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Title: The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary - A Curious Fable of the Cotton Plant
Author: Lee, H. W. (Henry William), 1865-1932
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Planta Tartarica Boromez.


_After Joannes Zahn._]


  _A Curious Fable of the Cotton Plant._



  HENRY LEE, F.L.S., F.G.S., F.Z.S.,



  _All Rights reserved._





  THE FABLE AND ITS INTERPRETATION                                     1



  APPENDIX                                                            97

  INDEX                                                              107


  FIG.                                                              PAGE

  THE “BAROMETZ,” OR “TARTARIAN LAMB.”--_After Joannes Zahn_

  1.--THE VEGETABLE LAMB PLANT.--_After Sir John Mandeville_           3

  Duret_                                                               9

  Frontispiece of Parkinson’s “Paradisus”_                            19

  ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ vol. xx., p. 861_                     25

  BORAMETZ.--_From the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ No. 390_         31

  6.--THE “BORAMETZ,” OR “SCYTHIAN LAMB.”--_From De la Croix’s
  ‘Connubia Florum’_                                                  37

  7.--A COTTON-POD                                                    61


The fable of the existence of a mysterious “plant-animal” variously
entitled “_The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary_,” “_The Scythian Lamb_,” and
“_The Barometz_,” or “_Borametz_,” is one of the curious myths of the
Middle Ages with which I have been long acquainted. Until the year 1883,
not having given serious thought to it, or made it a subject of critical
examination, I had been content to accept as correct the explanation of
it now universally adopted; namely, that it originated from certain
little lamb-like toy figures ingeniously constructed by the Chinese from
the rhizome and frond-stems of a tree-fern, which, from its
identification with the object of the fable, has received the name of
_Dicksonia Barometz_. But during my researches in the works of ancient
writers when preparing the manuscript of my two books, ‘_Sea Monsters
Unmasked_,’ and ‘_Sea Fables Explained_,’ I came upon passages of old
authors which convinced me that these toy “lambs” made from ferns by the
Chinese had no more connexion with the story of “_The Vegetable Lamb_”
than the artificial mermaids so cleverly constructed by the Japanese
were the cause and origin of the ancient and world-wide belief in
mermaids. Subsequent investigations have confirmed this opinion.

I have found that all of these old myths which I have been able to trace
to their source have originated in a perfectly true statement of some
curious and interesting fact; which statement has been so garbled and
distorted, so misrepresented and perverted in repetition by numerous
writers, that in the course of centuries its original meaning has been
lost, and a monstrous fiction has been substituted for it. “Truth lies
at the bottom of a well,” says the adage; and in searching for the
origin of these old myths and legends, the deeper we can dive down into
the past the greater is the probability of our discovering the truth
concerning them. To obtain a clue to the identity of “_The Scythian
Lamb_” we must consult the pages of historians and philosophers who
lived and wrote from eighteen to sixteen centuries before Sir John
Mandeville published his version of the story; and, having there found
set before us the real “_Vegetable Lamb_” in all its truthful simplicity
and beauty, we shall be able to recognise its form and features under
the various disguises it was made to assume by the wonder-mongers of the
Middle Ages.

I venture to believe that the reader who will kindly follow my argument
(p. 42, _et seq._) will agree with me that the rumour which spread from
Western Asia all over Europe, and was a subject of discussion by learned
men during many centuries, of the existence of “a tree bearing fruit, or
seed-pods, which when they ripened and burst open were seen to contain
little lambs, of whose soft white fleeces Eastern people wove material
for their clothing,” was a plant of far higher importance to mankind
than the paltry toy animals made by the Chinese from the root of a fern,
of which gew-gaws only four specimens are known to have been brought to
this country. It seems to me clear and indisputable that the rumour
referred to the cotton-pod, and originated in the first introduction of
cotton and the fabrics woven from it into Eastern Europe.

It will be seen that the explanation of the process by which the
truthful report of a remarkable fact was in time perverted into the
detailed history of an absurd fiction is very easy and intelligible.

As this little book was originally intended for publication, like its
predecessors before-mentioned, as a hand-book in connection with the
Literary Department of the South Kensington Exhibitions, I have treated
in a separate chapter of the history of cotton, its use by ancient races
in Asia, Africa, and America, and its gradual introduction amongst the
nations of Europe. The various stages of its progress Westward were so
distinctly and intimately dependent on many remarkable events in the
world’s history, by which its advance was alternately retarded and
facilitated, that the annals of the “_vegetable wool_” which holds so
important a place amongst the manufacturing industries of Great Britain
are hardly less romantic than the fable of “_The Vegetable Lamb_,” which
was its forerunner.



  _May, 1887._





Amongst the curious myths of the Middle Ages none were more extravagant
and persistent than that of the “Vegetable Lamb of Tartary,” known also
as the “Scythian Lamb,” and the “Borametz,” or “Barometz,” the latter
title being derived from a Tartar word signifying “a lamb.” This “lamb”
was described as being at the same time both a true animal and a living
plant. According to some writers this composite “plant-animal” was the
fruit of a tree which sprang from a seed like that of a melon, or gourd;
and when the fruit or seed-pod of this tree was fully ripe it burst open
and disclosed to view within it a little lamb, perfect in form, and in
every way resembling an ordinary lamb naturally born. This remarkable
tree was supposed to grow in the territory of “the Tartars of the East,”
formerly called “Scythia”; and it was said that from the fleeces of
these “tree-lambs,” which were of surpassing whiteness, the natives of
the country where they were found wove materials for their garments and
“head-dress.” In the course of time another version of the story was
circulated, in which the lamb was not described as being the fruit of a
tree, but as being a living lamb attached by its navel to a short stem
rooted in the earth. The stem, or stalk, on which the lamb was thus
suspended above the ground was sufficiently flexible to allow the animal
to bend downward, and browze on the herbage within its reach. When all
the grass within the length of its tether had been consumed the stem
withered and the lamb died. This plant-lamb was reported to have bones,
blood, and delicate flesh, and to be a favourite food of wolves, though
no other carnivorous animal would attack it. Many other details were
given concerning it, which will be found mentioned in the following
pages. This legend met with almost universal credence from the
thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, and, even then, only gave place
to an explanation of it as absurd and delusive as itself. Following the
outline sketched in the preface, I shall, in this chapter, lay before
the reader the story of the “Barometz” or “Vegetable Lamb,” as related
by various writers, and shall then give my reasons for assigning to the
fable an interpretation very different from that which has been hitherto
accepted as the true one.

The story of a wonderful plant which bore living lambs for its fruit,
and grew in Tartary, seems to have been first brought into public notice
in England in the reign of Edward III., by Sir John Mandeville, the
“Knyght of Ingelond that was y bore in the toun of Seynt Albans, and
travelide aboute in the worlde in many diverse countreis, to se
mervailes and customes of countreis, and diversiteis of folkys, and
diverse shap of men and of beistis.” In the 26th chapter of the book in
which he “wrot and telleth all the mervaile that he say,” and which he
dedicated to the King, he treats of “the Countreis and Yles that ben
beȝond the Lond of Cathay, and of the Frutes there”; and amongst the
curiosities he met with in the dominions of the “Cham” of Tartary he
mentions the following:--


_After Sir John Mandeville._

This plate illustrates that version of the Fable by which the “Vegetable
Lamb” is represented as contained within a fruit, or seed-pod, which,
when ripe, bursts open, and discloses the little lamb within it.]

“Now schalle I seye ȝou semyngly of Countrees and Yles that ben beȝonde
the Countrees that I have spoken of. Wherefore I seye you in passynge be
the Lond of Cathaye toward the high Ynde, and towards Bacharye, men
passen be a Kyngdom that men clepen Caldilhe: that is a fair Contree.
And there growethe a maner of Fruyt, as though it weren Gowrdes: and
whan thei ben rype men kutten hem ato, and men fynden with inne a
lytylle Best, in Flesche, in Bon and Blode, as though it were a lytylle
Lomb with outen Wolle. And Men eten both the Frut and the Best; and that
is a great Marveylle. Of that Frute I have eaten; alle thoughe it were
wondirfulle, but that I knowe wel that God is marveyllous in his

  [1] ‘The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundevile, Knt.’ See
  Appendix A.

Sir John Mandeville appears to have never previously heard of this
strange plant, but reports of its existence under various phases may be
traced back, as we shall presently see, to a date at least eighteen
hundred years earlier than that of his mention of it. As it is in the
works of these older writers that we shall find the long-sought key of
the mystery, we will set them aside for the present and follow the
growth and dissemination of the fable.

Claude Duret, of Moulins, who, in his ‘_Histoire Admirable des Plantes_
(1605),’ devotes to it a chapter entitled “The Boramets of Scythia, or
Tartary, true Zoophytes or plant-animals; that is to say, plants living
and sensitive like animals,” therein says:--

“I remember to have read some time ago in a very ancient Hebrew book
entitled in Latin the _Talmud Ierosolimitanum_, and written by a Jewish
Rabbi Jochanan, assisted by others, in the year of salvation 436, that a
certain personage named Moses Chusensis (he being a native of Ethiopia)
affirmed, on the authority of Rabbi Simeon, that there was a certain
country of the earth which bore a zoophyte, or plant-animal, called in
the Hebrew ‘_Jeduah_.’ It was in form like a lamb, and from its navel
grew a stem or root by which this zoophyte or plant-animal was fixed,
attached, like a gourd, to the soil below the surface of the ground,
and, according to the length of its stem or root, it devoured all the
herbage which it was able to reach within the circle of its tether. The
hunters who went in search of this creature were unable to capture or
remove it until they had succeeded in cutting the stem by well-aimed
arrows or darts, when the animal immediately fell prostrate to the earth
and died. Its bones being placed with certain ceremonies and
incantations in the mouth of one desiring to foretell the future, he was
instantly seized with a spirit of divination, and endowed with the gift
of prophecy.”

As I was unable to find in the Latin translation of the Talmud of
Jerusalem the passage mentioned by Claude Duret, and was anxious to
ascertain whether any reference to this curious legend existed in the
Talmudical books, I sought the assistance of learned members of the
Jewish community, and, amongst them, of the Rev. Dr. Hermann Adler,
Chief Rabbi Delegate of the United Congregations of the British Empire.
He most kindly interested himself in the matter, and wrote to me as

“It affords me much gratification to give you the information you
desire on the Borametz. In the Mishna _Kilaim_, chap. viii. § 5 (a
portion of the Talmud), the passage occurs:--‘Creatures called _Adne
Hasadeh_ (literally, “lords of the field”) are regarded as beasts.’
There is a variant reading,--_Abne Hasadeh_ (stones of the field). A
commentator, Rabbi Simeon, of Sens (died about 1235), writes as follows
on this passage:--‘It is stated in the Jerusalem Talmud that this is a
human being of the mountains: it lives by means of its navel: if its
navel be cut it cannot live. I have heard in the name of Rabbi Meir, the
son of Kallonymos of Speyer, that this is the animal called ‘_Jeduah_.’
This is the ‘_Jedoui_’ mentioned in Scripture (lit. _wizard_, Leviticus
xix. 31); with its bones witchcraft is practised. A kind of large stem
issues from a root in the earth on which this animal, called ‘_Jadua_,’
grows, just as gourds and melons. Only the ‘_Jadua_’ has, in all
respects, a human shape, in face, body, hands, and feet. By its navel it
is joined to the stem that issues from the root. No creature can
approach within the tether of the stem, for it seizes and kills them.
Within the tether of the stem it devours the herbage all around. When
they want to capture it no man dares approach it, but they tear at the
stem until it is ruptured, whereupon the animal dies.’ Another
commentator, Rabbi Obadja of Berbinoro, gives the same explanation, only
substituting--’They aim arrows at the stem until it is ruptured,’ &c.
The author of an ancient Hebrew work, Maase Tobia (Venice, 1705), gives
an interesting description of this animal. In Part IV. c. 10, page 786,
he mentions the Borametz found in Great Tartary. He repeats the
description of Rabbi Simeon, and adds what he has found in ‘A New Work
on Geography,’ namely, that ‘the Africans (_sic_) in Great Tartary, in
the province of Sambulala, are enriched by means of seeds like the seeds
of gourds, only shorter in size, which grow and blossom like a stem to
the navel of an animal which is called _Borametz_ in their language,
i.e. ‘_lamb_,’ on account of its resembling a lamb in all its limbs,
from head to foot; its hoofs are cloven, its skin is soft, its wool is
adapted for clothing, but it has no horns, only the hairs of its head,
which grow, and are intertwined like horns. Its height is half a cubit
and more. According to those who speak of this wondrous thing, its taste
is like the flesh of fish, its blood as sweet as honey, and it lives as
long as there is herbage within reach of the stem, from which it derives
its life. If the herbage is destroyed or perishes, the animal also dies
away. It has rest from all beasts and birds of prey, except the wolf,
which seeks to destroy it.’ The author concludes by expressing his
belief, that this account of the animal having the shape of a lamb is
more likely to be true than that it is of human form.”

We have an interesting record of another journey into Tartary,
undertaken almost simultaneously with that of Sir John Mandeville, by
Odoricus of Friuli, a Minorite friar belonging to the monastery of
Utina, near Padua. The exact date of his departure on his travels is not
mentioned, but he returned home in 1330, and the history of his
adventures and observations[2] was written in the month of May of that
year--thus taking precedence by about thirty years of the narrative of
the old English traveller.

  [2] ‘The Journall of Frier Odoricus of Friuli, one of the order of the
  Minorites, concerning strange things which he saw amongst the Tartars
  of the East.’--‘Hakluyt Collection of Early Voyages,’ vol. ii. 1809.
  See Appendix B.

Odoricus, describing his visit to the country of the “Grand Can,”
says:--“I heard of another wonder from persons worthy of credit; namely,
that in a province of the said Can, in which is the mountain of
Capsius[3] (the province is called ‘Kalor’), there grow gourds, which,
when they are ripe, open, and within them is found a little beast like
unto a young lamb, even as I myself have heard reported that there stand
certain trees upon the shore of the Irish Sea bearing fruits like unto a
gourd, which at a certain time of the year do fall into the water and
become birds called Bernacles; and this is true.”

  [3] Probably an error of transcription for “Caspius.” The mountain of
  Caspius (now Kasbin) is about eighty miles due south of the Caspian
  Sea, and in Persian territory, near Teheran.


_After Claude Duret._]

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the “Scythian Lamb” was made
a subject of investigation and argument by some of the most celebrated
writers of that period.

Fortunio Liceti, Professor of Philosophy at Padua, writing in 1518,[4]
gives his complete credence to the story of the little beast like a lamb
found within a fruit-pod when it bursts from over-ripeness; and besides
the above passage from Odoricus quotes another, by which it would appear
that the worthy friar afterwards himself saw this botanical curiosity,
and described it as being “as white as snow.” I have been unable to find
this paragraph in the Hakluyt edition of Odoricus’s travels.

  [4] ‘_De Spontaneo Viventium Ortu_,’ lib. 3, cap. 45.

Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, however, in his ‘_Historia Naturæ_’ (Antwerp,
1605), also quotes these two passages, and in exactly the same words. He
probably copied them from Liceti, and not from the original.

Sigismund, Baron von Herberstein, who, in 1517 and 1526, was the
ambassador of the Emperors Maximilian I. and Charles V. to the “Grand
Czard, or Duke of Muscovy,” in his ‘Notes on Russia,’[5] gives further
details of this “vegetable-animal.” He writes:--“In the neighbourhood
of the Caspian Sea, between the rivers Volga and Jaick, formerly dwelt
the kings of the Zavolha, certain Tartars, in whose country is found a
wonderful and almost incredible curiosity, of which Demetrius
Danielovich, a person in high authority, gave me the following account;
namely, that his father, who was once sent on an embassy by the Duke of
Muscovy to the Tartar king of the country referred to, whilst he was
there, saw and remarked, amongst other things, a certain seed like that
of a melon, but rather rounder and longer, from which, when it was set
in the earth, grew a plant resembling a lamb, and attaining to a height
of about two and a half feet, and which was called in the language of
the country ‘Borametz,’ or ‘the little Lamb.’ It had a head, eyes, ears,
and all other parts of the body, as a newly-born lamb. He also stated
that it had an exceedingly soft wool, which was frequently used for the
manufacturing of head-coverings. Many persons also affirmed to me that
they had seen this wool. Further, he told me that this plant, if plant
it should be called, had blood, but not true flesh: that, in place of
flesh, it had a substance similar to the flesh of the crab, and that its
hoofs were not horny, like those of a lamb, but of hairs brought
together into the form of the divided hoof of a living lamb. It was
rooted by the navel in the middle of the belly, and devoured the
surrounding herbage and grass, and lived as long as that lasted; but
when there was no more within its reach the stem withered, and the lamb
died. It was of so excellent a flavour that it was the favourite food of
wolves and other rapacious animals. For myself,” adds the Baron,
“although I had previously regarded these Borametz as fabulous, the
accounts of it were confirmed to me by so many persons worthy of
credence that I have thought it right to describe it; and this with the
less hesitation because I was told by Guillaume Postel,[6] a man of much
learning, that a person named Michel, interpreter of the Turkish and
Arabic languages to the Republic of Venice, assured him that he had seen
brought to Chalibontis (now Karaboghaz), on the south-eastern shore of
the Caspian Sea, from Samarcand and other districts lying towards the
south, the very soft and delicate wool of a certain plant used by the
Mussulmans as padding for the small caps which they wear on their shaven
heads, and also as a protection for their chests. He said, however, that
he had not seen the plant, nor knew its name, except that it was called
‘Smarcandeos,’ and was a zoophyte, or plant-animal. The numerous
descriptions given to him,” he added, “differed so little that he was
induced to believe that there was more truthfulness in this matter than
he had supposed, and to accept it as a fact redounding to the glory of
the Sovereign Creator, to whom all things are possible.”

