, where it is said, “Officers of the squillery to see all the vessels, as well silver as pewter, be kept and saved from stealing.”

544 C. Bruschii redivivi Beschreib. des Fichtelberges. Nürnb. 1683.

545 See Gegenwärtiger Staat von England, Portugal, und Spanien (by Theodore King of Corsica), ii. p. 25.

546 Narrisch Weisheit, p. 51.

547 Yarranton’s England’s Improvement by Sea and Land, 1698.

548 Watson’s Chem. Essays, iv. p. 203.—Anderson’s Commerce.

549 This is related by Diderot in his article Fer-blanc in the Encyclopédie. That the Fer-blanc of the French is tin plate every one knows; but what are we to understand by ferrum candidum, a hundred talents of which were given as a present to Alexander in India? No commentator has noticed this appellation. In the index, however, to Snakenburg’s Curtius, I find the conjecture that it may mean the ferrum Indicum, which, lib. xvi. § 7. ff de Publicanis, or Digest. xxxix. 4, § 16, 7, is named among the articles liable to pay duty; but some editions in this passage have ebenum Indicum. The reader is referred also to Photii Biblioth. p. 145, where Ctesias relates a fable in regard to Indian iron. Pliny, xxxiv. 14, p. 667, mentions ferrum Sericum, which in his time was considered as the best; but still it may be asked, why is the epithet white applied in particular to the Indian iron? Compare Aristot. de Mirab. Auscult. pp. 96, 426.

550 Ramusio, fol. i. p. 166. c.

551 Ib. i. p. m. 317. d.


That under the terms sowing-machine, semoir, drill-plough, macchine per seminare, are understood implements by which the seeds of those plants cultivated on a large scale, and particularly the different species of corn, can be regularly deposited in the earth, and at any distance from each other, at pleasure, is at present generally known. The principal part of the machine consists of a box, having within it a cylinder furnished with cogs, which forms the axes of two wheels, and which, as it revolves, assists the seed put into the box to escape through holes formed at a proper distance from each other in the bottom.

At first, these machines were exceedingly simple, and had only in the fore-part a ploughshare; but afterwards a harrow was applied behind, so that with such an apparatus one could plough, sow, and harrow at the same time. It was attended, however, with the common fault of all very complex machines;231 it was too artificial, too expensive, and too easily deranged. The greater part, therefore, of those lately made have only a harrow behind them.

Since the beginning of the last century so many machines of this kind have been invented, that to give a complete catalogue of them would be difficult. The invention, however, does not belong either to our period or to the English, who have hitherto paid the greatest attention to the improvement and employment of it. I have somewhere read that a proposal for a machine of this kind occurs in Theophrastus; but I have not yet been able to discover the passage. I am much rather inclined, from the information I have hitherto obtained, to place this invention in the sixteenth century, and to ascribe the merit of it to the Italians. By our oldest writers on agriculture, Heresbach, Colerus, Florinus, Hohberg and others, it is not mentioned.

Joseph Locatelli, of whom, however, very little is known, is commonly considered as the inventor. That he was a nobleman of Carinthia, but not a count, as he is called in Iöcher’s Dictionary of Learned Men, is proved by a small work consisting of two sheets in quarto, now in my possession552. It is there stated, that experiments were made with a machine of this kind by the emperor’s order, at the imperial palace and market of Laxenburg, in the presence of a commissioner, named Pietro Bonaventura von Crollolanza, appointed for that purpose. These experiments succeeded so well, that a crop of sixty for one was obtained from land not manured, and subject to frequent inundation. On this account the emperor rewarded the inventor, and sent him with letters of recommendation to the king of Spain.

In this small work no date is mentioned but on the title-page; and if that be correct, the invention must be placed in the last year of the sixteenth or the first of the seventeenth century, consequently in the reign of the emperor Rudolphus II., who had a great fondness for mechanical inventions. This treatise is certainly the same which, as Reinman says, was printed in 1690 without any place being mentioned, and232 according to Haller, at Jena, 1690; but the author of it cannot have been the inventor, as asserted by Iöcher, who adds, that the tract in question was printed at Vienna in the year above-mentioned.

The date 1603, however, can hardly be correct; it ought rather to be 1693, and in that case the tract might have been three times printed between that period and 1690. The date in the title-page of my copy appears properly to have in it a 9, which resembles a zero, only because the compositor used a type on which the lower part of the figure was broke. That this conjecture is true, I have, I think, sufficiently proved; though Munchhausen, Haller, and others read the date 1603.

In the year 1669, John Evelyn gave to the Royal Society of London a complete description of Locatelli’s invention553. He there says that the inventor went with his machine to Spain, where he proved the advantage of it by public experiments, and described them in a Spanish work, dedicated to Geronimo de Camargo, member of the Consejo real de Castilla, who was commissioned by the king to make known and promote the use of this machine, the sale of which was secured to the inventor at a price fixed in his patent. This Spanish work, from which Evelyn made an extract, was printed with the Austrian approbation of Crollolanza, and the date Aug. 1st, 1663. Locatelli must immediately after have gone to Spain, for it is there stated that his machines were made and sold in great abundance at Madrid, in 1664. The invention belongs, therefore, to the year 1663.

This machine was exceedingly simple. The seed-box, the cylinder of which was furnished with two small wheels, required only to be hooked or fastened, by means of ropes, to the stilt of the plough. A figure of it may be found in the before-mentioned German tract; also in the Philosophical Transactions, and thence copied into Duhamel’s Traité de la Culture des Terres554.

233 The Italians, however, dispute with Locatelli the honour of the invention. They assert that one of their countrymen, named M. Giovanni Cavallina, of Bologna, proposed such a sowing-machine a century and a half before; and they refer for a proof to the account preserved by Gio Battista Segni in his work upon Scarcity. This book I have never seen. Haller gives the title from Seguier, and says that it was first printed at Bologna, in 1602; but Zanon states 1605, and says that this Segni, who is not noticed by Iöcher, was a canonicus regularis555. Of Cavallina I have not been able to find any further account; not even in the large and full work of Fantuzzi. I can therefore give only the description of Segni as transcribed by Zanon556. From this it appears that the machine alluded to had also a seed-box with two wheels, and might be compared to a bolting-mill, but below each hole of the bottom board there seems to have been an iron funnel, which before was shaped like a plough-share. The machine, therefore, seems to have formed as many small furrows as it dropped grains of corn; and, as far as can be judged, there was in the bottom only one row of holes. It appears also that each grain of corn, as soon as it dropped, was covered with earth by the machine. Whether Locatelli took advantage of this invention, and gave it out, with some alteration, as his own, cannot be easily determined.

Soon after Locatelli’s invention another sowing-machine was proposed at Brescia, by the Jesuit Lana, who seems to have had no knowledge of the preceding ones; at least he makes no mention of them. The case with Lana was perhaps the same as with many ingenious men, who possess great powers of invention. As they never read, but only think, they are unacquainted with what others have done before them, and therefore consider every idea which comes into their mind as new. He proposed a harrow, the spikes of which should make holes in the earth, in the same manner as gardeners do with their bean-planter, and the grains of corn234 were to fall into these holes from a box pierced like a sieve, and placed over the harrow557.

I do not know whether this, at present, could be called a sowing-machine; but it is not improbable that an apparatus of this kind would facilitate the planting, or, as it is termed, setting of wheat, which in modern times has been revived in England, and particularly in Suffolk. For this purpose holes are made three inches apart, in rows four inches distant from each other, with a bean-planter, by men and women. Each labourer is followed by three children, who throw two or three grains of seed into each hole. One labourer in a second can make four holes, and in two or three days plant an acre. For this he obtained nine shillings, one-half of which was given to the children558. By these means there is a saving of one-half the seed; and this defrays the expenses. The wheat also, when it grows up, is cleaner as well as more beautiful; and this method, besides, affords employment to a great number of persons.

However minute and ridiculous this method of planting may appear to our practical farmers, it is nevertheless true that it has been found beneficial in Upper Lusatia559.

The objection that corn when planted in this manner may throw out too many stems, which will not all ripen at the same time, can be true only when the grains are placed at too great a distance from each other. The German mode of farming however is still too remote from horticulture to admit of our attaching great value to the advantages with which this method is attended.

I shall here remark, that Sir Francis Bacon says that in his time, that is, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, attempts had been made to plant wheat, but being too laborious it was again abandoned, though he declares it to be undoubtedly advantageous560. In the most populous districts of235 China almost all the corn is set, or it is first sown in forcing-beds, and then transplanted. The English call the labour with the sowing-machine drilling, and the planting of wheat they name dibbling.

[Several sowing-machines have been invented, and patents taken out for them in late years. As it is very difficult to give a description of them, and still more so for the reader to comprehend them without figures, we refer to the Penny Cyclopædia, art. “Sowing-machine,” for an account of the more important.]


552 The title is, Beschreibung eines neuen Instruments mit welchem das Getraide zugleich geackert und gesäet werden kan; erfunden von Locatelli, Landmann im Erz-Herzogthum Cärndten. Anno 1603. Without the name of any place, printer, or publisher.

553 Phil. Trans. vol. v. No. 60, p. 1056.

554 Paris, 1753, 12mo, i. p. 368, tab. 6. Duhamel has committed a double error. He speaks of the invention as if the first experiments were made in Spain, and as if those in Austria had been later. He says also, that the latter were made dans le Luxembourg in Istria. The English account also says erroneously Luxembourg, instead of Lachsenburg or Laxemburg, which is in Austria, and not in Istria.

555 Of Segni an account may be found in Notizie degli Scrittori Bolognesi raccolte da Giovanni Fantuzzi. In Bologna 1784–1794, 9 vols. 4to, vii. p. 377. Segni, who died in 1610, wrote a great many ascetic books, the names of which are there given.

556 Dell’ agricultura, dell’ arti e del commercio. Lettere di Antonio Zanon. In Venezia 1764, 8vo, vol. iii. p. 325.

557 Prodromo, overo saggio di alcune inventioni nuove, premesso all’ arte maestra. In Brescia 1670, fol. p. 96, fig. 26.

558 See the excellent account of the agriculture in Suffolk in my Journal, the Beytragen zur Oekonomie, &c., i. p. 1. It was written by M. F. Wild, of Durlach, who in the year 1767 was one of my pupils, and afterwards became teacher in the Institute of Education at Colmar. But alas! I do not know whither he has now been swept by the vortex of the revolution.

559 Leske Reise durch Sachsen. Leipzig, 1785, 4to, p. 319.

560 Sylva Sylvarum, cent. 5, § 442.


That the art of glass-making may have arisen from an accident, such as that mentioned by Pliny562, I am ready to admit; but by what accident were artists made acquainted with the use of manganese, a mineral the outward appearance of which seems to announce nothing that could be useful to the glass-maker? It is not found in such abundance as to allow us to suppose that it naturally presented itself; nor do we know that any older application of it may have induced the ancients to employ and examine it in such a manner that the present use of it might be accidentally discovered. In general, it resembles some kinds of iron-stone, which it was considered to be till a very late period. That iron, however, colours glass must have been very early remarked; and therefore it could occur to no one to employ manganese for depriving frit563 of its colour. It produces this decoloration only236 when it is added sparingly, and according to a determinate proportion; otherwise it gives to the glass a violet colour, something similar to that of the amethyst.

The application of manganese was certainly taught by accident, and not by theory. But in regard to the question, why it frees glass from its dirty colour, it must be admitted, if we readily acknowledge the truth, that we can offer only hypotheses; as the old chemists called in the aid of phlogiston, and the new that of oxygen564. Did a false hypothesis, then, conduct to this discovery? That this was the case, has been asserted by old as well as more modern writers, and is no doubt possible. Thus Kepler, from an erroneous hypothesis in regard to the revolution of the planets, discovered the ratio of their motion, according to their distance from the sun; and such instances may be adduced in favour of hypotheses which have done more harm than good. But, in my opinion, in examining the origin of the ancient arts, we ought not to give credit to any cause assigned for an invention until no other can be found. In regard to the art in question, I think I can mention one which, at any rate, has probability in its favour, and which I shall here submit to the reader’s decision.

That it was observed at an early period that metallic oxides, and particularly that of iron, which most frequently occurs,237 communicate various colours to glass, has been already proved565. It needs therefore excite no wonder that men should be induced to make experiments on colouring glass with various minerals, and especially such as contained iron. Now, since manganese, as already said, has a great resemblance to iron-stone, it was also occasionally employed; and it was soon found that this supposed species of iron-stone, according as it is used in greater or less quantity, gives to glass many beautiful shades of a violet, red, and dark brown colour. As it was necessary that the artist should weigh the manganese, in order to proportion it to the vitreous mass, according to the required colour, it is possible that the glass, when a very small quantity had been added, was found to be colourless. This observation must have been made with the greater satisfaction, and more readily turned to advantage, the higher colourless glass, which approached nearest to rock crystal, was at that time esteemed566.

The period however when this great improvement in one of the most useful arts was fortunately introduced, cannot with certainty be determined; but it is very probable that it was practised in the time of Pliny. Were not this the case, what should have induced him, more than once, to remark that the magnet was employed in glass? Under this name the ancients certainly comprehended manganese; which, in general, had a resemblance to the magnet, and was considered as such by Agricola, Kircher, and others, at a more modern period. Pliny567, in one passage, speaks of a kind of magnet which was found in Cantabria, not in veins, but interspersed or in nuclei; and he adds that he did not know whether it was useful in glass-making, because no one had ever tried it. This use of manganese then must at that time have been very common, since it occurred so readily to a writer in speaking of a supposed magnet.

Another passage of Pliny has been supposed to allude to manganese, but in my opinion with much less probability. It is that where he says Alabandicus flows in the fire, and is238 fused at the glass-houses568. But by that term he seems to understand a kind of marble, according to the opinion of Isidorus, by whom the word is repeated. As a calcareous earth it was perhaps added to promote the fusion of the sand. Camillus Leonardus, however, considered the Alabandicus as manganese569.

It is not improbable that the ancients employed manganese, if not for glazing, at any rate for painting their pottery or earthenware, as soon as they became acquainted at the glass-houses with its susceptibility of being converted into a coloured vitreous mass.

But this is far from being proved, though count Caylus, Genssane and others positively assert that the so-called Etruscan vases and lamps were painted with the same manganese that we use for our earthen-ware.

Those who attempt to trace out the history of the arts must be very cautious not to admit, without sufficient proof, that what the ancients accomplished was effected by the same means as those employed by us for the same purpose. This, in some cases, may be true; but in many others false. Thus, they made a beautiful kind of blue and red glass, without being acquainted with our cobalt and mineral purple; and they performed very long sea voyages without our compass. It is the duty of the historian either to point out the means which the ancients employed, whether they were the same or not as those used at present, or to acknowledge that their processes are unknown to us. Those who invariably follow this rule will sometimes discover that, in ancient times, men were able to accomplish the same objects and to produce the239 same effects, by means totally different from those used at present; and then the question will sometimes arise, Which of the means, the old or the new, are the cheapest, the most convenient, and the surest? This leads to technological problems, the solution of which, notwithstanding the great superiority we possess in those auxiliaries of the arts, natural history, chemistry, &c., is impossible. I have indulged in these observations, in mentioning the celebrated Caylus, because I well know that he has often erred in not attending to them. I acknowledge and respect the service of this eminent man; but I am convinced that by the boldness of his assertions he acquired greater confidence and more celebrity than he deserved.

The colours on the Etruscan vases have a resemblance indeed to those on our stone-ware, but it is also true that they might be produced by oxide of iron.

The substances used by the ancient potters can be determined only by the testimony of the ancients or by experiments; but the former is not to be found; and the latter have never been made, though they would not be difficult to any chemist who might choose to sacrifice a few vessels of that kind.

The question how the use of manganese was first found out, occurred even to Pliny; and his opinion on that subject deserves to be quoted, especially as it was long considered as true by Albertus Magnus, Caneparius, and many later writers. To understand it one must know that it was at first believed that the magnet, as it attracts iron, could attract other bodies also; and it was conjectured that other minerals might possess a similar property. Some imagined that they had found magnets for gold and silver. In the oldest times men had so erroneous an opinion of the art of glass-making, that they conceived that glass was obtained from sand, as metal from its ore; and Pliny thinks that they then conjectured that a magnet could attract glass as well as it does iron. Now as manganese, on account of its similarity, was considered to be a magnet, it was consequently subjected to experiments, which gave rise to the beneficial discovery that it renders glass colourless.

This use of it then has been retained through every age to the present time, and it is mentioned by all those authors who240 have written on glass-making. Avicenna570 makes so complete a distinction between it and the magnet, that he treats of each in a particular section, though he says nothing of its employment in the glass-houses; but indeed as a physician he had no opportunity of doing so. Albertus Magnus571, however, who lived a century later, Roger Bacon, Basilius Valentine, Camillus Leonardus, Biringoccio, Mercati, Neri and many others have spoken in the plainest terms of this application.

It is seen by the words quoted from different authors, that the name, which as far as I know occurs first in Albertus Magnus, was written in a great many different ways: magnesia, magnosia, magnasia, manganensis, mangadesum, and in French magalaise, méganaise, magnese. One might imagine that it is derived from magnet, partly on account of the similarity of the two substances, and partly on account of its supposed power to attract glass. Besides, its other name sidera seems to have a reference to the Greek word for iron. Mercati, however, deduces the term from mangonizare, because potters besmear their wares with this mineral; but I suspect that the name was common before that use of the substance was known. It is to be observed that to this word various other significations have been given. Sometimes it seems to denote common iron-stone, and sometimes pyrites. What the gold-makers understood by it will be best discovered by consulting the works of their followers. Braunstein also, the German name, the earliest mention of which occurs perhaps in the writings of Basilius Valentine, denoted at first every kind of ferruginous earth employed by the potters for painting. Thus Schwenkfeld gave the name of Braunstein and Braunfarbe to a kind of bloodstone572.

For a long time the manganese imported from Piedmont was in Germany accounted the best, and therefore was much sought after by the artists of Nuremberg. Afterwards, a kind brought from Perigord, a place in Guyenne, and named pierre de Périgueux, or lapis petracorius, was highly esteemed. Wallerius gives this as a peculiar species; and in241 my opinion he is right. Its distinguishing characters are, that it resembles a burnt coal or cinder; has a somewhat shining surface, and on the fracture appears to be finely striped and a little coloured. A piece which I have in my possession exhibits all these marks. This species has been mentioned by very few of the new mineralogists. Germany, however, for some centuries past has employed its own manganese, which even in the time of Biringoccio was sent as an article of commerce to Italy.

[The distinctness of the metal contained in the manganese of commerce from iron was first proved by the experiments of Pott in 1740, by Kaim and Winterl in 1770, and by Scheele and Bergman in 1774. Soon after this the metal itself was obtained in an isolated state by Gahn, who gave to it the name of magnesium, which term however was subsequently applied to the metal contained in magnesia, and the word manganese has been adopted to designate both the metal and the black ore. In addition to its application in the manufacture of glass, it is now very extensively used in the decomposition of common salt for the production of chlorine for bleaching. Some salts of the lower oxides of manganese have lately been used in calico-printing as a source of brown colours.]


561 [The word manganese, strictly speaking, designates the metal itself, the peroxide of which is understood by the author whenever the word manganese occurs in the text.]

562 Lib. xxxvi. 26, § 25.—See Hambergeri Vitri Historia, in Comment. Societ. Götting. tom. iv. anni 1754, p. 487.

563 Under this appellation, writers on the art of glass-making understand a mixture of sand or siliceous earth and alkaline salts, which at the German glass-houses, where the above word is seldom heard, is called Einsatz. It appears to have been brought to us, along with the art, from Italy, where it is written at present fritta, and to be derived from fritto, which signifies something broiled or roasted. It seems to be the same word as freton, which occurs in Thomas Norton’s Poem, Crede mihi, sive Ordinale, where it however signifies a particular kind of solid glass, fused together from small fragments. This Englishman lived about the year 1477. His treatise was several times printed.

564 [The action of peroxide of manganese (the only compound of the metal used in the manufacture of glass) is simple and clearly understood. The sand (silica) used in the manufacture of glass frequently contains iron, which by the heat necessary for the fusion of the glass becomes reduced to the state of protoxide, giving the glass a greenish or yellowish colour; also, if any organic substance be present in the materials (and where sulphate of soda is used, charcoal is added), the glass is not colourless. When peroxide of manganese is added, it parts with some of its oxygen, becoming reduced to the protoxide, which remains colourless in the glass, the protoxide of iron absorbing the oxygen, becomes at the same time converted into the peroxide, which also imparts no colour to the glass, which is thus rendered colourless. If more of the peroxide of manganese be added than the carbon or protoxide of iron can reduce, it will tinge the glass of an amethyst colour, as stated in the text.]

565 See the History of Ruby-glass in vol. i. p. 123.

566 Plin. xxxvi. 26, p. 759, and lib. xxxvii. cap. 6, p. 769; he says that artists could make glass vessels nearly similar to those of rock crystal; but he remarks that the latter had nevertheless risen in price.

567 Lib. xxxvii. 24, § 66.

568 Plin. xxxvi. 8, § 13, p. 735.

569 Speculum Lapidum, Parisiis, 1610, 8vo, p. 71. It may not be superfluous here to remark, that this Alabandicus of Pliny must not, as is often the case, be confounded with the precious stone to which he gives the same name, lib. xxxvii. cap. 8. The name properly denotes only a stone from Alabanda in Caria. It occurs, but much corrupted, as the name of a costly stone, in writings of the middle ages. See in Du Cange Alamandinæ, Alavandinæ, Almandinæ; and even in our period so fertile in names, a stone which is sometimes classed with the ruby and sometimes with the garnet, and which is sometimes said to have an affinity to the topaz and hyacinth, is called Alamandine and Alabandiken. See Brückman on Precious Stones, who in the second continuation, p. 64, deduces the word from Allemands, without recollecting the proper derivation, which he gives himself, i. p. 89 according to Pliny.

