A History of Inventions and Discoveries: Argol.
A History of Inventions and Discoveries.
By John Beckmann,
Public professor of economy in the University of Gottingen.
Translated from the German, by William Johnston.
Third edition, carefully corrected, enlarged by the addition of several new articles.
In four volumes.
Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown; Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; R. Priestley; R. Scholey; T. Hamilton; W. Otridge; J. Walker; R. Fenner; J. Bell; J. Booker; E. Edwards; and J. Harding.
* In the Dictionary of the Academy della Crusca the word oricello is thus explained: Tintura colla quale si tingono i panni, che si fa con orina d'uomo, e con altri ingredienti.
*2 Dillenii Historia muscorum, Oxonii 1741. 4to. p. 120. Under the names Orseille, Orceille, Orsolle, Ursolle, Orcheil, Orchel, in Italian Oricello, Orcella, Roccella, in Dutch Orchillie, and in English Argol, Canary weed, or Orchilla weed, is understood a moss used for dyeing, and from which a kind of paint is also prepared. This species of moss, of which the best figure and a full description may be seen in Dillen, *2 is by Linnæus called Lichen roccella. It is found, in abundance, in some of the islands near the African coast, particularly in the Canaries, and in several of the islands in the Archipelago. It grows upright, partly in single, partly in double stems, which are about two inches in height. When it is old, these stems are crowned with a button sometimes round, and sometimes of a flat form, which Tournefort, very properly, compares to the excrescences on the arms of the sepia. Its colour is sometimes a light, and sometimes a dark grey. Of this moss with lime, urine, and alkaline salts, is formed a dark red paste, which in commerce has the same name, and which is much used in dyeing. That well-known substance called lacmus is also made of it.
* Alga marina, ---, quam spongiarii pelagicam deferunt, in Creta insula, juxta terram, super saxa plurima optimaque provenit, qua non solum vittas, sed etiam lanas vestesque inficient, et quandus recens infectio sit, color longe purpuram præstat. Hist. Plant. iv. c. 7. p. 82. ed. Heinsii.
*2 E phyci marini generibus tertium candidum, nascens in Creta, floridum valde, quod nulla corruptionis labe polluitur. - Hoc fuco quidam putant mulieres suum colorem mentiri, cum tamen sit radicula ejusdem nominis qua se fucant. Lib. ic. c. 95.
*3 Phycos thalassion, id est fucus marinus, lctucæ similis, qui conchyliis substernitur. Tria autem genera ejus. Tertium crispis foliis, quo in Creta vestes tingunt; omnia ejysdem usus. Lib. xxvi. c. 10.
Algae maris plura genera, uti diximus, longo folio et latiore, rubente, aliave crispo. Laudatissima que in Creta insula juxta terram in petris nascitur; tingentis etiam lanis ita colorem alligans, ut elui postea non possit. Lib. xxxii. c. 6. Theophrastus,* Dioscorides,*2 and their transcriber Pliny, *3 give the name of Phycos thalassion or pontion to a plant, which, notwithstanding its name, is not a sea-weed but a moss; as it grew on the rocks of different islands, and particularly on those of Crete or Candia. It had, in their time, been long used for dyeing wool, and the colour it gave when fresh was so beautiful, that it excelled the ancient purple, which was not red, as many suppose, but violet. Pliny tells us that with this moss dyers gave the ground or first tint to those cloths which they intended to dye with the costly purple. At least, I so understand, with Hardouin and others, the words conchyliis substernitur, which the French dyers express by the phrase donner le pied.
* Hardouin quotes Aristot. Hist. Animal. vi. c. 9. edit. Scaligeri.But that naturalist speaks of a sea-weed which was cast on shore by the Hellespont. A dye or paint was made of it, and the people in the neighbourhood imagined that the purple of this sea-weed, which served as food to certain shell-fish, communicated to them their beautiful dye. A proof that sea-weed (fuci) can communicate a red colour, may be found in the Transactions of the Swedish Academy, iv. p. 29.