  [5] ‘_Rerum Muscoviticarum Commentarii_,’ 1549. See Appendix C.

  [6] Author of ‘_Liber de Causis, seu de Principiis et Originibus
  Naturæ_,’ &c.

Shortly after the publication of the above narrative by Sigismund von
Herberstein, and probably in allusion to it, Girolamo Cardano, of Pavia,
carefully discussed the phenomenon in question in his work ‘_De Rerum
Naturâ_,’[7] printed at Nürnberg in 1557. He endeavoured to expose the
absurdity of the statements made concerning this “animal-plant,” and
explained the physical impossibility of its existence in the manner
described. He argued that if it had blood it must have a heart, and that
the soil in which a plant grows is not fitted to supply a heart with
movement and vital heat. He also pointed out that embryo animals,
especially, require warmth for their development from the _ovum_, which
they could not obtain if raised from a seed planted in the earth,
demonstrating clearly enough that no warm-blooded animal could exist
thus organically fastened to the earth. In reply, however, to a possible
question suggested by himself, why there should be no plant-animal on
land, seeing that there are zoophytes in the sea, he, with the weakness
and indecision which were innate in his character, admitted that “where
the atmosphere was thick and dense there might, perhaps, be a plant
having sensation, and also imperfect flesh, such as that of mollusks and

  [7] Lib. vi. cap. 22.

This weak point in his argument laid him open to the criticism of his
relentless enemy, Julius Cæsar Scaliger. Always on the watch to wound
and harass Cardano with cutting satire and irritating gibes, this
caustic persecutor lost no time in making his attack. In one of his
“_Exercitationes_”[8] he thus personally addressed the object of his
sneering disparagement:--

  [8] ‘_Exotericarum Exercitationum_,’ lib. xv., “_De Subtilitate_”; _ad
  Hieronymum Cardanum Exercit._ 181, cap. 29. Frankfort, 1557. See
  Appendix D.

“You may regard as beyond ridicule this wonderful Tartar plant. The most
renowned of the Tartar hordes of the present day, by its reputation, its
antiquity, and its nobility, is that of the Zavolha. These people sow a
seed like that of the melon, but rather smaller, from which springs and
grows out of the earth a plant which they call ‘Borametz,’ _i.e._ ‘the
Lamb.’ This plant grows to the height of three feet in the likeness of a
real lamb, having feet, hoofs, ears, and a head perfect with the
exception of horns, instead of which the plant has hairs in the form of
horns. Its skin is soft and delicate, and is used in Tartary for
head-gear. The internal pulp is said to be like the flesh of the
cray-fish, and to have an agreeable flavour; but if an incision be
made, real blood flows from it. The root or stalk which rises from the
earth is attached to the navel of the lamb, and (which is more
remarkable) whilst the plant is surrounded with herbage it lives as does
a lamb, but as soon as it has consumed all within its reach it withers
and dies. This does not happen by the arrival of the plant at any
definite period of its growth, for it has been found by experiment that
if the grass around it be removed it perishes. Another most curious
circumstance connected with it is that wolves will eat it with avidity,
though no other carnivorous animals will attack it. This,” says
Scaliger, still apostrophizing Cardano, “is merely a little sauce and
seasoning to your allusion to the fable of the Lamb; but I would like to
know from you how four distinct legs and their feet can be produced from
one stem.”

It is very remarkable that this dissertation of Scaliger, which is
really a keen satire on Cardano, and a sarcastic repetition of his
version of the fable with ironical comments thereon, has been almost
invariably taken as serious, and regarded as an expression of his entire
belief in the “Scythian Lamb,” as described. Of all subsequent writers
on the subject, Deusingius[9] seems to have been the only one who
clearly perceived Scaliger’s intention and meaning. Hence, many profound
believers in the myth have claimed as their champion one who would have
derided them for their credulity.

  [9] Antonius Deusingius, Professor of Medicine, and Rector of the
  University of Groningen, in his ‘_Fasciculus Dissertationum
  Selectorum_,’ p. 598, printed in 1660, declares his own utter
  disbelief in this animal-vegetable monstrosity, and after quoting
  Scaliger, thus writes of him:--”_Hæc equidem Scaliger, qui tamen ne
  serio historiam narrare credatur quam ipse revera pro fabulosa habet,
  nequaquam vero approbat, ut perperam de eo refert Sennert._”--_Hyp.
  Physic._ 5, cap. 8.

Claude Duret, for example, whose implicit faith in the marvellous
zoophyte nothing could shake, quotes verbatim in its defence the remarks
of “le grand Jules César Scaliger,” and asks[10] triumphantly,--

  [10] ‘_Histoire admirable des Plantes_,’ p. 322.

“Who cannot see plainly that Cardano, after having long doubted, and
after having adduced philosophical arguments drawn from the works of
Aristotle and other eminent writers, felt himself obliged and condemned
to confess that in a place filled with heavy and dense air (such as is
Tartary) the Borametz--true plant-animals--might exist as described, as
well as sponges, ‘sea-nettles,’ and ‘sea-lungs,’ which every one knows
are true zoophytes, or animal-plants.”

After this amusing assumption that the air of Tartary possesses the
“weight” and “density” necessary for the production of plant-animals,
Duret quotes from Sir John Mandeville’s book in the language in which it
was originally written--the Romanic--the passage which I have extracted
from the old English version of the enterprising knight’s ‘Voiage and
Travailes,’ and also cites, in confirmation of the prodigy, the account
given of it by the Baron Von Herberstein. He then strongly expresses his
own belief that--

“Of all the strange and marvellous trees, shrubs, plants and herbs which
Nature, or, rather, God himself, has produced, or ever will produce in
this Universe, there will never be seen anything so worthy of admiration
and contemplation as these ‘Borametz’ of Scythia, or Tartary,--plants
which are also animals, and which browze and eat as quadrupeds.... If I
did not entirely believe this I would denounce it as fabulous, instead
of accepting it as a fact; but those who are in the habit of daily
studying good and rare books, printed and in manuscript, and who are
endowed with great wisdom and understanding, know that there is no
impossibility in Nature, _i.e._ God himself, to whom be all the honour
and glory!”

Besides the authors already quoted, and others who merely copied the
narratives of their predecessors, Guillaume de Saluste, the Sieur du
Bartas, accepted as authentic the story of the Vegetable Lamb. In his
poem “_La Semaine_,” published in 1578, in which the first few days of
the existence of all terrestrial things are described reverently and
with considerable power, he represents this plant as one of those which
excited the astonishment of the newly-created Adam as he wandered on the
first day of the second week through the Garden of Eden, the earthly
Paradise in which he had been placed.

    “Or, confus, il se perd dans les tournoyements,
    Embrouillées erreurs, courbez desvoyements,
    Conduits virevoultez, et sentes desloyales
    D’un Dedale infiny qui comprend cent Dedales,
    Clos non de romarins dextrement cizelez
    En hommes, my-chevaux, en courserots seelez,
    En escaillez oyseaux, en balènes cornues,
    Et mille autres façons de bestes incogneues,
    Ains de vrays animaux en la terre plantez,
    Humant l’air des poulmons, et d’herbes alimentez,
    Tels que les Boramets, qui chez les Scythes naissent
    D’une graine menues, et des plantes repaissent;
    Bien que du corps, des yeux, de la bouche, et du nez,
    Ils semblent des moutons qui sont naguières naiz.
    Ils le seroient du vray, si dans l’alme poictrine
    De terre ils n’enfonçoient une vive raçine
    Qui tient à leur nombril, et tombe le meme jour
    Quils ont brouttè le foin qui croissoit à l’entour,
    O, merveilleux effect de dextre divine,
    La plante a chair et sang, l’animal a raçine,
    La plante comme en rond de soymême se meut,
    L’animal a des pieds, et si marcher ne peut:
    La plante est sans rameaux, sans fruict, et sans feuillage,
    L’animal sans amour, sans sexe, et vif lignage;
    La plante a belles dents, paist son ventre affamè
    Du fourrage voisin, l’animal est sémè.”

Joshua Sylvester, the admiring translator of Du Bartas,[11] gives the
following version of the above lines:--

  [11] ‘Du Bartas: His Divine Weekes and Workes, translated and
  dedicated to the King’s most excellent Maiestie by Joshua Sylvester,
  London. 1584.’

    “Musing, anon through crooked walks he wanders,
    Round winding rings, and intricate meanders.
    False-guiding paths, doubtful, beguiling, strays,
    And right-wrong errors of an endless maze;
    Nor simply hedged with a single border
    Of rosemary cut out with curious order
    In Satyrs, Centaurs, Whales, and half-men-horses,
    And thousand other counterfeited corses;
    But with true beasts, fast in the ground still sticking
    Feeding on grass, and th’ airy moisture licking,
    Such as those Borametz in Scythia bred
    Of slender seeds, and with green fodder fed;
    Although their bodies, noses, mouths, and eyes,
    Of new-yeaned lambs have full the form and guise,
    And should be very lambs, save that for foot
    Within the ground they fix a living root
    Which at their navel grows, and dies that day
    That they have browzed the neighbouring grass away.
    Oh! wondrous nature of God only good,
    The beast hath root, the plant hath flesh and blood.
    The nimble plant can turn it to and fro,
    The nummed beast can neither stir nor goe,
    The plant is leafless, branchless, void of fruit,
    The beast is lustless, sexless, fireless, mute:
    The plant with plants his hungry paunch doth feede,
    Th’ admired beast is sowen a slender seed.”

About the middle of the seventeenth century very little belief in the
story of the “Scythian Lamb” remained amongst men of letters, although
it continued to be a subject of discussion and research for at least
a hundred and fifty years later.


_Fac-simile of the Frontispiece of Parkinson’s “Paradisus”_]

Athanasius Kircher, Professor of Mathematics at Avignon, who wrote[12]
in 1641, after following the error of his predecessors of quoting
Scaliger as a believer in the myth, says:--

  [12] ‘_Magnes; sive de arte magneticâ opus tripartitum_,’ p. 730.

“Some authors have regarded it as an animal, some as a plant; whilst
others have classed it as a true zoophyte. In order not to multiply
miracles, we assert that it is a plant. Though its form be that of a
quadruped, and the juice beneath its woolly covering be blood which
flows if an incision be made in its flesh, these things will not move
us. It will be found to be a plant.”

This unwavering prediction has been fulfilled. But the story had to pass
through many vicissitudes of acceptance and disbelief before this
decision of Kircher was unanimously admitted to be correct. It seems to
have been the fate of this curious fable, through the whole period of
its history, that no sooner has a ray of some author’s common sense
penetrated the mist of superstition by which it was surrounded than it
has been again befogged by the ignorant credulity of the next writer on
the subject.

Jans Janszoon Strauss, a Dutchman, better known as Jean de Struys, who
travelled through many countries, and amongst them Tartary, from 1647 to
1672, describes[13] this vegetable wonder. But he was an uneducated and
credulous man, and his account of it is little more than a repetition of
the errors and fallacies of former centuries concerning it, rendered
still more incomprehensible by his having confused with its “very white
down, as soft as silk,” the Astrachan lamb-skins, which were then, and
are still, a well-known article of commerce. He says:--

  [13] ‘_Voyages de Jean de Struys en Moscovie, en Tartarie, et en
  Perse_,’ chap. xii. p. 167. Amsterdam. 1681. Also an English
  translation, “done out of Dutch,” by John Morrison. London. 1684. See
  Appendix E.

“On the west side of the Volga is a great dry and waste heath, called
the Step. On this heath is a strange kind of fruit found, called
‘Baromez’ or ‘Barnitsch,’ from the word ‘Boran,’ which is “a Lamb” in
the Russian tongue, because of its form and appearance much resembling a
sheep, having head, feet and tail. Its skin is covered with a down very
white and as soft as silk. The Tartars hold this in great esteem, and it
is sold for a high price. I have myself paid five or six roubles for one
of these skins, and doubled my money when I sold it again. The greater
number of persons have them in their houses, where I have seen many.
That which caused me to observe it with greater attention was that I had
seen one of these fruits among the curiosities in the house of the
celebrated Mr. Swammerdam, in Amsterdam, whose museum is full of the
rarest things in Nature from distant and foreign lands. This precious
plant was given to him by a sailor who had been formerly a slave in
China. He found it growing in a wood, and brought away sufficient of its
skin to make an under-waistcoat. The description he gave of it did very
much agree with what the inhabitants of Astrachan informed me of it. It
grows upon a low stalk, about two and a half feet high, some higher, and
is supported just at the navel. The head hangs down, as if it pastured
or fed on the grass, and when the grass decays it perishes: but this I
ever looked upon as ridiculous; although when I suggested that the
languishing of the plant might be caused by some temporary want of
moisture, the people asseverated to me by many oaths that they have
often, out of curiosity, made experience of that by cutting away the
grass, upon which it instantly fades away. Certain it is that there is
nothing which is more coveted by wolves than this, and the inward parts
of it are more congeneric with the anatomy of a lamb than mandrakes are
with men. However, what I might further say of this fruit, and what I
believe of the wonderful operations of a secret sympathy in Nature, I
shall rather keep to myself than aver, or impose upon the reader with
many other things which I am sensible would appear incredible to those
who had not seen them.”

The next traveller, in order of date, who made the Tartarian Lamb the
object of his investigations was Dr. Engelbrecht Kaempfer, who, in 1683,
accompanied an embassy to Persia, and was appointed Surgeon to the Dutch
East India Company two years later. He reported, on his return, that he
had searched “_ad risum et nauseam_” for this “zoophyte feeding on
grass,” that there was nothing in the country where it was believed to
grow that was called “Borametz,” except the ordinary sheep, and that all
accounts of a sheep growing upon a plant were mere fiction and fable.
“The word ‘Borametz,’” he says,[14] “is a corruption of the Russian
‘Boranetz,’ in Polish ‘Baranak,’ the diminutive of which, ‘Baran,’ is
Sclavonic. In such a case it signifies ‘a sheep.’ But,” he continues,
“there is in some of the provinces near the Caspian Sea a breed of sheep
totally different from those with which we are commonly acquainted, and
highly valued for the elegance of the skin, which is used in various
articles of clothing by the Tartars and Persians. For the magnates and
the rich who desire a material superior to that worn by the general
population, the skins of the youngest lambs are preserved, the fleeces
of these being much softer that those of the older ones, and the younger
the animal from which they are taken the more costly are they.” He then
refers to the barbarous custom of killing the ewes before the time of
natural parturition to obtain possession of the immature fleece of the
unborn lamb, and says, correctly, that the earlier the stage of
pregnancy in which this operation is performed the finer and softer is
the fur of the fœtal skin, and the lighter and closer are the little
curls for which it is chiefly prized. The pelt, also, is so thin that it
is scarcely heavier than a membrane, and, in drying, it frequently
shrinks so as to lose all similitude to the skin of a lamb, and assumes
a form which might lead the ignorant and credulous to believe that it
was a woolly gourd. He, therefore, conjectures that some of these dried
and shrunken skins may have been placed in museums as examples of the
fleece of the “Tartarian Lamb,” under the supposition that they were of
vegetable origin.

  [14] ‘_Amœnitatum Exoticarum politico-physico-medicarum fasciculi_,’
  x., lib. 3, obs. 1. Lemgo, 1712. Kaempfer’s MSS. and collections were
  acquired by Sir Hans Sloane, and were deposited in the British Museum.

Kaempfer’s suggestions were ingenious, though his theory was erroneous.
But, although he rather impeded than assisted in the correct
identification of the object of discussion, he, at least, helped to
discredit the myth, which he declared to be one of those “received with
favour by the superstitious, and which when once they have found a
writer to describe them, however incorrectly, please the many, obtain
numerous adherents, and become respectable by age.”