570 Canon Medicinæ, lib. ii. tract. 2, cap. 470, de Magnete; and cap. 472, de Magnesia.

571 In his book De Mineralibus, lib. ii. tract. 2, cap. 11.

572 Stirpium et Fossilium Silesiæ Catalogus, Lipsiæ, 1600, 4to, p. 381.


It is more than probable that these drops, and the singular property which they possess, have been known at the glass-houses since time immemorial. All glass, when suddenly cooled, becomes brittle, and breaks on the least scratch. On this account, as far back as the history of the art can be traced, a cooling furnace was always constructed close to the fusing furnace. A drop of fused glass falling into water573242 might easily have given rise to the invention of these drops; at any rate this might have been the case in rubbing off what is called the navel574. It is however certain that they were not known to experimental philosophers till the middle of the seventeenth century. Their withstanding great force applied at the thick end, and even blows; and on the other hand, bursting into the finest dust when the smallest fragment is broken off from the thin end, are properties so peculiar that they must excite the curiosity of philosophers, and induce them to examine these effects, especially at a time when mankind in general exert themselves with the greatest zeal to become better acquainted with the phænomena of natural bodies. On this account they have been noticed in almost every introduction to experimental philosophy. To determine the time then in which they were first made known, seems to be attended with little difficulty; but it still remains doubtful by whom and in what country.

It appears certain that the first experiments were made by philosophers with these drops in the year 1656. Monconys575, who travelled at that period, was present when such experiments were made at Paris, before a learned society, which assembled at the house of Mommor, the well-known patron of Gassendi; and the same year he saw similar experiments made by several scientific persons at London. He tells us expressly that Chanut, the Swedish resident, procured glass drops for the first Parisian experiments, and that these drops were brought from Holland.

It appears, therefore, that the first glass drops were made in Holland; yet Montanari, who was professor of mathematics at Bologna, says that the first were not made by the Dutch, but by the Swedes. The grounds, however, on which he rests his assertion are exceedingly weak. Because a Swedish resident procured those used for the first experiments, it does not follow that they were made at Swedish glass-houses,243 especially as it is positively said that they were brought from Holland. It was indeed stated so early as 1661, by Henry Regius or Van Roy, professor at Utrecht, that these glass drops came from Sweden; but may not this have been a lapse of memory, occasioned by the circumstance that the first drops used by the natural philosophers of Paris were procured by a Swedish resident.

Monconys, whose relation indeed bears evident marks of great haste as well as credulity, calls Chanut Résident de Suède, and seems to have considered him as a Swedish resident at the French court; an opinion in which he has been followed by many literary men. But Pierre Chanut was French resident at Stockholm, and at that time so well-known that Monconys could hardly be unacquainted with his quality. He was resident from the year 1645 to 1649; and he was afterwards envoy for adjusting the disputes between Sweden and Poland, which were to be settled at Lubec. He is often mentioned in Puffendorf’s book De Rebus Suecicis, and the printed account of his missions and negociations contain important materials towards a history of queen Christina, with whom he was a great favourite. He superintended the funeral of Descartes, who was interred with great honour. He was born in 1601; but with the time of his death I am unacquainted. He was celebrated as a man of great learning, and particularly an able mathematician; and it is neither improbable nor even impossible that he may have sent the first glass drops to Paris from Sweden; but why does Monconys add that they were brought from Holland?

It deserves to be mentioned, that about fifteen years before, that is in 1641, the first glass-houses were established in Sweden, and in all probability by Germans. It is possible that when the blowing of glass was first seen, glass drops may have excited an attention which they had not met with in Germany, where no one expected anything new in glass-houses, which were there common and had long been established. It can nevertheless be proved that they were known to our glass-blowers at a much earlier period.

In 1695, John Christian Schulenburg, subrector of the cathedral school of Bremen, published there a German Dissertation on glass drops and their properties, in which he says that he was informed by glass-makers worthy of credit, that244 these drops had been made more than seventy years before at the Mecklenburg glass-houses, that is to say, about the year 1625.

Samuel Reyher, professor at Kiel, says that Henry Sievers, teacher of mathematics in the gymnasium of Hamburg, had assured him that such glass drops were given to his father by a glass-maker so early as the year 1637; and that his father had exhibited them in a company of friends, who were much astonished at their effects. Reyher adds, that he himself had seen at Leyden, in 1656, the first of these glass drops, which had been made at Amsterdam, where he afterwards purchased some of the same kind; but in 1666 he procured for a very small sum a great many of them from the glass-houses in the neighbourhood of Kiel. It is worthy of remark, that Huet576, who paid considerable attention to the history of inventions, says that the first glass drops, which he had seen also in the society held at the house of Mommor, were brought to France from Germany. According to Anthony Le Grand they came from Prussia577.

The first glass drops were brought to England by the well-known Prince Rupert, third son of the elector Palatine, Frederic V., and the princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I.; and experiments, described by Rupert Moray, were made with them in 1661 by command of his majesty. This is expressly stated by Merret578; and therefore what some English writers have supposed, that Prince Rupert himself was the inventor, is entirely erroneous579. The services which he rendered to the useful arts were too great and too numerous to be either lessened or increased by such trifles.

I shall take this opportunity of remarking, that those small glasses hermetically sealed and containing a drop of water, which when placed on hot coals burst with a loud report, and therefore are called in German knallgläser, fulminating glasses, were known before 1665. Hooke speaks of them in his Micrographia580 printed in that year, and they were mentioned by245 Reyher in 1669, in his Dissertation already quoted. In Germany they are made chiefly by Nuremberg artists; one of the most celebrated of whom was Michael Sigismund Hack. He learnt the art of glass-blowing in England, and in 1672 returned to Nuremberg, where he was born in 1643581.


573 It is not always necessary that the water should be cold; these drops will be formed also in warm water, as well as in every other fluid, and even in melted wax. See Redi’s experiments in Miscellan. Naturæ Curios. anni secundi, 1671, p. 426. They succeed best with green glass, yet I have in my possession some of white glass, which in friability are not inferior to those of green.

574 The navel, in German nabel, is that piece of glass which remains adhering to the pipe when any article has been blown, and which the workman must rub off. These navels, however, are seldom in so fluid a state as to form drops.

575 Journal des Voyages de M. Monconys, Lyon, 1666, 4to, ii. p. 162.

576 Commentarius de rebus ad eum pertinentibus, Lips. 1719.

577 Historia Naturalis. Edit. secunda, Londini 1680, 4to, p. 37.

578 In his Observations on Neri Ars Vitraria, Amstel. 1668, 12mo.

579 This is said, for example, by Grainger in his Biographical History of England. London, 1769, vol. ii. part 2, p. 407.

580 This book was only once printed, but the title-page has the date 1667. See Biographia Britannica, iv. p. 2654.

581 Doppelmayer, p. 276.


The invention of pumps I shall leave to those who undertake to write the history of hydraulics, and here only remark that, on the testimony of Vitruvius582, it is in general ascribed to Ctesibius, on which account they are called machinæ Ctesibicæ; and that Ctesibius lived at Alexandria in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus and Ptolemy Euergetes I., consequently two centuries before the Christian æra. My present object extends no further than to state what I know in regard to the question, At what time were these machines first employed for extinguishing fires?

For this purpose, however, it was necessary that the pump-work employed at first only for raising water should undergo some alteration. To use it for extinguishing fires, it was requisite that the water should be speedily driven from the upper aperture as high as possible; whereas for the first purpose, it is enough if the water be thrown out in sufficient quantity to be conveyed to the place of its destination. More additional parts necessary for extinguishing fires would then be an imperfection; as the power which gives the water a needless velocity might be employed with more advantage to raise a greater quantity of it.

In my opinion it is highly probable that Ctesibius had an idea of converting his pump into a fire-engine, for his scholar, Hero of Alexandria, speaks expressly of this use, and describes the construction of a forcing-pump with two cylinders583; but it is very doubtful whether this application of it246 soon became general, and whether this advantageous machine was known to the ancient Romans. What I have been able to learn on the subject is as follows.

Pliny the younger, after telling the emperor Trajan, in one of his letters, that the town of Nicomedia in Bithynia had been almost entirely destroyed by a fire, adds, that the devastation had been increased by a violent storm which took place at the time; by the laziness of the inhabitants, and by the want of machines or apparatus proper for extinguishing the flames584. The word sipho, which the author here uses, was certainly the fire-engine of Ctesibius; though some under this term understand only aqueducts, canals, and pipes for distributing water throughout the city. I will not deny that this word may have signified such pipes, particularly on account of a passage in Strabo585, where he speaks of the subterranean conduits of Rome, and says that almost all the houses had cisterns, siphones, or water-pipes, and running streams. But Pliny at the same time mentions water-buckets, which may be considered as an appendage absolutely necessary to a fire-engine. It is also hardly possible to believe that a town, immediately situated on an arm of the sea, should be destitute of water586.

I can however produce from a contemporary writer, a strong proof that Pliny alluded here to a fire-engine, and I do not find that the passage has been before quoted. Apollodorus, the architect, who was employed by the emperor Trajan in constructing the celebrated bridge over the Danube, and erecting some large works at Rome, and who was put to death by his successor Adrian, out of revenge for a jeering answer which he received from him, as we are told by Dio Cassius, describes in the fragment of his book on warlike machines, how assistance may be given when the upper part of a building is on fire, and the machine called sipho is not at hand. In this case leathern bags filled with water are to be fastened to long pipes in such a manner, that by pressing the bags the water may be forced through the pipes to the place which is in flames587. The sipho, therefore, was a machine247 by which water might be easily projected to a considerable height, to extinguish a place on fire that could not be reached by any other means.

That in the fourth century at least a fire-engine, properly so called, was understood under the term sipho, is fully proved by Hesychius, and also by Isidorus, who lived in the beginning of the seventh century588. As the latter remarks that such engines were employed in the East for extinguishing fires, there is reason to conclude that they were not then used in the west.

The question still remains, at what time this apparatus for extinguishing fires was introduced at Rome. From the numerous ordinances for preventing accidents by fire, and in regard to extinguishing fires, which occur in the Roman laws589, there is reason to conjecture that this capital was not unprovided with those useful implements and machines, of the want of which in a provincial town Pliny complains, and which he himself had supplied. This conjecture, however, I am not able to prove; and instances both in ancient and modern times show that the good police establishments of small towns are not always to be found in capitals. Antioch and several other towns were provided with lanterns, which were wanting even in the proud Rome. But what excites some doubt is, that fire-engines are never mentioned in the numerous accounts given of the fires which took place in that city. At present it is impossible to speak of a misfortune of this kind without stating whether a sufficient number of engines were assembled, and what they effected, as Pliny has not failed to do in his short account of the fire at Nicomedia.

One passage, however, in Ulpian is commonly quoted as a proof that in his time there were fire-engines at Rome. Where he enumerates those things which ought to belong to248 a house when sold, he mentions, besides other articles used for extinguishing fires, siphones590. But if this word means here fire-engines, the passage seems to prove too much; for it must then be admitted that each house had a fire-engine of its own. These implements therefore must have been small hand-engines, such as are kept in many houses at present; and in that case the passage cannot be adduced as a proof of public engines, such as Pliny regrets the want of at Nicomedia. But it is much more probable that Ulpian alludes only to those siphones which, according to the account of Strabo, were to be found in every house at Rome; that is, pipes which conveyed water to it for domestic purposes.

From the total want of fire-engines, or the imperfect manner in which they were constructed, what Seneca says must have been true, namely, that the height of the houses at Rome rendered it impossible to extinguish them when on fire591. That the buildings there were exceedingly high, and the lanes, the bridges and even the principal streets remarkably narrow, is well-known592. It is supposed by Archenholz and others, that the houses at Rome were built of such a height on account of the great heat in that warm climate; but the chief reason was undoubtedly that assigned by Vitruvius593, which still produces a like effect. For want of room on the earth, the buildings were extended towards the heavens; so that at last the greatest height of an edifice was fixed by law at seventy, and afterwards at sixty feet. In Hamburg, at present, where ground is dear and daily becoming more valuable, the greater part of the houses are little less than sixty feet in height; a few even are seventy; and that it is thereby rendered difficult, if not impossible, notwithstanding the perfection of the German engines, to extinguish fires, is proved by the melancholy instance of Gera, where the houses are now built lower. With Neubert’s engine, which was tried at Hamburg in 1769, eight firemen threw eleven and a half249 cubic feet of water to the height of sixty-two or sixty-three feet.

In the East engines were employed not only to extinguish but to produce fires. The Greek fire, invented by Callinicus, an architect of Heliopolis, a city afterwards named Balbec, in the year 678, the use of which was continued in the East till 1291594, and which was certainly liquid595, was employed in many different ways; but chiefly on board ship, being thrown from large fire-engines on the ships of the enemy. Sometimes this fire was kindled in particular vessels, which might be called fire-ships, and which were introduced among a hostile fleet; sometimes it was put into jars and other vessels, which were thrown at the enemy by means of projectile machines596, and sometimes it was squirted by the soldiers from hand-engines; or, as appears, blown through pipes. But the machines with which this fire was discharged from the fore-part of ships, could not have been either hand-engines or such blow-pipes. They were constructed of copper and iron, and the extremity of them sometimes resembled the open mouth and jaws of a lion or other animal; they were painted and even gilded, and it appears that they were capable of projecting the fire to a great distance597. These machines by ancient writers are expressly called spouting-engines. John Cameniata, speaking of the siege of his native city, Thessalonica, which was taken by the Saracens in the year 904, says that the enemy threw fire into the wooden works of the besieged, which was blown into them by means of tubes, and thrown from other vessels598. This passage, which I do not find quoted in any of the works that treat on the Greek fire, proves that the Greeks in the beginning of the tenth century were no longer the only people acquainted with the art of preparing this fire, the precursor of our gunpowder. The emperor Leo, who about the same period wrote his art of war, recommends such engines, with a metal covering, to be constructed in the fore-part of ships599, and he twice afterwards250 mentions engines for throwing out Greek fire600. In the East one may easily have conceived the idea of loading some kind of pump with the Greek fire; as the use of a forcing-pump for extinguishing fires was long known there before the invention of Callinicus.

At what time the towns in Germany were first furnished with fire-engines I am not able to determine. In my opinion they had regulations in regard to fires much earlier than engines; and the former do not seem to be older than the first half of the sixteenth century. The oldest respecting the city of Frankfort-on-the-Maine, with which I am acquainted, is of the year 1460. The first general ordinance respecting fires in Saxony was issued by Duke George in 1521. The first for the city of Dresden, which extended also to the whole country, was dated 1529. In many towns, the first regulations made by public authority for preventing fires will no doubt be found in the general regulations in regard to building, which seem to be somewhat older than the particular ordinances concerning fires. At Augsburg an express regulation in regard to building was drawn up and made publicly known as early as 1447. In turning over old chronicles, it is remarked that great fires began to occur less frequently in the sixteenth century; and this is undoubtedly to be ascribed to the improved mode of building601, the precautions enjoined by governments to prevent fires, and the introduction of apparatus for extinguishing them. But by the invention of fire-engines, every thing in this respect was so much changed, that a complete revision of the regulations in regard to the extinguishing of fires became necessary; and therefore the first mention of town fire-engines will in all probability be found in the new fire ordinances of the sixteenth and following century.

It has been remarked by Von Stetten, that in the building accounts of the city of Augsburg, fire-engines are first mentioned in the year 1518. They are called there instruments for fires, water syringes useful at fires; and these names seem to announce that the machine was then in its infancy. At that time they were made by a goldsmith at Friedberg, named251 Anthony Blatner, who the same year became a citizen of Augsburg. From the account added,—that the wheels and levers were constructed by a wheelwright, and from the greatness of the expense,—there is reason to conclude that these were not small, simple hand-engines, but large and complex machines. In that respectable dictionary entitled Maaler’s Teutschsprach, Zurich, 1561, I find fire-hooks and fire-ladders, but no instrument similar to a fire-engine.

In the year 1657, the well-known jesuit Caspar Schott was struck with admiration on seeing at Nuremberg a fire-engine, which had been made there by John Hautsch. It stood on a sledge, ten feet long and four feet broad. The water-cistern was eight feet in length, four in height, and two in width. It was moved by twenty-eight men, and forced a stream of water an inch in diameter to the height of eighty feet602; consequently over the houses. The machine was drawn by two horses. Hautsch distributed throughout Germany an engraving of it, with an offer of constructing similar ones at a moderate price, and teaching the use of them; but he refused to show the internal construction of it to Schott, who however readily conjectured it. From what he says of it, one may easily perceive that the cylinders did not stand in a perpendicular direction, but lay horizontally in a box, so that the pistons moved horizontally, and not vertically, as at present. Upright cylinders therefore seem to belong to the more modern improvements. Schott adds, that this was not a new invention, as there were such engines in other towns; and he himself forty years before, and consequently in 1617, had seen one, but much smaller, in his native city. He was born, as is well-known, in 1608, at Königshofen, not far from Würzburg. George Hautsch also, son of the above artist, constructed similar engines, and perhaps with improvements, for Wagenseil603 and others have ascribed to him the invention.

The first regulations at Paris respecting fires, as far as is known, were made to restrain incendiaries, who in the fourteenth century, under the name of Boutefoux, occasioned great devastation, not only in the capital, but in the provinces. This city appears to have obtained fire-engines for the first time in the year 1699; at any rate the king at that period252 gave an exclusive right to Dumourier Duperrier to construct those machines called pompes portatives; and he was engaged at a certain salary to keep in repair seventeen of them, purchased for Paris, and to procure and to pay the necessary workmen. In the year 1722 the number of these engines was increased to thirty, which were distributed in different quarters of the city; and at that time the contractors received annually 20,000 livres. The city, however, besides these thirty royal engines, had a great many others which belonged to the Hotel de Ville, and with which the Sieur Duperrier had nothing to do604.

In the middle of the seventeenth century fire-engines indeed were still very imperfect. They had neither an air-chamber nor buckets, and required a great many men to work them. They consisted merely of a sucking-pump and forcing-pump united, which projected the water only in spurts, and with continual interruption. Such machines, on each movement of the lever, experience a stoppage, during which no water is thrown out; and because the pipe is fixed, it cannot convey water to remote places, though it may reach a fire at no great distance, where there are doors and windows to afford it a passage. At the same time the workmen are exposed to danger from the falling of the houses on fire, and must remove from them to a greater distance. Hautsch, however, had adapted to his engine a flexible pipe, which could be turned to any side as might be necessary, but certainly not an air-chamber, otherwise Schott would have mentioned it. In the time of Belidor there were no other engines in France, and the same kind alone were used in England in 1760. Professor Busch at least concludes so605, from the account then given by Ferguson, who called Newsham’s engine, which threw the water out in a continued stream, a new invention. In Germany the oldest engines are of this kind.

Who first conceived the idea of applying to the fire-engine an air-chamber, in which the included air, by compressing the water, forces it out in a continued stream, is not known. According to a conjecture of Perrault, Vitruvius seems to speak of a similar construction; but Perrault himself acknowledges253 that the obscure passage in question606 might be explained in another manner. The air-chamber in its action has a similarity to Hero’s fountain, in which the air compressed by the water obliges the latter to ascend607.

I can find no older fire-engine constructed with an air-chamber than that of which Perrault has given a figure and description. He says it was kept in the king’s library at Paris, and during fires could project water to a great height; that it had only one cylinder, and yet threw out the water in one continued jet. He mentions neither its age nor the inventor; and I can only add that his book was printed in 1684. The principle of this machine, however, seems to have been mentioned before by Mariotte, who on this account is by some considered as the inventor; but he does not appear to have had any idea of a fire-engine, at least he does not mention it.

It is certain that the air-chamber, at least in Germany, came into common use after it was applied by Leupold to fire-engines, a great number of which he manufactured and sold. He gave an account of it in a small work, consisting of four sheets quarto, which was published in 1720, but at first he kept the construction a secret. The engines which he sold consisted of a strong copper box closely shut and well-soldered. They weighed no more than sixteen pounds, occupied little room, had only one cylinder; and a man with one of them could force up the water without interruption to the height of from twenty to thirty feet. About 1725 Du Fay saw one of Leupold’s engines at Strasburg, and discovered by conjecture the construction of it, which he made known in the Transactions of the Academy of Sciences at Paris for that year. It is very singular that on this occasion Du Fay says nothing of Mariotte, or of the engine in the king’s library. Leupold, however, had some time before, that is in 1724, given a description and figure in his Theatrum Machinarum Hydraulicarum608, with which undoubtedly Du Fay was not acquainted.

Another improvement, no less useful, is the leather hose added to the engine, which can be lengthened or shortened as necessary, and to which the fire-pipe is applied, so that254 the person who directs the jet of water can approach the fire with less danger. This invention, it is well known, belongs to two Dutchmen, both named Jan van der Heide609, who were inspectors of the apparatus for extinguishing fires at Amsterdam. The first public experiments made with it took place in 1672; and were attended with so much success, that at a fire next year, the old engines were used for the last time, and the new ones introduced in their stead. In 1677, the inventor obtained an exclusive privilege to make these engines during the period of twenty-five years. In 1682, engines on this construction were distributed in sufficient number throughout the whole city, and the old ones were entirely laid aside. In 1695 there were in Amsterdam sixty of these engines, the nearest six of which were to be employed at every fire. In the course of a few years they were common throughout all the towns in the Netherlands.

