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The waste land is opened with the spade in the month of April; good soil is brought, and enough is thrown on to raise it one cubit. The ground is well broken with the plough, and levelled with an implement which in form resembles a ladder, but which supplies the place of a harrow. The mulberry is planted in October; the slips are cut a span long, thrown into a hole, covered from the sun, and are continually watered until at the end of a fortnight they begin to vegetate. They are then transplanted into the field, in holes distant a span from each other, and nearly one span deep; four or five cuttings are placed obliquely in each hole, which is then filled up, so as to cover the slips with a finger of earth closely pressed down. As soon as the plants appear, in December or January, the field is weeded. In April, when they are grown to the height of a cubit, they are topped, so as to leave a stem one hand high; otherwise it is thought that the leaves would be bitter and hard, and that the worms would refuse them. A hand-hoeing is now given, and a fortnight afterwards the leaves are ready for use. plant is then cut down a little above the root, and the silkworms are fed with the leaves; the field is weeded, if necessary, and another crop is obtained in June, and a third in July; but the leaves of this last crop only are gathered without cutting the stem, because that operation at so late a season would, it is apprehended, injure the plant. The field is again weeded, and a fourth crop is ready in September; after gathering it, the ground is ploughed several times, and levelled with the implement above mentioned. In November a hand-hoeing assists vegetation, and accelerates the best crop, which is cut in December; this is followed by a hand-hoeing and weeding, and is succeeded by another crop in March. The same course recommences, and the field, if sufficiently attended and cultivated, will continue to be productive during many years.
Bengal raw silk is divided into two classes; that reeled according to the old method, commonly called country wound, and that reeled according to the new or Italian method. The places where the former is manufactured are Comercolly, Jungypore, Rungpore, and Bauleah; and those where the latter is prepared, are Comercolly, Malda, Radnagore, Jungypore, Rungpore, Bauleah, Cossimbuzar, and Gonatea: these are also distinguished by the manufacturers' names, as Beecher, Frushard, Collinson, &c.
The leading point which determines the value of Bengal raw silk, is cleanness, or, being free from knibs or knots known amongst the manufacturers by the appellation of "foul;" evenness of thread is also most essential, but silk free from foul, will very rarely be uneven, and if foul, cannot be even; indeed, the terms foul and uneven in this case may be considered synonymous.
To judge if silk be clean, the best mode is to open the skein, and stand with your back to a window, so that you look down the extended silk in the same direction that the light falls; by this means you will easily perceive any foulness that exists, and a very little practice will enable any person by a mere coup d'œil to judge accurately upon this most essential quality of Bengal raw silk. The skein being well shaken, should not exhibit any dust or loose ends.
The different degrees of fineness and coarseness are denoted by the letters A. B. C.-Silk of 4-5 cocoons is called A. No. 1; of 6-8 cocoons A. No. 2; of 8-10 cocoons B. No. 1; of 10-12 cocoons B. No. 2; of 12-14 and 16-18 cocoons B. No. 3; of 18-20 cocoons C. No. 1; of 20-22 cocoons C. No. 2; and of 22-24 cocoons, &c. C. No. 3.-All filature silk, or that which is reeled in factories, is included within the above-named letters and numbers; but silk which the natives reel by hand, is much coarser, and is marked by the letters A. B. C. D. E.-It must be understood that the A. 1 silk of one district in India will importantly differ in fineness from the A. 1 silk of another district, dependent upon circumstances of climate, culture, &c. &c. thus Bauleah filature silk is inferior in fineness to Radnagore or Cossimbuzar filature silk of corresponding letters, and Comercolly filature silk exceeds these, and so on.
Each skein of raw silk should be gummed in one part, but not so much as to occasion it to adhere too strongly; a sufficient gumming causes the skein to preserve its regularity of thread; too much will cause the thread to break in the winding, during the operation of throwing, or preparing for the hands of the consumers. The skeins should also be banded, or bound round in various parts with threads.