_From the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ vol. xx. p. 861._]

An important chapter in the history of this curious fiction was reached
when, in 1698, Sir Hans Sloane[15] laid before the Royal Society an
object which has ever since been generally regarded as a specimen of the
strange natural production about which so much mystery had existed,
so many outrageous stories had been told, and on which so much learned
discussion had been expended. His description of it is printed in the
Society’s Transactions, and is as follows:--

  [15] Philosophical Transactions, vol. xx. p. 861; and Lowthorp’s
  Abridgment of the Phil. Trans. vol. ii. p. 649.

“The figure (fig. 4) represents what is commonly, but falsely, in India,
called ‘the Tartarian Lamb,’ sent down from thence by Mr. Buckley.[16]
This was more than a foot long, as big as one’s wrist, having seven
protuberances, and towards the end some foot-stalks about three or four
inches long, exactly like the foot-stalks of ferns, both without and
within. Most part of this was covered with a down of a dark yellowish
snuff colour, some of it a quarter of an inch long. This down is
commonly used for spitting of blood, about six grains going to a dose,
and three doses pretended to cure such a hæmorrhage. In Jamaica are many
scandent and tree ferns which grow to the bigness of trees, and have
such a kind of _lanugo_ on them, and some of the capillaries have
something like it. It seemed to be shaped by art to imitate a lamb, the
roots or climbing parts being made to resemble the body, and the extant
foot-stalks the legs. This down is taken notice of by Dr. Merret at the
latter end of Dr. Grew’s Mus. Soc. Reg. by the name of ‘Poco Sempie,’ a
‘golden moss,’ and is there said to be a cordial. I have been assured by
Mr. Brown, who has made very good observations in the East Indies, that
he has been told by those who lived in China that this down or hair is
used by them for the stopping of blood in fresh wounds, as cob-webs are
with us, and that they have it in so great esteem that few houses are
without it; but on trials I have made of it, though I may believe it
innocent, yet I am sure it is not infallible.”

  [16] This specimen evidently came from China; for I find a record that
  at the date of Sir Hans Sloane’s paper “Mr. Buckley, Chief Surgeon at
  Fort St. George, in the East Indies, presented to the Royal Society a
  cabinet containing Chinese surgical and other instruments and

Sir Hans Sloane had, it is true, clearly perceived the nature of the
specimen sent to the Royal Society by Mr. Buckley, and had correctly
identified it as a portion of one of the arborescent ferns; but on the
question whether he had discovered the right interpretation of the
puzzling enigma I shall have more to say presently. The object figured
seems to have been regarded by many of his contemporaries as so
insufficient to meet the requirements of the oft-told story of the
plant-animal, and so unsatisfactory an explanation of it, that every one
who subsequently had an opportunity of visiting Tartary still felt it to
be his duty to make enquiries concerning the famous prodigy of that

Accordingly, we find that John Bell, of Autermony, availed himself of
the opportunity afforded him by a diplomatic journey to Persia,[17] in
1715-1722, to endeavour, whilst in Tartary, to obtain authentic
information respecting the “Vegetable Lamb.” He found that nothing was
known of it in the country where it was supposed to be indigenous, and
thus writes of it:--

  [17] ‘Travels from St. Petersburg in Russia to various parts of Asia,
  in 1716, 1719, 1722, &c., by John Bell, of Autermony. Dedicated to the
  Governor, Court of Assistants, and Freemen of the Russia Company.
  London. 1764.’ See Appendix F.

“Before I leave Astracan, it may be proper to rectify a mistaken opinion
which I have observed to occur in grave German authors, who, in treating
of the remarkable things of this country relate that there grows in this
desart, or stepp adjoining to Astracan, in some plenty, a certain shrub
or plant called in the Russian language ‘Tartasky Borashka,’ _i.e._
‘Tartarian Lamb,’ with the skins of which the caps of the Armenians,
Persians, Tartars, &c., are faced. They also write that the ‘Tartashky
Borashka’ partakes of animal, as well as vegetative life, and that it
eats up and devours all the grass and weeds within its reach. Though it
may be thought that an opinion so very absurd could find no credit with
people of the meanest understanding, yet I have conversed with some who
were much inclined to believe it, so very prevalent is the prodigious
and absurd with some part of mankind. In search of this wonderful plant
I walked many a mile accompanied by Tartars who inhabit these desarts;
but all I could find out were some dry bushes, scattered here and there,
which grow on a single stalk with a bushy top of a brownish colour: the
stalk is about eighteen inches high, the top consisting of sharp prickly
leaves. It is true that no grass or weeds grow within the circle of its
shade--a property natural to many other plants, here and elsewhere.
After a careful enquiry of the more sensible and experienced among the
Tartars, I found they laughed at it as a ridiculous fable.”

Bell further says:--

“In Astracan they have large quantities of lamb-skins, grey and black,
some waved and others curled, all naturally and very pretty, having a
fine gloss, especially the waved, which at a small distance appear like
the richest watered tabby:[18] they are much esteemed, and are much used
for the lining of coats and the turning up of caps, in Persia, Russia,
and other parts. The best of these are brought from Bucharia, China, and
the countries adjacent, and are taken from the ewe’s belly after she
hath been killed, or the lamb is killed immediately after it is lambed,
for such a skin is equal in value to the sheep. The Kalmuks and those
Tartars who inhabit the desert in the neighbourhood of Astracan have
also lamb-skins which are applied to the same purpose, but the wool of
these being rougher and more hairy, they are inferior to those of
Bucharia and China both in gloss and beauty, and also in the dressing;
consequently in value. I have known one single lamb-skin from Bucharia
sold for five or six shillings sterling, when one of these would not
yield two shillings.”

  [18] A rich watered silk: from the French “_tabis_”; Italian,
  “_tabi_”; Persian, “_retabi_.”

Bell had sufficient discrimination to see that these Astracan lamb-skins
were in no way connected with the fable of the “Borametz,” and thus
avoided the error of Kaempfer, who regarded them as having given rise to
the reports of the existence of that marvellous “animal-plant.”

The Abbé Chappe-d’Auteroche, during his visit to Tartary,[19] about half
a century later than John Bell, sought for the “Scythian Lamb” with
equal earnestness and with similar want of success.

  [19] ‘Voyage en Sibérie,’ Paris. 1768.

Long, however, before the result of the investigations of these two
travellers had been made known, a second manipulated fern-root, similar
to that described by Sir Hans Sloane, had been subjected to the scrutiny
of another keen and scientific observer.


_From the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ No. 390._]

In September, 1725, Dr. John Philip Breyn, of Dantzic, addressed to the
Royal Society of London an important communication in Latin on this
subject,[20] in which he expressed his complete disbelief in the old
story, and described a specimen of the “Borametz” (as he believed it
to be) which had fallen into his hands, and which had led him,
independently, to the same conclusion as that arrived at by Sir Hans
Sloane, of whose observations, he says, he was unaware when his own
memoranda were written. Commencing by quoting the maxim, “_Non fingendum
sed inveniendum quid Natura faciat aut ferat_,” he urges upon all who
search for the hidden treasures of Nature, or who desire to discover her
secrets, to bear in mind that golden axiom that “the works and
productions of Nature should be discovered, not invented,” and remarks
that, if the older writers had adhered to this, Natural History, great
and honourable in itself, would not have been tarnished by so many silly
fables like that of the “Scythian Lamb.” He directs attention to the
fact that none of those who have described this plant-animal are able to
say that they ever saw it growing; quotes Kaempfer’s interpretation of
the origin of the report, namely the Astrachan lamb-skins of commerce,
and hesitates to regard the object in his possession as the key of the
problem. That he had grave and sufficient reasons for his doubts upon
this point will be seen from his interesting description of the
curiosity referred to. He says:--

  [20] ‘_Dissertiuncula de Agno Vegetabili Scythico, Borametz vulgo
  dicto._’ Phil. Trans., vol. xxxiii. p. 353, 1725; and also in Martyn’s
  Abridgment of the Phil. Trans., vol. vi. p. 317.

“A certain learned and observant man, passing through our city on his
return from a journey through Muscovy, enriched my museum with, amongst
other natural curiosities, one of these ‘Scythian Lambs,’ which he
declared to be the genuine Borametz. It was about six inches in length,
and had a head, ears, and four legs. Its colour was that of iron-rust,
and it was covered all over with a kind of down, like the fibres of
silk-plush, except upon the ears and legs, which were bare, and were of
a somewhat darker tawny hue. On careful examination of it, I discovered
that it was not an animal production, nor yet a fruit, but either the
thick creeping root, or the climbing stem, of some plant, which by
obstetric art had acquired the form of a quadruped animal. For the four
legs, which looked as if the feet had been cut off from them, were so
many stalks which had supported leaves, as were also those which formed
the ears, and which more nearly resembled horns. The fibres emerging
from these, by which, like other plants, this root or stalk had conveyed
nutriment, left no doubt upon this point. Close inspection also showed
that one of the front legs had been artificially inserted, and that the
head and neck were not of one continuous substance with the body, but
had been very cleverly and neatly joined on to it. In fact, this root,
or stem, had been skilfully manipulated into the form of a lamb in the
same artful manner as the little figures of men, which, it was said,
shrieked and dropped human blood when drawn from the ground, were formed
from the roots of the mandragore and bryony.”

Dr. Breyn added that there remained in his mind some doubt as to the
plant from which this burlesque of nature and art was fabricated, until
the similarity of its ferruginous silky fibres to those of some of the
capillaries suggested the thought that it must be a portion of some
exotic fern. As to the particular species to which it belonged he was
unable to pronounce an authoritative opinion, but, hoping in the course
of time to receive more certain information concerning it, he would
merely say that he believed it was of a peculiar species found in
Tartary, and up to that date undescribed.

Dr. Breyn’s confirmation of Sir Hans Sloane’s identification of the
“Scythian Lamb” as the stem or rootlet of a fern artificially and
cleverly manipulated was a crushing blow to the already weakened fable.
Unfortunately, however, the conclusion thus arrived at was utterly
misleading, though it not only satisfied his contemporaries, but has
ever since--even to the present day--been universally accepted as the
correct interpretation of the problem. The injurious result was, that,
as the question appeared to have been set at rest, enquiry ceased, and
for nearly sixty years afterwards no more was heard of the “Vegetable

Towards the close of the century two eminent botanists, who were, of
course, well acquainted with the specimens that had been described by
Sir Hans Sloane and Dr. Breyn, were constrained in writing of the poetry
of their science to make the legendary “Borametz” their theme.

Dr. Erasmus Darwin, in 1781, contributed to the literature of the
subject the following lines[21]:--

  [21] ‘The Botanic Garden.’ A poem in two parts; with philosophical
  notes. London. 1781.

    “E’en round the Pole the flames of love aspire,
    And icy bosoms feel the secret fire,
    Cradled in snow, and fanned by Arctic air,
    Shines, gentle Borametz, thy golden hair;
    Rooted in earth, each cloven foot descends,
    And round and round her flexile neck she bends,
    Crops the grey coral moss, and hoary thyme,
    Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime;
    Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,
    And seems to bleat--a ‘vegetable lamb.’”

Dr. Erasmus Darwin appears to have bestowed “golden hair” upon his
Borametz, to assimilate it to the fern-root toys that were regarded as
its prototypes; but as the fern of which they were made is a native of
Southern China, and as no author has described the lamb-plant as being
found in a cold climate, his authority and his motive for locating it in
an arctic region are alike inexplicable.

Dr. De la Croix, the other botanical author above referred to, extolled,
in 1791, the fabulous animal-plant in a Latin poem[22] which Bishop
Atterbury characterized as “excellent, and approaching very near to the
versification of Virgil’s ‘Georgics.’”

  [22] ‘Connubia Florum, Latino Carmine Demonstrata.’ Bath. 1791.

                                “Qui Caspia sulcant
    Æquora, sive legant spumosa Boristhenis ora
    Sive petant Asiam velis, et Colchica regna,
    Hinc atque inde stupent visu mirabile monstrum:
    Surgit humo Borames. Præcelso in stipite fructus
    Stat quadrupes. Olli vellus. Duo cornua fronte
    Lanea, nec desunt oculi; rudis accola credit
    Esse animal, dormire die, vigilare per umbram,
    Et circum exesis pasci radicitus herbis:
    Carnibus Ambrosiæ sapor est, succique rubentes
    Posthabeat quibus alma suum Burgundia Nectar;
    Atque loco si ferre pedem Natura dedisset,
    Balatu si posset opem implorare voracis
    Ora lupi contra, credas in stirpe sedere
    Agnum equitem, gregibusque agnorum albescere colles.”

As this has not been “done into English” (to use an old phrase), I
venture to offer the following translation of it:--

    “The traveller who ploughs the Caspian wave
    For Asia bound, where foaming breakers lave
    Borysthenes’ wild shores, no sooner lands
    Than gazing in astonishment he stands;
    For in his path he sees a monstrous birth,
    The Borametz arises from the earth:
    Upon a stalk is fixed a living brute,
    A rooted plant bears quadruped for fruit,
    It has a fleece, nor does it want for eyes,
    And from its brows two woolly horns arise.
    The rude and simple country people say
    It is an animal that sleeps by day
    And wakes at night, though rooted to the ground,
    To feed on grass within its reach around.
    The flavour of Ambrosia its flesh
    Pervades; and the red nectar, rich and fresh,
    Which vineyards of fair Burgundy produce
    Is less delicious than its ruddy juice.
    If Nature had but on it feet bestowed,
    Or with a voice to bleat the lamb endowed,
    To cry for help against the threat’ning fangs
    Of hungry wolves; as on its stalk it hangs,
    Seated on horseback it might seem to ride,
    Whit’ning with thousands more the mountain side.”

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--THE “BORAMETZ,” OR “SCYTHIAN LAMB.”

_From De la Croix’s ‘Connubia Florum.’_

The central figure is a copy of Zahn’s picture of the fabulous
plant-animal; the other two are taken from fern-root specimens supposed
to be “Vegetable Lambs.”]

We must now leave the poetical view of the subject, and come to facts.

The substance of which the artificial animals exhibited by Sir Hans
Sloane and Dr. Breyn were constructed is the long root-stock of a fern
of the genus _Dicksonia_, of which there are from thirty to thirty-five
species, varying greatly in size, in their mode of growth, and in the
cutting of their fronds. Some of them, such as _D. antarctica_, a native
of Australia and New Zealand, often seen in our greenhouses, are
tree-like in habit, having stems from ten to forty feet in height, and
fronds two or three yards in length, and two feet or more across; whilst
others have root-stocks creeping along the surface of the ground. The
genus is most fully represented in tropical America and Polynesia: one
species extends as far north as the United States and Canada, and
another was introduced into this country from St. Helena. In some
species, such as _D. Molluccensis_, from Java, the stems are furnished
with strong hooked prickles; in others they are densely clad at the base
with a thick coat of yellow-brown hairs, which shine almost like
burnished gold. The stems of _D. Sellowiana_, from tropical America, are
so thickly clad with long fibrous hairs, changing to brown or nearly
black, that it has been said they precisely resemble the thighs of the
howling monkeys.[23]

  [23] See ‘European Ferns,’ by James Britten, F.L.S.; with coloured
  illustrations from Nature, by Dr. Blair, F.L.S. Cassell. London.--A
  work full of information on the culture, classification, and history
  of ferns. I am indebted to it for many of the details here given of
  the economic value of ferns.

The species of _Dicksonia_ which has been supposed to have given origin
to the fable of the “Scythian Lamb” has, from that circumstance,
received the name of _Barometz_. It was formerly known as _Cibotium
glaucescens_. It was introduced into cultivation in conservatories in
this country about the year 1830, and was shortly afterwards described
as _Cibotium barometz_, but the genus _Cibotium_ is now generally united
with _Dicksonia_. Its long caudex, or root-stock, creeps over the
surface of the ground in the same manner as that of the better known
“Hare’s-foot” fern, _Davallia Canariensis_, and this is covered with
long silky hairs, or scales, which look something like wool when old and
dry. These hairs or scales have been sometimes used as a styptic in
Germany, and also, very commonly, in China, as related to Sir Hans
Sloane by Dr. Brown. The similar hairs of other species of _Dicksonia_,
natives of the Sandwich Islands, are exported to the extent of many
thousands of pounds weight annually under the name of “Pulu,” and are
used in the stuffing of mattrasses, cushions, &c. The hairs of _D.
culcita_ are similarly utilised in Madeira. No more than two or three
ounces of hair are yielded by each plant, and it is reckoned that about
four years must elapse before another gathering can be obtained.