*2 Voyage du Levant. Amsterd. 1718. 4to. i. p. 89.
*3 Præterea Amorgina, optima, quidem in Amorgo fiunt, sed et Hæc e lino esse asserunt. Tunica autem Amorgina, etiam amorgis nuncupatur. Onomasticon, vii. c. 16. Though several kinds of moss produce a similar red dye, I agree in opinion with Dillen, that phycos thalassion is our argol; for, at present, no species is known which communicates so excellent a colour, and which corresponds so nearly with the description of Theophrastus. Besides, it is still collected in the Grecian islands, and it appears that it has been used there since the earliest ages.*
Tournefort*2 found this moss in the island Amorgos, which lies on the eastern side of Naxos, and which, at present, is called Morgo. In his time it was sent to England and Alexandria, at the rate of ten rix-dollars per hundred weight; and he says, expressly, that it was common in the other islands. He shews from Suidas, Julius Pollux, *3 and other ancient writers, that this island was once celebrated for a kind of red linen cloth, which in commerce had the name of the island; and he conjectures, not without probability, that it might have been dyed with this moss.
* Histor. nat. Coloniæ 1695, 4to. lib. xxvii. c. 11.
*2 Pinax plant. p. 365. HIst. plant. iii. 2. p. 796. Imperati says, that the roccella of which he gives a figure, was procured from the Levant*. This naturalist gives the figure also of a moss in Candia, used for dyeing, which was then called rubicula, and which, as may be seen in Baubin, *2 is comprehended under the name of Roccella. Whether this be a variation from that species cannot with certainty be determined, from the dew observations on which the characterizing of the cryptogamia class of plants depends. Dillen and Linnæus, however, make it a distinct species; and the latter names it Lichen fucisormis. The distinction is, perhaps, not improper; for the rubicula does not grown like a shrub or bush, as roccella, but belongs rather to the leafy-formed mosses. Be this as it may, it is certain, as Dillen has remarked, and as I know from my own observation, that L. fuciformis is often mixed with the real roccella, and particularly with that brought from the Canary Islands; but whether it be equally good, experience has not taught us.
From what has been said, I think, I may venture to conclude that our argol was not unknown to the ancient Grecians. But when was it first employed as a dye by the moderns, and introduced into our commerce? Some writers are of opinion, that this drug was first found in the Canary Islands, and afterwards in the Levant. The use of it, therefore, is not older than the last discovery of that island. That this opinion is false, will appear from what follows.
* Bayle, in his Dictionary, mentions several distinguished persons of this family, some of them under the name of Oricellarius, and others under that of Rucellai. He shows that they all belong to one stock; but the origin of the name he seems to have been ignorant.
*2 Other accounts say that he was an Englishman; but the name Frederigo confirms his German extraction.
*3 A particular account of this celebrated family is to be found in Giornale de' Letterati d' Italia, t. xxxiii. parte i. p.231. As that extensive work is not common, I shall here transcribe the whole passage. "Among the most ancient and most illustrious families of the city of Florence is that of the Rucellai, which is said to have been transplanted thither, a little after the eleventh century, by a certain military gentleman named Ferro or Frederigo, who came from Germany, where he was honoured on account of the nobility of his birth. This family were called, according to the Latin mode of termination, Oricellarii, which surname was afterwards variously corrupted into Pucellarii, Puscellai, but more commonly into Rucellai. This surname, we are told, took its rise from one of the family, who, about the year 1300, having returned from the Levant, where he had traded many years, and acquired great wealth, brought with him the art of dyeing wool purple, which is called dyeing in oricello: for, being about to embark for his own country, he happened to make water on certain plants; and observing that some of them, which had been only besprinkled by the urine, from being green became red, he plucked up one of them, and having shewn it, found that, in that country, it was called repio, and in Spain orciglia, and that it was the same as that to which the name of corallina was given by botanists. In remembrance of this discovery, he and his posterity were afterwards called Oricellarii; which name, by being pronounced short, and a little mutilated, was changed into Rucellari, and lastly into Rucellai."
