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Being the substance of a Paper read before the Royal Irish Academy, May, 1839.

THERE are few subjects possessing a greater degree of interest than the study of the arts and manufactures of the ancients. They are not only useful and instructive to the scholar and the antiquary, by explaining much of the obscurity existing in the writings of ancient classic authors, as well as by elucidating the manners and customs, and state of society of our ancestors, but because they afford a practical lesson to the manufacturer and the artizan in the present day.

The exact origin of the art of dyeing, or the precise period when it was discovered, is still involved in obscurity. Like most other arts, it must be referred to a period far beyond the date of any authentic record upon the subject; but authors generally agree in assigning it to Egypt. It is, however, remarkable that, in the pictorial language of the Egyptians, we do not find a single instance of the actual manufacture illustrated, although dyes similar to the Tyrian were common among them. I do not allude to the dyes obtained from the preparations of copper, with which their different porcellaneous substances were stained, but to those used in the dyeing of linen or woollen fabrics.

If such were an art peculiar to Egypt, and not obtained from other places, as Tyre, and the coast of Phænicia, (to which opinion I am inclined,) and which places were, we know, in great commercial intercourse with the Egyptians, the secret was in possession of the priests, who were unwilling to make it known.

The fables related of the discovery of the Tyrian dye, are too well known to require insertion here.

Pliny, the naturalist, who must himself have witnessed the process, has given a lengthened and a detailed account of it in his ninth book, from chapter xxxvi. to lxi. inclusive; from which, as it is the only such account in existence, I shall give a few extracts in the translation of Dr. Holland, merely substituting a somewhat plainer idiom for the quaint language of 1634. Of late years it has been too much the fashion, not only to decry the deficiencies, but totally to discredit the assertions of this celebrated author. True it is, that his writings contain many fabulous, many miraculous accounts; but such, it should be remembered, were the popular or vulgar errors of his day, such as, in times to come, another generation shall discover in our own systems. Pliny, like too many writers of the present day, gave insertion to a mixture of parole evidence, and actual personal knowledge

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and observation-and it requires some discrimination to draw the line of distinction between the two. We quote the following :



“ Purples live ordinarily seven years. They lie hidden for thirty days' space, about the dog-days, like as the murices or burrets do. They neet together by troops in the spring, and by rubbing one against the other, they gather and yield a clammy substance and moisture, in the manner of wax. The murices do the like. But that beautiful colour so much in request for dyeing fine cloth, the purples have in the midst of the neck and jaws. And nothing else it is, but a little thin liquor within a white vein; and that it is which maketh that rich, fresh, and bright colour of deep red purple roses. As for all the rest of this fish it yieldeth nothing. Fishers strive to get them alive, for when they die they cast up and shed that precious tincture and juice, together with their life. Now the Tyrians when they light upon any great purples, they take the flesh out of their shells, for to get the blood out of the said vein, but the lesser they press and grind in certain mills, and so gather that rich humour which issueth from them. The best purple colour in Asia is this thus gotten at Tyros. But in Africa, within the island Meninx, and the coast of the ocean, by Getulia; and in Europe, that of Laconica. This is that glorious colour, so full of state and majesty, that the Roman lictors with their rods, halbards, and axes, make way for ; this it is which graceth and setteth out the children of princes and noblemen; this makes the distinction between a knight and a councillor of state ; this is called for and put on when they offer sacrifice to pacify the gods; this giveth a lustre to all sorts of garments. To conclude, our generals in the field, and victorious captains in their triumphs, wear this purple in their mantles, interlaced and embroidered with gold. No marvel, therefore, if purples be so much sought for, and men are to be held excused if they run a-madding after purples.

“But how should the other shell-fish, called Conchylia, be so dear and high-priced, considering the tincture of them carries so strong and stinking a savour; so sullen and melancholy a colour, inclining to a blue or watchet, and resembling rather the angry and raging sea in a tempest ?

“Now, if I should lay a straw here, and proceed no further in this discourse of purples and such like, surely our luxurious and riotous spend. thrifts would think they had great wrong, and were defrauded of their right; they might, I say, complain of me, and condemn me of idleness and negligence. Therefore, I care not much to put my head within the dyer's shops and work-houses, that like as every man, for the necessity of this life, knows how the price of corn goes ; even so our fine folks and brave dandies, who take such pleasure and delight in these colours may be perfect,

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what is the reason of this, their only life. In the first place, these shellfish that serve either for purple colours, or other lighter dyes of the Conchylia, are all one in matter; the difference only is in temperature, more or less. And indeed they may all be reduced into two principal sorts; for the less shell, called Buccinum, fashioned like unto that horn or cornet wherewith they used to wind and sound, whereupon it took that name, hath a round back, and is cut like a saw in the edges. The other is named Purpura, shooteth out a long back, like a gutter, and within the one side it doth writhe and turn hollow, in form of a pipe, out of which the fish puts forth a tongue. Moreover, this purple is shaded, as it were, even as far as to the sharp top or turbant thereof, round about with sharp knobs, pointed lightly, seven in number, which the sea-cornet buccinum, hath not." (This seems to be the murex.) “But this is common to both, that look how many roundles they have, like tendrils clasping about them, so many years old are they. As for the cornet Buccinum, it sticketh always to great rocks and stones, and therefore is ever found and gathered about them.