The rhizomes and stems of many ferns abound in starch, and have a
commercial value, either as medicine or food. The soft mucilaginous pith
of _Cyathea medullaris_, one of the large tree-ferns of New Zealand, was
formerly eaten by the natives. It is of a reddish colour, and, when
baked, acquires a somewhat pungent flavour. In New Zealand ferns seem to
be in some repute for their edible properties, for the large scaly
rhizomes of _Marattia fraxinea_, and those of another fern, _Pteris
esculenta_, nearly allied to our common bracken, _P. aquilina_, are also
eaten by the Maoris. The natives bake them in ashes, peel them with
their teeth, and eat them with meat, as we do bread; and sometimes pound
them between stones, in order to extract the nutritious matter, the
woody part being rejected as useless. In Nepaul, the rhizomes of
_Nephrolepis tuberosa_ are similarly prepared for food; and in New
Caledonia the mucilaginous matter of _Cyathea vieillardii_ is obtained
from incisions made in the stem, or at the base of the fronds. The
succulent fronds of the little water-fern, _Ceratopteris thalictroides_,
are boiled and eaten as a vegetable by the poorer classes in the Indian
Archipelago. The young shoots of the handsome tree-fern, _Angiopteris
evecta_, are eaten in the Society Islands, and its large rhizome, which
is in great part composed of mucilage, yields, when dried, a kind of
flour. In the same islands the young fronds of _Helminthostachys
limulata_, the “Balabala” of the Fiji Islands, are eaten in times of
scarcity; and the soft scales covering the _stipes_ of the fronds are
used by the white settlers for stuffing pillows and cushions in
preference to feathers, because they do not become heated, and are thus
more comfortable in a sultry climate. In New South Wales, the thick
rhizome of _Blechnum cartilagineum_ is much eaten by the natives. It is
first roasted and then beaten, so as to break away the woody fibre: it
is said to taste like a waxy potato.

By skilful treatment the inhabitants of Southern China occasionally
converted the thick root-stock of one of these tree-ferns, “_Dicksonia
barometz_,” into a rough semblance of a quadruped, which quadruped, by a
foregone conclusion, was supposed to be a lamb. They removed entirely
the fronds that grew upward from the rhizome, excepting four, and these
four they trimmed down until only about four inches of each stalk was
left. The object thus shaped being turned upside down, the root-stock
represented the body of the animal, and was supported by the four
inverted stalks of the fronds, as upon four legs. If the specimen had an
insufficient number of stalks growing from it to make the four legs,
others were artificially and neatly affixed to it; ears were similarly
provided, and, if necessary, the trunk was fitted with a head and neck
made from another root-stock.

So far, well! The identification of the material of which these
imitations of four-legged animals were fashioned as the rhizome and
frond-stalks of a tree-fern is complete, and perfectly satisfactory.
But, having given to these root-stocks of tree-ferns the full benefit of
an acknowledgment of the economic uses that have been made of them in
various ways and in different localities, and having frankly stated the
still accepted theory of their connection with the myth of the
“Vegetable Lamb of Scythia,” I have to express my very decided opinion
that they and the “lambs” (?) made from them had no more to do with the
origin of the fable of the “_Barometz_” than the artificial mermaids so
cleverly made by the Japanese have had to do with the origin of the
belief in fish-tailed human beings and divinities. In the first place,
as we shall presently see, these manipulated ferns were not intended by
those who fashioned them to resemble lambs at all. Secondly, if they had
been intended to represent the lamb of the fable, they could have been,
like the Japanese mermaids, only the outcome and illustration of the
legend--not the objects which first gave rise to it. Neither the one nor
the other of these counterfeit fabrications appears to have been ever
common; and neither was certainly manufactured in sufficient numbers,
nor distributed so abundantly and completely over the habitable globe,
as to have laid the foundation of a myth which in the one case was
universally believed,[24] and in the other attracted attention all over
Europe and Western Asia, and also in Egypt. Very few of the Japanese
artificial mermaids have been seen in this country, though they have
been eagerly sought for, and the fern-“lambs” that have been brought to
England may be counted on one’s fingers.[25]

  [24] See the Chapter on “Mermaids” by the Author in ‘Sea Fables
  Explained,’ one of the Handbooks issued by the Authorities of the
  Great International Fisheries Exhibition of 1883. London. Clowes and
  Sons, Limited.

  [25] I know of only four--(though, of course, there may be others, of
  which I shall be glad to receive information)--namely, one in the
  Botanical department of the British Museum; another in the Museum of
  the Royal College of Surgeons; the specimen sent from India by Mr.
  Buckley to the Royal Society in 1698; and that described by Dr. Breyn
  in 1725. Of the origin of the first-mentioned nothing is known, though
  it is apparently the one figured by John and Andrew Rymsdyk, in their
  ‘_Museum Britannicum_’ (1778, plate xv.), as one of the curious
  objects in the British Museum. Of the second we only know that it was
  presented to the College of Surgeons by Mr. Quekett--the habitat of
  the fern of which it is composed being erroneously given in the
  Catalogue (No. 177 of “Plants and Invertebrates”) as “Plains of
  Tartary,” the supposed home of the mythical lamb, but where the fern
  in question never grew. That sent to England by Mr. Buckley, and which
  was the subject of Sir Hans Sloane’s paper in 1698, seems to have been
  lost or mislaid. Whether it remained in the possession of the Royal
  Society, or was placed by Sir Hans Sloane in his own collection, it
  ought to be in the British Museum. But nothing is known of it there,
  nor of the cabinet of surgical instruments and appliances in which it
  arrived. I have endeavoured to trace it; but although, as usual, I
  have met with every kind assistance and courtesy from the heads of
  departments, I have been unsuccessful.

  Sir Hans Sloane, who died in 1753, bequeathed his valuable collection
  and library to the nation on the condition that £20,000 should be paid
  to his executors for the benefit of his daughters. The Government
  raised the necessary funds by a guinea lottery, and sufficient money
  was thus obtained to purchase also (for £10,500) Montague House, in
  Bloomsbury, which then became the British Museum. When the Royal
  Society removed from their old premises, in Crane Court, to Somerset
  House in 1780 they also gave the contents of their cabinets to the
  National Collection, but many of these, and amongst them this
  fern-root animal, cannot be found.

  Dr. Breyn, of Dantzic, no doubt retained the specimen which he
  described, and it is probably in some continental collection.

  I know, therefore, of only two of these so-called “lambs” extant in
  this country--one in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, and
  the other in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. No history
  of either of these has been preserved.

Further, it is a fact which seems to have been strangely overlooked,
that these tree-ferns, with the creeping root-stocks, do not grow in
Tartary. The particular species of _Dicksonia_ from which the
doll-“lambs” were made is a native of Southern China, Assam, and the
Malayan peninsula and islands.[26] And we have conclusive evidence, in
addition to the report made by Mr. Buckley to the Royal Society (p. 27),
that these playthings themselves were of Chinese workmanship.

  [26] ‘_Synopsis Filicum_,’ by Sir W. J. Hooker and J. G. Baker, F.L.S.
  1863. Art. “Dicksonia barometz.”

Juan de Loureiro, an accomplished Portuguese botanist and Fellow of the
Royal Society of Lisbon, who lived and laboured as a Catholic missionary
for more than thirty years in Cochin China, and, afterwards, for three
years in China, thus writes[27]:--

  [27] _Flora Cochinchinensis_, tom. i. p. 675. Lisbon. 1790.

“The _Polypodium borametz_ grows in hilly woods in China and Cochin
China. Many authors have written of the Scythian Lamb, or Borametz--most
of them fabulously. Ours is not a fruit, but a root, which is easily
shaped by the help of a little art into the form of _a small rufous dog,
by which name, and not by that of a ‘lamb,’ it is called by the

Loureiro describes the cutting off the stalks to form the legs, the
fixing on of smaller ones as ears, and other particulars of the rude
manufacture of these fern-root dogs, as witnessed by himself. The common
name of these toys in China--“Cau-tich,” and in Cochin China,
“Kew-tsie,” both represent a “tan-coloured dog.”

It must also be borne in mind that the lamb-plant was represented as
springing from a seed like that of a melon, but rounder, and that the
natives of the country where it grew planted these seeds. It was
therefore a cultivated plant. The lamb, it was also stated, was
contained within the fruit or seed-capsule of the plant; and when this
fruit, or seed-pod, was ripe it burst open, and the little lamb within
it was disclosed. The wool of this lamb was described by various writers
as being “very white,” “as white as snow,” whereas these root-stocks of
ferns bear no resemblance to a lamb in their natural condition; and when
they have been deftly trimmed into shape the hairs or scales upon them
are tawny orange, matching better with the “tan” markings of a dog,
which they were intended to represent, than with the soft, white fleece
of a young lamb.

Therefore, even if I had no better explanation to offer, I should be led
to the conclusion that the identification of these _tawny_ toy-_dogs_,
made in _China_ from the _root_ of a _wild_ fern, the spores of which
are _as small as dust_, with the “Vegetable _Lambs_” of _Scythia_, whose
_white_ fleeces were found within the ripe and opening _fruit_ of a
_cultivated_ plant, raised from _a large seed_, was obviously erroneous,
and that the origin of the rumour must be sought for elsewhere.

The plant that set all Europe talking of the lambs that grew in fruits
and on stalks of plants somewhere in Scythia was one of far higher
importance and value to mankind than the childish knick-knacks made for
amusement out of the creeping root-stocks of ferns. These and the
curly-fleeced progeny of the poor ewes of Astrachan were lambs that
crossed the track of the first, lost lamb, and led those searching for
it into the mistake of following their respective trails, whilst the
original “Scythian Lamb” escaped from sight.

Tracing the growth and transition of this story of the lamb-plant from a
truthful rumour of a curious fact into a detailed history of an absurd
fiction, I have no doubt whatever that it originated in early
descriptions of the cotton plant, and the introduction of cotton from
India into Western Asia and the adjoining parts of Eastern Europe.

Herodotus, writing (B.C. 445) of the usages of the people of India, says
(lib. iii. cap. 106) of this cotton:--“Certain trees bear for their
fruit fleeces surpassing those of sheep in beauty and excellence, and
the natives clothe themselves in cloths made therefrom.”

In the 47th chapter of the same book, Herodotus describes a corselet
sent by Aahmes (or Amasis) II., King of Egypt, to Sparta as having been
“ornamented with gold and _fleeces from the trees_”--padded with cotton,
in fact.

Ctesias, also, who was the contemporary of Herodotus, and was made
prisoner, and kept by the King of Persia as his court physician for
seventeen years, was acquainted with the use of a kind of wool, the
produce of trees, for spinning and weaving amongst the natives of India,
for he mentions in his ‘_Indica_’ a fragment quoted by Photius,
“tree-garments”; and that he thus referred to clothing made from these
tree-fleeces we have the testimony of Varro:--“Ctesias says that there
are in India _trees that bear wool_.”

Nearchus, the admiral of Alexander the Great, reported that “there were
in India trees bearing, as it were, flocks or bunches of wool, and that
the natives made of this wool garments of surpassing whiteness, or else
their black complexions made the material appear whiter than any other.”

Aristobulus, another of Alexander’s generals, made mention in his
journal of the cotton plant, under the name of “the wool-bearing tree,”
and stated that “it bore a capsule that contained seeds which were taken
out, and that which remained was carded like wool.”

Strabo, who records this (lib. xv. cap. 21), referring to it in another
paragraph, writes:--“Nearchus says that their (the natives’) fine
clothing was made from this wool, and that the Macedonians used it for
mattresses and the stuffing of their saddles.”[28]

  [28] Unfortunately the Journal and Narrative of Nearchus, written B.C.
  325-324, are lost, as are also those of Aristobulus, who seems to have
  been a very accurate observer; and we are indebted to Strabo and
  Arrian for the summaries and extracts from them that we possess.
  Strabo’s ‘_Geographia_’ was completed A.D. 21, about three years
  before his death. Fabius Arrianus wrote his ‘_Historia Indica_,’ and
  ‘_Periplus Maris Erythræi_,’ which contain valuable particulars of
  Alexander’s expedition, about A.D. 131-135.

Theophrastus, the disciple of Aristotle, writing about B.C. 306,

  [29] ‘_De Historia Plantarum_,’ lib. iv. cap. 4.

“The trees from which the Indians make their clothes have leaves like
those of the black mulberry, but the whole plant resembles the dog-rose.
They are planted in rows on the plains, so as to look like vines at a

In another passage of the same book (cap. 9) he writes:--

“In the Island of Tylos, which is in the Arabian Gulf,[30] the
wool-bearing trees, which grow there abundantly, have leaves like the
vine, but smaller. They bear no fruit, but the pod containing the wool
is about the size of a spring apple (“μηλον”), whilst it is unripe and
closed, but when it is ripe it opens: the wool is then gathered from it,
and woven into cloths of various qualities--some inferior, but others of
great value.”

  [30] Theophrastus is in error in placing Tylos in the Arabian Gulf
  (which we now call the Red Sea); it was in the Persian Gulf, and is
  now known as Bahrsin. The ancients, however, gave to the whole of the
  sea between the east coast of Africa, north of Mogador, and the west
  shores of India the name of the “Erythræan Sea,” from King Erythros,
  of whom nothing more is known than the name, which, in Greek,
  signifies “red.” From this casual meaning of the word it came to be
  believed that the water of this sea differed in colour from that of
  others, and that it was consequently more difficult to navigate.

This description by Theophrastus is remarkably correct as applied to the
herbaceous variety of the cotton-plant, from which the chief supply of
cotton for spinning and weaving into cloth has always been obtained. In
its mode of growth--branched, spreading, and flexible--it may well be
likened to the dog-rose; and its palmate leaves bear a close resemblance
to those of the black mulberry, which differ little from the leaves of
some varieties of the vine. The remark relative to the mode of
cultivation is also exactly applicable to the cotton-plant, which is set
in rows about four feet asunder, and the plants about two feet apart, so
that a field of it resembles a vineyard when seen from a distance.

Pomponius Mela, the author next in order of time, also writes in his
account of India[31] of the “trees that produce wool used by the natives
for clothing.”

  [31] _De Situ Orbis_, lib. iii. cap. 7.

Then comes Pliny, who, incompetent and worthless as a naturalist, though
admirable as a writer, obscured this subject, as he did many others. In
his ‘Natural History’[32] he mentions cotton in four different
paragraphs, and in every one of them inaccurately. He confuses cotton
with flax, and the fabrics woven of it with linen, and treats of silk as
a downy substance scraped from the leaves of trees. And, in
transcribing, or translating, the passage from Theophrastus relating to
the “wool-bearing trees,” he distorts the author’s words, and states
that “these trees bear _gourds_ the size of a quince, which burst when
ripe, and display balls of wool out of which the inhabitants make cloths
like valuable linen.” Pliny therefore seems to have been the author of
the “gourd” portion of the story which afterwards obtained currency in
Western Europe.

  [32] ‘_Naturalis Historia_,’ A.D. 77.

I shall quote one more ancient mention of the “fleece-bearing plant,”
because the author of it gives a more exact description than any
previous writer of that portion of it from which the wool is taken.

Julius Pollux, who wrote about a hundred years later than Pliny, says in
his ‘Onomasticon’:--

“There are also _Byssina_ and _Byssus_, a kind of flax. But among the
Indians a sort of wool is obtained from a tree. The cloth made from this
wool may be compared with linen, except that it is thicker. The tree
produces a fruit most nearly resembling a walnut, but three-cleft. After
the outer covering, which is like a walnut, has divided and become dry,
the substance resembling wool is extracted, and is used in the
manufacture of cloth.”

This remark, of the pericarp of the cotton-pod, in some species of
_Gossypium_, being three-cleft, is in accordance with fact, and is not
noticed by any previous writer.

In tracing the development of these early and truthful accounts of the
cotton-plant into the complete fable of the compound plant-animal, the
“Vegetable Lamb of Scythia,” we shall find it, as in the case of some
other myths of the Middle Ages, attributable to two principal causes:--

1. The misinterpretation of ambiguous or figurative language; 2. The
similarity of appearance of two actually different and incongruous

It is a curious fact, which I believe has not hitherto been noticed in
connection with this subject, that the Greek word “μηλον” (melon), very
fitly used by Theophrastus in the passage quoted (p. 48) to describe the
form and appearance of the unripe cotton-pod, may be equally correctly
translated “a fruit,” “an apple,” or “a sheep”: the adjective “ἑαρινόν,”
which is also used, means “vernal”; therefore the phrase may be regarded
as signifying either that the vegetable wool was taken from a “spring
apple” growing upon a tree, or from a “spring-sheep” (or lamb) growing
upon a tree. Although I believe that the mistake originated, as I shall
presently explain, in the actual and substantial resemblance between
cotton wool and lamb’s wool, rather than in the verbal identity of an
appellative noun, it is not improbable that this ambiguous phrase of
convertible interpretation may, in some measure, have contributed to
convey, many centuries later, to readers of a dead language who knew
nothing of the plant referred to, an erroneous idea of the nature of
“the fleeces that grew on trees.” It would seem so much more likely that
a soft fleece of white wool should grow upon a young lamb yeaned in
spring-time than inside a fruit like an apple in the partly-formed and
unripe condition in which it is found in spring, that students in the
Middle Ages, as they pondered doubtfully over this word of double
meaning, would probably prefer the first interpretation, and translate
the passage of Theophrastus as a statement that the wool was taken from
a “spring-sheep,” or lamb, growing upon a tree which bore no other
fruit. It is also probable that this use of the Greek word “_melon_”
gave rise to the report in later times that the seed of the plant which
bore the “Vegetable Lamb” was like that of a melon or gourd.

