A History of Inventions and Discoveries: Saffron.
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.
* Plin. lib. xxi. cap. 6. Geopon. lib. xi. cap. 26, and Theophrast. Histor. plant. lib. vi. cap. 6.; where Joh. Bod. von Stapel, p. 661, has collected, though not in good order, every thing to be found in the ancients respecting saffron. The small aromatic threads, abundant in colour, the only parts of the whole plant sought after, were by the Greeks called ----- or ----; and by the Romans spicæ. They are properly the end of the pistil, which is elect into three divisions. A very distinct representation of this part of the flower may be seen in plate 184 of Tournefort's Intitut, rei herbariæ.
*2 On this account we often find in presciprions: Recipe croci Orientalis - - -
*3 Crocologia, seu curiosa croci enucleatio, congesta a J. F. Hertodt. Jenæ 1670, 8vo.
*4 See Beroald's Observations on the 54th chapter of the Life of Nero by Suetonius. Spartian, in the Life of Adrian, chap. 19, says: Romæ post cæteras immensissimas voluptates in honorem socrus suæ, aromatica populo donavit. In honorem Trajani balsama et crocum per gradus theatri fluere jussit.
*5 Lucan, in the ninth book of hi Pharsalia, verse 809, describing how the blood flows from every vein of a person bit by a kind of serpent found in Africa, says, that it spouts out in the same manner as the sweet-smelling essence of saffron issues from the limbs of a statue.
Utque solet pariter totis se effundere signis
Corycii pressura croci; sic omnia membra
Emisere simul rutilum pro sanguine virus
*6 Omnes placentæ omniaque poma, etiam minima vexatione contacta, coeperunt effundere crocum. Petron. Satyr. cap. 60.
*7 Of the method of preparing this salve or balsam, mentioned by Athenæ, Cicero, and others, an account is to be found in Dioscorides, lib. i. c. 26.
*8 Catulos lactentes adeo puros existimabant ad cibum, ut etiana placandis numinibus hostiarum vice uterentur his. Genitæ Manæ catulo res divina fit, et in coenis Deum etumanum ponitur catulina. Aditialibus quidem epulis celebrem fuisse, Plauti fabulæ indicio sunt. Plin. lib. xxix. cap. 4. And Festus says: Catulinam carnem esitavisse, hoc est comedisse, Romanos, Plautus in Saturione refert. That the Latin word crocus signified the same plant which we at present call saffron, and which, in botany, still retains the ancient name, has, as far as I know, never been doubted; and indeed I know no reason why it should, however mistrustful I may be when natural objects are given out for those which formerly had the like names. The moderns often apply ancient names to things very different from those which were known under them by the Greeks and the Romans: but what we read in ancient authors concerning crocus agrees, in every respect, with our saffron, and can scarcely be applied to any other vegetable production. Crocus was a bulbous-plant, which grew wild in the mountains. There were two species of it, one of which blowed in spring, and the other in autumn. The flowers of the latter, which appeared earlier than the green leaves that remained through the winter, contained those small threads or filaments which were used as a medicine and a paint, and employed also for seasoning various kinds of food.*
It appears that the medicinal use, as well as the name of this plant, has always continued among the Orientals; and the Europeans, who adopted the medicine of the Greeks, sent to the levant for saffron,*2 until they learned the art of rearing it themselves; and employed it very much until they were made acquainted with the use of more beneficial articles, which they substituted in its stead. Those who are desirous of knowing the pharmaceutical preparation of saffron, and the diseases in the curing of which it was employed, may read Hertodt's Crocologia, where the author has collected all the receipts, and even the simplest, for preparing it. *3
What in the ancient use of saffron, is most discordant with our taste, at present, is the employing it as a perfume. Not only were halls, theatres, and courts, through which one wished to diffuse an agreeable smell, strewed with this plant,*4 but it entered into the composition of many vinous extracts, which retained the same scent; and these costly smelling waters were often made to flow in small streams, which spread abroad their much admired odour.*5 Luxurious people even moistened or filled with them all those things with which they were desirous of surprising their guests in an agreeable manner,*6 or with which they ornamented their apartments. From saffron, with the addition of wax and other ingredients, the Greeks as well as the Romans prepared also scented salves, which they used in the same manner as our ancestors their balsams.*7
Notwithstanding the fondness which the ancients showed for the smell of saffron, it does not appear that in modern times it was ever much esteemed. As a perfume, it would undoubtedly be as little relished at present as the greater part of the dishes of Apicius, fricassees of sucking puppies, *8 sausages, and other parts of swine, which one could not even mention with decency in gen----
[puuttuu kaksi sivua]
them more and more, till they have at length become indispensable wants. Some have taken snuff rendered so sharp by salts, antimony, sugar of lead, and other poisonous drugs, that the olfactory nerves have been rendered callous, and entirely destroyed by it.
* Le saffran doit être mis en tous les potages, sauces, et viandes quadragésimales. Sans le saffran, nous n'aurions jamais bonne purée, bon pois passés, ni bonne sauce. Apologie pour Herodote, par H. Estiene. A la Haye 1735, 2 vol. 8vo.