All these circumstances have been related by the inventor in a particular work; which, on account of the excellent engravings it contains, is exceedingly valuable610. Of these, the first seven represent dangerous conflagrations at which the old engines were used, but produced very little effect. One of them is the fire which took place in the stadthouse of Amsterdam in the year 1652. The twelve following plates represent fires which were extinguished by means of the new engines, and exhibit, at the same time, the various ways in which the engines may be employed with advantage. According to an annexed calculation, the city of Amsterdam lost by ten fires, when the old apparatus was in use, 1,024,130 florins; but in the following five years, after the introduction of the new engines, the loss occasioned by forty fires amounted only to 18,355 florins; so that the yearly saving was ninety-eight per cent. Of the internal construction of these engines no description or plates have been given; nor do I remember to have read a passage in any author from which it can be concluded that they were furnished with an air-chamber, though in the patents they were always called spouting-engines, which threw up one continued jet of water. The255 account given even of the nature of the pipe or hose is short and defective, probably with a view to render it more difficult to be imitated. It is only said that it was made of leather in a particular manner; and that, besides being thick, it was capable of resisting the force of the water.

The conveyer or bringer was invented also about the same time by these two Dutchmen. This name is given at present to a box which has on the one side a sucking-pump, and on the other a forcing-pump. The former serves to raise the water from a stream, well, or other reservoir, by means of a stiff leathern pipe, having at the extremity a metal strainer pierced with holes to prevent the admission of dirt, and which is kept suspended above the mud by a round piece of cork. The forcing-pump drives the water thus drawn up through a leathern pipe into the engine, and renders the laborious conveyance of water by buckets unnecessary.

At first, indeed, this machine was exceedingly simple. It consisted only of a leathern pipe screwed to the engine, the end of which widened into a bag supported near the reservoir, and kept open by means of a frame, while the labourers poured water into it from buckets. A pump, however, to answer this purpose was soon constructed by the Van der Heides, who named it a snake-pump. By its means they were able to convey the water from the distance of a thousand feet; but I can find no account of the manner in which it was made. From the figure, I am inclined to think that they used only one cylinder with a lever. Sometimes also they placed a portable pump in the water, which was thus drawn into a leathern hose connected with it, and conveyed to the engine. Every pipe or hose for conveying water in this manner they called a wasserschlange, water-snake, and this was not made of leather, like the hose furnished with a fire-pipe, but of sail-cloth. They announced, however, that it required a particular preparation, which consisted in making it water-tight by means of a proper cement. The pipe also, through which the water is drawn up, must be stiffened and distended by means of metal rings; otherwise the external air, on the first stroke of the pump, would compress the pipe, so that it could admit no water. It is here seen that pipes made of sail-cloth are not so new an invention as many have supposed. That our present apparatus for conveying water256 to the fire-engine is much more ingenious, as well as convenient, must be allowed; but I would strongly recommend that in all cities there should be pumps, or running wells of water, to the spout of which pipes having one end screwed to a fire-engine might be affixed. The Van der Heides, among the advantages of their invention, stated that this apparatus rendered it unnecessary to have leathern buckets, which are expensive, or at any rate lessened their number, as well as that of the workmen.

From this account, the truth of which cannot be doubted, one may readily believe that engines with leathern hose were certainly not invented by Gottfried Fuchs, director of the fire apparatus at Copenhagen, in the year 1697, as publicly announced in 1717, with the addition, that this invention was soon employed both in Holland and at Hamburg. Fuchs seems only to have made known the Dutch invention in Denmark, on occasion of the great fire which took place on the 19th of April 1689, at the Opera-house of Amalienburg, when the beautiful palace of that name, and more than 350 persons were consumed. At any rate we are told in history, that, in consequence of this calamity, an improvement was made in the fire establishment, by new regulations issued on the 23rd of July 1689, and that engines on the Dutch construction, which had been used more than twelve years at Amsterdam, were introduced.

Hose or pipes of this kind for conveying water were however not entirely unknown to the ancients. At least the architect Apollodorus says, that to convey water to high places exposed to fiery darts, the gut of an ox, having a bag filled with water affixed to it, might be employed; for on compressing the bag, the water would be forced up through the gut to the place of its destination611. This was a conveyer of the simplest kind.

Among the latest proposals for improving the hose is that of weaving one without a seam. In 1720, some of this kind were made of hemp at Leipsic, by Beck, a lace-weaver, as we are told by Leupold, in his before-mentioned work on fire-engines, which was printed the same year. After this they were made by Erke, a linen-weaver of Weimar; and at a later period they were made of linen at Dresden, and also in257 Silesia612. In England, Hegner and Ehrliholzer had a manufactory at Bethnal-green, near London, where they made water-tight hose without seams613. Some of the same kind are made by M. Mögling on his estate near Stutgard, on a loom of his own invention, and are now used in many towns of the duchy of Wirtemberg. I shall here remark, that Braun had a loom on which shirts could be wove without a seam, like those curious works of art sometimes brought from the East Indies, and of which he has given a full description with an engraving614.

In the last place, I shall observe, that notwithstanding the belief of the Turks in predestination, fire-engines are in use at Constantinople, having been introduced by Ibrahim Effendi.

[The fire-engines now in use are made upon the air-chamber principle above-described. Mr. Braithwaite has applied steam-power to the working of fire-engines. On this principle a locomotive and a floating engine have been constructed. The former was first employed at a fire in the Argyle Rooms in 1830. It required eighteen minutes to elapse before the water in the boiler was raised to 212°, and threw up from thirty to forty tons of water per hour, to a height of ninety feet. Two others have been constructed by the same engineer, one of which threw up ninety tons of water per hour, and one made for the king of Prussia threw up about 61¾ tons per minute. In the steam floating engine which lies in the Thames, the machinery either propels the vessel, or works the pumps as required. The pipes used for conveying the water from the plugs to the engines are now constructed of leather, the seams being either sewed up or fastened with metallic rivets.]


582 Lib. x. cap. 12, p. 347. Compare lib. ix. cap. 9. p. 321.

583 In that book entitled Πνευματικὰ, or Spiritualia. It may be found Greek and Latin in Veterum Mathematicorum Opera, Parisiis 1693, fol. p. 180.

584 Epist. 42, lib. x.

585 Lib. v. edit. Almel. p. 360.

586 Plin. lib. v. cap. ult.

587 Poliorcetica, p. 32, in Veterum Mathematicorum Opera.

588 Orig. xx. 6. Fire-engines are used in many towns to wash the windows in the upper stories, which cannot be taken out.

589 See Digest. i. tit. 15, where all persons are ordered to have water always ready in their houses. Also Digest. 47, tit. 9. Many things relating to this subject may be found in L. A. Hambergeri Opuscula, Jenæ et Lips. 1740, 8vo, p. 12; in the Dissertation de Incendiis. Further information respecting the police establishment of the Romans in regard to fires, is contained in two dissertations, entitled G. C. Marquarti de Cura Romanorum circa Incendia. Lips. 1689, 4to. And Ev. Ottonis Dissertat de Officio Præfecti Vigilum circa Incendia. Ultrajecti 1733.

590 Digest. xxxiii. 7, 18. Dier. Genial. v. 24.

591 Controvers. 9, libri ii.

592 In Germany also the roads and the distance between the ruts made by cart-wheels were in old times very narrow. Some years ago, when the new tile-kiln was built before the Geismar gate at Göttingen, there was found at a great depth, a proof of its antiquity, a street or road which had formerly proceeded to the city with so small a space marked out by carriage-wheels, that one like it is not to be seen in Germany.

593 Lib. ii. cap. 8.

594 Hanovii Disquisitiones. Gedani 1750, 4to, p. 65.

595 Annæ Comnenæ Alexiad. lib. 16. p. 385; πῦρ ὑγρόν.

596 A projectile machine of this kind is mentioned by Joinville, p. 39.

597 See the passage of Anna Comnena quoted by Hanov. p. 335.

598 In Leonis Allatii Σύμμικτα. Colon. 1653, 8vo, p. 239.

599 Cap. 19, § 6, p. 322.

600 Pp. 344, 346.

601 Thus in the year 1466 straw thatch, and in 1474 the use of shingles were forbidden at Frankfort.—Lersner, ii. p. 22.

602 Doppelmayer says that the water was driven to the height of a hundred feet.

603 Doppelmayer, p. 303.

604 Contin. du Traite de la Police, par De la Mare, p. 137.

605 Mathematik zum Nutzen und Vergnügen, 8vo, p. 396.

606 Lib. x. cap. 12.

607 Spiritualia, 36, p. 35.

608 Vol. i. p. 120, tab. 45, fig. 2.

609 In the patent, however, they were named Jan and Nicholas van der Heyden.

610 Beschryving der nieuwliiks uitgevonden Slang-Brand-Spuiten, Jan van der Heide, Amst. 1690, folio.

611 Poliorcet. page 32.

612 Leipziger Intelligenzblatt, 1775, p. 345; and 1767, p. 69. Teutscher Merkur, 1783.

613 Lysons’s Environs of London.

614 Vestitus Sacerdotum Hebræorum. Amst. 1701, 4to, i. p. 273. Much useful information in regard to various improvements in the apparatus for extinguishing fires may be found in Aug. Niemann Uebersicht der Sicherungsmittel gegen Feuersgefahren. Hamb. und Kiel, 1796, 8vo.



It is more than probable that indigo, so early as the time of Dioscorides and Pliny, was brought to Europe, and employed there in dyeing and painting. This I shall endeavour to show; but under that name must be understood every kind of blue pigment, separated from plants by fermentation, and converted into a friable substance by desiccation; for those who should maintain that real indigo must be made from those plants named in the botanical system Indigofera tinctoria, would confine the subject within too narrow limits; as the substance which our merchants and dyers consider as real indigo is prepared, in different countries, from so great a number of plants, that they are not even varieties of the same species.

Before the American colonies were established, all the indigo employed in Europe came from the East Indies; and till the discovery of a passage round the Cape of Good Hope, it was conveyed, like other Indian productions, partly through the Persian Gulf, and partly by land to Babylon, or through Arabia and up the Red Sea to Egypt, from which it was transported to Europe. Considering this long carriage, as the article was not obtained, according to the Italian expression, a drittura, that is, in a direct manner, it needs excite no surprise, that our knowledge, in regard to its real country and the manner of preparing it, should be exceedingly uncertain and imperfect. Is it astonishing that articles, always obtained through Arabia, should be considered as productions of that country; and that many commodities which were the work of art, should be given out to be productions of nature? For more than a hundred years the Dutch purchased from the Saxons cobalt, and smalt made from it, and sold them again in India; and the Indians knew as little where and in what manner the Dutch obtained them, as the Saxons did the people who were the ultimate purchasers and consumers. The real nature of indigo was not generally known in Europe till the Europeans procured it from the first hand; yet long after that period, and even in the letters-patent obtained on the 23rd of December 1705, by the proprietors of the mines in the principality of Halberstadt and the county of Reinstein,259 indigo was classed among minerals on account of which works were suffered to be erected; but this only proves the individual ignorance of the undertakers, and also of their superiors, when they read what they had written, and confirms the justness of Ovid’s advice,

Disce bonas artes, moneo, Germana juventus;
Non tantum trepidos ut tueare reos.

What Dioscorides calls Indicon, and Pliny and Vitruvius Indicum, I am strongly inclined to believe to have been our indigo615. It was a blue pigment brought from India, and used both in painting and in dyeing. When pounded it gave a black powder, and when suspended in water it produced an agreeable mixture of blue and purple. It belonged to the costly dye-stuffs, and was often adulterated by the addition of earth. On this account, that which was soft without any roughness, and which resembled an inspissated juice, was esteemed the best. Pliny thinks616 that pure indigo may be distinguished from that which is adulterated by burning it, as the former gives an exceedingly beautiful purple flame, and emits a smell similar to that of sea-water. Both he and Dioscorides speak of two kinds, one of which adheres to reeds, in the form of slime or scum thrown up by the sea; the other, as Dioscorides says, was scraped from the sides of the dye-pans in the form of a purple-coloured scum; and Pliny expressly remarks, that it was collected in this manner in the establishments for dyeing purple. The former relates also, that Indicum belonged to the astringent medicines; that it was used for ulcers and inflammations, and that it cleansed and healed wounds.

This is all, as far as I know, that is to be found in the works of the ancients respecting Indicum. I have given it at full length, as accurately as possible, and I have added, in order that the reader may be better able to compare and judge, references to the original words of the authors. Indicon, it is true, occurs in other passages; but it was certainly different from the one already mentioned. I allude, for example, to the black Indicon of Arrian and the Indicon of Hippocrates. Of the former I shall treat in particular hereafter;260 and in regard to the latter, I refer to the author quoted in the note below617. It is not at all surprising that these names should be applied to more Indian commodities, since at present we give to many kinds of fruit, flowers, fowls and other things, the appellation of Indian. The ancients, indeed, were not so careful as to distinguish always, by a proper addition, the many articles to which they gave the name of Indica; and they had reason to expect that their contemporaries would readily comprehend by the connexion, the kind that was properly meant. Their commentators, however, in later times have for the most part thought only of one species or thing, and by these means they have fallen into mistakes which I shall here endeavour to rectify.

Everything said by the ancients of Indicum seems to agree perfectly with our indigo. The proper country of this production is India; that is to say, Gudscharat or Gutscherad, and Cambaye or Cambaya, from which it seems to have been brought to Europe since the earliest periods. It is found mentioned, from time to time, in every century; it is never spoken of as a new article, and it has always retained its old name; which seems to be a proof that it has been used and employed in commerce without interruption.

It is true, as the ancients say, that good indigo, when pulverized, is of a blackish colour. The tincture, however, is partly blue and partly purple; but under the latter term we must understand an agreeable violet, and not, as is often the case, our scarlet. It is true also that good indigo is soft or smooth to the touch618 when pounded; it floats on water, and at present, as in the time of Pliny, is adulterated and rendered heavier by the admixture of some earth, which in general, as appears, is fine pounded slate619. It is further true that261 the purity of it can be discovered by burning it. Indigo free from all foreign bodies leaves but little ash, while that which is impure leaves a large quantity of earth. Pliny, perhaps, did not rightly understand this test by fire, and added from conjecture, what he says in regard to the colour of the flame and the smell of the smoke, that this proof might not remain without an explanation. It is, however, possible that those who considered indigo to be sea-slime, imagined that they perceived in it a smell of sea-water. A naturalist of modern times, who refers petrifactions to Noah’s flood, believed that he could smell sea-water in them after the lapse of so many thousand years.

Indicum, on account of its long carriage by land, must have been dear, and therefore it was one of those pigments which the ancient painters, who were often poor slaves, were not accustomed to keep in any quantity by them, and with which it was necessary they should be supplied by those for whom they executed paintings620. Our indigo was also exceedingly dear till it was cultivated in the West Indies, where the value of it decreased as long as good land was plentiful and the price of labour was lessened by the slave-trade.

That indigo, which at present is used only by dyers, should have been employed also for painting, needs excite no surprise. It was applied to this purpose till the invention of painting in oil, and the discovery of Prussian blue, smalt and other pigments of a superior quality. It is even still used by landscape-painters to produce a pale gray; but it will not harmonise with oil. As to the medical properties of indigo, I can at any rate show that the experiments made with it at the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century fully confirm the high encomium bestowed by Dioscorides upon his Indicum. There was a time when the former was much prescribed and recommended. At present our physicians are acquainted with purer and more powerful remedies than indigo, the internal use of which, as the fermented262 mass is prepared in copper vessels, must be attended with suspicion.

That the author, so often mentioned already, was not acquainted with the preparation of indigo, cannot be denied. It would, indeed, have been extraordinary had the account of it reached the Greeks and the Romans undisguised by fables, added either to answer the purposes of the interested merchant, or accidentally in the course of its long journey, in passing through so many countries and languages. It appears to me, however, that through these it may still be discovered; and in all probability we should be better able to form some idea of it were the oldest method of making indigo still known. In the slime deposited on the reeds, I think I can remark the first degree of fermentation, or commencement of putrefaction, without which the pigment could not be separated. Who knows whether the indigo plants in the earliest times were not deposited in pits or in stagnant water, in the same manner as our flax and hemp? Who knows whether after putrefaction they were not taken out, and the colouring parts adhering to them washed off and collected? The quantity indeed obtained by this process would not be great, and at present a much better method is employed; but the improvements made in every art have been gradual. The old inhabitants of the Canary islands scratched their land with the horns of oxen, because they were not acquainted with the spade, and far less with the plough. The above conjecture will appear much more probable, when it is known that in many parts of India the plants were formerly placed in large pits; and in Malta, where indigo was still cultivated in the seventeenth century, they were put into reservoirs or basins in order to ferment621. If this was usual in the oldest times, it may be easily seen how fabulous accounts might arise. Indigo was a slime attracted from the water by a reed, which the indigo plant, stripped of its bark, was considered to be.

263 Dioscorides speaks of another kind of indigo, which was the dried purple-coloured scum of the dye-pans. My predecessors, considering this account as an error, which might have arisen either from conjecture or misconception, or which was purposely occasioned by merchants, did not think it worthy of further examination. I cannot, however, refrain from remarking, that a blue pigment, and even a very fine one, if the proper preparations had been made for that purpose, might have been obtained in this manner. It was not indeed indigo, in the proper sense of the word, but a pigment of a similar nature. That fine high-priced powder sold, at present, under the name of blue carmine, is made from the separated scum of a dye-liquor, in which the finest colouring particles remain suspended. The scum or flower of a blue pan622 which floats on the surface exhibits a play of many colours; and as among these the ancient purple is frequently observed, it may therefore very properly be said to have a purple colour623. In my opinion, there is no reason to disbelieve Dioscorides, when he says that in his time a blue pigment named indigo was made in this manner, especially as it can be proved that the woad-dyers, at the end of the sixteenth century, separated from their pans a colouring substance, which they sold instead of indigo, an article at that time exceedingly dear624. Besides, we read that in the establishments for dyeing black, the scum was in like manner collected in old times in the form of a black pigment, and this practice, as appears, was usual in all the dye-houses in general. Pliny, who says that this indigo was made in the purple dye-houses, seems either to have misunderstood Dioscorides, or to have been too precipitate; but it is certain that the scum in the purple dye-houses may have been collected and dried into a purple-coloured carmine.

As the Europeans did not become acquainted with the nature of indigo till modern times, it needs excite no astonishment264 that the old commentators should have erred in explaining the passages to which I here allude; and their opinion can therefore be of little weight in opposition to mine. Those who have approached nearest to the truth, Sarazen, Mathioli, Salmasius, &c., speak as if indigo were made from our woad, which however does not grow in India. Dioscorides speaks also of woad in a particular section. Marcellus Vergilius says, that Dioscorides meant indigo is certain; and this article is so generally known that it is not worth while to mention it. But he himself seems not to have been acquainted with it, else he would have amended the erroneous passage which speaks of Indian stone625. This arose from the ignorance of the old transcribers, who being unacquainted with Indicum thought only of gemma Indica, mentioned by Pliny626. But Vergilius was right in this, that the purple lake, spoken of by Pliny, and not by Dioscorides as he believes, can no longer be produced.

I have long made it a rule, and prescribed it to others, in explaining any object mentioned by the ancients, never to admit, without the strongest proofs, that the same article is denoted by different appellations. This, it is true, has been often done. By these means the small knowledge we possess of a thing that occurs under one name only may be increased. A wider field may thus be opened for conjecture, and more latitude may be given to the imagination; but at the same time one may fall into groundless explanations, and hazard assertions, which, with whatever caution and learning proposed, will, on closer examination, be found either false or highly improbable. According to this rule, I have carefully endeavoured not to suffer myself to be so far misled by the respectability of my predecessors, as to consider the Indicum and Indicum nigrum of the ancients to be the same substance. On further research I find that the latter not only appears by the epithet to be different from indigo, but that it is China, or, as the Dutch call it, Indian ink. To prove this, I must refer to the passage of Pliny627 on which my assertion is founded; and perhaps the short illustrations added will render this minuteness less tedious to those who are fond of such disquisitions. In the passage referred to, Pliny enumerates265 all the materials which in his time were used for black ink. He therefore mentions two vitriolic substances, a slime or sediment (salsugo), and a yellow vitriolic earth (called also misy). Such minerals continued in use as long as men were unacquainted with the art of lixiviating the salt, and causing it to crystallize; or in other words, as long as they had no vitriol-manufactories. He speaks also of lamp-black being made in huts built for the purpose, which are described by Vitruvius, and from which the smoke of burning pine-wood was conveyed into a close apartment. The article was certainly adulterated, when soot, taken from the baths and other places where an open fire was maintained with wood of all kinds, was intermixed with it. It is very remarkable that black from burnt refuse of grapes, noir de vigne, which at present our artists, and particularly our copper-plate printers, consider as the most beautiful black, was made even at that period. Germany hitherto has obtained the greater part of this article from Mentz, through Frankfort, and on that account it is called Frankfort black. Some is made also at Kitsingen, Markbreit, and Munich. For this purpose the refuse of the grapes is charred in a close fire, and being then finely pounded is packed into casks. Pliny observes, that it was asserted that from this substance one could obtain a black which might be substituted for indigo. Another pigment was bone-black, or burnt ivory, which is highly esteemed even at present. Besides these, continues he, there is obtained from India what is called Indicum, the preparation of which I have not yet been able to learn: but a similar pigment is made from the black scum of the dye-pans, in places for dyeing black, and another kind is obtained from charred fir-wood finely pulverized. The cuttle-fish (sepia) likewise gives a black; but that however has nothing to do with the present question. He remarks, in the last place, that every kind of black pigment is improved, or rather the preparation of it completed, by exposure to the sun628; that is to say, after gum has been added to that intended for writing, and size to that destined for painting. But that which was made with266 vinegar was more durable, and could not be easily effaced by washing. All this is very true. Our ink acquires a superior quality when exposed to the light of the sun in flat vessels. That vinegar renders black colours faster, is well known to our calico-printers; and those who wish to have good ink must employ in making it the brightest vinegar of beer. It is equally true, that every black pigment mixed up with gum or size can be sooner and easier washed out again with water629.

A considerable part of what has hitherto been quoted from Pliny, may be found also in Vitruvius630. The latter, in like manner, mentions huts for making lamp-black; he speaks also of ivory-black, and says expressly, that when it is properly made it not only forms a good colour and excellent ink, but approaches very near to Indicum.