We may next take into account the prevalence amongst many tribes and
nations in both hemispheres of the custom of using figurative language
in relation to the objects and occurrences of their daily life.

A very striking and remarkable proof is given us by Herodotus that the
Scythians of the North-West, who carried both the cotton and the rumour
of the lamb-plant into Muscovy, were in the habit of speaking thus
figuratively and metaphorically. He writes (lib. iv. cap. 2):--

“The part beyond the north, the Scythians say, can neither be seen nor
passed through, by reason of the feathers shed there; for the earth and
air are full of feathers, and it is these which interrupt the view.”

Further on (lib. iv. cap. 31) he also observes:--

“With respect to the feathers with which the Scythians say the air is
filled, and on account of which it is not possible either to see further
upon the continent, or to pass through it, I entertain the following
opinion. In the upper parts of this country it continually snows--less
in summer than in winter, as is reasonable. Now, whoever has seen snow
falling thick near him will know what I mean; for snow is like feathers,
and on account of the winter being so severe the northern parts of this
country are uninhabited. I think, then, that the Scythians and their
neighbours call the snow feathers, comparing them together.”

Herodotus was, of course, right in this interpretation.

Who can doubt that the people who would thus realistically describe snow
as feathers would probably describe the white wool of the cotton-pod as
“tree-lamb’s-wool,” the produce of a “lamb-plant,” or “plant-lamb”?

The growth and development of the story of “the Scythian Lamb” from the
similarity of appearance of two really different objects may be best
explained by comparing it with another Natural-history myth, which ran
curiously parallel with it. I allude to the fable that Sir John
Mandeville tells us he related to his Tartar acquaintances, viz. that of
the “_Barnacle Geese_”--which has never been surpassed as a specimen of
ignorant credulity and persistent error.

From the twelfth to the end of the seventeenth century it was implicitly
and almost universally believed that in the Western Islands of Scotland
certain geese, of which the nesting-places were never found, instead of
being hatched from eggs, like other birds, were bred from “shell-fish”
which grew on trees. Upon the shores where these geese abounded, pieces
of timber and old trunks of trees covered with barnacles were often seen
which had been stranded by the sea. From between the partly opened
shells of the barnacles protruded their plumose cirrhi, which in some
degree resemble the feathers of a bird. Hence arose the belief that they
contained real birds. The fishermen persuaded themselves that these
birds within the shells were the geese whose origin they had been
previously unable to discover, and that they were thus bred, instead of
being hatched, like other birds, from eggs. As the tale spread to a
distance, it gained by repetition, like the story of “The Three Black
Crows” amusingly told by Dr. John Byrom.[33] The trees found upon the
shore were soon reported to be trees growing on the shore; that which
grew on trees people soon asserted to be the fruit of trees; and thus,
from step to step, the story increased in wonder and obtained credit. It
was discussed during many centuries by philosophers and men of learning,
who, one after another, accepted the evidence in its favour, until Sir
Robert Moray, F.R.S., in 1678, reported to the Royal Society that he had
examined these barnacles, and that in every shell that he had opened he
had “found a little bird--the little bill, like that of a goose; the
eyes marked; the head, neck, breast, wings, tail, and feet formed, the
feathers everywhere perfectly shaped and blackish-coloured, and the feet
like those of other water-fowl.” This nonsense was published in the
‘Philosophical Transactions’ (No. 137, January and February, 1678) under
the auspices of the highest representatives of science in this country.
The old botanist Gerard had previously (in 1597) had the audacity to
assert that he had witnessed the transformation of the “shell-fish” into

  [33] See Appendix G.

  [34] See ‘Sea Fables Explained,’ by the Author, 2nd edition, p. 114.
  Clowes and Sons, Limited.

In like manner the “wool-bearing plant” of Ctesias, Nearchus,
Aristobulus, and Theophrastus, the plant of which Herodotus wrote that
“it bore as its fruit fleeces which surpassed those of lambs in beauty
and excellence,” was soon reported to be “a plant bearing fruit within
which was a little lamb having a fleece of surpassing beauty and
excellence.” As it was evident that a living lamb must take food, the
“lytylle best” was, in the next version, kindly placed upon a stalk, and
so balanced thereon as to be able to bend downward, and browze upon the
surrounding herbage. Of course the lamb, if it fed on grass, must have
digestive and other organs, like those of lambs ordinarily begotten, so
these were liberally bestowed upon it with as much particularity as that
exercised by Sir Robert Moray in enumerating the “parts and features”
of the “little tree-bird.”[35] The transformation of the wondrous
“plant-animal” from “a little lamb with a white fleece disclosed by the
bursting of a ripe seed-pod growing on a stalk” into “a lamb growing on
a stalk attached to its navel, and browzing on the herbage within its
reach,” vastly increased the difficulty of identifying it. Like the
barnacle geese, it was discussed by philosophers and sought for by
travellers; but its features had been distorted beyond recognition, and,
instead of endeavouring to find its original portrait in the pages of
old historians and geographers, enquirers looked for fresh information
concerning it in the misleading tales of successive travellers. At last,
as we have seen, another “vegetable lamb” crossed the trail of the
original lost one, in the shape of the two Chinese toy-dogs laid before
the Royal Society by Sir Hans Sloane and Dr. Breyn. That distinguished
body of savants unfortunately accorded their recognition to the wrongful
claimant, and ever since then botanists and antiquarians have regarded
the problem as solved, and have been satisfied that in these few rude
models of “tan-coloured dogs” they have found the true and original
“snow-white” “Vegetable Lamb of Scythia.”

  [35] The figures of the ancient partly human, partly piscine deities,
  from which originated the belief in mermaids, similarly passed through
  various mutations. The first idea was that of a man coming out of the
  mouth of a fish. Subsequently, the form was that of a man clad in the
  skin of a fish--wearing it as a mantle--the head of the fish covering
  that of the man, like a cap or helmet. And so on, till a being was
  developed the upper half of whose body was human, and the lower half,
  from the waist downwards, that of a fish.

The contented acceptance by botanists and other representatives of
science, down to the present day, of three or four trumpery toys
artificially and roughly fashioned by the Chinese from the rhizomes of
a fern which does not grow in Tartary or Scythia, and brought to Europe
by travellers at rare intervals, as sufficient to account for the origin
of a rumour which spread from Asia all over Europe and attracted the
attention of learned men of all countries for many centuries, is not the
least remarkable circumstance in the history of the legend of the
“Scythian Lamb.”

Well might the old historians consider worthy of record the reports they
had heard of the existence of the “wool-bearing tree,” for, as Dr. Ure
has remarked,[36] “it would be universally regarded as a miracle of
vegetation did not familiarity blunt the moral feelings of mankind. This
class of plants, largely distributed over the torrid zone, affords to
the inhabitants a spontaneous and inexhaustible supply of the clothing
material best adapted to screen their swarthy bodies from the scorching
sun, and to favour the cooling influence of the breeze, as well as
cutaneous exhalation. While the tropical heats change the soft wool of
the sheep into a harsh, scanty hair, unfit for clothing purposes, they
cherish and ripen the vegetable wool, with its more slender and porous
fibres, admirably suited for clothing in a hot climate, as the grosser
and warmer animal fibres are in a cold one. No sooner does the cotton
pod arrive at maturity than its swollen capsules burst with an elastic
force, in gaping segments, in order, as it were, to display to the most
careless eye their white fleecy treasure, and to invite the hand of the
observer to pluck it from the seeds, and to work it up into a light and
beautiful robe. Thus held forth from the extremity of every bough, by
its resemblance to sheep’s wool it could not fail to attract attention.”

  [36] ‘The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain,’ p. 71.

Such keen observers as the ancient conquerors of India would have been
sure to notice with surprise and interest the wonderful vegetable
product which could be compared to nothing so aptly as to the white,
soft wool of a little lamb, to appreciate its value and usefulness, and
to admire the fabrics manufactured from it. And, as these fabrics
gradually found their way northward from India by the great caravan
routes, either by Samarcand, or by the passes of the Hindu Kush, by
Bokhara and Khiva, through Turkestan and Tartary into Russia, in one
direction, and by Egypt to the countries on the Mediterranean in
another, the sensation they would cause is not difficult to realise. We
can imagine how the newly-arrived trader, as he displayed his goods,
would be eagerly questioned by intending purchasers of the novel, soft,
white or coloured cloths, so well suited to their requirements, as to
the nature of the raw material of which they had been woven. We can
picture to ourselves their astonishment when he explained to them that
the delicate, white, flossy fibres from which his fabrics were made, of
which he, perhaps, showed them a sample, and which looked so like lamb’s
wool, was the produce of a plant, the fruit of which burst open when it
became ripe, and exposed to view the white wool within it. And we can
easily understand how the fame of this spread, and was carried into
distant lands, and how this “vegetable lamb’s wool” was discussed and
talked about in countries where it, and the yarn spun from it, and the
cloths woven from it, had not yet penetrated.

Now, let us complete our identification of the cotton-pod of India as
“the Vegetable Lamb” of the fable by showing its right to the title of
“the _Scythian_ Lamb.”

There is probably no race of men, or rather aggregate of races,
mentioned prominently in history, of whom, and of whose country so
little has been definitely known as of the ancient Scythians. They have
been generally and vaguely, and, to a certain extent, correctly,
regarded as represented in modern times by the numerous hordes of
Tartars inhabiting the lands north of the mountains of the Caucasus, and
part of central and northern Asia. So exclusively have they been
identified with these tribes that the terms Tartary and Scythia have
been looked upon as synonymous, and thus “the Scythian Lamb” has been
called also the “Tartarian Lamb,” or “the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary.”

Under the name of “Scythia” was included (as may be seen on any good
classical map) a vast territory, partly in Europe and partly in Asia,
extending from the 25th to the 116th degree of East longitude. The
European portion of it was comparatively a small province, known as
“Scythia Parva,” and comprised those districts of Silistria and
Bessarabia bordering the western shores of the Black Sea, south of the
mouths of the Danube. Scythia in Asia, which was separated from Scythia
Parva by the two Sarmatias, included the whole of Turkestan, Thibet,
Mongolia, and Siberia. It was bounded on the West by the Ural Mountains
and river, and extended northward through then unknown regions to the
Arctic Circle, and southward to the Himalayas. But still further south,
beyond the western Himalayas--the Hindu-Kush--was another part of
Scythia, known as “Indo-Scythia.” This stretched southward to the
Erythrean Sea (the Arabian Sea), and was that part of India now called
Scinde and the Punjab. Through it flowed the Indus and the Hydaspes, and
it was on the banks of the latter river, at Bucephalia (either the
present Jhelum, or Jubalpore, eighteen miles lower), that Alexander’s
admiral collected the flotilla which he conducted down the Hydaspes to
its confluence with the Indus, and along the whole course of that great
river, and made his way by its lower mouth into the open water of the
Arabian Sea. Then and there it was--from the time of their arrival in
the country, during the war with Pontus and other Indian princes, and on
their ten months’ voyage homeward--that Alexander and his commodore
Nearchus saw the native population of Indo-Scythia “clad in garments the
material of which was whiter than any other, or at any rate appeared so
in contrast with their wearers’ swarthy skin,” and which were “made of
the wool like that of lambs, which grew in tufts and bunches upon

Although more than two thousand years have passed since then, Nearchus’s
description of this costume--“a shirt, or tunic, reaching to the middle
of the leg, a sheet folded about the shoulders, and a turban rolled
round the head”--would be almost equally accurate at the present day.
Its wearers may be congratulated that fashion has left unchanged and
unspoiled an apparel so serviceable and well-suited to the climate of
the country and the habits of its people!

As the “fleeces of vegetable wool, softer and whiter than that of the
lamb,” came from Indo-Scythia, the supposed plant-animal that bore them
was first called “the Scythian Lamb.”

As time passed on, the name of Scythia in Asia became merged in that of
Tartary. From the time that the Mahometans became masters of Egypt and
Constantinople, as no Christian was allowed to pass through their
dominion to the East, intercourse with India by the two most direct
roads ceased entirely. Cotton goods and other merchandise from India
were therefore conveyed by the trading caravans before mentioned. The
depôt to which they were generally forwarded was Samarcand, as was
correctly related to Guillaume Postel by Michel, the Arabic interpreter
(p. 13). There they met the great caravan travelling from the East into
Russia, and, on the journey, passed through part of Scythia in Asia. In
each district the caravan was joined by hosts of Tartar traders carrying
with them the wool of their sheep, the hair of their goats, and the
skins of both, the soft, curly skins of their lambs, and droves of hardy
colts, the produce of their mares, whose milk was, and still is, to them
as important an article of diet as that of cows is to ourselves. As the
Tartar merchants brought with the fleeces of their sheep, goats, and
lambs the fleeces also of “the fine white wool that grew on trees” and
the piece-goods made from it, “the vegetable lamb” from which it was
supposed to have been sheared became also in this manner identified with
Tartary, in the same way as were Indian spices with “Araby,” through
which they sometimes passed in transit, but where they never grew. It
thus became known as “the wool of the Tartarian Lamb,” and travellers
whose curiosity concerning the far-famed “zoophyte” was subsequently
aroused sought for it in the dominions of the “Great Cham.” But, just as
when Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, afterwards Pope Pius II., sought in
Scotland for the “goose-bearing tree,” which he eagerly desired to see,
upon being told that it grew much further north, complained that
“miracles will always flee farther and farther away”; so when any
painstaking traveller in Tartary endeavoured to investigate the subject
of the strange “plant-animal,” he was sure to learn (unless he allowed
himself to be cunningly hoaxed by the skin of a natural lamb, or the
fruit of another plant) that the object of his search was non-existent
in its reputed birthplace, and that he must look for it elsewhere.

Thus the story of the “Scythian” or “Tartarian Lamb” grew, and was
exaggerated and distorted, until all traces of its origin were so
obliterated that even men of thought and learning have been unable to
recognise in the misleading descriptions given of it the plant which,
excepting corn, is, perhaps, the most valuable to mankind. For, as I
have said, it seems to me to be clear and indubitable that the fruit
which burst when ripe and disclosed within it “a little lamb” was the
cotton pod, and that the soft, white, delicate fleece of “the Vegetable
Lamb of Scythia” was that which we still call “Cotton Wool.”


(_Gossypium herbaceum._)]



In the preceding pages I have referred to the introduction of cotton
into the countries north and west of the Indus in so far only as the
expressions of old writers relating to it have seemed to afford a clue
to the origin of the fable of “the Scythian Lamb.” But I venture to
think that a brief account of its botanical affinities, and of its
spread and distribution amongst various nations, may form an appropriate
and acceptable sequel to the story of the wild rumours that preceded by
many centuries its arrival in Western Europe.

The cotton plant, _Gossypium_, is one of the _Malvaceæ_--allied to the
mallow. There are several varieties of it, but only three principal
distinctions require notice--namely, the herbaceous, the tree, and the
shrub species. The first and most useful, _Gossypium herbaceum_, is an
annual plant, cultivated in the United States, India, China, and other
countries. It grows to a height of from eighteen to twenty inches, and
has leaves, which being somewhat lobed, of a bright dark green colour,
and marked with brownish veins, were not inaptly compared by
Theophrastus with those of the black mulberry and the vine. Its blossoms
expand into a pale yellow flower, and when this falls off a
three-celled, triangular capsular pod appears. The pod increases to the
size of a large cob-nut or small medlar, and becomes brown as the woolly
fruit ripens. The expansion of the wool then causes the pod to burst,
and it discloses a ball of snow-white (in some species, yellowish) down
consisting of three locks--one in each cell--enclosing and firmly
adhering to the seeds. As the pods ripen the cotton is gathered by hand,
and is exposed to the sun till it is perfectly dry; the seeds are then
separated from it, and it is packed into bales for future use or
exportation. In the United States it is planted in rows, four feet
asunder, and the seeds are set in holes eighteen inches apart.

The shrub cotton grows in almost every country where the annual
herbaceous cotton is found. Its duration varies according to the
climate. In some places, as in the West Indies, it is biennial or
triennial; in others, as in India, Egypt, &c., it lasts from six to ten
years; in the hottest climates it is perennial; and in the cooler
countries it becomes an annual.