*4 These documents from the Florentine records may be found in Dominici Marie Manni de Florentinis Inuentis Commentarium. Ferraiæ 1731, 4to. p. 37. from which I have extracted the following: "One of this family resided, formerly, a long time in the Levant, where he carried on trade, according to the custom of the Florentine nation. Being one day in the fields, and happening to make water on a plant, of which there was great abundance, he observed that it immediately became extraordinarily red. Like a prudent man, therefore, he resolved to make use of this secret of nature, which till that time had lain hid; and having made several experiments on that herb, and finding it proper to dye cloth, he sent some of it to Florence, where being mixed with human urine and other things, it has always been employed to dye cloth purple. This plant, which is called respo, is in Spain named orciglia, and by botanists commonly corallina. The mixture made with it is called oricello, and has been of great utility and advantage to the woollen manufacture, which is carried on to greater extent in Florence than in any other city. From this circumstance, the individuals of that family, by being the inventors of oricello, have been called Oricellai, and have been beloved by the people for having procured to them this particular benefit. Thus has written John di Paolo Rucellai [Manni says, that this learned and opulent man wrote in the year 1431]; and the same account is still given by dyers in our city, who relate and affirm that their ancestors have for a century exercised the art of dyeing, and that they know the above from tradition." This is confirmed by another passage: "One of this family, on account of the trade carried on faithfully and honestly by the Florentines, travelled to the Levant, and brought thence to Florence the art, or rather secret, of dyeing in oricello."
*5In the genealogical history of the noble families of Tuscany and Umbria, written by P. D. Eugenio Gamurrini, and published at Florence 1668-1673, 3 vols. in folio, is the following account, vol. i. p. 274, of the origin of this family. - This family acquired their name from a secret brought by one of them from the Levant, which was that of dyeing in oricello, never before used in this country. On that account they were afterwards called Oricellari, as appears from several records among the archives of Florence, and then by corruption Rucellari and Rucellai. Of their origin many speak, and all agree that they came into Tuscany from Britain.
*6 The history of the discovery and conquest of the Canary-.Islands, by George Glass. London 1764, 4to.
*7 This information is to be found in Hellot's Art of Dyeing, into which it has been copied, as appears by Dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle, par Valmont de Bomare, from an account written by M. Porlier, who was consul at Teneriff in 1731. Among the oldest and principal Florentine families is that known under the name of the Oricellarii or Rucellari, Ruscellai or Rucellai, several of whom have distinguished themselves as statesmen, and men of letters.* This family are descended from a German nobleman named Ferro or Frederigo, who lived in the beginning of the twelft century.*2 One of his descendants, in the year 1300, carried on a great trade in Levant, by which he acquired considerable riches, and returning at length to Florence, with his fortune, first made known in Europe the art of dyeing with argol. It is said, that a little before hi return from the levant, happening to make water on a rock covered with this moss, he observed, that the plant, which was there called respio or respo, and in Spain orciglia, acquired by the urine a purple, or, as others say, a red colour. He, therefore, tried several experiments; and when he had brought to perfection the art of dyeing wool with this plant, he made it known at Florence, where he alone practised it for a considerable time, to the great benefit of the state, From this useful invention, the family received the name of Oricellarii, from which, at last, was formed Rucellai.*3
As several documents, still preserved among the Florentine archives, confirm the above account of the origin of this family name, from the discovery of dyeing with oricello, *4 we may, in my opinion, consider it as certain that the Europeans, and first the Florentines, were made acquainted with this dye-stuff, and its use, in the beginning of the fourteenth century. At this time, the Italians brought from the East the seeds of many arts and sciences, which, afterwards sown and nurtured in Europe, produced the richest harvests; and nothing is more certain than that the art of dyeing was brought to us from the East by the Italians. I do not believe that the merit of having discovered this dye, by the above-mentioned accident, is due to that Florentine; but I am of opinion that he learned the art in the Levant, and, on his return, taught it to his countrymen, which was doing them no small service. *5 After that period, the Italians long procured argol from the Levant for themselves, and afterwards for all Europe. I say for a long time, because since the discovery of the Canary Islands the greater part of that substance has been procured from them.