Now I might here ask, whether it is at all probable that the learned Pliny and the practical connoisseur of painting, the architect Vitruvius, could consider and describe our blue indigo as a pigment which, like lamp-black, could be employed as a black colour and as ink? Is it credible that Pliny, if he meant blue indigo in the before-mentioned passage, would have said that he was not able to learn the preparation of it, when he expressly describes it, as he believed it to be, in the course of a few lines further? Would Pliny and Vitruvius, had they been acquainted with black indigo only, remark immediately after, that, when costly indigo could not be obtained, earth saturated with woad, consequently a blue earth, might be used in its stead? Is not allusion here made to a blue pigment, as was before to a black one? Is it not therefore evident, that the name of Indicum was given to a black and also to a blue pigment brought from India? And if this be the case, is it not highly probable that the black Indicum was what we at present call Indian ink, which approaches so near to the finest ivory-black, and black of wine lees, that it is often counterfeited by these substances, a preparation of which is frequently sold as Indian ink to unwary purchasers? Indian ink is in general use in India, and has been so in all probability since the earliest ages. In India all artificial productions are of very great antiquity; and therefore267 I will venture to say, that it is not probable that Indian ink is a new invention in India, although it may probably have been improved, and particularly by the Chinese.

To confound the two substances, however, called indigo (indicum) at that period was not possible, as every painter and dealer in colours would know that there were two kinds, a blue and a black. It has, nevertheless, occurred to me, that in the works of the ancients obscurity may have sometimes been avoided by the addition of an epithet; and I once thought I had found in Pliny an instance of this foresight; that is, where he names all kinds of colours—purpurissum, Indicum cæruleum, melinum, auripigmentum, cerussa631. I conceived that in this passage our indigo was distinguished from the black indicum by the epithet cæruleum. But my joy at this discovery was soon damped by Hardouin, who places between Indicum and cæruleum a comma, which is not to be found in many of the oldest and best editions. I cannot, therefore, get rid of this comma; for it is beyond all dispute that cæruleum was the common appellation of blue copper ochre, that is, mountain blue. I shall now proceed to examine whether my observation be true, that the Greeks frequently used the term black indicum, when they meant to denote the black, and not the blue.

The term nigrum Indicum occurs in Arrian, Galen, Paulus Ægineta, and perhaps in the works of other Greek physicians; and as the Latin writers were acquainted with an Indicum which dyed black, there is reason to conjecture that this was the Indicum nigrum of the Greeks, though I should rather be inclined to translate this appellation by the words Indian black, in the same manner as we may say Berlin blue, Roman red, Naples yellow, Brunswick green, Spanish brown, &c.; or I should as readily translate it Indian ink. Arrian introduces it along with other Indian wares. I do not indeed find that he makes any mention of indigo properly so called; but a complete catalogue of merchandise is not to be expected from him. Indicum, however, occurs once more in this author; but in the passage where it is found it is only an epithet to another article. Speaking of cinnabar, he adds, that he means that kind called Indian, which is obtained from a tree in the same manner as gum. I am inclined to think that he268 alludes to dragon’s blood, which on account of its colour was at that time called cinnabar.

Some have conjectured that what in Arrian is named laccos chromatinos was our indigo, which indeed might be classed among the lakes, according to the present meaning of that word. Others understand by it gum-lac632. But I am unacquainted with any proofs that gum-lac was known at so early a period. I much doubt whether this meaning of the word lac be so old; and I must confess that the opinion of Salmasius appears to me highly probable, namely, that Arrian alluded to a kind of party-coloured garment: for besides the grounds adduced by Salmasius, it deserves to be remarked, that in the passage in question different kinds of clothes, and no other articles are mentioned. Besides, the epithet chromatinos is applied by the same writer, in the same sense, to other kinds of clothing. It cannot therefore be said that Arrian mentions our gum-lac, the origin of which word Salmasius endeavours to discover.

In the works of Galen, which have not yet been sufficiently illustrated, I have found Indicum nigrum only four times. In a place where he speaks of diseases of the eyes633, he extols it on account of its cleansing quality; and says it can be used for wounds, when there is no inflammation. In another place634, it occurs in three prescriptions for eye-salves. I have however endeavoured, but without success, to find in this excellent writer an explanation of what he calls Indicum; though he has explained almost all the different articles then used in the Materia medica. It appears therefore that the Greeks gave the name of Indicum to our indigo, and also to Indian black or Indian ink.

It however cannot be denied that, in opposition to this opinion, considerable doubts arise. Many who think that the black indigo (nigrum Indicum) of Pliny and Vitruvius was not ink, but our indigo, remark, that things of a dark blue or dark violet colour were by the Greeks and the Romans frequently named black; and therefore that the blue indigo might in this manner be called black635. But the examples269 adduced as proofs are epithets applied by the poets to dark-coloured flowers. Because nature produces no black flowers, the poets, who are fond of everything uncommon, extraordinary, and hyperbolic, call flowers black, when they are of so dark a tint as to approach nearly to black. Thus clear and deep water is called black. It is however hardly credible that painters and dyers, who must establish an accurate distinction between colours, should have spoken in so vague a manner. Salmasius suspects that Nil and Nir, the Arabic names of indigo, have arisen from the Latin word niger.

The objection, that Paulus Ægineta, the physician, in a passage where he refers to Dioscorides for the medical virtues of Indicum, applies to it the epithet black, seems to have more weight636. It may be added also, that the virtues, in general, which Galen ascribes to the Indicum nigrum, appear to be similar to those ascribed by Dioscorides to Indicum; and the latter in one place637, where he speaks of the healing of wounds, uses only the expression Indicum, and not Indicum nigrum. It is particularly worthy of remark, that Zosimus, the chemist, declares the hyacinth colour of the ancients, that of woad, and the Indicum nigrum, to be the same638 or similar. But to those who know on how slight grounds the ancient physicians ascribed medicinal qualities to many substances, it will not perhaps appear strange, that, in consequence of the same name, they should ascribe the same qualities to two different things. It is not improbable that in cases of external injury, for which the Indicum nigrum was recommended, indigo and Indian ink might produce as much or as little effect. I should consider of far greater importance the opinion of the chemist Zosimus; but unfortunately270 his writings have not yet been printed. The period in which he lived is still uncertain, and it is not known whether all the chemical manuscripts which bear that name were written by the same author.

From what has been said, I think it may, at any rate, be inferred, that in the time of Vitruvius and Pliny, indigo, as well as Indian ink, was procured from India, and that both were named Indicum. It is less certain that the Greeks called indigo Indicum, and Indian ink Indian black. Nay, it appears that indigo, on account of the very dark blue colour which it exhibits both when dry and in the state of a saturated tincture, was often named Indian black. In my opinion, it is proved also that, in the old dye-houses, the workmen collected the scum thrown up by the dye-pans, and dried it into a kind of lake or carmine.

I shall now prove what I have already asserted, that indigo was at all times used, and continued without interruption to be imported from India. I shall quote mention made of it in various centuries; but I am convinced that attentive readers may find instances where it occurs in many other writers.

The Arabian physicians, it is probable, all speak of indigo; but it is unfortunate that in this point we must depend upon very incorrect Latin translations. It appears also that they often repeat the information of the Greeks, in regard to articles of the Materia medica, without having been acquainted with them themselves. Rhases, who lived at the end of the tenth century639, mentions, “Nil, alias Indicum.” Avicenna, who died in 1036, often speaks of indigo640; but in the margin of the wretched translation it is remarked, that under the term Indicum, alum (or much rather green vitriol) is to be understood. In a passage, however, where he speaks of dyeing the hair black, he certainly alludes to indigo, which, according to the translation, produced colorem pavonaceum, or a violet colour. In the Latin we find “Indicum indum bonum,” and this awkward expression Salmasius explains by remarking, that the words in the Arabic are Alusma Alhendia, that is, Indian woad. In the same place he mentions Indicum carmenum, a kind of indigo which did not dye so271 much a violet colour as a black, that is to say with the addition of green vitriol. Carmania, indeed, bordered on Gedrosia, which is the proper country of indigo, where the best is still prepared at Guzerat. In the explanation of some Arabic words, printed in my copy of Avicenna, Indicum is translated granum Nil. Serapion, about the end of the eleventh century, mixed together, as appears, every thing that the Greeks have said in regard to indigo and woad. Averroes, in the middle of the twelfth century, mentions the medicinal qualities of indigo as given by the Greeks, and adds, that it was much used for dyeing.

Muratori gives a treaty, written in Latin, of the year 1193, between the citizens of Bologna and Ferrara, which contains a list of those articles subject to pay duty. Among these occurs indigum641. In the thirteenth century, the celebrated Marco Polo, who spent twenty-six years in travelling through Asia, and even some parts of China, relates that he saw indigo, which the dyers used, made in the kingdom of Coulan or Coilum; and he describes the process for preparing it642. Much curious information in regard to the trade with this article, in the middle of the fourteenth century, is contained in the valuable work of Francesco Balducei Pegolotti643. We there find the names of different kinds, such as Indaco di Baldacca detto buccaddeo, in all probability from Bagdad, a city which in many old books of travels is called Baldach or Baldac; also Indaco del Golfo, Indaco di Cipri, Indaco Rifanti. Indigo, at that time, was imported in hides (cuojo), or in leather bags (otre), and also in boxes (casse). What this traveller says in regard to the signs by which its goodness may be known, is very remarkable. Nicolo Conti, who travelled through India before the year 1444, mentions endego among the merchandise of Camboia644. That the expression color indicus was used in the middle ages to denote blue mixed with violet, is proved by Du Cange. It appears to me therefore highly improbable that indigo should not be known to Rosetti, as Professor Bischof supposes645. In that important work on dyeing, however, which I mentioned long272 ago646, it occurs several times, and always under the name endego.

I shall here make one observation, which is of some importance in the history of dyeing. It is found that in the middle ages the Jews maintained in the Levant a great many establishments for dyeing, and were the principal people who carried on this branch of business. Benjamin the Jew, who died in 1173, says in his travels, in speaking of some places, that “a Jew lived there who was a dyer;” or he remarks, in regard to others, that “most of the Jews followed the occupation of dyeing.” A scarlet-dyer lived at Tarento, and a purple-dyer at Thebes. At that period the Jews at Jerusalem had hired from the king a place particularly well-fitted for dyeing, on the express condition that no person besides themselves should be suffered to carry on there the same business647. I am fully aware that well-founded doubts have been entertained in regard to the credit which ought to be given to Benjamin’s narration, and Jewish vanity is everywhere well-known; but I do not see why he ought not to be believed in regard to this point; for it may very naturally be asked, why he should have falsely ascribed this occupation to his countrymen and no other? He speaks only once of a Jew glass-maker, a woollen- and a silk-weaver. To this may be added, that it is frequently stated in various authors, that the business of dyeing was carried on in Italy by the Jews. Thus, in the eleventh century, among the branches of revenue arising to the popes from Benevento, mention is made of the taxes paid by the Jews on account of their dye-houses. In the middle ages princes seem to have maintained dye-houses on their own account. Instances occur of their giving away, as presents, such establishments with all their apparatus648. A place of this kind was called tincta, tingta, or tintoria. This dye regale is to be deduced perhaps from the old establishments for dyeing purple, which could be formed only by sovereigns, and not by private individuals. Along273 with these tinctæ the Jews are often mentioned, so that it appears probable they were employed there as workmen.

There is reason therefore to conjecture that the Jews learned this art in the East, and that they employed in Italy the same pigments as were used in the dye-houses of the Levant. It is not improbable also, that in the room of woad, which was then cultivated in Italy, they introduced indigo, a substance richer in colouring matter, or at any rate, rendered it more common. The Italians were the first people in Europe who brought this art to a greater degree of perfection, as they did many others; and it can be proved that the knowledge of it was thence diffused to other countries. In the same proportion as this took place, indigo, in my opinion, banished the native woad, which was neither so advantageous, nor communicated so beautiful a colour as the Italians were able to dye with the former. The use of it became more extended when the productions of the East Indies were brought to Europe by sea, and particularly after it could be obtained from America at a much cheaper rate.

The first Portuguese ship, that commanded by Vasco de Gama, returned from the East Indies in the year 1499, and was soon followed by several more, all laden with the most valuable merchandise of the East. I have never yet been able to find any invoice of the cargoes of these vessels; and, unfortunately, we have no account of the early trade carried on by the Portuguese with Indian productions. I have no means, therefore, of proving that indigo was among the commodities first imported. Spices, which in consequence of the general prevalence of luxury, sold at that time exceedingly dear, together with precious stones, formed, no doubt, the first articles of trade; but it is not improbable that they were soon followed by indigo, for all the travellers who about that period visited India, speak of it as one of the most current articles.

Barbosa, a Portuguese, who collected there in 1516 valuable information in regard to geography and trade, who afterwards accompanied Magelhaens on his voyage round the world, and perished with him at the island of Zebu, has given a price-current of the merchandise at Calecut, in which the value of good indigo at that time is stated649. Corsali also, in274 his letters written from India in 1516, mentions indigo among the wares of Camboya. Louis Guicciardini, who wrote first in 1563, and died in 1589, speaking of the merchandise obtained by Antwerp from Portugal, mentions anil among that of the East Indies650.

It is however certain that the trading company established in the Netherlands in 1602, who learned at an early period the art of rendering indispensably necessary to the Europeans cottons, tea, sago, and other things of which they could always hope to find a sufficient supply in India, carried on the greatest trade with these articles. The first German writers who complain of indigenous woad being banished by indigo, and those sovereigns who, by public orders, endeavoured to prevent this change, ascribe the fault to the Netherlanders. Niska, who wrote in 1630, says indigo had been introduced into Germany only thirty years; and an order of the emperor Ferdinand III., dated 1654, says that it had been imported into Germany from Holland some years before that period.

That the importation at this time was very great, is proved by the cargoes of the ships which arrived in Holland from the East Indies in 1631. The first had 13,539 pounds of Sirches indigo; the second 82,734 pounds of Guzerat indigo; the third 66,996 pounds of the same; the fourth 50,795 pounds of Bajano indigo; the fifth 32,251 pounds of Chirches indigo; the sixth 59,698 pounds of Bejana indigo; and the seventh 27,532 pounds of Chirches. I have mentioned these so particularly, as one may thence see the different kinds, and the places where made. These seven vessels, therefore, brought to Europe 333,545 pounds, which, at a low valuation, were worth five tons of gold, or 500,000 dollars. In the month of April 1633, three ships brought home 4092 kartel of indigo, which were worth 2,046,000 rix-dollars.

The profit attending this trade induced people, soon after the discovery of America, to manufacture indigo in that country; and they were the more encouraged to do so by observing that the native Americans, before they had the misfortune to become known to the Christians, tinged their bodies and faces of a blue-violet colour, by means of indigenous plants, which resembled the indigo plant of Asia.

Whether the two plants are of the same genus, or whether275 the American is different from that used in the other quarters of the globe, has not yet, as far as I can find, been with certainty determined651. It is however proved, that the assertion of Raynal and others, that this plant was first conveyed to the new world from Asia by the Europeans, is entirely erroneous. It is mentioned by Francis Colon (or Columbus), in the Life of his father652, among the valuable productions of the island of Hispaniola or St. Domingo. Francis Hernandes reckons it among the natural plants of Mexico, and says that the Americans used it for dyeing their hair black. He adds, that they made from it a pigment which they named Mohuitli and Tleuohuilli, the same as the Latins named cæruleum, and he describes also the method of preparing it. This is confirmed by Clavigero in his account of Mexico.

This plant therefore must be reckoned among the few which are indigenous in three-quarters of the globe. It is, however, highly probable that the Europeans, in the course of time, introduced a better species or variety into America, where several kinds are actually cultivated at present.

In the history of the American indigo, I must here leave a considerable hiatus, which perhaps may be one day filled up from books of travels and topography. All that I know at present is, that the first indigo brought to Europe was procured from Guatimala, consequently from Mexico, and that this article was supplied at first, and for a long time, by none of the West India islands but St. Domingo alone.

Krunitz says653, but on what authority I do not know, that Lopez de Gomes relates, that in his time a very fine sky-blue colour was prepared in Hispaniola. If the person here alluded to be Lopez de Gomara, who accompanied Ferdinand Cortez as chaplain654, this would be the oldest testimony that could be expected, and would correspond with the account given by276 Labat. But I shall leave the further investigation of this subject to others, and observe, that the cultivation of indigo was begun in Carolina in 1747, and according to Anderson, was encouraged the year following by premiums.

This article, therefore, was brought from both the Indies to Europe, and recommended itself so much by the superiority and richness of its dye, by the facility with which it could be used, and the advantages attending it, that it suddenly banished from all dye-houses the European woad, which was cultivated, in particular, in Thuringia in Germany, in Languedoc in France, and in the neighbourhood of Rieti in the dominions of the church. At first, a small quantity of indigo only was added to the woad, by which the latter was improved; more was afterwards gradually used, and at last the quantity became so large, that the small admixture of woad served only to revive the fermentation of the indigo, but was not capable itself of communicating any colour. It was soon observed that every yard of cloth could be dyed somewhat cheaper when indigo was used along with woad, than when the latter was employed alone, according to the ancient method. Germany then lost a production by which farmers, merchants, carriers, and others, acquired great riches.

In the sixteenth century people began, in many countries, to make considerable improvements in dyeing. For this purpose, new dye-stuffs, both indigenous and foreign, were subjected to experiment, and trials were made with salts which had never before been employed. In this manner dyers sometimes obtained colours which pleased by their novelty and beauty; but it needs excite no surprise that many new methods of dyeing did not produce the desired effect. Many communicated colours which were agreeable to the eye, but they soon faded; and some rendered the dyed cloth so tender that it soon rotted on the shopkeepers’ shelves. Governments conceiving it then necessary to do something for the security of the purchaser, considered the imperfection of the art as a premeditated deception; and as it was at that time supposed that some pigments could give durable and genuine colours, and others fading or false ones; and also that the pernicious effects of salts could not be prevented or moderated, they, in general, prohibited the use of all new materials from which hurtful consequences had been observed to arise.

277 Legislators are neither almighty, omniscient, nor infallible. With the best views, and a firm determination to discharge their duty, they may recommend things hurtful, and prohibit others that might be attended with advantage. Were their commands and prohibitions inviolable, insuperable, and irresistible, they would often confine the progress of the arts and sciences, and render useful inventions impossible. But the people, when they have not entirely become machines, know how to elude, even at great personal hazard, faulty regulations, and by prohibited ways to obtain greater advantages than those which formed the object of the orders issued by their government. This was the case in regard to the art of dyeing in the sixteenth century.

A recess of the diet held in 1577, prohibited, under the severest penalties, the newly invented pernicious, deceitful, eating, and corrosive dye called the devil’s dye, for which vitriol and other eating substances were used instead of woad. This prohibition was renewed in 1594 and 1603, with the addition of this remark, that, in consequence of the weight of the bad dyes, a pound of undyed silk for sewing or embroidery would produce two or three pounds of dyed655.

Allusion seems to be made here to black, which at that time was the colour of the higher orders. It appears that at this period astringent juices and green vitriol began to be used more than they had been formerly, and cloth when too long boiled with these substances, becomes exceedingly tender: black cloth is even sometimes spoilt in this manner at present. It is also true that cloth receives the greatest addition in weight when dyed black, and the next greatest when dyed blue. I am not acquainted with accurate experiments in regard to the weight which cloth acquires by dyeing; but one may safely assert, that it is stated far too high in the recess of the diet. Fifteen ounces of raw silk lose by that kind of scouring which the French call décruement, four ounces; consequently white silk weighs eleven ounces, but after it is dyed black its weight is increased to thirteen ounces. In general, a black dye increases the weight of cloth a fifth more than bright dyes.

As indigo after this soon became common, and the sale of278 woad was injured, the first prohibition against the former was issued by Saxony in the year 1650; and because government well knew how much depends on a name, when one wishes to render an object odious or estimable, the prohibition was couched in terms which seemed to show that indigo was included among those eating substances, termed in the recess already mentioned devil’s dyes. In the year 1652, Duke Ernest the Pious caused a proposal to be made to the diet by his envoy, Dr. Hœnnen, that indigo should be entirely banished from the empire, and that an exclusive privilege should be granted to those who dyed with woad. This was followed by an imperial prohibition on the 21st of April 1654, in which every thing ordered in regard to the devil’s dyes is repeated, with this addition, that great care should be taken to prevent the private introduction of indigo, by which the trade in woad was lessened, dyed articles injured, and money carried out of the country. The elector took the earliest opportunity the same year to make known and enforce this prohibition with great severity in his dominions656.

The people of Nuremberg, who at that time cultivated woad, went still further. They made a law that their dyers should annually take an oath not to use indigo; and at present they are obliged to do the same thing, though indigo is as necessary to them as to others; a most indecent disregard to religion, which, however, is not without example. In the French monarchy, where all offices were purchased and sold, every counsellor of parliament, on his entrance, was obliged to swear that he had not obtained his place by money, until at length some one had the courage to refuse taking a false oath. Thus also in Germany many placemen must swear that they will observe all the orders of government, yet many of them are daily violated, and indeed cannot be observed, or at any rate, not without great mischief and confusion.

What was done in Germany in regard to Thuringia, was done in France in regard to Languedoc. In consequence of an urgent representation by the states of that province, the use of indigo was forbidden in 1598; and this prohibition was afterwards repeated several times. But in the well-known edict of 1669, in which Colbert separated the fine from the common dyers, it was stated that indigo should be used without279 woad; and in 1737 dyers were left at liberty to use indigo alone, or to employ a mixture of indigo and woad657.