*2 Meninski, in his Turkis Lexion, p. 2448 of the old edition, has Zae feran, crocus. Golius in his Dictionary gives it as a Persian word. That much saffron is also cultivated in Persia, and that it is of the best kind, appears from Chardin. See his Travels, printed at Rouen 1723, 10 vol. 12mo. iv. p. 37. That the Spaniards borrowed the word safran from the Vandals is much more improbable. It is to be found in Joh. Marianæ Histor. de rebus Hispaniæ. Hagæ 1733, fol. i. p. 147. The author, speaking of foreign words introduced into the Spanish language, says, Vandalis aliæ coves acceptæ feruntur, camara, azafran, &c.
*3 Cours complet d' agriculture, redigé par Rozier, Paris 1781, 4to. i. p. 266.
*4 It is reported at Saffron-Walden, that a pilgrim, proposing to do good to his country, stole a head of saffron, and hid the same in his palmer's staff, which he had made hollow before on purpose, and so he brought this root into this realm, with venture of his life, for if he had been taken, by the law of the country from whence it came, he had died for the fact. Voyages collected by Hakluyt, vol. ii. p. 164. The same thing, extracted from Harrison's History of Britain, book iii. chap. 14, is related in The Political Survey of Britain by J. Campbell. London 1774, 4to, ii. p. 101.
*5 Breslaeur Samlun, 1720. November, p. 536,
*6 Sexta species primum Germaniæ innotuit post annum 1579, Stephani van Hausen Noribergensis diligentia, qui ejus anni initio Constantinopoli rediens in comitatu generosi viri Ulrichi a Kunnigsperg (qui præcedente anno honorarium eo tulerat) in Servia, sive Moesia superiore, sub Belgrado florentem eruit, Martio mense. Clusii Rar. plant. hist. Antwerp 1601, fol. p. 207. That saffron was as much employed in seasoning dishes as for a perfume, appears from the oldest work on cookery which has been handled down to us, and which is ascribed to Apicius. Its use, in this respect, has been long continued, and, in many countries, is till more prevalent than physicians wish it to be. Henry Stephen says, "Saffron must be put into all Lent soups, sauces, and dishes; without saffron we cannot have well-cooked peas.*
It may readily be supposed that the great use made of this plant in cookery must have induced people to attempt to cultivate it in Europe; and, in my opinion, it was first introduced into - by the Arabs, as may be conjectured from its name, which is Arabic, or rather Persian.*2 From Spain it was, according to every appearance, carried afterwards to France, perhaps to Albigeois, and thence dispersed into various other parts.*3 Some travelers also may, perhaps, have brought bulbs of this plant from the Levant. We are, at least, assured that a piligrim brought from the Levant to England, under the reign of Edward III. the first root of saffron, which he had found means to conceal in his staff, made hollow for that purpose.*4 At what period this plant began to be cultivated in Germany I do not know; but that this was first done in Austria, in 1579, is certainly false. Some say that Stephen von Hausen, a native of Nuremberg, who, about that time, accompanied the imperial ambassador to Constantinople, brought the first bulbs to Vienna, from the neighbourhood of Belgrade.*5 This opinion is founded on the account of Clusius, who, however, does not speak of the autumnal saffron used as a spice, but of an early sort, esteemed on account of the beauty of its flowers.*5 Clusius has collected more species of this plant than any of his redecessors; and has given an account by whom each of them was first made known.
* Pietro Crescentio d'agricoltura. In Venetia 1542, 8vo. lib. vi. cap. 25.
*2 Le théatre d'agricultureet mesnage des champs, d' Olivier de Serres. Seconde edit. Paris 1603, 4to. p. 662.
*3 Rei rusticæ libri quotuor, conscripti a Conr. Heresbachio. Spiræ Nemetum 1595, 8vo. p. 252.
*4 Georgica curiosa.
*5 Oeconomus prudens et legalis.
*6 The whole order may be seen in Traité de Police, par De la Mare, iii. p. 428. In the fifteenth and following century, the cultivation of saffron was so important an article in the European husbandry, that it was omitted by no writer on that subject; and an account of it is to be found in Crescentio,* Serres,*2 Heresbach,*3 Von Hohberg,*4 Florinus,*5 and others. In those periods, when it was an important object of trade, it was adulterated with various and in part noxious substances; and attempts were made in several countries to prevent this imposition by severe penalties. In the year 1550, Henry II, king of France, issued an order for the express purpose of preventing such frauds, the following extract from which will show some of the methods employed to impose on the public in the sale of this article:*5 "For some time past," says the order, "a certain quantity of the said saffron has been found altered, disguised, and sophisticated, by being mixed with oil, honey, and other mixtures, in order that the said saffron, which is sold by weight, may be rendered heavier; and some add to it other herbs, similar in colour and substance to beef over boiled, and reduced to threads, which saffron, thus mixed and adulterated, cannot be long kept, and is highly prejudicial to the human body; which, besides the said injury, may prevent the above-said foreign merchants from purchasing it, to the great diminution of our revenues, and to the great detriment of our revenues, and to the great detriment of foreign nations, against which we ought to provide," &c.