The tree-cotton, _Gossypium arboreum_, grows in India, Egypt, China, the
interior and western coast of Africa, and in some parts of America. As
the tree only attains to a height of from twelve to twenty feet, it is
difficult to distinguish the tree cotton and the shrub cotton when
referred to by travellers.

The cotton plant, in all its varieties, requires a sandy soil. It
flourishes on the rocky hills of Hindostan, Africa, and the West Indies,
and will grow where the soil is too poor to produce any other valuable

Cotton has always been regarded as indigenous to India, and as the
characteristic clothing material of that country, as flax is of Egypt,
silk of China, and the wool of sheep and goats of Northern Asia.

The uncertain nature of Hindoo chronology prevents our even guessing at
the period when cotton was first spun and woven in India; but there is
little doubt that it was so used from the earliest ages of Hindoo
civilization. As Dr. Robertson remarks, in his ‘Historical Disquisition
on British India’--“Whoever attempts to trace the operations of men in
remote times, and to mark the various steps of their progress in any
line of exertion, will soon have the mortification to find that the
period of authentic history is extremely limited, and if we push our
enquiries beyond the period when written history commences we enter upon
the region of conjecture, of fable, and of uncertainty.”

The earliest mention of cotton with which we are acquainted is found,
according to Dr. Royle,[37] in the first book of the Rig Veda, Hymn 105,
verse 8, which is supposed to have been composed fifteen centuries
before the Christian era. It is, however, a mere allusion to “threads in
the loom,” and although it probably does refer to cotton, the evidence
of this is only circumstantial. But in ‘The Sacred Institutes of Manu,’
which date from 800 B.C., cotton is referred to so repeatedly as to
imply that it was in common use at that time in India. Dr. Royle says,
on the authority of Professor Wilson, that cotton and cotton-cloth are
mentioned in that book by the Sanscrit names “_Kurpasa_” and
“_Karpasum_,” and cotton-seeds as “_Kurpas-asthi_.” The common Bengali
name “Kupas,” indicating cotton with the seed, which is still in general
use all over India, and may even be occasionally heard in Lancashire,
is, no doubt, derived from the Sanscrit, from which also comes the Latin

  [37] ‘On the Culture and Commerce of Cotton in India and elsewhere,’
  by J. Forbes Royle, M.D., F.R.S. London. 1851.

It is evident that the manufacture of cotton in India must date from a
very remote period indeed, for long before the time of Herodotus the
processes of weaving and dyeing it had attained to a degree of
excellence which indicates considerable previous experience; and a large
export trade in white and coloured cotton fabrics had even then been

From India manufactured cotton seems to have reached Persia in very
early times, for the word “Karpas” occurs in the book of Esther (chap.
i. v. 6), in the description of the decorations of the palace of Shushan
during the right royal festivities given there by King Ahasuerus, B.C.
519. In the verse referred to we are told that there were “white, green,
and blue hangings.” The word corresponding with “green” in the Hebrew is
“_Karpas_,” in the Septuagint and Vulgate, _carbasinus_, and should be
rendered “cotton-cloth”; so that the hangings of the palace of Ahasuerus
were of white and blue striped cotton, such as may be seen throughout
India at the present day. Bishop Heber describes the Hall of Audience of
the Emperor of Delhi, as having these striped curtains hanging in
festoons about it.

Mattrasses, also, of this striped material, stuffed and padded with
coarse cotton, are still used in India as a substitute for doors and
window-shutters, to keep out the heat, and are known as “purdahs.”
Aristobulus reported that Susiana had when he was there “an atmosphere
so glowing and scorching that lizards and serpents could not cross the
streets of the city at noon quickly enough to prevent their being burned
to death mid-way by the heat”; that “barley spread out in the sun was
roasted, as in an oven, and hopped about” (like parched peas); and that
“the inhabitants laid earth to the depth of three and a half feet on the
roofs of their houses to exclude the suffocating heat,” so that it is
not improbable that these blue and white striped “purdahs” were used in
the palace of Shushan in the time of Ahasuerus.

Strabo frequently mentions this palace of Shushan, or Susa, which was in
the province of Susis, or Susiana, at the head of the Persian Gulf. He
tells us that when Alexander the Great became master of Persia he
transferred to this residence of the Persian Monarchs everything that
was precious in the land, although the palace was already almost filled
with treasures and costly materials. Strabo has further been quoted as
mentioning that cotton grew in Susiana and was there manufactured into
cloths, but although I have searched his chapters many times I can find
no such statement. It is most probable, however, that before his time
cotton did grow and was manufactured in Susiana, and that it was first
introduced by the Macedonians. They certainly brought into culture there
before the time of Strabo another valuable plant: for we have the
distinct statement of the latter that “the vine did not grow in Susiana
before the Macedonians planted it both there and at Babylon.”

Amidst the hurry of war and the rage for conquest Alexander always kept
in view the future pacification of an invaded country; its products,
therefore, were habitually ascertained and carefully noted, with a view
to the increase of revenue and the development of commerce. But, beyond
this, the great Macedonian conqueror, wherever he went, employed a
numerous corps of scouts, and searchers, and men of science, to collect
specimens of the curious animals, plants, and minerals to be found on
the march. These he sent home from time to time to his great preceptor
Aristotle, who was thus assisted to produce a work on Natural History
which, for general accuracy of description and extent of knowledge, is
a wonderful monument of scientific observation.

When by the refusal of his soldiers to proceed further than the banks of
the Hyphasis (the modern Beyah), Alexander found himself obliged to
yield to their wish to be led back to Persia, he determined to sail down
the Indus to the ocean, and from its mouth to proceed by the Erythrean
Sea to the Persian Gulf, that a communication by sea might be opened
with India. His intention was that the valuable commodities of that
country should thus be conveyed through the Persian Gulf to the interior
parts of his Asiatic dominions, and that by the Arabian Gulf they should
be carried to Alexandria (the site of which he had most judiciously
selected), and thence distributed to the rest of the world.

With this object in view, he ordered a numerous fleet of boats and
river-craft to be built and collected on the banks of the Hydaspes, at
Bucephalia (either the modern Jhelum, or Jubalpore, some eighteen miles
lower down the stream), and, when nearly two thousand vessels of various
shape and size had been got together, he commenced his voyage down the
Hydaspes to the Indus. The conduct of the flotilla was committed to
Nearchus, an officer worthy of that important trust, though Alexander
himself accompanied him in his navigation down the river. The army
numbered a hundred and twenty thousand men and two hundred elephants.
One third of the troops were embarked on the boats, whilst the
remainder, marching in two columns, one on the right, and the other on
the left side of the river, accompanied them in their progress. Retarded
by various military operations on land, as well as by the slow advance
of such a fleet as he conducted, Alexander did not reach the sea until
more than nine months after the commencement of his journey. Having
safely accomplished this arduous undertaking, he led the main body of
his army back to Persia by land. The command of the fleet, with a
considerable body of troops on board of it, remained with Nearchus, who,
after a coasting voyage of seven months, brought it safely up the
Persian Gulf into the Euphrates.

Alexander’s expedition into India was no less an intelligent exploration
than a successful invasion, and the western world is more indebted than
is generally understood to the original genius, conspicuous foresight,
political wisdom, and indefatigable exertions of that remarkable man. It
was from the memoirs of his officers that Europe derived its first
authentic information concerning the climate, soil, inhabitants and
productions of India, and amongst the last not the least beneficial to
man was cotton.

Although Scylax of Caryandra, an emissary of Darius Hydaspes, had
descended the Indus to the sea about a hundred and eighty years
previously (B.C. 509), other nations had derived no benefit from his
investigations. But his report of the fertility, high cultivation, and
opulence of the country he had passed through inflamed his master’s
greed, and made Darius impatient to become possessor of a territory so
valuable. This he soon accomplished, and though his conquests seem not
to have extended beyond the districts watered by the Indus, he levied a
tribute from it which equalled in amount one-third of the whole revenue
of the Persian Monarchy.

Until Alexander became master of Persia no commercial intercourse seems
to have been carried on by sea between that country and India. The
ancient rulers of Persia, induced by a peculiar precept of their
religion which enjoined them to guard with the utmost care against the
defilement of any of the “elements,” and also by a fear of foreign
invasion, obstructed by artificial works near their mouths the
navigation of the great rivers which gave access to the interior of the
country. As their subjects, however, were no less desirous than the
people around them of possessing the valuable productions and elegant
manufactures of India, these latter were conveyed to all parts of their
dominions by land carriage. The goods destined for the northern
provinces were borne on camels from the banks of the Indus to those of
the Oxus, down the stream of which they were carried to the Caspian Sea,
and distributed, partly by land and partly by navigable rivers, through
the different countries bounded on the one hand by the Caspian, and on
the other by the Euxine, or Black Sea; whilst those of India intended
for the southern and interior districts were transported by land from
the Caspian Gates to some of the great rivers, by which they were
dispersed through every part of the country. This was the ancient mode
of intercourse with India, whilst the Persian Empire was governed by its
native princes; and, as Robertson says, “it has been observed in every
age that when any branch of commerce has got into a certain channel,
although it may not be the best or most convenient one, it requires long
time and persistent efforts to give it a different direction.”[38]

  [38] Robertson’s ‘Historical Disquisition Concerning India.’

Alexander of Macedon was not a man likely to permit the existence of
impediments in the way of that which he knew to be highly conducive to
national progress and prosperity--namely, the expansion of commerce and
facility of communication. On his return, therefore, from India to Susa,
he, in person, surveyed the course of the Euphrates and Tigris, and
gave directions for the removal of the cataracts and dams, which had so
long rendered the upper waters of these rivers inaccessible from the
sea. His wise plans and splendid schemes were cut short by his early
death, B.C. 324; but his surviving generals, though they quarrelled with
each other, did their best to carry out his policy and the measures
which he had concerted with so much sagacity.

His successor, Seleucus, entertained so high an opinion of the
advantages to be derived from commercial intercourse with India that he
organized another expedition, which must have been very successful,
though no particulars of it have come down to us. He also sent to
Sandracottus, King of the Prasii, an ambassador, Megasthenes, who
penetrated to Palebothra (the modern Allahabad), at the confluence of
the Jumna and the Ganges.

Meanwhile Ptolemy Soter, another of Alexander’s generals, who had
enjoyed his confidence and entered into his plans more thoroughly than
any of his other officers, took possession of Egypt, and strove to
secure for Alexandria the advantage of the trade with India. Some say
that it was he who erected the lighthouse at the mouth of the harbour of
Alexandria which was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world,
who built there the magnificent temple of Serapis, and who founded the
celebrated library and museum for the benefit of learning and the
cultivation of science.[39]

  [39] See Appendix H.

His son, Ptolemy Philadelphus, completed those works, and, further to
attract the Indian trade to Alexandria, commenced to form a canal, one
hundred and seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet deep, between
Arsinoe (Suez) and the eastern branch of the Nile, by means of which the
productions of India might be conveyed to Alexandria entirely by water.
But this work was never finished, and as the navigation of the northern
extremity of the Arabian Gulf (the Red Sea) was so difficult and
dangerous as to be greatly dreaded, Ptolemy built a city, which he
called Berenice, further down the west coast of that sea, about lat.
24°. This new city soon became the chief port of communication between
Egypt and India. Goods landed there were carried by camels across the
desert of Thebais to Coptos, a distance of about 320 English miles, and
from there down the Nile to Alexandria, whence they were transhipped to
the various countries on the Mediterranean.

Thus by the exploits and far-sighted policy of Alexander the Great were
the then civilized nations of Europe made practically acquainted with
calicoes, muslins, and other piece-goods--clothing materials which they
had never previously seen, although probably for more than two thousand
years these had been woven in the simple looms of India from the soft,
white, “vegetable-lamb’s wool that grew on trees”; and had during that
long period supplied the principal raiment of a population of many

As the Persians had an unconquerable dislike of the sea, the seat of
intercourse with India was the more easily established in Egypt, and it
is remarkable how soon and how regularly the commerce with the East came
to be carried on by the channel in which the sagacity of Alexander had
destined it to flow.

The Egyptian merchants took on board their cargoes of Indian produce at
Patala (now Tatta) on the lower Delta of the Indus, at Barygaza (now
Baroche, on the Nerbuddah) and in the Gulf of Cambay, and probably also
at Kurrachee and Surat. As their vessels were of small burden, and as
they, themselves, though sufficiently acquainted with astronomy to make
some use of the stars, had no knowledge of the mariner’s compass, the
prudent merchantmen crept timidly along within sight of land, following
the outline of every bay, and skirting the shores of Persia and Arabia
and the western coast of Lower Egypt to Berenice. Though the course was
tedious and the voyage prolonged, the traffic prospered, and was thus
carried on for more than three centuries. When Egypt was conquered by
Julius Cæsar, B.C. 30, and, after the battle of Actium, became a Roman
province under Augustus, it continued undisturbed. The taste for luxury
at Rome gave a new impetus to commerce with India, and at this time four
hundred sailing craft were engaged in the trade.

About A.D. 50, an important discovery was made which greatly facilitated
intercourse between Egypt and the East, and diminished the time occupied
by the voyage. Hippalus, the commander of a vessel trading with India,
noticed the periodical winds called the “monsoons,” or “trade-winds,”
and how steadily they blew during one part of the year from the east,
and during the other from the west. Having observed this to occur
regularly every year, he ventured to relinquish the slow and circuitous
coasting route, and stretched boldly from the mouth of the Arabian Gulf
across the ocean, and was carried by the western monsoon to Musiris, on
the Malabar coast. This was one of the greatest achievements in
navigation in ancient history, and opened the best communication between
East and West that was known for fourteen hundred years afterwards.

Arrian (who wrote A.D. 131) says that at that date Indian cottons of
large width, fine cottons, muslins, plain and figured, and cotton for
stuffing couches and beds, were landed at Aduli (the present Massowah),
and that Barygaza was the port from which they were chiefly shipped.

The Romans also established an intercourse by land, by way of Palmyra
(“Tadmor in the Wilderness”), which by means of this trade rose to great
opulence; but even after the removal of the seat of government from Rome
to Constantinople, in the year 329, the Roman Empire was still supplied
with the productions of India by way of Egypt. The trade that might have
been carried on between India and Constantinople by land was prevented
by the Persians.

The Indo-Egyptian maritime traffic established by Alexander, and
encouraged by Ptolemy Lagus and his son, prospered for nearly a thousand
years. It survived the downfall of the Roman Empire, A.D. 476, and
lasted until the conquest of Egypt by the Mahometans under Amru Benalas,
the general of Caliph Omar, A.D. 634.

As no communication was carried on between Mahometans and Christians,
the capture of Alexandria by the Saracens prevented the nations of
Europe obtaining the products of India through Egypt, and this valuable
route of international communication was abruptly stopped.

I have devoted some space to a description of the first maritime trade
with India, established by the wisdom of Alexander, and suddenly
arrested by Mahometan bigotry, because the history of that commerce is,
more or less, the history of the cotton trade, and explains how the use
of cotton and its progress westward were gradually developed and
subsequently checked.

It will be convenient to make this date--the commencement of “the dark
ages”--a halting-place from which to mark how far cotton and the fabrics
made from it were appreciated by the nations who were chiefly benefited
by the sea-carriage of Indian products in general.

The very ancient Egyptians were apparently unacquainted with cotton. At
one time there was considerable discussion concerning the substance from
which the swathing bandages of the mummies were woven, and some
_savants_ claimed to have discovered cotton amongst them. But the
microscope quickly decided that question, for the character and
appearance of the fibres of cotton and flax are so markedly different
that any young microscopist may distinguish one from the other with
ease. It was found that in every case these bandages were made of linen.
Negative evidence to the same effect is furnished by the fact that no
pictures or other similitude of the cotton plant has been found in
Egyptian tombs, whereas accurate representations of flax occur, in its
different stages of growth, harvest, and manufacture.[40]

  [40] In the Grotto of El Kab are paintings representing, amongst other
  scenes, a field of corn and a crop of flax. Four persons are employed
  in pulling up the flax by the roots; another binds it into sheaves; a
  sixth carries it to a distance; and a seventh separates the linseed
  from the stem by means of a four-toothed “ripple,” which he uses just
  in the same way as it is now used in Europe. See Hamilton’s
  ‘_Ægyptiaca_,’ Plate xxiii., and Yates’s ‘_Textrinum Antiquorum_,’ p.

The circumstance mentioned by Herodotus, that King Amasis of Egypt, in
sending as a gift to Sparta a corselet padded with cotton and ornamented
with gold thread, thought it a fit present from a King, and in
dedicating a similar one to Minerva in her temple at Lindus considered
it an offering worthy of the goddess, shows that it was at that period a
novelty and a rarity. The first knowledge of cotton in Egypt may, I
think, be correctly assigned to that date--about B.C. 550. Linen was the
principal clothing material of the Egyptians, and the manufacture of it
from flax by them is probably of as great antiquity as the growth and
wearing of cotton in India. The embalmed bodies of their dead were
wrapped in it during successive ages through a period of more than two
thousand years, and their priests wore it during the same period, its
clean white texture being accepted as a semblance of purity, whereas
wool, taken from a sheep, was deemed a profane attire.