These islands, after being a considerable time lost and forgotten, were again discovered about the end of the fourteenth or the beginning of the fifteenth century, and since that time they have been much frequented by the Europeans. One of the first who endeavoured to obtain an establishment there was John de Betancourt, a gentleman of Normandy, who, in 1400, or, as others say, in 1417, landed on Lancerotta. Amongst the principal commodities which this gentleman and other Europeans brought back with them was argol, which was found there more beautiful, and in greater abundance, than any where else; and Betancourt enjoyed in idea the great profit which he hoped to derive from this article in commerce. Glass is surprised that the Europeans, immediately upon their arrival, sought after this moss with as much eagerness and skill as they did after gold in America, though they were not so well acquainted with the former as the latter, before the discovery of these new lands.*6 But as this is not true, the wonder will cease.
According to information procured in the year 1731, the island of Teneriff produced annually five hundred quintals of this moss; Canary, four hundred; Forteventura, Lancerotta, and Gomera, three hundred each; and Fero, eight hundred; making in all two thousand six hundred quintals. In the islands of Canary, Teneriff, and Palma, the moss belongs to the crown; and in the year 1730, it was let by the king of Spain for one thousand five hundred piasters. The farmers paid then for collecting it from fifteen to twenty rials per hundred weight. In the rest of the islands it belongs to private proprietors, who cause it to be collected on their own account. In the beginning of the last century a hundred weight, delivered on board at Santa Cruz, the capital of Teneriff, was worth from only three to four piastres; but since 1725 it has cost labour amounting to ten piastres, because it has been in great request at London, Amsterdam, Marseilles, and throughout all Italy. *7 In the year 1726 this moss cost at London eighty pounds sterling per ton, as we are told by Fillen; and in 1730 it bore the same price.
* As the argol grows in the African islands, and on the coast of Africa, Glass supposes that the Getulian purple of the ancients was dyed with it; but this opinion is improbable, for Horace praises Gætula murice tinctos vestes.
*2 Histoire naturelle du Senegal. Paris 1757, 4to. p. 66.
*3 Lettres sur l'histoire naturelle de l'isle d'Elbe, par KOestlin. Vienne 1780, 8vo. p. 100. Pini Beobachtungen über die eisengruben bey Rio; übersetzt von I. F. Gmelin. Halle 1780, 8vo. p. 97.
*4 Lib. xxvii. c.9
*5 Nova plantarum genera. Florenciæ 1729.Towards the end of the year 1730, the captain of an English vessel, which came from the Cape de Verd islands, brought a bag of argol to Santa Cruz, by way of trial. He discovered his secret to some Spanish and Genoese merchants, who, in the month of July 1731, resolved to send a ship to these islands. They landed on that of St. Anthony and St. Vincent, where, in a few days, they obtained five hundred quintals of this moss, which they found in such abundance, that it cost them nothing more than a piastre per cent. by way of present to the governor. The argol of the Cape de Verd islands appears larger, richer, and longer than that of the Canaries; and this, perhaps, is owing to its not being collected every year.* Adanson, in 1749, found also the greater part of the rocks in Magdalen island, near Senegal, covered with this moss. *2 Though the greater part of our argol is, at present, procured from the Canary and Cape de Verd islands, a considerable quantity is imported also from the Levant, from Sicily as Glass says, and from the coast of Barbary; and some years ago the English merchants at Leghorn caused this moss to be collected in the island of Elba, and paid a high price for it. *3
Our dyers do not purchase raw argol, but a paste made of it, which the French call orseille en pâte. The preparation of it was for a long time kept a secret by the Florentines. The person who, as far as I know, made it first known was Rosetti; who, as he himself tells us, carried on the trade of dyer at Florence. Some information was afterwards published concerning it by Imperati*4 and Micheli the botanist.*5 In latter times this art has been much practised in France, England, and Holland. Many druggists, instead of keeping this paste in a moist state with urine, as they ought, suffer it to dry, in order to save a little dirty work. It then has the appearance of dark violet-coloured earth, with here and there some white spots in it.
