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Gibbon' seems to have understood this question better than any writer whom I have had the opportunity of consulting ; it is true he writes Ceos for Cos, and follows the mistake of Pliny, in supposing that the women reeved out a web to obtain a thread; but his disquisition is so accurate and comprehensive, and his view of the subject so clear, that to deviate from his information must be rather curious than useful.
It is a well-known fact, that almost all the insects, which pass through the three degrees of transformation, prepare a covering, or envelopement, for their chrysalis state, before they cease to be reptiles. Calling this the cocoon, as a general term, the cocoon of the silk-worm has the preference to all others, in quality and beauty, and perhaps in quantity and continuity; for the thread to be reeled off from the finest sort
, is said to be equal to the extent of six miles.” But Gibbon, following the statement of Pliny, observes, that spinning insects are found upon the leaves of the oak,' the ash, and the pine ; it is probable, that not one of these may be of the same species with the true China silk-worm; and if they have horns, they certainly are not : but supposing them to be the same, if they be not fed on the white mulberry leaves, the produce of the cocoon would of necessity be inferior in quality, for it is owing to the peculiar culture of this tree, that the Piedmontese silk is confessedly the best in Europe.
Necessity, indeed, compels me to admit, that the Coan vests were not cotton; but however fine, thin, and transparent they were, if they failed in the softness and splendor of the oriental silk, their inferiority must still be considerable : custom had confined them to the use of women, but it required a law as early as the reign of Claudius, to prohibit the wearing of silk by men. Nothing more is wanting to show the prevalence of taste in favor of this new manufacture, or more decidedly imply its superiority.
The price is a still more remarkable distinction; for as late as the reign of Aurelian, Vopiscus * informs us that silk sold for its weight in gold : no such extravagance, in regard to the Coan fabric, is ever mentioned; neither could the labor of the manufacturer, or the scarceness of the commodity, have procured such a price, unless it had been infamed by the expense of conveyance, and difficulty of obtaining it, which was the case in regard to oriental silk. This price seems never to have been materially depressed, till Constantinople became the centre of commerce, between the Eastern and the Western world; and there the depression advanced till the fifth century, when Ammianus notices, that silk, which had formerly been purchasable by the nobility only, was, in his time, become the wear of the
Salmasius and Hoffman furnish us with an additional reason for the inferiority of the Coan article, which is, that the Coans suffered the Aurelia to eat its way out of the cocoon. This, we know, ruins the
2 Chambers's Dictionary. Pliny very unphilosophically makes spring from Terræ habitu animante Borem Capressi Terebioth. Fraxini, &c. "P.45.--Salmasius, 209, fully acknowledges the higher price of silk.
Vol. iv. pp. 72. & seqq.
silk for all fine work; for the thread is then obtained by spinning it from a flock, whereas, to have it reeled off continuous, the aurelia must be killed by heat, and the cocoon preserved from perforation.
Another consideration is, that however we allow the insect described by Aristotle to be of the same genus, it does not follow that the species is the same. Barrow' notices a silk-worm in India, that spins a stronger but a coarser thread; and perhaps every variety of this genus might afford a thread on which experiments might be tried, or possibly may have been tried, and found not worth pursuing Aristotle's insect certainly does not answer the description of that which we have in England ; and whether we have the true insect, is a question which may be resolved by hundreds of our countrymen, who visit China every year. We can hardly suppose, but that by accident, interest, or curiosity, the true breed has occasionally been brought home and compared : but the great probability is, that our European breed is lineally descended from the parent stock procured by Justinian; for the manufacture was established at Tyre and Berytus, where the mixed Serica and the Holoserica were wrought, down even to the time of the Crusades, when it was introduced into Sicily, and from thence propagated into Italy, Spain, France, and Piedmont ; in the last of which it is said to be in its highest state of perfection.
Did then the Monks of Justinian go to China for this breed, or did they find it at Sirhend, in India, as D'Anville supposes ? It is pos sible that this great geographer has been misled by a similarity of names, as he frequently is; and it is certain, that there was a communication through Tartary, either direct or intermediate, between China and Europe, antecedent to the reign of Justinian. Gibbon has stated, that these Monks were Missionaries, who had previously penetrated into China, and resided at Nan-kin. This is a bold asser. tion, but not improbable; for the testimony of our earliest travellers is a sufficient evidence to prove, that Nestorian Christians had been settled in China previous to their arrival there, and if there were Christians, there certainly had been Missionaries.
There is still another inquiry to be made, why Justinian should send to China for the true breed, if both the insect and the manufacture were in existence at Cos? the one was a journey hazardous and difficult, of near three, thousand miles; the other was a pleasant voyage,
short of four hundred. Unless the manufacture had ceased and was unknown at Cos, as well as the conveyance from the East had been obstructed by the prevailing and intermediate power of the Persians, the expense and length of the journey can hardly be accounted for : but the true reason seems to be, that the manufacture of oriental silk had superseded the manufacture at Cos, and that could only have happened from the superiority of the material, or the manner of its fabrication.
Silk had been wove in the Roman Empire long before it was fully understood how the material was obtained; for the
Miraža, võua Engston, or silk-thread, is an article subject to a duty in the Custom-House of
· Barrow's China, p. 437.