Flax and linen are frequently referred to in the Bible. The earliest
mention of the former is in Exodus ix. 31, in the account of the plague
of hail that devastated Lower Egypt B.C. 1491, and destroyed, when they
were nearly ripe for harvest, the two most important crops of the
Egyptians--that of the barley on which they relied for food for
themselves and for export to other nations, and the flax on which they
depended for their clothing and manufacturing employment. For flax was
not only used for wearing apparel, but the coarser kinds were employed
for making sail-cloths, ropes, nets, and for other purposes for which
hemp is generally used.

It is surprising that notwithstanding the comparative proximity of Egypt
to India, cotton, which had been for ages so extensively manufactured in
the latter country, should have remained so long unknown or
unappreciated by a people to whom it would have furnished a cheaper and
more comfortable article of dress than the flax-plant. But it is certain
that linen was held in favour and the use of it prevailed in Egypt till
the Christian era, although the cotton fabrics imported into Berenice
were gradually coming into more general wear. Pacatus mentions that Mark
Antony’s soldiers wore cotton in Egypt, and says that they felt so much
discomfort from the heat that they could hardly tolerate light cotton
clothing, even in the shade.

From a passage in Pliny’s Natural History (lib. xix. cap. 1) it would
appear that the cotton plant was cultivated in Upper Egypt in his day
(A.D. 77), and this has been accepted as genuine and quoted by Dr.
Ure[41] and others. But Mr. Yates, in his ‘_Textrinum Antiquorum_’ (p.
459), shows good reason for believing that the paragraph was
interpolated in the text of one of the MSS. of Pliny’s work, after
having been originally an annotation in the margin of an earlier copy.
This explanation clears up an otherwise involved and disconnected
passage, and there are other reasons besides those given by Mr. Yates
for believing that his surmise is correct.

  [41] ‘The Cotton Manufacture of Great Britain.’

Abdollatiph, an Arabian physician who visited Egypt at the end of the
twelfth century, does not mention cotton in the account which he wrote
(A.D. 1203), of the plants of that country; and Prospero Alpini, the
Paduan physician and botanist, who some four centuries later directed
his attention to the natural history of Egypt, says[42] that the
Egyptians then imported cotton for their use, that the herbaceous kind
(_Gossypium herbaceum_), from which cotton was obtained in Syria and
Cyprus, did not grow in Egypt, but that the tree kind (_G. arboreum_)
was cultivated as an ornamental plant in private gardens, and in very
small quantities, its down not being used for spinning.

  [42] ‘_De Plantis Ægypti_,’ cap. 18.

Belon, who was in Egypt about thirty years before Alpini, makes no
mention of cotton growing there; but says that he found it in Arabia, at
the north of the Arabian Gulf, near Mount Sinai.

It would appear, therefore, that up to the beginning of the seventeenth
century the Egyptians were importers, not cultivators, of cotton.

From a passage in the comedy ‘Pausimachus’ of Cecilius Statius (who died
B.C. 169), quoted by Mr. Yates in the work already referred to, the
Greeks seem to have been acquainted with muslins and calicoes brought
from India 200 years before Christ; and about a century later the Romans
adopted the Oriental custom of using cotton-cloth as a protection from
the sun’s rays. Ornamental coverings for tents were made from it, and
awnings of striped and coloured calico were spread over the theatres,
and gave welcome shade to the spectators. It was also used for
sail-cloth. Cotton fabrics are frequently mentioned by the poets of the
Augustan age, and by writers of a later date; but the finer qualities
are almost always referred to in a manner which indicates that by the
Greeks and Romans they were regarded rather as an expensive and curious
production than as an article of common use. Their dress was almost
entirely woollen, which, as they frequently used the bath, was always
comfortable; and, for cooler wear, as Mr. Yates truly observes, “there
appears no reason why cotton fabrics should have been used in preference
to linen. The latter is more cleanly, more durable, and much less liable
to take fire; and amongst the ancients it must have been much the
cheaper of the two.” In Rome and Athens the finest woven goods were
extravagantly dear, for the body of the people were practically excluded
from manufacturing work. This was principally carried on by slaves for
the benefit of their masters, for all the great men had large
establishments of slaves who understood the art of manufacturing most of
the articles necessary for ordinary use. The importation of cotton and
piece-goods into ancient Greece and Rome was therefore comparatively

With the fall of the Roman Empire, into which Greece had previously been
absorbed, art and science in Europe sank into a death-like trance which
lasted for many centuries. We will therefore trace the progress of the
Indian cotton trade in other directions during the long period that
elapsed before science and art revived.

As India carried on a very important manufacture of cotton for home
consumption, as well as for her large exports, it might be supposed that
China would have been led to participate in the advantages offered by
it. But, as in Egypt flax had been for many ages the raw material
principally used for the clothing of the population, so in China fabrics
woven from the web of the silkworm were, from the earliest times, used
for the dress of all classes of the people. By authorities of high
repute in China we are informed that Si-Hing, wife of the Emperor
Hoang-Ti, began to breed silkworms about 2,600 years before Christ, and
that the mulberry tree was cultivated to supply them with food four
hundred years afterwards.

India was the country of cotton; Egypt, of flax; China, of silk; and in
the two latter countries (especially in the case of the exclusive
Chinese) vested interests for a long time barred the way against the
adoption of the new foreign material. Cotton vestments and robes of
honour were occasionally presented to the Chinese emperors by foreign
ambassadors, and were highly appreciated and admired. The Emperor Ou-Ti,
whose reign commenced B.C. 502, had one of these robes; but it was not
till fifteen hundred years later that cotton began to be cultivated in
China for manufacturing purposes. Towards the end of the seventh century
the herbaceous species was grown in the gardens of Pekin, but only for
the sake of its flowers. When the country was conquered by the Mongolian
Tartars, A.D. 1280, the emperors of that dynasty took all possible pains
to extend the culture of cotton, and imposed an annual tribute of it on
several provinces. The cultivators, merchants, weavers, and wearers of
silk (which included the whole nation) regarded this as a dangerous
innovation seriously affecting their rights and habits, and zealously
tried to maintain the established usages of the people. Eventually,
however, their prejudices were overcome, and at present nine persons out
of ten in China are clad in cotton raiment.

Returning to the dark ages of Europe, and the rise of the Mahometan
power there, we find that by the end of the seventh century the
cultivation and manufacture of cotton in Arabia and Syria had become an
important industry, and had also crept along the northern coast of
Africa. When, therefore, the Saracens and Moors invaded Spain and
wrested it from the Goths (A.D. 712) they brought with them a knowledge
of the plant and its uses. Being well skilled in agriculture, they
immediately introduced in the conquered territory the cultivation of
cotton, sugar, rice, and the mulberry--the latter being in favour for
the use of its leaves as food for the silkworm. Looms were put to work
in almost every town, and the growth and weaving of cotton were carried
on with great and increasing success until the fifteenth century.
Barcelona was celebrated for its cotton sail-cloth, of which it supplied
a great quantity to ship-owners, and stout cotton stuffs like fustian
were also qualities for which the Spanish looms were famous. Cotton
paper, too, seems to have been first made by the Spanish Arabs, although
about the same time it was substituted for papyrus in Egypt. A paper was
likewise manufactured in Spain from linen rags which was much admired by
the literary men of the time. But the religious antipathy which existed
between the Moors and Christians prevented the spread of these and other
Oriental arts; so that when the Moorish domination in Spain was crushed
by the conquest of Grenada, in 1492, the manufactures which the Moors
had introduced and fostered relapsed into barbarous neglect. The cotton
plant is still found growing wild in some parts of the Peninsula. Under
the influence of the Moors cotton was cultivated in Greece, Italy,
Sicily and Malta, but upon their expulsion from Europe its growth was
transferred to the African shores of the Mediterranean.

During the sway of the Mahometans the passage of Indian commodities to
North-Western and Central Europe was so effectually barred by them that
the trade dwindled, and the demand for the products of the East almost
ceased. When the route through Egypt was closed, the Persians, who by
that time had learned the advantages of commercial intercourse with
other nations, seized the opportunity of diverting the traffic of the
Persian Gulf by the Euphrates and Tigris to Bagdad, and thence across
the Desert of Palmyra to the Mediterranean ports. But as Constantinople
was also in the hands of the Caliphs, the roads to Europe were long and
difficult. The greater part of the goods from India had, as I have
mentioned (p. 58), to be carried by land on the backs of camels with the
great caravans which, from time immemorial, have been the chief means of
commercial intercourse between the nations of Eastern, Central, and
Northern Asia, and the countries to the south and west of them.

Besides the two great caravans of pilgrims and merchants which, annually
starting from Cairo and Damascus, met at Mecca, exchanged their
merchandize there, and disseminated it on their return in every country
they passed through, there were others consisting entirely of merchants
whose sole object was commerce. These at stated seasons set out from
different parts of Persia by ancient routes, on journeys of enormous
length--those for the East visited India, and even the furthest
extremities of China. Their average rate of travel was eighteen miles
per day; and as the time of their departure and their route were both
known, they were met by the people of all the countries through which
they passed, for the purpose of sale, purchase, or barter. Hence the
establishment, as commercial gathering-places, of the great fairs, of
which that still held annually at Nijni Novgorod is a well-known
example. The value of the trade thus carried on was far beyond the
conception of any one who has not given especial attention to the
subject. That between Russia and China, which has only been discontinued
within the last few years, has been very important. In the time of Peter
the Great, though the capitals of the two empires were six thousand
three hundred and seventy-eight miles apart, and the route lay for more
than four hundred miles through an uninhabited desert, caravans
travelled regularly from one to the other. Tedious as this mode of
conveyance appears, it sufficed for the traffic in Eastern produce at a
period when the whole of Europe had but little time or taste for the
refinements of life, and but little means of purchasing them. Nations
were at that time frequently at war, the feudal barons kept their
vassals under arms, a soldier’s career was the only means of acquiring
distinction, and luxuries obtained by commerce were looked upon as
effeminate and degrading.

The arts and sciences first revived in Italy. The republics of Venice
and Genoa turned their attention to commerce, and, in the year 1204, the
Venetians, under Dandolo, and assisted by the soldiers of the fourth
crusade, took the city of Constantinople from the Greeks, and, for a
time, had the advantage of carrying on the Indian trade. They only held
it, however, for fifty-seven years; for, in 1261, the Greeks, under
Michael Palæologus, and aided by the Genoese, recovered possession of
the city, and Genoa acquired the privileges which Venice, for a short
time, had enjoyed. The Venetians then, setting aside their religious
scruples, made a treaty with the Mahometans, and obtained the produce of
India through Egypt.

The progress of the cotton trade, which had for so long been restricted,
now became more rapid. In the fourteenth century the fustians and
dimities of Venice and Milan were much esteemed, especially in Northern
Europe. Half a century later the manufacture was established in Saxony
and Suabia, whence it made its way into the Netherlands. At Bruges and
Ghent a large trade arose, especially in the fustians which were
manufactured in Prussia and Germany, and were exported thence to
Flanders and Spain.

At the end of the fifteenth century two events took place within a few
years of each other which formed an important epoch, not only in the
history of the cotton trade, but in the history of the world--namely,
the discovery of America by Columbus, and that of the passage to India
round the Cape of Good Hope by Vasco da Gama. The commerce of Genoa
having been supplanted by the Venetians, Christopher Columbus, a
Genoese, conceived the plan of sailing to India by a new course. It
having been admitted by philosophers that the world was globular, he
rightly argued that any point on it might be reached by sailing
westward, as well as by travelling eastward. He therefore laid his
scheme, first, before the Council of the Republic of Genoa, and
afterwards before the King of Portugal; but, as it was unfavourably
received by both, he persuaded Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to grant
him two ships, and with these he sailed westward in search of India, on
the 3rd of August, 1492. On his arrival, thirty days afterwards, at one
of the Bahamas, the first land he saw after crossing the Atlantic, his
vessels were surrounded by canoes filled with natives bringing cotton
yarn and thread in skeins for exchange. And when he landed in Cuba,
which he at first supposed to be the mainland of India, he saw the women
there wearing dresses made of cotton cloth, and also found in use strong
nets made of cotton cords, which the inhabitants stretched between poles
and in which they slept at night. These were called “hamacas,” whence
comes our word “hammock.” The people there had also so great a quantity
of spun cotton on spindles that it was estimated there was 12,000 lbs.
weight of it in a single house. Oviedo says the same of Hayti, and, at
the discovery of Guadaloupe, the same year, cotton thread in skeins was
found everywhere, and looms wherewith to weave it. There, as well as at
Hayti and Cuba, the idols were made of cotton, and, in 1520, Fernando
Magalhaens found the natives of Brazil using cotton for stuffing beds.
The growth and manufacture of cotton, which were the first things
brought to the notice of Columbus in the “West Indies,” and which were
soon afterwards found existing in various parts of South America, had
apparently been handed down to those who practised them from a time far
away in the past.

The Eastern Hemisphere is popularly regarded, even at the present day,
as possessing a monopoly of antiquity, or, at any rate, of ancient
civilization. It is not difficult to understand the mental process by
which this notion is produced. In the first place the mind is hardly
prepared to receive the idea that the inhabitants of countries of the
existence of which we have, comparatively, so recently become aware as
the continent of America should have attained to a high degree of
civilization long before the natives of Britain emerged from savage
barbarism. This feeling found expression in the distinctive
appellations given respectively to the two hemispheres, the “Old World”
and the “New World.” Secondly, the only written historical records that
have come down to us from the remote past relate to Europe, Asia, and
Africa. But the oldest authentic history is only yesterday’s news in
comparison with the age of the world, and that which was called “the New
World” is as old as the rest of the globe, and, apparently, was
populated at quite as early a period. For in Mexico and Central America
are found unmistakable proofs of the greatness and culture of former
dwellers in the land. Immense piles of cyclopean masonry, of
inconceivable grandeur, and incalculable antiquity; mounds and pyramids
as massive as those of Egypt, huge reservoirs for water, aqueducts,
ruins of public buildings, temples and palaces, tell of a powerful and
wealthy nation, skilled in engineering and other sciences, and in all
the important arts of civilized life. These were followed by successive
races, differing from each other in habits, laws, arts, manufactures and
religious worship. But all have passed away and out of memory as
completely as if they had never been. We know nothing of their wars or
dynasties, their prosperity or decay. Their works are their sole
history. Only their ruined monuments remain to show that they once
existed; and these are sometimes found in forest solitudes so far from
the habitations of those who now occupy their territories, that the
traveller who unexpectedly comes upon them is startled, like Crusoe by
the foot-print, to find that man has been there.

In Peru, too, the companions of Pizarro found everywhere evidence of a
vast antiquity, and of the former existence of a people fully equal to
the Romans in grandeur of conception and skill in construction of their
marvellous public works. The remains of the capital city of the Chinus
of Northern Peru cover not less than a hundred and twenty square miles.
Tombs, temples and palaces arise on every hand, ruined for centuries,
but still traceable; immense pyramidal structures, some of them half a
mile in circuit; prisons, furnaces for smelting metals, and all the
structures of a busy city may still be found there. Cieça de Leon
mentions having seen at Teahuanaca great buildings, and stones so large
and so overgrown that it was incomprehensible how the power of man could
have placed them where they were. In another place he saw enormous
gateways made of masses of stone, some of which were thirty feet long,
fifteen feet high, and six feet thick. The ancient Peruvians made
considerable use of aqueducts, which they built with great skill of hewn
stones and cement. One of these aqueducts extended four hundred and
fifty miles across sierras and rivers. Their roads, macadamized with
broken stone mixed with lime and asphalte, were described by Humboldt as
“marvellous,” and he said that none of the Roman roads he had seen in
Italy, in the south of France, or in Spain, had appeared to him more
imposing than the great road of the ancient Peruvians from Quito to
Cuzco, and through the whole length of the empire to Chili.

These were the works of men who lived thousands of years before the
times of the Incas, and amongst their manufactures was that of cotton.

In 1831, Lord Colchester brought from ancient tombs at Arica, in Peru,
and placed in the British Museum, some mummy-cloths woven of cotton, the
fibres of which seen under the microscope are very tortuous, and
resemble those of _Gossypium hirsutum_, which is probably the primitive
cotton plant of South America. The cultivation and manufacture of
cotton, therefore, in the “New World” seems to have been at least
coeval with the similar use of it in India.