* Some translate this word lacca murica, musiva.
*2 As dry lacmus is much cheaper than moist, it may be readily supposed that it is adulterated with sand and other substances. Valentini Historia simplicium. Francof. ad Moen. 1716, fol. p. 152.
*3 This plant grows in the neighbourhood of Montpelier, and, above all, in the flats of Languedoe. In harvest, the time when it is collected, the peasants assemble from the distance of fifteen or twenty leagues around, and each gathers on his own account. It is bruised in a mill, and the juice must be immediately used: some mix with it a thirtieth part of urine. It is poured over piece of canvas, which they take care to provide, and which they rub between their hands. These rags are dried int he sun, and then exposed, above a stone stove, to the vapour of urine mixed with quick-lime or alum. After they have imbibed the juice of the plant, the same operations are repeated till the pieces of cloth appear of a deep blue colour. They are called in commerce tournesol drapeaux. Large quantities of them are bought up by the Dutch, who make use of them to colour wines and the rinds of their cheese. TRANS.
*4 Beyträge sur Mineralgeschichte verschiedener Lander, i, 381. The Dutch, who have found out better methods than other nations of manufactoring many commodities, so as to render them cheaper, and thereby to hurt the trade of their neighbours, are the inventors also of lacmus,* a preparation of argol, called orseille en pierre, which has greatly lessened the use of that en pâte, as it is more easily transported and preserved, and fitted for use; and as it is besides, if not cheaper, at least not dearer. This art consists, undoubtedly, in mixing with that commodity some less valuable substance, which either improves or does not much impair its quality, and which at the same time increases its weight.*2 Thus they pound cinnabar and smalt finer than other nations, and yet sell both these articles cheaper. In like manner they sift cochineal, and sell it at a less price than what is unsifted.
It was for a long time believed that the Dutch prepared their lacmus from those linen rags which in the south of France are dipped in the juice of the croton tinctorium; *3 and this idea appeared the more probable, as most of these tournesol en drapeaux were bought up by the Hollanders: but, as they are the greatest adulterators of wine in Europe, they may perhaps have used these rags to colour Pontack and other wines. It is, however, not improbable that they at first made lacmus of them, as their dye approaches very near to that of argol. At present, it is almost certainly known that orseille en pâte is the principal ingredient in orseille ene pierre, that is in lacmus; and for this curious information we are indebted to Ferber.*4 But whence arises the smell of the lacmus, which appears to me like that of the Florentine iris? Some of the latter may perhaps, be mixed with it; for I think I have observed in it small indissoluble particles, which may have been bits of the roots. The addition of this substance can be of no use to improve the dye; but it may increase the weight, and give the lack more body; and perhaps it may be employed to render imperceptible some unpleasant smell, for which purpose the roots of that plant are used on many other occasions.
* Linn. Mantissa plant i. p.132.
*2 See Garcia, in Savary's Dictionary of commerce, iii. p. 130.
*3 The natural history and antiquities of Nortumberland. By John Wallis. London 1769, 2 vols. 4to. i. p. 279. Another kind of moss, different from the roccella, which in commerce is known by the names orseille de terre, orseille d'Auvergne, is used also for the purpose; but it contains fewer and weaker colouring particles. This species, in botany, is called Lichen parellus,* and is distinguished from the roccella by its figure, as it grows only in a thin rind on the rocks. It is collected in Aucergne, on rocks of granite and volcanic productions, and in some parts of Languedoc; the greater part of it is brought from St. Flour. Its name, perelle comes from an old Languedocian word pére (pierre, a rock*2); as roccella, afterwards transformed into orseille, is derived from rocca. The use of perelle is very trifling: the Dutch purchase it to make lacmus, perhaps on account of its low price. This moss has been found also in Northumberland, but it is not collected there for any purpose.*3