In England, where, I believe, woad was not at that time cultivated, the first mention of indigo in the laws occurs in the year 1581, under the reign of Elizabeth, not, however, on account of a blue but a black dye. No woollen articles were to be dyed black with the gall-nut, madder or other materials, till they had received the first ground, or been rendered blue by woad, or woad and indigo together658. In like manner it was long believed that no durable black could be produced unless the article were first dyed in a blue pan. Hats also were not considered to be properly dyed unless traces of a blue tint could be discovered on the place where they were cut659. At present our dyers can communicate a durable black without a blue ground, as well as dye a fixed blue without woad; and in every part of Europe foreign indigo will continue to be the most common material for dyeing, till its high price render it necessary to obtain a similar pigment from indigenous plants660.

[The dye-stuff of indigo is obtained from the plant by allowing it to ferment with water; during this process it subsides in the form of a blue deposit, which is collected and dried. As it occurs in commerce, it contains several impurities, such as lime, silica, alumina, and oxide of iron, in addition to the colouring matters, which are three in number, a brown, red and blue; as also some glutinous matter.

The chief localities of the indigo-plant at present are Bengal and Guatimala, though of late years the exportation from the latter has been materially checked by the disturbed state of Central America. In the early period of our occupation of India, indigo formed a leading branch of the Company’s280 trade; but the rude manufacture of the native population was in the course of time expelled from the markets of Europe by the more skilfully prepared drug of America and the West Indies. Soon after the peace of 1783, the West Indian process of manufacture was introduced into Bengal, and the directors having relaxed their prohibitory system so far as to permit the application of British capital and skill to the cultivation of the plant on the alluvial depositions of the Ganges, the exportations were gradually increased, and the American and West Indian indigo almost entirely driven from the market. The manufacture was also introduced into Oude and the other north-western districts of the great plain of the Ganges; and in later periods into some of the Madras provinces, into Java and the Philippine Islands. The indigo produced everywhere else is, however, very secondary both in quantity and quality to that of Bengal and Bahar, the soil and climate of which seem to be particularly congenial to the plant. The average supply of indigo at present may be estimated as follows:—Bengal provinces, 34,500 chests, or about 9,000,000 lbs.; other countries, including Madras and Guatimala, 8500 chests; total, 43,000 chests. Of this there are consumed in the United Kingdom, 11,500 chests, or about 3,000,000 lbs.; France, 8000 chests; Germany and the rest of Europe, 13,500 chests; Persia, 3500 chests; India, 2500 chests; United States, 2000 chests; other countries, 2000 chests; total, 43,000 chests, or upwards of 11,000,000 lbs. The quantity imported into the United Kingdom in 1840 amounted to 5,831,269 lbs., and the quantity entered for home consumption amounted to 3,011,990 lbs. Upwards of four-fifths of the imports are from the East Indies; the remainder chiefly from the West Indies, Guatimala, Peru and the Philippine Islands. The surplus imported beyond the quantity consumed is re-exported to Germany, Russia, Italy, Holland and other parts of the continent of Europe. France and the United States derive their main supplies by direct importation from Calcutta.]


615 Dioscor. lib. v. cap. 107, p. 366. Περὶ Ἰνδικοῦ.

616 Plin. lib. xxxv. cap. 6, § 27, p. 688; and Isidorus, Origin. lib. xix. cap. 7, p. 464.

617 Foesii Œconomia Hippocratis. Francof. 1588, fol. p. 281.

618 Ἔγχυλον means also juicy, or something that has a taste. Neither of these significations is applicable here, where the subject relates to a substance which is dry and insipid, or at any rate which can possess only a small degree of astringency. It must in this place denote an inspissated or dried juice; but I can find no other passage to support this meaning.

619 In Pliny’s time people coloured a white earth with indigo, or only with woad, vitrum, in the same manner as coarse lakes and crayons are made at present, and sold it for indigo. One of them he calls annularia, and this was one of the sealing earths, of which I have already spoken in the first volume. In my opinion it is the same white pigment which Pliny immediately after calls annulare: “Annulare quod vocant, candidum est, quo muliebres picturæ illuminantur.” These words I find nowhere explained, and therefore I shall hazard a conjecture. Pliny, I think, meant to say that “this was the beautiful white with which the ladies painted or ornamented themselves.”

620 Plin. lib. xxxv. § 12, p. 684.—Vitruv. lib. vii. cap. 14.

621 Tavernier, ii. p. 112. We are told so in Malta Vetus et Nova a Burchardo Niederstedt adornata. Helmest. 1659, fol. lib. iv. cap. 6, a work inserted in Grævii Thesaurus Ital. vi. p. 3007. This man brought home with him to Germany, after his travels, a great many Persian manuscripts, which were purchased for the king’s library at Berlin. Niederstedt, however, is not the only person who speaks of indigo being cultivated in Malta. Bartholin, Epist. Med. cent. i. ep. 53, p. 224, says the same.

622 It is entirely different from the molybdate of tin, the laborious preparation of which is described by J. B. Richter in his Chemie, part ii. p. 97.

623 It deserves to be remarked, that the Greek dyers, speaking of a fermenting dye-pan covered with scum, used to say, like our dyers, that it had its flower, ἐπάνθισμον. In Hippocrates the words ἐπάνθισμα ἀφρῶδες denote a scum which arises on the surface. Among the Latins flos in this sense is very common.

624 Caneparius de Atramentis, Rot. 1718, 4to, v. 2. 17.—Valentini Museum Museor. i. p. 225.—Pomet, i. p. 192.

625 See his edition of Dioscorides, Colon. 1529, fol. p. 667.

626 Lib. xxxvii. 10. sect. 61, p. 791.

627 Lib. xxxv. cap. 6.

628 Perfici is a term of art which is often used to express the finishing or last labour bestowed upon any article: Vasa sole perficiuntur. When vessels of earthen-ware have been formed, they must be suffered to dry and become hard in the sun. See Hardouin’s index to Pliny.

629 Gum and gummy substances of every kind used to make ink thicker and give it more body, were called ferrumen. See Petronius, cap. 102, 15.

630 Vitruv. vii. 10, p. 246.

631 Lib. xxxv. cap. 7.

632 Exercitat. Plin. p. 816, b. And in the Annotationes in Flavium Vopiscum, p. 398, in Historiæ Augustæ;, Paris, 1620, fol.

633 De Composit. Pharmac. secundum locos, lib. iv. cap. 4. Edit. Gesn. Class. v. p. 304.

634 Lib. iv. cap. 7.

635 Salmasii Exercitat. Plin. p. 908, a.

636 Pauli Æginetæ libri vii. Basiliæ, 1538, fol. p. 246, lib. vii.

637 Parabilium lib. i. 161, p. 43.

638 Salmasius in Homonymis Hyl. Iatr. p. 177, a; and in Exercitat. Plin. p. 810, b; and p. 936, b. In regard to the manuscripts of the work of Zosimus, which is commonly called Panopolita, see Fabricii Bibl. Græca, vol. vi. pp. 612, 613; and vol. xii. pp. 748, 761. I wish I may be so fortunate as to outlive the publication of it; it will certainly throw much light on the history of the arts. It is remarkable that Zosimus calls indigo-dyers λαχωταὶ and ἰνδικοβάφοι, in order perhaps to distinguish them from the dyers with woad. The distinction therefore between indigo-dyers and those who dyed with woad must be very old.

639 In the edition of some Arabian physicians, published by Brunfels, at Strasburg, 1531, fol.

640 Avicennæ Canon. Med.... Venet. 1608, fol. ii. p. 237.

641 Antiquitates Italiæ Medii Ævi, ii. p. 894.

642 Lib. iii. cap. 31, p. 150.

643 Lisbona e Lucca, 1766, 4to.

644 Ramusio Viaggi, 1613, i. p. 342.

645 Geschichte der Farberkunst. Stendal, 1780, 8vo, p. 69.

646 Anleitung zur Technologie, fourth edit. p. 123. I can now add, that Roso, in Memorie della Societa Italiana, Verona, 1794, 4to, vii. p. 251, quotes also the edition per Francesco Rampazetto, 1540, 4to.

647 Itinerarium Benjaminis, Lugd. Bat. 1633, 8vo.

648 Du Cange quotes a diploma of the emperor Frederick II., dated 1210, and under the word Tintoria, a diploma of Charles II. king of Sicily.

649 Ramusio, i. p. 323.

650 Totius Belgii Descript. Amst. 1660, 12mo, i. p. 242.

651 [They both belong to the same genus but are specifically distinct, the species cultivated in India being principally the Indigofera tinctoria, and that in America the Indigofera anil.]

652 This work has been several times printed. It is also in Barcia Historiadores primitivos de las Indias Occidentales. Madrid, 1749, fol. vol. i. At p. 61, we find among the productions of the above island, minas de cobre, anil, ambar, &c. An English translation in Churchill’s Collection, ii. p. 621, renders these words mines of copper, azure, and amber.

653 Encyclop. vol. xxix. p. 548.

654 His works may be found in Barcia’s Collection, vol. ii.

655 All these prohibitions may be found in Schreber’s Beschreibung des Waidtes. Halle, 1752, 4to, in the appendix, pp. 1, 2.

656 Schreber ut supra, p. 11.

657 See Mémoires de l’Acad. à Paris, année 1740.

658 Statutes at Large, vol. ii. Lond. 1735, p. 250. [Dr. Ure, however, says that indigo was actually denounced as a dangerous drug, and forbidden to be used by our Parliament in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. An Act was passed authorizing searchers to burn both it and logwood in every dye-house where they could be found. This Act remained in full force till the time of Charles II., that is, for a great part of a century.]

659 Marperger’s Beschreibung des Hutmacher-handwerks. Altenburg, 1719, 8vo, p. 85.

660 [This observation has been verified; for tolerably large quantities of indigo are now extracted from the Polygonum tinctorium, which is cultivated in some parts of France and Belgium for that purpose.]



If the poet Seneca was well informed, mankind, in the infancy of navigation, had no particular names for distinguishing the principal winds661. This is not at all incredible; because with their rafts and floats, which were the first vessels, they for a long time ventured out to sea only so far that they could easily return to the shore; and therefore while navigation continued in this state, they had little reason to trouble themselves about the direction of the winds. It is more certain that those nations respecting whom we have the oldest information, distinguished by names the four principal winds only. This is generally proved by a passage in Homer, where he intends to mention all the winds, and names only four662; but this proof is of little weight; for what poet at present would, with the like view, think of boxing the compass, or of introducing into a poem the names of all the thirty-two points? Would he not rather be satisfied with the names of the four chief winds alone? If more names, therefore, were usual in Homer’s time, he would not consider it necessary to name them. In another passage he names only two winds663; and from these some have endeavoured to prove that no more were then known; but this assertion indeed is completely refuted by the passage first quoted. It can, however, be easily proved, that for a long time names were given to the four principal winds only.

It is easily seen what at first gave rise to this distinction. The sun at noon stands always over one point of the horizon, which appears to the observer as a circle, having the place where he himself is at its centre. This point is called the meridian or south, and the one opposite to it the north. If the observer turns his face towards the north, he will have on his right-hand the east, and on his left the west. The space between these principal winds contains ninety degrees, or a right angle. The number, however, must soon have been raised to eight, and this division was usual in the time of Aristotle664. Afterwards twelve points in the heavens were282 adopted, also as many winds; and in the time of Vitruvius twenty-four were distinguished and named, though this division was very little used. To determine the names, however, employed in the last two divisions is attended with some difficulties; and it almost appears as if writers did not always apply to them the same meaning.

The Greeks considered Æolus as the first person who made navigators acquainted with the winds. He is said to have ruled over the Volcanic islands, afterwards named the Æolian; and if this be true, he would certainly have a good opportunity of observing the weather, and marking the winds by the smoke continually rising up there from burning volcanoes. This celebrated personage, who received Ulysses on his return from the Trojan war, by the knowledge thus obtained may have assisted navigators, who afterwards made known the services which he rendered to them.

The antiquity of the division into thirty-two points, used at present, I am not able to determine. Riccioli thinks that they have been employed since the time of Charles the Great, but I do not know whether this can be proved. That assertion perhaps is founded only on the opinion, that this emperor gave German names to the winds and the quarters of the world. This indeed is stated by his historian Eginhart, who mentions the names, which I shall here insert, together with the Latin names added by Eginhart, and those usual at present665.

Subsolanus Ostroniwind East.
Eurus Ostsundroni East-south-east.
Euroauster Sundostroni South-east.
Auster Sundroni South.
Austroafricus Sundwestroni South-south-west.
Africus Westsundroni South-west.
Zephyrus Westroni West.
Corus Westnordroni West-north-west.
Circius Nordwestroni North-west.
Septemtrio Nordroni North.
Aquilo Nordostroni North-north-east.
Vulturnus Ostnordroni North-east.

It has however been long since remarked, that these names283 are much older than Charles the Great666; and it is highly probable that they were only more accurately defined, or publicly confirmed by this prince, or that in his time they came into general use. How often have early inventions been ascribed to sovereigns, though they were only made in their reign! Even whole nations have been said to be descended from those princes under whom they first became known to foreigners; as, for example, the Poles from Lech, and the Bohemians from Zech.

Charles, however, did not give names to thirty-two, but to twelve winds. Nor was he the first who added to the four cardinal points eight others, for the same thing is asserted of many. But it deserves to be remarked, that in Charles’s names one can discover traces of that ingenious mode of denoting all the winds with four words; that is to say, by different combinations of East, West, South, and North. It is certain that the names of the different points and winds used by all the European nations, the Italians only excepted, are of German origin, as well as the greater part of the terms of art employed in navigation and naval architecture.

It appears to me not improbable that the division used at present was introduced soon after the invention of the magnetic needle; at least Honorius, surnamed Augustodunensis667, who must have flourished before the year 1125, speaks only of twelve winds; as do also Gervasius in 1211, and Vincent de Beauvois in the middle of the thirteenth century, who gives from Isidorus, who lived about the year 636, the twelve Latin names used by Eginhart668.

It can scarcely be doubted that means for indicating the winds were invented at a very early period. I here allude to vanes, flags, and every other apparatus by which the direction of the wind can be conveniently and accurately discovered, and similar to those erected at present on many private houses, on most of our church steeples, and on board ships. I must however confess that I have hitherto scarcely observed any trace of them among the Greeks and the Romans. I can find no account of them in works where all the parts284 of edifices are named; where ships and everything belonging to them are expressly described; nothing in Pollux, and nothing in any of the poets. I am unacquainted also with any old Greek or Latin word that can be applied to an apparatus for pointing out the wind. In the edition of Kirsch’s German and Latin Dictionary, printed in 1754, we find Wetterhahn (a weathercock) petalum, triton; but the latter term is borrowed from the tower of Andronicus, of which I shall have occasion to speak hereafter; and neither this word nor petulum, or petulæ, arum, which Kirsch gives also, occurs in this sense in any ancient author; and the case is the same with pinnacella, ventilogium, aurologium, and other names which are to be found in some dictionaries.

I am acquainted with no older information in regard to an apparatus for observing the winds, than what is given by Vitruvius respecting the tower built at Athens by Andronicus Cyrrhestes, that is, of Cyrrhus, a town in Syria. This tower, which was built of marble, in an octagonal form, had on each side a representation of that wind opposite to which it was placed. Its summit terminated in a small spire, on which was a copper triton, made to turn in such a manner as to present its front to the wind, and to point with a rod held in its right-hand to the image of the wind blowing at the time669. This tower is still standing; and a description and figure of it may be seen in the travels of Spon and Wheeler, and in those also of Pocock670. The figures representing the winds, which are larger than the life, are executed in basso-relievo, and correspond to the seasons at which they generally blow. At the top of each side, under the architrave, the name of the wind is inscribed in Greek characters. Boreas, the North wind, holds in his hand a mussel-shell, which seems to denote his peculiar power over the sea. The Zephyr has its bosom full of flowers, because it prevails in March, at the time when the flowers chiefly blow in Greece; and similar attributes are assigned to the rest.

Varro had an apparatus of the same kind at his farm671.285 Within the building was a circle, in which the eight winds were represented, and an index, like that of a clock, pointed to that wind which was blowing at the time. Nothing therefore was necessary but to look at the ceiling to know from what quarter the wind came. I have seen an apparatus of the same kind on some exchange, either at Lubec or Rotterdam. Varro calls the tower of Andronicus horologium, a word which Salmasius wishes to change into aurologium. But it contained also a sun-dial, as we are assured by Pocock, who observed the necessary hour-lines; and therefore it is not improbable, that the people, who through the want of clocks would oftener look to the dial than to the weathercock, gave to the tower a name alluding to the former rather than to the latter.

Du Cange says, that a triton, by way of weathercock, was placed on the temple of Androgeus at Rome; but I am unacquainted with the source from which he derived this information, and of that temple I have not been able to obtain any account672. Whether the tritons placed on the temple of Saturn at Rome were indicators of the wind, or whether they had a learned signification, as Macrobius asserts, I will not venture to determine673. It is probable that the pillar, some remains of which were found at Gaeta (Cajeta), in the kingdom of Naples, and on which the names of the winds were cut out in Greek and Latin, served as a wind indicator also.

But it is more than probable that an apparatus for pointing out the wind, similar to that at Athens, was erected also at Constantinople. At least I consider as such what was called by some anemodulium, and by others anemoderium; the information respecting which has not, as I conceive, been hitherto understood, not even by Banduri. In my opinion it was not a building or tower, but a column furnished with a vane, somewhat similar to what is still seen in many places on the sea coast, where a high pole is erected with a flag. This pillar, if I may be allowed the expression, consisted entirely of copper; it was square, and in height not inferior to286 the loftiest columns in the city. Its summit formed a pyramid, and, as I conjecture, an octagonal one, upon which stood a female figure that turned round with every wind, and consequently was a vane, only not a triton, as at Athens. Below it, on each side of the pyramid, were seen a great many figures, which I will venture to assert were attributes or images of the winds, to which the female figure pointed. Nicetas says, that there were observed among them birds, agricultural implements, the sea with shipping, fishing-boats, and naked cupids sporting with apples, which in my opinion denoted the different seasons in which each wind was accustomed to blow674.

It is not improbable that the whole pillar was constructed of different pieces of copper, cast singly and then joined together; and it appears that neither Nicetas, nor Cedrenus, nor the Latins, who in the thirteenth century pulled down and melted the numerous objects of art, plundered from various cities by the emperor Constantine to ornament his capital, were acquainted with the purpose for which this pillar was originally destined, or the meaning of the emblematical figures represented upon it. Nay, there is even reason to think that the Greeks themselves, at this time, were so ignorant as to believe such objects to be the productions of magic. According to Cedrenus, this costly wind indicator was erected by Theodosius the Great, and according to others by Leo Isauricus. Were the first assertion true, it would belong to the fourth century, and in the second case to the eighth; but I cannot help suspecting that it was constructed before the time of Theodosius. The female figure which indicated the wind, was, according to Nicetas, called anemodoulon, but according to Cedrenus anemoderion. The former denotes a person who belongs to the wind; the latter one who contends with the wind; and both these appellations are well suited to a vane or wind indicator. If my explanation287 be correct, this work of art at Constantinople had nothing in common with the statue of Jupiter constructed by Lysippus at Tarentum675. The latter was forty cubits in height; and what excited great astonishment was, that though it would shake when pushed with the hand, it withstood the force of the most violent storms. I should rather compare the statue of Lysippus to those moveable masses of rock which are mentioned by various authors, both ancient and modern.

It is not improbable that there may have been wind indicators of this kind in other places, and that more passages alluding to them, not hitherto remarked, may be found in different authors. Professor Michaelis, who was desirous to assist me in my researches, pointed out to me an account, undoubtedly written before the year 1151676, in which it is stated that there was at Hems, in Syria, formerly called Emessa, a high tower, on the summit of which was a copper statue of a horseman that turned with every wind. It is worthy of remark, that under the vane there were figures, among which was that of a scorpion; in all probability the emblem of some season.

In Europe, the custom of placing vanes on the summits of the church-steeples is very old; and as these vanes were made in the figure of a cock, they have thence been denominated weathercocks. In the Latin, therefore, of the middle ages, we meet with the words gallus and ventilogium. The latter is used by Radulphus, who wrote about the year 1270677. Mention of weathercocks occurs in the ninth678, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth679 centuries. There is no doubt that the cock was intended as an emblem of clerical vigilance. In the ages of ignorance the clergy frequently styled themselves the cocks of the Almighty, whose duty it was, like the cock which roused Peter, to call the people to repentance, or at any rate to church680. The English, therefore, are mistaken288 when they suppose that the figure of a cock was first made choice of for vanes in the fourteenth century, under the reign of Edward III., in order to ridicule the French, with whom they were then at war; and that the custom of cock-throwing, that is to say, of throwing sticks at a cock exposed with his wings tied, as then practised, took its rise at the same time.

In France, in the twelfth century, none but noblemen were allowed to have vanes on their houses; nay, at one time this was the privilege of those who, at the storming of a town, first planted their standards on the ramparts. These vanes were painted with the knights’ arms, or the arms were cut out in them, and in that case they were called panonceaux681.

Flags or vanes on ships occur very early, but they are always mentioned on account of their use in making signals. They were of various forms and colours; were sometimes drawn up, and sometimes taken down; placed sometimes on the right and sometimes on the left side of the ship, and were changed in various other ways, directions for which may be seen in the Tactics of the emperor Leo. They were named vexilla, flammulæ, also flammula and banda, and the last two appellations occur in the works of the younger Greek writers682.

But though the oldest writers on the art of naval warfare, such as Vegetius, recommend a knowledge of the winds, I have not yet met with any certain account of apparatus for determining the direction of them on board a ship. Before the discovery of the magnetic needle, such accuracy as is necessary at present would have been superfluous; yet naval commanders must long before have had some means of distinguishing at least the twelve winds then defined, though no traces of them are to be found in the works which have been accidentally preserved to us.

Scheffer683, who, as is well-known, collected from the works of the ancients all the terms of art applicable to navigation, thinks that the band, tænia, affixed to a pole at the stern of the ship684, did not serve so much for an ornament as to indicate289 the course of the wind. He is, however, able to produce no other authority for this opinion than a passage in one of Cicero’s letters, which has been changed and amended, till it at length seems to say that Cicero had resolved to embark, because the vanes had announced a favourable wind685.