The value of the Bengal raw silk is by no means to be estimated by the lustre or brilliancy of colour. Many have been deceived upon this point; it therefore becomes the more necessary to guard against similar errors. That these qualities are not essential, appears when we consider that the silk will be dyed before it is manufactured, when both will be necessarily changed. Silk of indifferent colour is often clear and even, which the manufacturers most regard in their purchases, while silk of superior lustre is sometimes deficient in these desirable points; still colour and lustre are not to be overlooked; when combined with cleanness and evenness, they give an additional value to Bengal raw silk. Foul silk in the winding is continually liable to break at the knibs or knots, which renders the workmanship both unpleasant and expensive.
The demand in England for the several letters continually varies, and it seldom occurs that their value is regulated in ratio with their respective
fineness: coarse silk often obtaining a higher price than the finer sizes, the demand being regulated by a limited supply of a particular letter, or by an extra consumption in some particular species of manufactured goods, or by some other accidental cause.
The distance of India is too great to allow speculation upon contingencies at home, and consequently prevents special directions being given as to the regulation of sizes in an investment; but as a general rule, the letters B and C should predominate over the letters A, and the proportion of skein silk should be very trifling; if a demand for exportation exists in England, it constantly runs on the lower priced silks; and such has been for the last few years the restriction of foreign houses in this respect, that the export trade has dwindled to nothing.
When, owing to the above-mentioned causes of limited supply, or extra consumption, a particular letter has secured an exorbitant price, upon the accounts reaching India, all the silk that can be procured of the same size, is immediately hurried home, in the hopes of realizing the same extravagant profit: this expectation has been invariably disappointed, a glut being occasioned, while the cause of the consumption has long since ceased, and the neglected letter of the former season now meets a ready sale with the same advantage of price.
In closing these remarks upon Bengal raw silk, we must note that the greatest care is requisite in packing it for the voyage; if loosely packed, the outside skeins will rub against each other, and the silk will be cut as if by a knife. Silk in this state is of no value whatever. To prevent the possibility of friction, the bales must be packed exceedingly tight and compact.
The various sizes must on no account be mixed in the same package; silk so confused will never obtain a due price. Private investments are generally faulty in this respect; and the Company's bales, though generally tolerably correct, are not altogether unexceptionable in this particular.
There are two other kinds of worms which produce silk in Bengal, viz. the Tusseh and Arrindy worms: the former are found in such abundance over many parts of Bengal, and the adjoining provinces, as to have afforded to the natives, from time immemorial, a considerable supply of a most durable, coarse, dark-coloured silk, commonly called Tusseh silk, which is woven into a kind of cloth, called Tusseh dooties, much worn by Bramins, and other sects of Hindoos. This substance would, no doubt, be highly useful to the inhabitants of many parts of America, and the south of Europe, where a cheap, light, cool, durable dress, such as this silk makes, is much wanted. This species cannot be domesticated.
The Arrindy silkworm is peculiar to the interior parts of Bengal, in
the districts of Dinagepore and Rungpore, where the natives rear and breed it in a domestic state, as they do the silkworm. The food of this kind consists entirely of the leaves of the common Ricinus, or Palma Christi plant, which the natives of these districts call Arrindy, and is abundantly reared over every part of India, on account of the oil obtained from the seed. Feeding these caterpillars with these leaves will therefore make it doubly valuable, where they know how to spin and manufacture the silk. Their cocoons are remarkably soft, and white or yellowish; and the filament so exceedingly delicate, as to render it impracticable to wind off the silk: it is therefore spun like cotton. The yarn thus manufactured, is wove into a coarse kind of white cloth, of a seemingly loose texture, but of incredible durability. Its uses are for clothing for both men and women; and it will wear constantly ten, fifteen, or twenty years. The merchants also use it for packing fine cloths, silks, or shawls. It must, however, be always washed in cold water; if put into boiling water, it makes it tear like old rotten cloth. For freight, 10 Cwt. of silk are allowed to a ton.