• Vol. iv. p. 72. & seqq.
Alexandria ; and whether the web of Tyre was wrought from this
I cannot conclude this disquisition without expressing my astonish. ment at the extent of Aristotle's researches, his insight into natural history, and the accuracy of his description; for whatever difference there may be in estimation, price, or beauty, the fabric, in both instances, is manifestly silk, and the process of the manufacture identically the same. It is equally astonishing, that in the course of eight centuries and a half
, neither Historians, Poets, nor Geogra. phers, should have acquired any precision of knowledge on this sub. ject, or have applied Aristotle's information to the unfolding of the mystery: for taking the Philosopher's age, at a medium, 330 years before Christ, and the first year of Justinian in 527 of our era, here is an interval of 857 years, during which the intelligence brought to Europe was obscure, fluctuating, and imperfect; in fact, real know. ledge was to have been found at home, while it was sought for at the extremity of the world.
Upon the whole, I trust that Mr. Barker will not think it a misfortune, that he has differed from me in opinion : the attainment of truth, even in matters of mere speculation and curiosity, is always a grateful acquisition to an active mind. I admit, that in the present instance, he has attained it at the fountain head; and I am persuaded, that with his talents, industry, and perseverance, he is fully qualified to explore the inmost recesses of Classical Literature.
From the Dedication prefixed to this small and well-printed
The appearance of the present, joined to the expectation of similar publications, is a circumstance that cannot fail to be interesting to every Greek scholar. Amongst whom, there are none, we believe, unacquainted with the writings or the name of Burney. To his industry and talent, successfully exhibited on various occasions, the just tribute of applause has been paid by the critics of this and foreign climes; and while we add our own to the general voice of approbation for his exertions in extending and improving our knowledge of the Greek language, we may be allowed to express our regret that the editor of « Philemonis Lexicon” has envied us a commentary, which, had it come from his pen, we doubt not, would have equalled any of the productions of the school of Hemsterhuis ; whose disciples, following the example set by their illustrious master, have proved in the works of Valckenaer, Ruhnken, Pierson, and Koen,
Quid mens rite, quid indoles
! 'Επει δε σοι, ω 'Αντίφανες, και του 'Αλεξανδρέως Υπερεσχίου περί ονομάτων Τεχνολογία κανονικός συντεθείσα, ου διά το κομψόν του λόγου και συντομώτατον, ει και χαλεπόν, αλλά δια το συγκεχυμένος και μεθοδείας άνευ ουκ ήρεσεν, μήτε μετ' επιμελείας διεξελθείν αυτήν ήβουλήθης έγνων σύνταγμά τι κατά στοιχείον, οιονεί Λεξικόν, των οκτώ μερών του λόγου, σύνταξιν και τεχνολογίαν τινα Γραμματικής περιέχον έγχειρίσαι σοι δι' ού βραχέος τε και ακόμψου όντος δυνήση πολλές συντάξεις των ονομάτων και των καθεξής οκτώ του λόγου μερών παραγωγάς τε και κανόνας σχηματισμούς τε και κλίσεις ραδίως είδέναι και όλως δι' αυτού το σολοικον και άκυρον των λέξεων διώξεις και εκλογήν πολλών μαθήση.
Of this collection of words, arranged in order according to the eight parts of speech, there remains only the list of nouns, and of as many verbs as complete the first letter of the alphabet, together with two of the second, viz. Βαδίζω and Bάλλω. All the rest beyond this are wanting, so that we seem to have but a little more than one-eighth of the original wor
As Dr. Burney gives no farther account of the history of the Lexicon, except that his copy is taken from a MS. in the Imperial Library at Paris
, our readers will not perhaps be displeased at our bringing together the few following conjectures and facts respect. ing it.
Of Philemon himself, or of Antiphanes, the person to whom the Preface is addressed, we know nothing ; and of Hyperescius we can only repeat what Suidas tells us, that he was a grammarian of Alexandria, and lived in the time of the Emperor Marcian, and wrote the following treatises, viz. Τέχνην Γραμματικήν, Περί ονομάτων, Περί ρήματος, και 'Ορθογραφίας ; the same lexicographer makes mention of another grammarian of the same name, who is stated, on the authority of Malchus, the sophist of Byzantium, to have been driven into exile by Leo Macelles. Whether these namesakes are one and the same person, we have not at present the means of ascertaining. They, who have access to the collection of the Byzantine Historians, may be able to decide this questions and with it confirm or refute an opinion, which we hazard, that the statement of Suidas is erroneous in attributing four treatises to Hyperescius, whose work seems to have been but a single one, called either Τεχνολογία, or Τέχνη Γραμματική, divided into three parts : 1. Περί ονομάτων και 11. Περί ρήματος και ΙΙΙ. Περί ορθογραφίας; but which, for want of a good arrangement, was little calculated for use, till Philemon new-modelled it.
Fabricius, in his Bibliotheca Græca, tom. x. p. 52. ed. Hamburg. mentions the Lexicon of Philemon as being preserved in the Colbertine Library, and numbered 1266.; the MS., we presume, from which Dr. Burney's copy was taken, and which Villoison seems to have used, in whose notes on Apollonius's Homeric Lexicon were the first extracts given from the Lexicon of Phile