I must acknowledge that at present I can produce no older information in regard to vanes used on board ship, to indicate the course of the wind, than of the eleventh century, taken from the life of Emma, the consort of Canute the Great, king of Denmark, Norway and England, the author of which was an eye-witness of what he relates. Describing the magnificent Norman fleet sent to England in the year 1013, he says that birds, which turned round with the wind, were placed on the top of the masts686.

At that time, therefore, instead of the flags used at present, a vane, shaped like a bird, was placed at the summit of the mast; perhaps also the figure of a cock, as the emblem of vigilance, but in this case not of clerical vigilance. In the cathedral of Bayeux, in France, is a piece of tapestry, representing the actions of William the Conqueror, executed with the needle, either by his consort or under her direction, in which vanes are seen at the top of the masts in many of the ships687.

[Anemoscopes, or instruments for showing the direction of the wind, are now in constant use in meteorological establishments; the indications are made upon dials, and the apparatus does not differ in principle from that described by Beckmann.

Anemometers, or instruments for measuring the power or force of the wind, have also been contrived of various kinds. The first was invented by Wolf. In this the wind acted upon four sails somewhat resembling those of a windmill, the motion being communicated by cog-wheels to a lever loaded with a weight. When the wind acted upon the sails, the bar rose, this motion continuing until the increased leverage of290 the weight counterpoised the moving power of the wind. Others on a different principle have been made by Lind, Regnier, Martin, and a very beautiful instrument for this purpose, constructed by Mr. Dent, may be seen at Lloyd’s room in the Royal Exchange.]


661 Medea, ver. 316.

662 Odyss. v. 295.

663 Iliad, ix. 5.

664 Aristot. Meteorol. ii. cap. 5 et 6. On this account, as Salmasius remarks, the book De Mundo cannot belong to Aristotle, as mention is made in it of twelve winds.

665 De Vita et Gestis Caroli Magni. Traj. 1711, 4to, pp. 132, 133.

666 Adelung’s Wörterbuch, under the word East.

667 Of the writings of this monk, whom I shall again have occasion to quote, separate editions are scarce. They are however to be found in Maxima Bibliotheca Patrum, tom. xx.

668 Speculum Natur. iv. 34, p. 254.

669 Vitruv. i. 6, p. 41.

670 See Stuart’s Antiquities of Athens, i. 3, tab. i.—xix.

671 Varro De Re Rust. iii. 5. 17. Our common weathercocks and vanes, when well made, and preserved from rust, show the point from which the wind proceeds, but do not tell their names. By the vanes on church steeples, one knows that our churches stand in a direction from east to west, and that the altar is placed in the eastern end. On other buildings an arrow, which points to the north, is placed under the vane.

672 Du Cange refers to Anonymus de Arte Architectonica, cap. 2.

673 Saturn. i. 8, p. 223.

674 The passage of Nicetas may be found in Fabricii Biblioth. Græca, vi. p. 407, and in Banduri Imperium Orientale, Par. 1711, fol. tom. i. lib. vi. p. 108. Nicetas speaks of it again in lib. ii. de Andronico, Venet. 1729, fol. p. 175. He there says that the emperor was desirous of placing his image on the anemodulium, where the cupids stood. Another writer, in Banduri Imper. Orient. i. p. iii. lib. i. p. 17, says expressly that the twelve winds were represented on it, and that it was erected with much astronomical knowledge by Heliodorus, in the time of Leo Isauricus.

675 Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxiv. 7. sect. 18. p. 647.

676 Geographia Nubiensis. Parisiis, 1619, 4to, p. 118.

677 In Vita S. Richardi Cicestrensis. See also Du Cange.

678 In Ughelli Italia Sacra, Romæ, 1652, fol. iv. p. 735, we find the following inscription on a weathercock then existing at Brixen:—“Dominus Rampertus Episc. gallum hunc fieri præcepit an. 820.”

679 Raynerus; cap. 5.

680 Ambrosius, v. cap. 24.—Vossius de Idol. iii. cap. 86.—Pierii Valeriani Hieroglyphica. Franc. ad M. 1678, p. 288.

681 Dictionnaire à Trevoux, 1704, fol. article Girouette.

682 Hirtius de Bello Alexand. cap. 45.—Tacit. Annal. 22.—Livius, lib. xxxvii. cap. 24.—Leonis Tactica, cap. 19, § 40, 42, pp. 342, 343, edit. Meursii. Lugd. Bat. 1612, 4to.

683 De Milit. Navali. Upsaliæ, 1654.

684 Pollux, i. 9, § 90, p. 61.

685 Epist. ad Atticum, v. 12.

686 The Encomium Emmæ is printed in Du Chesne, Historiæ Normannor. Scriptor. Paris, 1619, fol.

687 This honourable memorial of the last half of the eleventh century is explained and illustrated by a figure in Mémoires de l’Academ. des Inscript. Paris, 1733, 4to, vol. viii. p. 602.


The astonishing extensibility of gold, a property in which it far surpasses all other metals, induced mankind, at an early period, to attempt beating it into thin plates, as the value of it led them to the art of covering or gilding things of every kind with leaves of it. It is proved by Herodotus, that the Egyptians were accustomed to gild wood and metals688; and gilding is frequently mentioned in the books of the Old Testament689. The gold plates, however, used for this purpose,291 as may be readily conceived, were not so thin as those made at present; and for this reason, the gilding on statues, which have lain many centuries in the earth, appears to be still entire. Winkelmann says690, that among the ruins of two apartments in the imperial palace, on the palatine hill, in the Villa Farnese, the gold ornaments were found to be as fresh as if they had been newly applied, though these apartments, in consequence of being buried under the earth, were exceedingly damp. The circular bands of sky-blue, with small figures in gold, could not be seen without admiration. The gilding also is still preserved in the ruins of Persepolis.

But, in the time of Pliny, the art of gold-beating was carried so far at Rome, that an ounce of gold could be beat into seven hundred and fifty leaves and more, each four square inches in size691. I shall not compare this result with what the art can do at present, because the account of Pliny is not the most accurate, and because the conversion of the old measures into the modern standard is always attended with uncertainty. Buonarotti, however, who made some researches on this subject692, is of opinion that the gold used at Rome for fire-gilding in his time, that is, at the end of the seventeenth century, was beat six times as thin; and that the gold employed for gilding wood and other things, without the application of fire, was twenty-two times as thin as the gold leaf made at Rome in the time of Pliny. But this Italian author, as appears to me, has, through too great precipitation, translated the words “septingenæ et quinquagenæ bracteæ” fifty and seventy. Gold, however, at that time, was beat so thin at Rome, that Lucretius compares it to a spider’s web, and Martial to a vapour693.

I have, however, not yet met with any information in regard to the method in which the ancient artists beat the gold, or the instruments and apparatus they employed for that purpose. But the German monk Theophilus, whose real name seems to have been Rüger, and who, as Lessing thinks, lived292 in the ninth, but, according to Morelli, in the twelfth century, describes the process nearly as it is at present694. The gold, at that time, was beat between parchment, in the same manner as is still practised; and the artists knew how to prevent the gold from adhering to the parchment, by covering it over with burnt ochre reduced to a very fine powder, and then rubbing it smooth with a tooth. With the like view, our gold-beaters rub over with a fine bolus the thin paper used for making the books into which they put their gold leaf, in order to preserve it. But the flatting-mills, between the steel rollers of which cast and hammered ingots of gold are at present reduced to thin leaves, seem not to have been then known, at least this monk makes no mention of them. Lessing, to whom we are indebted for this curious fragment of Theophilus, is of opinion that each artist at that time was obliged to beat the gold leaf which he used, because gold-beating was not then a distinct branch of business. This I will not controvert; but it is no proof of it, that the monk taught the art to his brethren; for in convents the clergy endeavoured to make everything they used, in order that they might purchase as little as possible.

During the progress of the art, it being found that parchment was too thick and hard for the above purpose, workmen endeavoured to procure some finer substance, and at length discovered that the skin of an unborn calf was the most convenient. By means of this improvement, gold leaf was made much thinner than it had ever been before possible; but the art was brought to still greater perfection by employing that fine pellicle which is detached from the gut of an ox or a cow. Lancellotti, who wrote in the first half of the seventeenth century695, says that this invention was made by the German gold-beaters, when, in consequence of the war, they were not able to obtain from Flanders the skins of unborn calves.

I have often heard that the preparation of this pellicle, which the French call baudruche and the Dutch liezen, and which is so thin that two of them must be pasted together, is a secret, and that the best is obtained from England. But in the year 1785, when I paid a visit to a very ingenious gold-beater at Hamburg, he assured me that he prepared this293 substance himself, and that the case was the same with most of the gold-beaters in Germany. Even in England, in the year 1763, this art was known only to two or three persons, who practised it as a business, but kept it so secret that Lewis was not able to obtain a proper account of it696. In Ireland also this skin is prepared and sent to England697. When the French, in the beginning of the revolutionary war, hoped to out-manœuvre the Germans by the use of aerostatic machines, it became of some importance to them to obtain a supply of these skins. On this account, the Commission des armes et poudres drew up instructions for preparing them, which they caused to be printed and distributed to all the butchers. At Strasburg they were printed in French, and at the same time in German, but in many parts faulty and unintelligible.

About the year 1621, Mersenne excited general astonishment, when he showed that the Parisian gold-beaters could beat an ounce of gold into 1600 leaves, which together covered a surface of 105 square feet. But in 1711, when the pellicles, discovered by the Germans, came to be used in Paris, Reaumur found that an ounce of gold, in the form of a cube, five and a quarter lines at most in length, breadth, and thickness, and which covered only a surface of about twenty-seven square lines, could be so extended by the gold-beaters as to cover a surface of more than one hundred and forty-six and a half square feet. This extension, therefore, is nearly one-half more than was possible about a century before.

When these skins are worn out by the hammer of the gold-beater, they are employed, under the name of English skin, for plasters, or properly to unite small wounds. By the English they are called gold-beaters’ skin698; but, since silk covered with isinglass and Peruvian balsam, which in Germany is named English plaster, for the Germans at present call every thing English, has become the mode, this skin is much less used699. I mention this that I might have an opportunity294 of remarking, that in the middle of the twelfth century, in the Levant at least, a very thin pellicle was in like manner used for wounds. For when the emperor, John Comnenus, accidentally wounded himself in the hand with a poisoned arrow while hunting, a piece of skin, which, from the name and description may be considered the same as that used at present by the gold-beaters, was applied to the wound. The emperor, however, died in consequence of this wound, after it had become inflamed under the pellicle, which, in large wounds, and when the skin is suffered to remain too long, is commonly the case, though the poison alone would have been a sufficient cause of death. Reaumur and others are astonished that artists should have sought for and found a part of their apparatus in the bowels of an ox; but I am of opinion that this pellicle, which is sometimes separated in washing and cleaning the bowels, was first observed by the butchers, and made known by them as a plaster; and that it came into request among the German gold-beaters, as the finest of all the pellicles then known, in the beginning of the seventeenth century.

The art of gilding, and particularly unmetallic bodies, was much facilitated by the invention of oil-painting; but it must be acknowledged that the process employed by the ancients in cold-gilding was nearly the same as that used at present. Pliny says700 that gold leaves were applied to marble with a varnish, and to wood with a certain kind of cement, which he calls leucophoron. Without entering into any research respecting the minerals employed for this cement, one may readily conceive that it must have been a ferruginous ochre, or kind of bole, which is still used as a ground (poliment, assiette)701. But gilding of this kind must have suffered from dampness, though many specimens of it are still preserved. Some of the ancient artists, perhaps, may have employed resinous substances, on which water can produce very little effect.

That gold-leaf was affixed to metals by means of quicksilver, with the assistance of heat, in the time of Pliny, we are told by himself in more places than one. The metal to be gilded was prepared by salts of every kind, and rubbed with pumice-295stone in order to clean it thoroughly, and to render the surface a little rough702. This process is similar to that used at present for gilding with amalgam, by means of heat, especially as amalgamation was known to the ancients. But, to speak the truth, Pliny says nothing of heating the metal after the gold is applied, or of evaporating the quicksilver, but of drying the cleaned metal before the gold is laid on. Had he not mentioned quicksilver, his gilding might have been considered as that with gold-leaf by means of heat, dorure en feuille à feu, in which the gold is laid upon the metal after it has been cleaned and heated, and strongly rubbed with blood-stone, or polished steel. Felibien was undoubtedly right when he regretted703 that the process of the ancients, the excellence of which is proved by remains of antiquity, has been lost.

False gilding, that is, where thin leaves of a white metal, such as tin or silver, are applied to the article to be gilded, and then rubbed over with a yellow transparent colour, through which the metallic splendour appears, is much older than I believed it to be in the year 1780. The process for this purpose is given by the monk Theophilus, whose fragments were first printed in 1781704. According to his directions, tin beat into thin leaves was to be rendered of a golden yellow colour by a vinous tincture of saffron, so that other pigments could be applied over it. The varnish or solution of resin in spirit of wine or oil, used for this purpose at present, appears not then296 to have been known. But in the sixteenth century this art was very common; and instructions respecting it were given by Garzoni705, Cardan706, Caneparius707 and others in their writings. About the same period a pewterer at Nuremberg, named Melchior Koch, was acquainted with the art of communicating a golden colour, in the like manner, to tin goblets and dishes. He died in 1567; and with him, as Doppelmayer says, the art was lost. A method of applying a white metal to paper, and then drawing over it a gold varnish, has been known in China since the earliest periods708. At present this method of gilding is practised more in Sicily than in any other country. It appears also to have been used, at an early period, for gilding leather and leather tapestry; and this perhaps was first attempted at Messina, as we are told by John Matthæus709, who, however, in another place ascribes the invention to a saint of Lucca, named Cita. But gilt leather was made as early as the time of Lucian, who conjectures that Alexander the impostor had a piece of it bound round his thigh710. The dress of the priests, on the festival of Bacchus, was perhaps of the same kind711.


688 Herodot. lib. ii. 63. See Winkelmann Hist. de l’Art.—Caylus, Recueil d’Antiquités, i. p. 193. Gori seems to have had in his possession two Egyptian gilt figures. See Mus. Etr. t. i. p. 51.

689 In the books of the Old Testament gilding and gold plates are clearly mentioned. Moses caused several parts of the sanctuary to be overlaid with gold. 1st. The ark of shittim wood was covered with gold both on the outside and inside, Exodus, chap. xxv. ver. 11; also the staves, ver. 13. 2nd. The wooden table with its staves, ver. 23 and 28. 3rd. The altar of burnt incense, chap. xxx. ver. 3. 4th. The boards which formed the sides of the tabernacle, chap. xxvi. ver. 29.

Solomon caused various parts of the temple to be overlaid with gold. 1st. The whole inside of the house, 1 Kings, chap. vi. ver. 21 and 22. 2nd. The altar of burnt incense, ver. 20 and 22. 3rd. The wooden cherubim above seventeen feet in height, ver. 28. 4th. The floor, ver. 30. 5th. The doors of the oracle, on which were carved cherubims, palm-trees and open flowers, ver. 32 and 35, so that the gold accurately exhibited the figures of the carved work.

Now the question is, whether all these were gilt, or covered, or overlaid with gold plates. But when the passages are compared with each other, I am inclined to think that gilding is denoted.

“The Hebrews probably brought the art of gilding with them from Egypt, where it seems to have been very old, as gilding is found not only on mummies, the antiquity of which indeed is uncertain; but, if I am not mistaken, in the oldest temples, on images. It appears also, that in the time of Moses the Hebrews understood the art both of gilding and of overlaying with plates of gold, and expressed both by the general term צפה.”

690 Page 534.

691 Lib. xxxiii. 3. The thicker gold-leaf was called, at that time, bractea Prænestina; the thinner, bractea quæstoria.

692 Osservazioni Istoriche sopra alcum Medaglioni Antichi. In Roma, 1698, fol. p. 370.

693 Lucret. iv. 730.—Martial. viii. 33.

694 Lessing zur Geschichte und Litteratur, iv. p. 309.

695 L’oggidi overo gl’ingegni non inferiori à passati. Venet. 1636. 8vo.

696 Zusammenhang der Künste. Zurich, 1764, 8vo, i. p. 75. For further information see Traité des Monnoies, par Abot de Bazinghen. Paris, 1764, 4to, i. p. 102.

697 Rutty’s Natural History of Dublin, 1772, 2 vols. 8vo, i. p. 264.

698 Von Uffenbach Reisen, iii. p. 218.

699 I was told that Professor Pickel of Würzburg prepares gold-beaters’ skin by means of a varnish, which renders it fitter for use; and that a student of that place had found out the art of making it transparent, in order that the wound might be seen.

700 Lib. xxxiii. § 20, p. 616.

701 Plin. lib. xxxv. § 17, p. 685.

702 Lib. xxxiii. § 32, p. 622. “Cum æra inaurantur, sublitum bracteis pertinacissime retinet. Verum pallore detegit simplices aut prætenues bracteas. Quapropter id furtum quærentes ovi liquore candido usum eum adulteravere.” See also sect. 42, p. 626. I acknowledge that this passage I do not fully comprehend. It seems to say that the quicksilver, when the gold was laid on too thin, appeared through it, but that this might be prevented by mixing with the quicksilver the white of an egg. The quicksilver then remained under the gold; but this is impossible. When the smallest drop of quicksilver falls upon gilding, it corrodes the noble metal, and produces an empty spot. It is therefore incomprehensible to me how this could be prevented by the white of an egg. Did Pliny himself completely understand gilding? Perhaps Pliny only meant to say, that many artists gave out the cold-gilding, where the gold-leaf was laid on with the white of an egg, as gilding by means of heat. I shall here remark, that the reader may spare himself the trouble of turning over Durand’s Histoire Naturelle de l’Or et d’Argent, Londres 1729, fol. This Frenchman did not understand what he translated.

703 Principes de l’Architecture. Paris, 1676, 4to, p. 280.

704 Lessing zur Geschichte und Litteratur, vi. p. 311.

705 Piazza Universale. Venet. 1610, 4to, p. 281.

706 De Rerum Var. xiii. cap. 56.

707 De Atramentis.

708 Mémoires concernant les Chinois, xi. p. 351.

709 De Rerum Inventoribus, Hamb. 1613, 8vo, pp. 41, 37.

710 Luciani Opera, ed. Bipont. v. p. 100.

711 Plutarchi Sympos. iv. in fine.


As long as mankind lived under palm-trees in their original country, between the tropics, they had no occasion to provide either food or clothing: the former was spontaneously supplied by the earth, that is, without care or labour; and the latter in that warm climate was superfluous. The art of cultivating plants, and that of preparing clothes, were not innate, but first taught by necessity; and this did not exist till men, in consequence of their increase, were obliged to spread towards both the poles. In proportion as they removed from297 their former abode, provisions became scarcer, and the climate colder. Hence arose the breeding of cattle, as well as agriculture; and men then first ventured on the cruelty of killing animals, in order that they might devour them as food, and use their skins to shelter them against the severity of the weather.

At first these skins were used raw, without any preparation; and many nations did not till a late period fall upon the art of rendering them softer, and making them more pliable, durable, and convenient. As long as mankind traded only for necessaries, and paid no attention to ornaments, they turned the hairy side towards the body; but as the art of dressing skins was not then understood, the flesh side must have given to this kind of clothing, when the manners of people began to be more refined, an appearance which could not fail of exciting disgust. To prevent this the Ozolæ inverted the skins, and wore the hair outwards; and in this manner some account for the bad smell which exhaled from their bodies712. This custom, however, was so general, that Juvenal, where he describes a miserly person, says, “to guard himself against the cold he does not wear the costly woollen clothing of the luxurious Romans, but the skins of animals, and these even inverted, that is to say, with the hairy side turned inwards, without caring whether the appearance be agreeable or not713.” In what manner the art of tanning was afterwards found out, Goguet has endeavoured to conjecture from the accounts given by travellers, in regard to the savages in the northern parts of America and Asia, but particularly in regard to the Greenlanders. The far more ingenious method of manufacturing wool, first into felt and then into cloth, seems to have been discovered by the inhabitants of temperate districts, where the mildness of the winter rendered fur dresses unnecessary.

The sheep came from Africa; but in that country it has hair and not wool; and it is only in colder climates that the former acquires a woolly nature. If it be true that a Hercules first brought this species of animal from Africa to Greece714, that improvement may have first been effected in the latter country; in which case it is probable that the first298 attempts to manufacture wool were made by the Athenians, that is to say, among the Greeks; for this art was before known to the Egyptians, who ascribe the invention of it to their Isis.

It may be readily comprehended that many centuries must have elapsed before the tender sheep could be conveyed to and reared in the northern countries, where thick and immense forests produced in abundance a great variety of those animals which were capable of supplying the best furs; where mankind increased but slowly; applied to hunting till a later period; and were not so soon compelled to employ artificial methods of obtaining the most necessary productions; and where they also lived too widely scattered to be soon conducted to the arts by a communication of experience and inventions. The northern nations, therefore, clothed themselves in the raw skins of animals, a long time after the southern tribes were acquainted with the spinning and weaving of wool, flax, and cotton; and on this account the former were astonished at the appearance of the latter.

When the Greeks give us a picture of these barbarians, they scarcely ever fail to state how disgusting they were on account of their dress; which however, by the acknowledgement of their historians, was long worn by their own forefathers715. The heroes even of the Grecian fabulous history clothed themselves in the skins of the most terrible animals716, such as lions and tigers, and on these they also slept. When the Romans wished to describe the manners of their ancestors, and to exhibit the difference between them and their own, they commonly mentioned the use of skins. Thus Propertius calls the senators of the earliest periods the pelliti717, and Valerius Maximus says718, speaking of the luxury of his time, that no one in imitation of Cato would use goat skins as a covering to his bed. But it appears that the Greeks and the Romans, at the time of their prosperity, when the arts and sciences were cultivated among them, made little use of fur clothing. It was worn at that period only on certain299 festivals, and merely by the poorer classes and rustics719, or employed in the time of war720. At any rate, it is not mentioned among the dresses of the rich, or articles of magnificence and ornament.