“Purples have another name, and are called Pelagiæ, as one would say, fishes of the deep sea. But in truth there are many sorts of them, and those differing either in place where they keep, or in food whereon they live. The first, Lutense, i. e. muddy, because it is nourished of the corrupt and rotten mud; the second, Algense, (the worst of all,) feeding upon reits or sea-weeds named alga; the third, Tæniense, (better than the former two,) for that it is gathered and taken up about the brims and borders of the sea, called, for the resemblance to fillets or lists in a cloth, Tæniæ.' (Probably a species of serpula.) “And yet this kind yieldeth but a light colour, and nothing deep. There are of them also which they term Calculosæ, of the sea gravel, which is wondrous good for all these kind of wilkes and shell fishes. And, last of all, which simply are the very best, the Purples Dialetæ, i. e. wandering to and fro, changing their pasture and feeding in sundry soils of the sea (the muddy, the weedy, and the gravelly). Now these purples are taken with small nets, and thinly wrought, cast into the deep. Within which, for a bait to bite at, there must be certain winkles and cockles, that will shut and open, and be ready to snap such as are without ; these limpids are called Mituli. Half dead they should be first, that being now put into the sea again, and desirous to revive and live, they might gape for water; and then the purples make at them with their pointed tongue, which they thrust out to annoy them, but the others feeling themselves pricked therewith, presently shut their shells together, and bite hard. Thus the purples, for their greediness, are caught and taken up hanging by their tongues.

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“ The best time to take purples is after the dog-star is risen, and before the spring; for, when they have made that viscous mucilage in manner of wax, their juice and humour for colour is over liquid, thin, and waterish. And yet the purple-dyers know not so much, por take heed thereof; whereas, indeed, the skill thereof is a special point of their art, and wherein lieth all in all. Well, when they are caught, as is above said, they take forth that vein before mentioned, and they lay it in salt, or else they do not do well, with this proportion ordinarily, namely, to every hundred-weight of the purple liquor a sestier, or pint and a half of salt. Full three days, and no more, it must thus lie soaking in powder; for the fresher that the colour is, so much is it accounted richer and better. This done, they seethe it in leads, and to every amphore (containing about eight wine gallons) they put one hundred pounds and a half just of the colour so prepared. It ought to boil with a soft and gentle fire, and therefore the tunnel, or mouth of the furnace, must be a good way off from the lead and cauldron ; during which time the workmen that tend the lead must often skim off and cleanse away the fleshy substance, which cannot choose but stick to the veins which contain the juice or liquor of purple aforesaid. And thus they continue ten days, by which time, ordinarily, the lead or vessel will show the liquor clear, as if it were sufficiently boiled; and to make a trial thereof they dip into it a fleece of wool, well rinsed, and washed out of one water into another; and, until such time that they see it give a perfect dye, they still ply the fire, and give it a higher seething.

“ That which staineth red is nothing so rich as that which giveth the deep and sad blackish colour. When it is come to the perfection, they let the wool lie, to take the liquor, five hours. Then they have it forth, touse and card it, and put it in again, until it hath drunk up all the liquor as much as it will.

“Now this is to be observed, that the sea-cornet Buccinum makes no good colour by itself, for their dye will shed, and lose the lustre; and therefore they join it usually to the sea purple Pelagium, which maketh too deep and brown a colour, unto which it giveth a fresh and lively tincture, as it were in grain, and so make that sad purple which they desire. Thus, by mixing and medling the force of both together, they mend one another, whilst the lightness or sadness of the one doth quicken and raise, or else dim or take down, the colour of the other. To the dyeing of a pound of wool they use this proportion of two hundred Buccina, or seacornets, joined with a hundred and eleven Pelagian purples; and so cometh that rich amythist, or purple violet colour, so highly commended

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above all other. But the Tyrians make their deep red purple by dipping their wool first in the liquor of the Pelagian purples only, while it is not thoroughly boiled to the height, but as it were green and unripe ; and therefore they let it take what it can drink. Soon after, they change it into another cauldron or lead, where the colour of the sea-cornets alone is boiled. And then it is thought to have a most commendable and excellent dye, when it is as deep a red as blood that is cold and settled, blackish at the first sight, and look between you and the light it carries a bright and shining lustre, and hereupon it is that Homer calleth blood purple.

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“I find in Chronicles that purple hath been used in Rome time out of mind. Howbeit K. Romulus never wore it but in his royal habit or mantle of estate called Trabea. And it is well known that Tullus Hostilius was the first Roman king who, after he had subdued the Tuscans, put on the long purple robe named pretexta, and the cassocks broached and studded with scarlet in broad guards. Cornelius Nepos, who died in the days of Augustus Cæsar, the emperor, says, when I was a young man, the light violet purple was rife and in great request, and a pound of it was sold for 100 deniers; and not long after, the Tarentine red purple or scarlet was much called for, and of the same price. But after it came the fine doubledyed purple of Tyros, called dibapha, and a man could not buy a pound of it for 1000 deniers, which was the price of ten pounds of the other. P. Lentulus Spinther, in his ædileship of the chair, first wore a long robe embroidered with it, and was checked and blamed therefore. But now-adays,' saith Nepos, 'what is he that will not hang his parlour and diningchamber therewith, and have carpets, cushions, and cup-board cloths thereof?' And it is no longer ago, when Spinther was ædile, than in the 700th year after the foundation of Rome, even when Cicero was consul. This purple in those days was called dibapha, i.e. twice-dyed, and that was counted a matter of great cost, and very stately and magnificent. But now you shall have no purple cloths at all, of any reckoning, but they shall have their double dye. As for the cloth dyed with the purple of the shell-fish, Conchylia, the manner of making the colour and of dying are in all respects the same, save that there are no sea-cornets used thereto. Moreover, the juice or liquor for that colour is tempered with water instead of the usual preparation of urea, altogether used in the other, and therein is sodden but the half proportion of colours to the foresaid tinctures. And thus it is made that light, pale, stammel, so highly commended for being short of the deep, rich, colour; and the less, while that the wool is suffered to drink the fill, the more bright and fresh it seemeth,

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