SKINS. The skins of tigers and leopards are occasionally brought from India, not in any quantities as articles of trade, but as curiosities, and are used as hammer-cloths for carriages, &c.
TIGER SKINS should be chosen large, of a bright yellow colour, beautifully marked with numerous broad black stripes; the more intense the yellow, and well defined the black stripes are, the more these skins are esteemed. Particular care should be taken that they are well dried, or they will soon decay. They are sometimes met with near four feet long, including the tail.
LEOPARD SKINS.-These skins are much esteemed in Europe. They are smaller than the former, seldom exceeding four feet in length, including the tail. They should be chosen large, of a lively yellow colour, marked on the back and sides with small spots disposed in circles, well defined, and closely together, the belly covered with longish white hairs, and the spots on the tail large and oblong.
SPIKENARD, or Nardus Indica, a species of Andropogon, (Gendbel, Hind., B'hustrina, San.), as brought to Europe, is a congeries of small, tough, reddish brown fibres, forming a bunch about the size of a finger; it is moderately warm and pungent, accompanied with a flavour not disagreeable. It is described as growing in wild and uncultivated countries, and is the common grass which covers the surface of it, growing in large tufts close to each other, very rank, and in general from three to four feet long. The whole plant has a strong aromatic odour; but both the smell and the virtues reside principally in the husky roots, or lower parts of the
stalks, which in chewing have a bitter, warm, pungent taste, accompanied with some degree of that kind of glow in the mouth which cardamums occasion. Chuse such as are dry, of a yellowish red, or cinnamon colour, fresh, with long fibres, and a sweet scent. Those which are moist, and without fibres, should be rejected. It is seldom imported into England. Ten Cwt. of spikenard are allowed to a ton.
Sir Wm. Jones has demonstrated that the ancient spikenard was the plant called by Dr. Roxburgh Valeriana Jatamansi, (Jatamansi, Hind. and San., Sumbul-ul-Hind, Arab.), which is materially different in character from the foregoing.
STORAX.-Solid storax is the odoriferous resin of a tree (Styrax) of a middling size, bearing a filbert-like fruit, growing in various parts of India. Two sorts of this resin are distinguished: storax in the tear, and common storax in larger masses. The former is very rarely in separate tears; but generally in masses, composed of whitish and pale reddish brown tears, or having an uniform reddish yellow, or brownish appearance, being unctuous and soft like wax, and free from visible impurities. This is preferred to the common storax in large masses, which are lighter, and less compact than the preceding, and having a large admixture of woody matter, like saw-dust. Although the impurities of this kind of storax render it less valuable than the other, it is not less useful, nor its medical qualities, when purified, less potent: this is done by softening it with boiling water, and pressing out the impurities between warm iron plates; a process which is unnecessary with the former kind. Storax should be chosen of a reddish brown colour, rather softish, and unctuous to the touch, yet brittle and friable, and of a pleasant sweet smell.
This article is in little demand, and seldom imported from India.
SUGAR. A solid, sweet substance, obtained from the sugar-cane, or Saccharum officinale, (Casa and Icshu, San.) which is common in the East and West Indies, China and other places; or, according to chemists, an essential salt, capable of crystallization. It is of a sweet and agreeable flavour, and is contained in a greater or less degree in almost every species of vegetable, but most abundant in the sugar-cane. The expressed juice of the cane is clarified, and boiled down to a thick consistence; it is then removed from the fire, and the saccharine part concretes into brown coloured masses, and is the sugar in its raw state, as we see it.
The sugar-cane is a smooth jointed reed, of a shining greenish colour, which, as the plant approaches to maturity, changes by degrees to a yellowish one. The sizes of the canes vary much, according to the soil, season, and circumstances; the usual height is from four to seven feet, the thickness. U