The ancient physicians, where they treat on the influence which clothing has on the health, and the choice of it for winter and summer, make no mention of furs. Suetonius, describing the manner in which the emperor Augustus dressed in winter, names various articles of clothing, but no furs; which the emperor, who was so sensible of cold, would certainly have worn, had they been usual. They no doubt would have been much more convenient and answered the purpose better, than the four tunicæ drawn over each other, and the thick toga, the woollen shirt and breast-cloth, and all the other articles mentioned. Martial ridicules a petit-maître, who wished for the arrival of winter and for severe weather in that season, in order that he might exhibit his costly winter dresses. Had furs, at that period, been the fashionable and principal winter clothing, the poet certainly would not have omitted to mention them. At present the baccaræ for the like reason make their appearance as soon as the first frost takes place, along with large muffs, which leave scarcely any part of the body to be seen but the head and the feet. Had furs been employed by way of ornament in the time of Pliny, he no doubt would have noticed this use of them, especially as he mentions and ridicules so many superstitious ways of applying the skins of animals; but I do not remember to have read in the works of this naturalist any account of fur clothing. He relates that an attempt had been made to manufacture the fur of the hare; but it had not succeeded, because the fur, on account of its shortness, as he supposes, would not adhere, or, as we say at present, could not be felted721. He, however, says nothing of hare’s fur being employed to line clothes. It300 appears also that furs do not often occur as clothing in the sacred scriptures722. In the third, or perhaps even the second century of the Christian æra, fur dresses seem to have been known to the Romans, and to have been much esteemed by them. The numerous northern tribes, who at that time advanced towards the south, were clothed in furs; but they were not all raw, dirty, and disgusting, like those which had before been in use. It may with certainty be supposed that the chief men among them had the most beautiful furs; and that in general they were so well acquainted with the art of preparing them, and wearing them in the most graceful manner, that they by these means recommended them to the notice of the young Romans. For that all those warlike tribes who attacked the Roman empire, and in part subdued301 it, are not to be considered as uncultivated, savage barbarians, unacquainted with the arts or the sciences, addicted to plundering and murder, who overturned governments and destroyed public happiness and trade, has been lately remarked, when the French applied the term Vandalism to the horrid cruelties committed during the late revolution723. It can be proved that the Romans adopted from their uninvited guests those kinds of dress; that furs soon became fashionable among them, and were an object of luxury and of commerce; and it appears that skins were the first article which occasioned a trade from Italy to the most distant parts of the North, as in the fifteenth century they were the cause of the discovery and conquest of Siberia.

The later the art of manufacturing wool, and of converting the noble metals into lace and other ornaments, was known, in the northern countries, and the later the inhabitants became acquainted with cotton, silk, and precious stones, the earlier and the more they exerted themselves to find out and prepare the most beautiful furs, and to trim and to border with them their dresses; and it needs excite no surprise that the southern nations, though their climate did not require it, adopted this magnificence; especially as the distance and302 scarcity of furs made them dear enough to be considered by the rich and people of rank as a luxurious mark of distinction. This, in my opinion, will be proved by what follows.

When historians speak of those northern nations with whom the Romans carried on long and for the most part unfortunate wars, they scarcely ever forget to mention their fur clothing; and this is the case in particular with those writers who lived at the time. We are told by Herodotus, that the people near the Caspian sea clothed themselves in seal-skins. The same thing is related by Strabo of the Massagetæ; and Cæsar and Sallust both assert, that the skin of the rein-deer formed in part the clothing of the ancient Germans. I allude here to those dresses which they call renones. That this word is derived from the animal named at present by the Swedes Ren; that the rein-deer was common in ancient Germany, when, in consequence of its being covered with forests and marshes, it had a much colder climate and produced more rein-deer moss than at present; and that Cæsar, where he describes the most remarkable things of Germany, mentions the rein-deer under the name of bos cervi figura, I think I have proved in my juvenile production on the ancient animals of that country. Reno is also Lappmud, or the rein-deer skin, which is still worn in Sweden, which I have worn there myself, and which is handsome and costly. The objection of Wachter724 to this opinion is of very little weight. How is it possible to believe, says he, that these animals were formerly so numerous, that all the Germans and Gauls could clothe themselves in their skins? But on this occasion he does not recollect what he has often proved by examples, that the name of a species is often given to the whole genus. Because a great many wore renones, of which the Romans perhaps were fondest, they gave the name of renones to all these fur dresses of the Germans. The proofs, in ancient authors, in regard to the fur clothing of the Scythians, the Goths, the Getæ, and Huns, are too numerous to be collected. I shall therefore refer only to those passages which I have occasionally remarked, and which I shall soon employ for another purpose725.

303 It can easily be proved that the Germans and other northern nations, in consequence of their intercourse with the Romans, gradually left off the use of furs, and became more and more accustomed to woollen clothing; and, on the other hand, that the Romans adopted the state dress of their conquerors. Even in the time of Tacitus, those Germans who lived on the Rhine and the Danube, and consequently who were nearest to the Romans, set much less value on furs than those who, residing further within the country, were at a greater distance from intercourse with foreigners and from trade726. The latter had the most costly furs, which they knew how to ornament and variegate with trimmings of every kind, in the same manner perhaps as our furriers at present ornament white fur with the tail of the ermine727. These people possessed no other articles of luxury, and had no other means of distinguishing themselves among their countrymen, but by the rarity and costliness of their furs. Such was the case with the Spartans when Lycurgus deprived them of all their superfluities. They then ornamented, and thereby enhanced the value of the necessary articles they had left, beds, tables and wooden bowls, from which they drank water, and to such a degree, that at length these things were as capable of gratifying the taste of luxury as the foreign wares they had before purchased at so dear a rate728.

The same thing has been remarked by the Danish and Swedish historians. When these nations, by their sea voyages, piratical expeditions and trade, became acquainted with foreign manners, and more convenient kinds of clothing, they accustomed themselves to wool, cotton and silk; yet, in so slow a manner, that the use of these wares was introduced as an extravagant luxury. Harold Härdrät Sigurdson, or Harold304 IV. king of Norway, in the middle of the eleventh century, who had collected great riches in the Levant, wore a red mantle lined with white furs. In the twelfth century the principal men at the Danish court were clothed in sheep-skins729; and when Duke Canute, or Canute Laward, the son of Eric Eiegod, who was assassinated in the year 1131, appeared at a festival at Ripe in a dress of red cloth, he excited attention and envy, and was subjected to the mortification of hearing the most bitter sarcasms from Henry Skatteler, or rather Skokal, that is, the lame, who wore a native sheep-skin730.

That furs were considered by the Getæ as objects of magnificence, and that as such they were worn by their kings and the principal men at court, is proved by the passages I have quoted. The reproach thrown out by Claudian against Rufinus, that he was not ashamed to wear Getic furs, proves that the Romans adopted the manners of their conquerors, and that this practice was censured by their patriots. It is worthy of remark also, that the jurists, Ulpian and Paulus, reckon furs among articles of dress, to which before their time they did not belong731.

Acron, an old commentator on Horace, whose period, as far as I know, has not yet been determined, says that in his time the senators and principal men, when they appeared in their official dresses, wore costly furs obtained from foreign countries, and Tertullian732 indignantly inveighs against the female dresses bordered and trimmed with furs, which seem to be mentioned also by bishop Maximus in the fifth century.

In the year 397, the emperor Honorius forbade Gothic dresses, and in particular furs, to be worn either in Rome or305 within the jurisdiction of the city; but that such orders against fashions had very little effect appears from this circumstance, that these laws, extended as well as rendered more severe, were renewed in 399 and 416, and yet were not obeyed. Even the Goths themselves were forbidden to use such dresses. The Gothic servants, who at that time were kept in most families, were to be subjected to corporal punishment, and those of higher rank to a fine, in case they transgressed this prohibition. But Synesius, who lived at that period, and as a good patriot lamented the use of these outlandish dresses, which afforded a melancholy presage that the dominion of the Goths would at length prevail, relates, that the principal men among these people appeared at Rome in the Roman dress, but on their return home they exchanged it for their native clothing, and again assumed their furs.

Furs, however, were not the only part of the Gothic costume which became modish among the Romans; for they adopted also their breeches or hose. That such articles of dress were not used before that time, either by the Greeks, the Romans, or the Hebrews, has been proved by many. On this account mention is so often made of indecent postures, as when the Scotch Highlanders rendent les armes, by which parts are exposed that modesty requires to be concealed. This is considered by Theophrastus as one of the marks of clownishness733. Thus, a posture inadvertently assumed, exposed Philip to reproach, as we are told by Plutarch734; and to guard against a similar indecorum, Cæsar, as he fell, collected his robes around him. Hence, as is well known, the expression retained by Luther, seine Füsse bedecken, “to cover one’s feet,” or as the Greeks say, “to compose one’s clothes735.” Persons who laboured under weakness or indisposition, wrapped bandages around their legs; and in the time of Quintilian, the use of these could be excused only by sickness736. They, however, became afterwards more common, so that by Ulpian they are reckoned among the ordinary articles of dress737. They formed a step towards breeches, properly so called, which, as is well known, covered for many centuries the loins, thighs and legs, as may be seen on seals306 and carved work of the thirteenth century738. That the Batavians, Gauls, Germans, Sarmatians, Getæ, Goths, &c. had such articles of clothing, is proved by many passages in ancient authors, already quoted by others, and by the well-known appellation Gallia braccata. The anaxurides also of the Persians were breeches, which the Romans adopted, not from these people, but from the northern nations, yet without the approbation of the patriots, who exclaimed against them, as they had before done against furs. At first they seem to have been used only on journeys and in war. When the Gothic costume was forbidden by Honorius, breeches were expressly mentioned; and Ovid reproaches the people of Tomi, on the Pontus Euxinus, that though they wished to be thought of Greek extraction, they were not ashamed to wear Persian breeches739.

As furs for dresses of ceremony were either not used at all by the Greeks and the Romans, or were adopted only at a late period and seldom employed, an account of the fur trade is not to be expected in their writings. I am well aware that Isaac Vossius had an idea that the history of the golden fleece might be considered as the oldest trace of it740, and therefore asserted that the object of the Argonautic expedition to Colchis was a commercial speculation, as was the case with the voyages of the English to Nootka Sound. It is also true that this opinion met with some approbation; but it has no more probability than that entertained by the alchymists in regard to the same expedition since the time of Suidas. That the Colchi, indeed, carried on a very extensive trade is sufficiently proved by the testimony of Pliny and Strabo; but the latter, in the catalogue of wares, mentions timber for ship-building, pitch, wax, linen and hemp, but not furs, which at that time could not be an article much sought after in foreign commerce.

Another account which we read in Pliny seems much rather to refer to the fur trade. I here allude to that quoted307 by Böttiger741, from which it appears that furs were reckoned among the articles obtained at that time from the Seres742. I, however, freely confess that I cannot readily admit this single word of Pliny as a complete proof. As far as I have yet been able to find, other writers, among the articles furnished by the Chinese, mention iron, pearls, silk, cotton, and silk or cotton clothes, but say nothing of furs; and it is very improbable that a country which produced silk or cotton could supply such furs as would be worth conveying to so great a distance. The only thing I can admit is, that the furs were brought by a transit trade to Europe; that is to say, the Seres obtained them from the fur countries, properly so called, or those which at present furnish sables, and again sold them to the Romans. Now this was a very circuitous route, whether we consider Serica to have been China, Siam, or the Lesser Bucharia; yet not so circuitous as that by which the Chinese obtained from the English, through Russia, the best beaver-skins brought from Canada and Hudson’s Bay.

Were we to reckon among the pelles Serum of Pliny the lucida vellera, tactu mollia Serum, mentioned by Seneca, Boethius and others, we should undoubtedly be in an error; for these may be explained by the false information which at that time was obtained partly in regard to cotton, and partly in regard to silk, and which may be seen in Solinus743 and others. Is it not possible that these lucida vellera may have been meant likewise by Pliny?

I have some doubts also respecting a passage of Strabo, where he relates that among the wares brought by the nomadic tribes of Europe and Asia to the Tanais, or present Azoph, at the mouth of the Don, there were slaves and furs744. It is certain that dermata may signify, not only furs, but also tanned skins. If Strabo here meant furs, I am inclined to conjecture that they were disposed of in the nearest countries, but did not come into the European trade; and the case, perhaps, was the same with the slaves mentioned in the same passage. Polybius also, among the wares brought from Pontus to Byzantium, mentions dermata745. I must, however, confess, that if I found that the Romans actually obtained dermata308 from Asia, I should carefully examine whether under that term skins, or even dyed leather, were not rather meant. Skins, and particularly for military purposes, they indeed procured from very distant places. Thus the Frieslanders, instead of a tax, were obliged to supply ox-hides746; and it may be proved by the testimony of various writers, that the art of giving a beautiful dye to leather is very old in Asia; and therefore that many kinds of what we call morocco was at an early period brought from thence to Europe.

On the other hand, from what is said by Ælian747, I entertain no doubt that in his time a trade in furs was carried on with Persia. To that country were sent, he says, the soft skins of the Pontic mouse, which, when sewed together, formed warm dresses. I am convinced also that more proofs might be found of the use of fur-clothing among the Persians. They employed furs likewise instead of mattresses and bolsters. Thus we are told by Plutarch748 that Pharnabazus reclined upon soft furs: and it is not improbable that the rough or thick winter gloves of the Persians, mentioned by Xenophon, were of the same material749. It is stated by modern travellers, that at present sable and ermine skins are among the most common and valuable ornaments of the Persians; and it is well known that the costume of these people is very old, because they are not exposed as we are to the influence of fickle fashion.

But the Persian skins, pelles Parthicæ or Persicæ, which are often extolled, especially in later times, on account of their beauty, do not belong to this head; though Vossius, Brisson and Gesner, consider them to have been sables.309 They were undoubtedly different kinds of dyed leather, of which shoes were made for princes and opulent persons. In the time of the emperor Maximianus, a Roman soldier having found a leathern purse which contained real pearls, threw away the latter and retained only the purse, because it had a beautiful colour750. Of the same kind of leather was that dyed with kermes, mentioned by Zosimus751; and that which by Constantine Porphyrogenetes, where he mentions all those wares which the northern nations obtained through Constantinople, is expressly named highly-dyed Persian leather.

Of a similar kind, as appears, was the Babylonian leather. Zonaras752 speaks of a costly tent made of it; and in the time of St. Jerome it was considered as an object of luxury. As Persian and Babylonian leather are mentioned at the same time, there is reason to think that a distinction was made in commerce between these two kinds753. The emperor Constantine, among the persons charged to furnish articles for the imperial wardrobe at Constantinople, and who on that account enjoyed certain immunities, mentions the parthicarii, particarii, or parthiarii754; and though we are uncertain in regard to the orthography, it may be readily conceived that these words do not allude, as Vossius says, to furriers, but to merchants who dealt in costly dyed, and perhaps painted skins, which they procured from Persia. It is well-known that at present the Persians understand the art of preparing and dyeing many kinds of leather in a more beautiful manner than the Europeans; and among these in particular are shagreen and morocco, which are still imported from the East755.

From the grounds here adduced, I am led to conjecture that the trade in furs to the southern parts of Europe had its commencement during the expeditions of the northern tribes310 to Italy; and I must acknowledge that I have found no older information on this subject than that furnished by Jordanes or Jornandes, who lived in the sixth century. This writer, speaking of the northern nations, mentions the Suethans, and says756, that these are the people who send to the Romans the celebrated furs; which, however, passed necessarily through the hands of many intermediate tribes. These Suethans, according to his account, inhabited a part of Scanzia, and that under this name he included Sweden, Norway, Lapland, Finland, &c. has been already proved by Mascou757. Soon after he mentions also Hanugari, whom he reckons among the Scythians; these he says were known on account of their trade with mouse-skins758.

It is too well known to require any proof, that in the oldest periods the whole riches of the northern countries consisted in furs; that these, if not the only, were the principal wares exported, and that all taxes were paid with them. Other, who lived in the ninth century, states the number of marten, rein-deer, bear and otter skins, which were delivered annually by the Finlanders and Norwegians759. When Thorolf, in the year 878, sent a ship to England with merchandise, there were among it pelles mustelinæ albæ760. I shall remark311 also, that so early as the third century skins and leather began to be counted by decuriæ; from which is derived the appellation decher, adopted into the English, Swedish and Danish languages, as well as the word dacra or dacrum pellium761, used in the middle ages. Sables and ermines, however, are still sold by zimmern; and this appellation also is very old. A timber of hare-skins occurs about the year 1300, and unum timbrium martrinarum as early as 1207. At present a zimmer makes four dechers or twenty pairs, and in the time of George Agricola sable-skins were sold in this manner, forty in one lot762. But a zimmer has not always been the same in all312 countries and at all times; at any rate in France a zimmer, timbre, was reckoned to contain sixty skins.

Before I proceed further, I must endeavour to explain the different names of furs which occur in the works of the ancients; but in this attempt I can scarcely hope to attain to great probability. The information of the ancients in regard to those species of animals with the country of which they were not acquainted, is exceedingly defective. What they relate was obtained from the accounts of merchants; and these, in all probability, through a principle of self-interest, falsified the little that they really knew. Besides, the ancient writers do not always accurately distinguish the names of the different furs, nor affix to them the same meaning; which is the less surprising, as few know how to give proper names to the principal kinds of furs even at present. It is probable that the skins of the ermine, marten, and squirrel, became at a very early period objects of commerce, and formed the chief articles in this branch of trade; but from the little known on this subject, no zoologist would venture to determine with certainty the species. He must be so candid as to admit all conjectures which he is not able to refute.

If I am not mistaken, the skin of the mouse, and particularly the Pontic or Caspian mouse, is that of which the first and most frequent mention occurs in the oldest times. That the name mus denoted at first not only that animal to which we apply it, but also all small warm-blooded quadrupeds, has been long ago remarked. In the same manner every large animal was formerly called bos. When the Romans first saw elephants they gave them the name of boves lucæ. Pausanias also calls the rhinoceros the Ethiopian ox; and Cæsar names the rein-deer, the ox with stag’s horns. The ox was the largest, as the mouse was the smallest, warm-blooded animal with which the ancients were acquainted, and therefore they called all large animals oxen, and all small ones mice763. It is to be observed, in explaining the ancient names of animals, that at first they had a much more extensive signification, and one must endeavour to conjecture what the animals comprehended under them had in common with each other, according to the ideas of the ancients. To words of this kind313 formica seems to belong, and perhaps the principal idea related to collecting and laying up; and perhaps in this manner one might be able to explain the fable of the gold-searching ants, mentioned by Herodotus. It is however often difficult to conjecture what the principal idea was. What idea did the ancients affix to the term passer (sparrow), when they called the ostrich the large Libyan or Arabian sparrow? We learn nothing more therefore from the words pelles murium, than that they were not the skins of large animals. The epithets Pontic and Caspian only show, that these wares, like many others, were brought from Pontus and the Caspian sea. From such epithets were we to determine the original country of any article used in commerce, or the place where it was first produced, we should often fall into error. Wares were frequently called Syrian, Turkish and Arabian, though it is certain that they were brought from very different countries.

What further information I have been able to find in regard to this species of animal, merely is, that its skin was exceedingly soft; that it formed a good defence against the wind, and that a great many of them were sewed together in order to make a garment764. Now, if credit be given to the account of Aristotle and Pliny, that the Pontic mouse belongs to the ruminating class of animals, how can anything characteristic be deduced from it?

Those who wish to afford more room for conjecture might, from a passage of St. Jerome, render it probable that this kind of fur had the same smell as musk. Musk indeed was then known; but is it not possible that this father may have considered the musk animal to be a mouse, as Conrad Gesner suspected? To me it is more probable that he was acquainted with the musk bags used in commerce, and named them peregrini muris olentes pelliculæ. It however cannot be proved by this passage, that the skin of the musk animal was purchased for fur clothing on account of its smell. For, in the first place, the skin of this animal, with the hair on it, has not a musky smell; and this is known not only from the description given of it, but is proved by a skin which I obtained in a very fresh state. In the second place, this animal is as large as a deer half a year old; the size therefore will314 not warrant the use of the diminutive pellicula. And, in the third place, the skin does not afford valuable fur. The hair is thick; almost bristly, and so tender that it breaks with the least force. These skins are used only by the natives of the country where they are produced, for caps and winter clothing; but when they have been freed from the hair, and tanned white, they form leather exceedingly soft and fine. Those who are satisfied with an appearance of probability may recollect, in reading the passage of Jerome, that the sable, when daily used, throws out a faint and not unpleasant smell of musk, and assert that the Pontic mouse was the sable.

Far more probable is the conjecture of our great zoologist, that mus Ponticus was the name given at first to the earless marmot, M. catili, and that it was afterwards applied to the squirrel and ermine765. This opinion he supports by the observation, that the torpidity in winter, the rumination, and the affinity to the alpine mouse, M. alpinus, which Pliny seems to acknowledge766, agree better with the M. catili than any other animal. To this may be added, that it is said by Hesychius and Phavorinus, that the Parthian name of the animal was simoor; and that the earless marmot is still named by the Tartars symron, and by the Calmucks dshymbura. The similarity is indeed great, and this opinion is further confirmed by the skins of the earless marmot being used at present by some of the Siberian tribes for summer clothing, and sent as articles of commerce, with other furs, to China, though they belong only to the cheapest kinds, so that a thousand of them cost scarcely eight or ten roubles767.

Amidst this scanty information, were I allowed to offer a conjecture, I should be inclined rather to the opinion of those who consider the Pontic mouse to have been our ermine. For, in the first place, this animal is very abundant in the countries from which the ancients obtained their beautiful furs; and it seems almost impossible that they should not at an early period have remarked the superiority of its skin to315 that of the earless marmot. Secondly, it appears that the Pontic mouse has been commonly considered as the ermine, since that name in general was known; and there is reason to think that our forefathers could not err in the name of an article which has been uninterruptedly employed in commerce.

The name ermine occurs very often in works of the middle ages, and written in various ways, such as Harmellina, Harmelinus, Ermelinus, Harminiæ and Arminiæ or Armerinæ or hereminiæ pelles, Ermena, Erminea and erminatus, ornamented with ermine; all which words Du Cange supports by proofs. At what time these names were first used I am not able to determine; but they are to be found, at any rate, as early as the eleventh century, in the letters of Peter Damiani768. Du Cange asserts that they came from Armenia, in which country this kind of fur was in old times highly esteemed, as is proved by a passage in Julius Pollux; and this appears the more probable, from the circumstance that the words Hermenia and Hermenii were formerly used and written instead of Armenia and Armenii769. Fischer has rejected this opinion too inconsiderately, because the ermine was not procured from Armenia, but sent through it, from the northern countries to Europe. The same thing is said by Du Cange; but he gives it to be understood that this commodity was among the Armenian productions; and even if he has erred in this respect, his derivation still remains the most probable. Marco Polo, the celebrated traveller of the thirteenth century, mentions the ermine among the most expensive ornaments of the Tartars, and says that it was brought from the northern countries to Europe.

The sable seems to have been known much later than the ermine. Its real country is the most northern part of Asia, to which commerce was not extended till a late period; yet it is probable that it was known before the Russians became acquainted with Siberia, by means of the Permians, Woguls316 and Samoeides, at the end of the fifteenth century. It is also fully proved that the fine furs of Siberia were the production which induced the Russians to make a conquest of that country770. Besides, sables existed formerly in Permia, where at present they are very scarce. The numerous remains of antiquity still found in Siberia prove that at a very early period it was inhabited by a people who carried on commerce, and were well-acquainted with the arts.

Conrad Gesner believed that the name sable occurs for the first time in Albertus Magnus, who wrote in the thirteenth century, under the word Cebalus, or Chebalus. In the same century Marco Polo mentions, at least in the Latin translation, zibellina pellis, as a valuable kind of fur. But if sabelum be the sable, as the similarity of the word seems to show, it must have been known in the twelfth century, and even earlier. The name sabelum occurs in Alanus Insulanus, and Du Cange found sabelinæ pelles as early as the year 1138, though sabelum perhaps means the marten. Gebellinica pellis, gibelini or gibellini martores, were mentioned in the eleventh century, and sabellinæ and gebellinicæ pelles were undoubtedly the same771. I shall not however enter further into this inquiry, which it appears would be endless, and at the same time of little benefit.

The marten, the fur of which approaches nearest to that of the sable, appears to be first mentioned by Martial, who says, speaking of an unsuccessful hunting excursion, that the hunter was overjoyed if he caught only a marten772. But the reading is very doubtful; for many, instead of martes, read meles; and the latter occurs in Varro, Pliny, and other writers, whereas the former is found nowhere else. In the middle ages, however, or at any rate in the twelfth century, martures, mardrini, and marturinæ vestes frequently occur; and I can see no reason why they may not be considered as marten skins, a name which has been retained in all the European languages.

317 With as little certainty can it be determined what our forefathers meant by the words vares, varii, vairus, vajus, varus, vayrus, veyrus or the vair of the French, and under griseum and grisum. That they belong to costly kinds of fur is universally admitted. Sometimes varium and griseum appear to be the same; and sometimes the former seems to be more valuable than the latter. That the former was spotted, or parti-coloured, is apparently announced by the name; for both the leopard and panther are by Pliny called variæ. What in heraldry is named by the French vair, and the Germans eisenhütlein, vellus varium, and which is considered by the former as the skin of an animal gray on the back and white on the belly773, alludes to this also. Sometimes, however, it seems to signify a fur dress composed of differently-coloured pieces of fur sewed together. Most writers are of opinion that it means grauwerk, petit-gris, vech, veh, vech, vehwammen, also the squirrel; and there is certainly a species of that animal which might justify the name varius, as its skin is at present employed for variegated bordering or trimming; but I do not know whether grauwerk774 could be so dear as varium is said to have been, as it is among the productions of Europe, though the best at present comes from Siberia. The word veeh is derived, as Frisch says, from the Italian vaio; the latter, according to Muratori775, is formed from varius, and even at present a dress lined with fur is called roba vaja.

Cirogillinæ pelles, named by the council of Paris in the year 1212, were rabbit skins776. Rabbit warrens, so early as the thirteenth century, were not scarce in England; for in a letter of grace respecting the forests, in 1215, every proprietor was permitted to establish them on his own lands777.

By the term cattinæ pelles778, which are also often named, must undoubtedly be understood cats’ skins. In France, in the twelfth century, the skins of native animals were considered as of little value; but the Spanish and Italian were highly prized. The skins of the black fox, which at present are the318 dearest kind of furs, as a single one in Russia is often sold for six hundred and even a thousand roubles, occur in the thirteenth century, among the wares which were sent from the most northern countries to Europe779; and without doubt these were meant by Damiani in the passage above quoted780.

Clothing made of the beaver skin occurs much earlier. It seems to be mentioned by Claudian781 in the fourth century; and it is spoken of by Ambrosius782, who lived at the same period. Sidonius Apollinaris, in the fifth century, called those who wore it castorinati. The scholiast of Juvenal, who indeed belongs to an unknown but much later period, has also pelles bebrinæ or beverinæ. As the ermine was called the Pontic mouse, the beaver was named the Pontic dog.

I however firmly believe that this castor clothing was no more fur clothing, than our beaver hats are fur hats. At that time the hair was spun and wove; and Claudian, in my opinion, speaks of a worn-out beaver dress, which had nothing more left of that valuable fur but the name. This method of manufacturing beavers’ hair seems not to have been known in the time of Pliny; for though he speaks much of the castor, and mentions pellis fibrina783 three times, he says nothing in regard to manufacturing the hair, or to beaver fur. As attempts, however, had then been made to manufacture the fur of the hare, it is probable that beaver hair began to be worn soon after. Isidorus, who lived nearly about that period, as he died in 636, reckons beaver hair, which he calls fibrinum, among the materials employed for making cloth784; and where he enumerates the different kinds of cloth, he mentions also vestis fibrina, and says that the warp was of beaver, and the woof of goats’ hair, perhaps the so-called camel hair785. An upper garment of this cloth was worn by the emperor Nicephorus II. Phocas, at his coronation in the year 963, which undoubtedly was not a castor pelisse; because fur clothing, as I shall soon prove, was not fashionable at the court of the Greek emperors786.

319 It deserves here to be remarked, that furs began to be dyed so early as the twelfth century; and it appears that the colour was chiefly red, for we find pelles rubricatæ arietum, that is, sheep-skins dyed red; but Du Cange thinks he can prove that the skins of the marten and ermine were dyed of the same colour. This I can believe in regard to the ermine; but to dye the dark fur of the marten and sable would, in my opinion, be hardly possible. St. Bernard787 says, that such red dyed leather in the twelfth century was called gulæ, which, with Hermin engolé of the old poets, seems to signify the same thing, ermine skins dyed red.

When fur dresses became fashionable in Italy, they were soon spread all over Europe. At first the best indigenous furs were employed; but afterwards those of foreign countries, as being superior; and the dearer they were, the more they were esteemed. At every court they formed the state costume of the reigning family, and in a little time that of the richest nobility. In particular, the mantle, cottes d’armes of the knights, which they drew over their cuirass or harness, was bordered with the costliest furs. It had no sleeves, and resembled the dress of ceremony worn by our heralds. On this account, as is well known, ermine and other kinds of fur became parts of the oldest coats of arms. Sometimes magnificence, in this respect, was carried to such an extravagant length, that moralists declaimed against it, while governments endeavoured to limit the use of furs by laws, and the clergy to prohibit them entirely. Many kinds, therefore, were retained only by the principal nobility, and others were forbidden.

Charlemagne, however, wore in winter a pelisse which covered his shoulders and breast; but being an enemy to all foreign dress, he employed only the furs of his native country; and, according to the statement of some manuscripts, otter skins alone788. It nevertheless appears that the costly oriental furs were then known at his court; for having gone out hunting with his suite, on a cold rainy holiday, he himself wore only a sheep’s skin; but the dresses of his attendants, who had become acquainted in Italy with the valuable articles in which the Venetians then dealt, consisted of foreign cloth and furs.320 These, when thoroughly drenched and dried at the fire, crumbled to pieces. The emperor then caused his sheep’s skin when dried to be rubbed, and showing it to his courtiers ridiculed them on their foreign fur dresses, which though expensive were of little use789. The imperial princesses, however, on holidays wore dresses ornamented with precious stones, gold, silver and silk, and also foreign furs; at any rate the princess Berta had a valuable mantle or tippet of ermine, which Alcuin calls murina790.

Fur gloves were at that time usual also. The monks, at least, in winter wore gloves of sheep’s skin, which were called muffulæ; whereas the summer gloves were named wanti791.

In the Welsh laws of Hywel Dda, who reigned in the tenth century, the skin of an ox, a deer, a fox, a wolf and an otter, are estimated at the same price, that is, eight times as dear as the skin of a sheep or a goat. The skin of a white weazle was eleven times as dear, that of a marten twenty-four times, and that of a beaver one hundred and twenty792.

In the year 1001 the emperor Otto III. sent an ambassador321 to Constantinople, whose attendants were clothed in costly furs793. Adam of Bremen, who lived in the same century, says, in his description of the countries bordering on Poland and Russia, that from these districts were procured those costly furs which were so eagerly purchased by the luxurious794. When Godfrey of Bouillon, in the year 1096, paid a visit to the emperor Alexius at Constantinople, what the latter chiefly admired was the rich and costly dresses of the Europeans bordered with furs795. In the beginning of the twelfth century the canons of a cathedral suffered themselves to be corrupted by beautiful furs796. The use of them, however, was forbidden to the clergy at one of the councils. According to that of London, in 1127, the abbesses and nuns were to wear those only made of lamb-skins and cat-skins797. In the year 1187, when the Christians were beaten near Tiberias, count Raimond having treacherously gone over to the Turks, the latter found among the plunder of the Christian camp a complete assortment of furs798. At the end of the twelfth century, Gottfried or Gaufred, prior of Vigeois, complained that no one would any longer wear sheep-skins and fox-skins, which before had been worn by barons and the principal clergy799.

We however find that princes sometimes endeavoured by the most effective means to restrain this magnificence. When Philip II. of France and Richard I. of England, about the end of the twelfth century, undertook a crusade to the Holy Land, they resolved that neither of them should wear ermine, sable, or other costly furs800. It appears that a similar resolution was adopted by St. Louis (Louis IX.) in the following century; for the historians, speaking of his crusade, expressly say that he avoided all magnificence, and wore no costly furs801. In the year 1336, in the reign of Edward III., king of England, when foreign articles imported into the kingdom began to be taxed, it was enacted, that no person whose yearly income322 did not amount to a hundred pounds should wear furs, under the penalty of losing them802.

In Germany, in 1497, citizens who did not belong to the nobility or equestrian order were forbidden to wear lining of sable or ermine. According to an ordinance of 1530, common citizens, tradesmen, and shopkeepers were to wear no trimmed clothes, nor to use marten or other costly lining, and the rich were to wear lining made only of lamb-skins, or those of the cow, fox, weasel, and the like. Merchants and tradespeople were not to wear marten, sable, or ermine, and at most weasel-skins; and their wives were to wear the fur only of the squirrel. Counts and lords were allowed all kinds of lining, sable and such like expensive kinds excepted. The latter permission was repeated, word for word, in the year 1548.

When one considers how much the use of fur dresses was spread all over Europe, it must excite astonishment that they were not introduced at the court of Byzantium. No traces of them are to be found in any of the Byzantine historians; not even in that work in which the emperor Constantine describes the whole ceremonial of his court, and in which dresses of various kinds are named, as Reiske has already remarked803. Furs are nowhere represented on Grecian statues, in paintings, or other works of art; and it will be seen in the passages quoted, that in the magnificence which the European princes displayed in the time of the crusades at the court of Constantinople, nothing attracted so much attention as the different kinds of fur dresses. This seems the more astonishing, as a great trade was carried on at that time between Constantinople and those countries from which these wares were sent to Europe.

Over one of the gates of Milan is an image cut out in stone of the twelfth century, representing an emperor whose mantle is ornamented with small triangular patches of fur. Flamma believed that this carving was intended to represent one of the Greek emperors; but Giulini justly remarks, in opposition to this opinion, that furs never occur in any of the Greek sculpture. Besides, that image was evidently formed to ridicule the emperor, as is proved by the hideous monster seated323 close to him. But at that time the Milanese certainly had no cause to offend the Greek emperor, with whom they were in alliance; and Giulini has proved, in a very satisfactory manner, that the Milanese erected this image to ridicule the emperor Frederick I., who was their bitterest enemy804. On another image at Milan, cut out in stone, of the thirteenth century, which represents the emperor of Germany on his throne, surrounded by the electors, the latter have small mantles, which are ornamented with triangular patches of fur of the same kind805.

[Since the discovery and settlement of Canada, furs or peltries have mostly been obtained from the northern parts of America, some from the states of Rio de la Plata, a few from Germany, Holland, &c.

The success obtained by the French after their settlement in Canada in 1608, induced the formation of the English Hudson’s Bay Company, which was chartered by Charles II. in 1670, with the exclusive privilege of trading with the Indians in the vast territories adjoining Hudson’s Bay. But their charter never having been confirmed by parliament, hunting in those regions was still considered as open to all British subjects, and many engaged in it. In 1766, private adventurers began to traffic from Michillimakinac, whose success incited others to follow their example; and independent traders gradually spread over every part of the country, until 1787, when these scattered parties were united into one great body, under the name of the “North-west Company.” The rivalry of these associations had the effect of inspiriting and extending the trade, and led to constant and furious disturbances between the two. At length, in 1821, the two concerns united, under the title of the “Hudson’s Bay Fur Company,” with much advantage to the peace of the fur countries, and perhaps to the permanent interests of the trade. The skins collected by this company are all shipped to London, mostly from their factories of York Fort and Moose Fort in Hudson’s Bay; others from Fort Vancouver, on the river Columbia, and from Montreal.

On the part of the United States, the fur trade is chiefly prosecuted by the North American Fur Company, whose principal establishment is at Michillimakinac, where it receives324 skins from the posts depending on that station and from those on the Mississippi, Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, and the great range of country extending thence to the Rocky Mountains. Of other associations in the United States, the most celebrated are Ashley’s Company from St. Louis, and Captain Bonneville’s, formed at New York in 1831; which last has pushed its enterprises into tracts between the Rocky Mountains and the coasts of Monterrey and Upper California. Indeed the whole of the districts from the Mississippi to the Pacific, and from the Arctic Sea to the Gulf of Mexico, are now traversed in every direction by the hunter. Almost all the American furs which do not belong to the Hudson’s Bay Company find their way to New York, where they are either distributed for home consumption, or exported chiefly to London.

The fur trade is also extensively pursued by the Russians in the north of Asia and the north-west coast of America. Their chief association is the Russian American Company of Moscow; and the principal markets for their furs are the fairs of Kiachta, Novgorod and Leipsic.

London is the principal emporium of the fur trade: the vessels of the Hudson’s Bay Company arrive here about September; the public sales are held in March, and are attended by a great many foreign merchants, whose purchases are chiefly sent to the great fairs of Leipsic, whence they are distributed to various parts of the continent.]


712 Pausan. x. 38. p. 895.

713 Sat. xiv. 185.

714 Varro De Re Rust. lib. i. 1, 6.

715 Diodor. Siculus, Pausanias, Propertius.

716 Virg. Æneid. viii. 177, 368; ix. 306; xi. 576. To the same purpose are various passages in the Odyssey.

717 Eleg. iv, 1. 12.

718 Lib. iv. 3, 11.

719 See Ferrarius De Re Vestiar. iv. 2. 2. in Thesaurus Antiquitat. Roman. vi. p. 908. Aristophan. Nubes, 1, 1, 73.

720 Livius, v. 2. p. 11.—Florus, 1. 12.—Tacit. Annal. 14. 38.—Corn. Nepos, Agesil. cap. 8.—Lipsius De Militia Rom. lib. v. dial. 1, p. 313.

721 Lib. viii. 55, p. 483. The hair of this animal seems to have been an article of trade, and comprehended under the head of wool, as we find by the Roman code of laws. L. 70. § 9.—De Legat. 3, or Digest. lib. xxxii. leg. 70. 9. Cushions however were stuffed with it. See Waarenkunde, i. p. 271.

722 For the following information on this subject I am indebted to the friendship of Professor Eichorn:—“Of furs being used as dresses of magnificence I find very faint traces. I shall however quote all the passages where allusion is made to furs.

“In Genesis, chap. xxv. ver. 25, Esau is said to have felt to the touch like a hairy garment, אדרת שער. A fur dress must here be meant; for Rebecca endeavoured to make Jacob like his brother, by binding pieces of goats’ skins around his hands and neck.—Genesis xxvii. ver. 16.

“In Joshua, chap. vii. ver. 21, the true reading is אדות שכער, and signifies a Babylonian mantle, consequently one made of wool, respecting which many passages have been collected by various authors, and particularly Fischer in Prolus. de Vers. Græc. Vet. Test. p. 87. One manuscript, according to Kennicot, has however אדרת שעו, a hairy mantle or fur; but this has arisen either through an error in transcribing, one consonant, נ Nun, being omitted; or from the conjecture of some Jewish copyist, who was acquainted with costly furs but not with a Babylonian mantle. If the reading of Kennicot is to be retained, it would, on account of the price, be an important passage, in regard to costly furs.

“Among the Hebrews, the prophets wore fur dresses, if not in general, at any rate very often.

“The mantle of Elijah, 2 Kings, chap. ii. ver. 8, 13, 14, was of fur; because on account of his clothing he was called a hairy man, 2 Kings, chap. i. ver. 8.

“A hairy mantle, as a mark of distinction, is mentioned in the book of Zechariah, chap. xiii. ver. 4.

“In 1 Maccabees, chap. xiii. ver. 37, the high priest Simon obtained from king Demetrius βαίνη, which is certainly a false reading for βαίτα, or βαίτη. The only question is, whether βαίτη, which was merely a shepherd’s dress, consequently made of sheep skins, signified also a dress of state, as there is reason to conjecture from the persons who sent and who received it as a present. See Theocrit. Idyll. iii. 25. et ibi Schol. Furs, as a present, in the hot climate of Bassorah, are mentioned by Niebuhr.”

723 The best refutation of this supposed Vandalism is to be found in Schlözer’s Essay, in the second edition of F. I. L. Mayers Fragmenten aus Paris. Hamb. 1798, 8vo, ii. p. 353. Nowhere do we find that the works of art were destroyed by the Goths or Vandals; on the contrary, it appears that they had sufficient culture to hold them in just estimation. Genseric carried away works of art from Rome, in the same manner as the Romans had done from Greece; but they were carefully packed up and not destroyed; he did therefore what Bonaparte did in those countries which were unable to withstand the force of his armies. If the epithet of Vandalism is to be applied to modern events, it seems most applicable to those who carried away works of art from countries into which the conquerors promised to introduce the rights of man, liberty, and happiness. The Christian writers, even, and among these St. Augustine, admit that the Goths after their victories were not so cruel and rapacious as the Romans. Orosius, who lived in the beginning of the fifth century, relates, that a Goth of high rank, after the taking of Rome, having found in a house some gold and silver vessels which had been plundered from the church of St. Peter, gave notice to Alaric, and that the latter caused them to be sent back safe to the church. The account given of the arms and accoutrements of these northern tribes proves also that they were acquainted with the arts, and that they employed them to ornament their clothing. The fur dresses therefore may have been very handsome.

724 Glossarium, p. 1282.

725 Virgilii Georg. iii. 381.—Ovid. Trist. iii. 10, 19; v. 7, 49.—Ex Ponto, iv. 10, 1.—Justinus, ii. 2, p. 43.—Seneca, epist. 90.—Rutilii Itiner. ii. 49.—Claudian, viii. 466; xxvi. 481.—Ammian. Marcell. xxxi. 2.—Prudentius in Symmachum, ii. 695.—Isidor. Origin. xix. 23.—Sidon. Apollin. epist. i. 2, where he describes Theodoric II. king of the Goths, the son of Theodoric I. and brother of Thorismundus: pellitorum turba satellitum. In epist. vii. 9, the kings of the Goths are called pelliti reges.

726 Tacitus De Moribus German. 17.

727 Variegated furs of this kind sewed together are mentioned by Pollux, vii. 60, p. 729.

728 Plutarchus in Lycurgo. In like manner, the savages in the South Seas are acquainted with the art of giving more beauty and value to their ornaments made of feathers, shells, and the teeth of their enemies killed in battle.

729 Lagerbring Svea Rikes Hist. Part 2. p. 88.

730 At this period the Danes appear to have spent in eating and drinking the treasure they obtained in plundering; they employed their time only in hunting and breeding cattle, and clothed themselves in the skins of their sheep; but Canute endeavoured to introduce among them the Saxon manners and dress. He had invited into his kingdom from Lower Saxony, which at that time was considered the seat of the arts and sciences, and refined manners, a great many workmen and artists, a colony of whom he established in Roeskild, the capital.

731 Digestor. lib. xxxiv.

732 De Habitu Muliebri, cap. i. p. 551.

733 Charact. cap. 5 et 12.

734 Apophthegm.

735 See Herodian, ix. 13.

736 De Institut. Orat. xi. 3, 144.

737 Lex. 25, De Auro, Argento, Mundo.