When Pizarro conquered Peru, in 1532, he found the cotton manufacture
still existent and flourishing there, for the works of the Peruvians in
cotton and wool (the latter chiefly that of the vicuna) exceeded in
fineness anything known in Europe at that time. He also learned that,
from the foundation of the empire, at an unknown date, the dress of the
Inca, or Sovereign, had always been made of cotton, and of many colours,
by the “Virgins of the Sun.”

When Cortez and his comrades conquered Mexico in 1519, the people had
neither flax, nor silk, nor wool of sheep. They supplied the want of
these with cotton, fine feathers, and the fur of hares and rabbits. The
use of cotton, which had long previously existed, as is known from Aztec
hieroglyphics, was as common and almost as diversified amongst the
Mexicans as it is now amongst the nations of Europe. They made of it
clothing of every kind, hangings, defensive armour, and other things
innumerable. Cortez was so struck by the beautiful texture of some
articles that were presented to him by the natives of Yucatan, that a
few days after his arrival in Mexico he sent home to the Emperor Charles
V., amongst other rich presents, a variety of cotton mantles, some all
white, and others chequered and figured in divers colours. On the
outside they had a long nap, like a shaggy cloth, but on the inside they
were without any colour or nap. A number of “under-waistcoats,”
“handkerchiefs,” “counterpanes,” and “carpets” of cotton were also sent
to Europe by Cortez.

Columbus’s great discovery was not immediately turned to account, so far
as the cotton trade was concerned, although it was destined to be most
valuable to that industry at a later period. Astonishing as was his
success, and great and extensive as were its results in finding a “New
World” hardly inferior in magnitude to one-third of the habitable
surface of the globe, he had not achieved exactly that which was the
original object of his voyage--the discovery of a westerly course to
India. When, therefore, only six years afterwards, a direct sea route to
the East, by sailing round the Cape of Good Hope, was found, the exploit
was for some time regarded as the more important of the two, because its
probable effects were more easily perceptible.

The Portuguese, who had explored the west coasts of Africa which lay
nearest to their own country, and had made several unsuccessful attempts
to find a passage eastward, determined to make another vigorous effort
to surmount the difficulty. Accordingly, on the 8th of July, 1497, a
small squadron sailed from the Tagus, under the command of Vasco da
Gama. After a long and dangerous voyage this navigator rounded the
promontory which had for several years been the object of the hopes and
dread of his countrymen, and skirting the south-east coast, arrived at
Melinda, about two degrees north of Zanzibar. There he found a people so
far civilized that they carried on an active commerce, not only with the
nations on their own coast, but with the remote countries of Asia.
Taking some of these natives on board his ships as pilots, he sailed
across the Indian Ocean, and on the 22nd of May, 1498, landed at
Calicut, on the Malabar coast, ten months and two days after his
departure from Lisbon.

Vasco da Gama during his short stay at Melinda had little time for
inquiring into the condition of the cotton trade of the country on whose
shores he had landed, and it does not seem to have been forced upon his
attention as it was on that of Columbus. But when Odoardo Barbosa, of
Lisbon, visited South Africa eighteen years afterwards (in 1516), he
found the natives wearing clothes of cotton. In 1590, cotton cloth woven
on the coast of Guinea was imported into London from the Bight of Benin,
and modern travellers in the interior of Africa concur in the opinion
that cotton is indigenous there, and in stating that it is spun and
woven into cloth in every region of that continent. From the beauty of
the dye and the designs in some of the cotton dresses, it is justly
inferred to be a manufacture of very ancient standing. We have evidence,
therefore, that in Africa, as well as in Asia and America, the cotton
plant had a separate centre of indigenous growth, and that from a very
remote period its vegetable wool was manufactured into useful and
ornamental articles of clothing.[43]

  [43] The cotton plant was also found indigenous in the Sandwich
  Islands, the Galapagos, etc. It is doubtful whether the cotton found
  in the Bornean Archipelago had not been carried eastward from India.

The Portuguese took every possible precaution to secure the prize which
by the courage and perseverance of their admiral they had been enabled
to grasp, and to maintain the rights which priority of discovery was, in
those days, supposed to confer. A chain of forts or factories was
established for the protection of their trade; whilst for the extension
of it they took possession of Malacca, and their ships visited every
port from the Cape to Canton.

The Venetians saw with alarm the ruin that impended over them through
the successful rivalry in trade of the Portuguese, but were powerless to
prevent a competition against which their merchants were unable to
contend. They therefore formed an alliance with the Turks under the
Sultans Selim and his successor, Solyman the Magnificent, and incited
them to send a fleet against the prosperous Portuguese. They even
allowed the Turks to cut timber in the forests of Dalmatia with which to
build their ships; and when twelve of these were finished, Solyman
manned them with his Janissaries, and sent them to harass the Indian
trade. The Portuguese met them with undaunted bravery, and, after
several conflicts, vanquished the Ottoman squadron, and remained masters
of the Indian Ocean.

The immediate effect of direct communication with the East by sea was
the lowering of the prices of Indian produce. Commerce naturally sought
the cheapest market. The trade of Venice was annihilated, and the stream
of wealth that had flowed to her treasury was dried at its source. The
merchandize of India was shipped from the most convenient ports, and
conveyed cheaply, safely, and directly to Lisbon, and thence was
distributed through Europe. A plentiful supply of Indian goods at
reasonable rates caused a rapid increase in the demand for them, and
amongst the trades to which this gave an impetus was that in cotton.

Up to this period no cotton was woven in England; the small quantity
that was used for candle-wicks, &c., came either from Italy or the
Levant. Linen was first woven in England in 1253, by Flemish hands; but
for nearly a century afterwards almost all the cotton, woollen and linen
fabrics consumed there were manufactured on the continent, and a great
quantity of British wool was exported to Flanders and Holland. Edward
III., however, gave encouragement to foreign skill, and in 1328 some
Flemings settled in Manchester, and commenced the weaving of certain
cloths, which, though composed of wool, were known as “Manchester
cottons,” and thus paved the way for the great cotton manufacture for
which that part of Lancashire is now famous.

In 1560, England imported, through Antwerp, cotton brought from Italy
and the Levant, as well as that carried from India to Lisbon by the
Portuguese, and showed some anxiety to compete in its manufacture with
foreign countries. An impulse was given to this ambition in 1585 by a
fresh influx of Flemish workpeople, who, driven from their own country
to escape the cruelties of the Duke of Alba during the religious
persecution of the Low Countries by the Spaniards, found an asylum in
England, and brought with them the skill in workmanship which adjoining
States had long envied.

India, however, continued far in advance of every European country in
the spinning and weaving of cotton to nearly the middle of the
eighteenth century. The activity of the trade in her piece goods was
looked upon as ruinous to the home manufacturer, though most profitable
to the merchant, and we find Daniel Defoe, in 1708, thus lamenting, in
his ‘Weekly Review,’ the preference for Indian chintz, calico, &c.

“It crept,” he says, “into our houses, our closets, our bedchambers;
curtains, cushions, chairs, and, at last beds themselves were nothing
but calicoes and Indian stuffs, and, in short, almost everything that
used to be made of wool or silk, relating either to the dress of the
women or the furniture of our houses, was supplied by the Indian
trade.... The several goods brought from India are made five parts in
six under our price, and, being imported and sold at an extravagant
advantage, are yet capable of underselling the cheapest thing we can set

The Portuguese remained in undisturbed possession of the lucrative trade
with India till the end of the sixteenth century, when the United
Provinces of the Low Countries challenged their pretensions to an
exclusive right of commerce in the East; and in 1595, the Dutch East
India Company was formed. The English soon followed, and five years
later (in 1600) the British East India Company was incorporated by Royal
Charter. It immediately obtained from the native princes permission to
establish forts and factories, and in 1624 was invested with powers of
government. The Portuguese monopoly and predominance in the East was
overturned and crushed, and England and Holland attained supremacy in
naval power and commercial wealth.

The cotton trade did not so quickly benefit by this as might have been
expected. It remained stationary for more than a century afterwards. But
in 1738 commenced the history of those wonderful inventions which by
giving the power of almost unlimited production to our people
revolutionized the manufacturing world. England, which two centuries ago
imported only £5000 worth of raw cotton, now pays more than £40,000,000
(forty million pounds) sterling every year for her supply for twelve
months;[44] and as this supply is drawn from every quarter of the globe,
she can appreciate the effect upon her cotton trade of the various
maritime discoveries mentioned in these pages. From the country
discovered by Columbus, and populated chiefly by her own offspring,
England receives by far the largest portion of her requirements. The
route round Cape Horn, discovered by Fernando Magalhaens in 1520, has
its advantages as another road to the colonies and Eastern possessions
of Great Britain. The course round the Cape of Good Hope, by which Vasco
da Gama navigated his ships to Calicut, was for three and a half
centuries the main road between India and Western Europe for personal
intercourse, as well as the conveyance of heavy goods, such as cotton;
and, though long, it was direct, and comparatively cheap. But the
superiority of the first sea-route originally established by the
foresight and genius of the great Macedonian conqueror was demonstrated
in 1845, when Lieutenant Waghorn, a young officer in the service of the
East India Company, with invincible ardour, and determined perseverance
against official obstruction and innumerable obstacles, once more made
Egypt the causeway between Europe and India. Alexandria, built on a site
admirably chosen by its founder as a centre of commercial traffic, and
placed by the prudence of his engineers just sufficiently far from the
outflow of the Nile to be free from the danger of its harbour being
silted up by the sediment of that muddy river, again became the port of
arrival and departure: but increased skill in seamanship and the command
of steam power having diminished the risk and difficulty of navigating
the upper part of the Red Sea, Suez, the ancient Arsinoe, was selected
for the corresponding depôt, as offering a shorter passage by land from
sea to sea than the old road by Berenice, Coptos, and the Nile. Waghorn
bravely carried out his scheme in the face of the most vexatious
opposition and discouragement. He built at his own expense eight
halting-places in the desert between Cairo and Suez, provided carriages
for passengers, and placed small steamers on the Nile and on the canal
of Alexandria. At last the British and the Indian authorities, who had
thrown every obstacle in his way, with an obstinate perversity which
would be almost incredible if it were unique, graciously consented to
countenance his plans, and to allow the mail bags to and from India to
reach their destination six weeks earlier than by their former journey.
Thus Thomas Waghorn brought England and her Eastern possessions by that
much nearer to each other, and for this achievement deserves the
gratitude of his countrymen and an honourable place in history.

  [44] The importation of cotton into Liverpool and London in 1886 was
  as follows:--

    American               1,317,562,480
    Brazilian                 33,832,400
    Egyptian                 173,340,000
    West India, etc.           9,529,910
    Surat                    148,306,700
    Madras                    26,729,200
    Bengal and Rangoon        32,324,600
          Total            1,741,625,290

  The prices of the different kinds of cotton vary according to their
  respective qualities, and are also influenced by the fluctuations of
  their market value. During 1886 the best Egyptian cotton was sometimes
  sold as high as 7½_d._ per lb., and the inferior as low as 3¾_d._ per

  The total value of the cotton imported during 1886 was, as I have
  said, rather over £40,000,000 sterling.

The new route was, however, unsuitable to the enormous traffic in
merchandize to and from the East. The unloading of cargoes at Alexandria
or Suez, their “portage” across the desert, and their re-shipment on
other vessels at the further side of the Isthmus, was too tedious,
laborious, and expensive to be practicable; therefore the “Overland
Route” was chiefly used for the rapid conveyance of the European mails,
passengers, and light goods, whilst the heavy merchandize, such as
cotton bales, was conveyed round the Cape as before.

In 1869, a feat of engineering was completed, the importance of which it
is impossible to exaggerate. By the cutting of a deep and wide canal
through the narrow strip of land which had previously barred the passage
by sea round the north-eastern corner of Africa, a water-way was opened
between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, by which large ships can pass
from one sea to the other without unloading their cargoes. All honour to
M. de Lesseps, who, in spite of difficulties apparently insurmountable,
successfully accomplished this work! He had to contend against grave
political considerations, national prejudices and jealousies, religious
fanaticism, vested interests, and the faithless treachery and grasping
avarice of local officials. It appears to me that amidst political
complications, conflicting interests, the war of tariffs, and financial
arrangements, the credit and appreciation most justly due to the author
of the Suez Canal have been but grudgingly given. But his posthumous
fame will be lasting, and his name will be renowned in the future
amongst those of the great path-finders and road-makers of the world,
whose discoveries and achievements have largely benefited mankind.

The white fleeces of the wool that Alexander and his admiral saw growing
on trees in India is again conveyed to Europe by the route planned for
it by the great chieftain of Macedon. The water-way which he possibly
suggested, and which the son of his general and confidant, Ptolemy,
endeavoured, but failed, to cut, has been successfully laid open. And,
although we now draw our chief supply of cotton from the western country
discovered by Columbus, one result of increased facility of
communication with the East, in conjunction with perfection of
machinery, is that the vegetable wool coming therefrom, after giving
employment to thousands of our people, and adding to our national
prosperity, is returned by the same route, manufactured into various
fabrics wherewith to clothe the people who cultivated it.

The subject of this chapter being the cotton trade, I need offer no
apology for regarding so many of the great events of history from the
point of view of their influence, especially, upon cotton as an article
of commerce. Although, however, cotton is but a small item amongst the
products of India, the lesson which its history forces upon all
Englishmen (without distinction of religious creed, social rank, or
political party) concerning the country from which it was first received
in Europe and Asia is, that the possession of India confers wealth and
power on her European rulers, and that Egypt is the highway to it. The
nation that holds India must grasp it firmly lest it be snatched from
its keeping, must guard carefully and hold strongly the road to it, and
must be prepared to fight for either or both, if necessary, against any
combination of enemies. For now, as in times gone by, jealous eyes are
fixed upon it, and their owners only await an opportunity to put in
practice that which Wordsworth makes his Rob Roy call

                      “the good old rule,
                   ... the simple plan,
    That he shall take who has the power,
    And he shall keep who can!”


A (p. 2).


Sir John Mandeville, or Maundeville, was of a family that came into
England with the Conqueror. He is said to have been a man of learning
and substance, and had studied physic and natural philosophy. He was
also a good and conscientious man, and was, moreover, the greatest
traveller of his time. John Bale, in his catalogue of British writers,
says of him that “he was so well given to the study of learning from his
childhood that he seemed to plant a good part of his felicitie in the
same; for he supposed that the honour of his birth would nothing availe
him except he could render the same more honourable by his knowledge in
good letters. He therefore well grounded himself in religion by reading
the Scriptures, and also applied his studies to the art of physicke, a
profession worthy a noble wit; but amongst other things he was ravished
with a mighty desire to see the greater parts of the world, as Asia and
Africa. Having provided all things necessary for his journey, he
departed from his country in the yeere of Christ 1322, and, as another
Ulysses, returned home after the space of thirty-four years, and was
then known to a very few. In the time of his travaile he was in Scythia,
the greater and lesser Armenia, Egypt, both Libyas, Arabia, Syria,
Media, Mesopotamia, Persia, Chaldea, Greece, Illyrium, Tartarie and
divers other kingdoms of the World, and having gotten by this means the
knowledge of the languages, lest so many and great varieties and things
miraculous whereof himself had been an eie-witness should perish in
oblivion, he committed his whole travell of thirty-four yeeres to
writing in three divers tongues--English, French, and Latine. Being
arrived again in England, having seen the wickedness of that age, he
gave out this speech;--‘In our time,’ he said, ‘it may be spoken more
truly than of old that virtue is gone; the Church is under foot; the
clergie is in erreur; the Devill raigneth, and Simone beareth the

A man who in the first part of the fourteenth century could conceive,
and for thirty-four years persist in carrying out, the intention of
travelling from one country to another over a great part of the
habitable globe, must have possessed remarkable qualifications. Indeed,
his achievements were so extraordinary, and his narrative agrees in so
many particulars with that of the travels of Marco Polo, that it has
been suggested that he may never have gone to the East at all, but
compiled his book from the journals of his predecessor. But it seems to
me impossible to doubt the correctness of Mr. Halliwell’s opinion that
this suggestion is wholly unjustifiable, and that, after perusal of the
volume, the judgment of any impartial reader would repudiate such a
supposition. Sir John Mandeville met with credit and respect in his own
day, and the transcriber on vellum of a small folio MS. copy of his
book, written in double columns certainly not more than twenty years
after his death, prefaces it in a manner which shows that he entertained
no doubt concerning it.

There are several editions of Sir John Mandeville’s account of his
‘Voiages.’ The most useful to the general reader are, 1st, that printed
in London, in 1725, from a manuscript in the Cottonian collection; 2nd,
a reprint of the above, with a few notes by Mr. J. O. Halliwell, and
various illustrations, which are _fac-simile_ copies by F. W. Fairholt,
from the older editions and manuscripts in the Harleian collection,
published by Lumley in 1837; and, 3rd, a reprint of this later edition,
published by F. S. Ellis, in 1866.

Sir John Mandeville died at Liege on the 17th of November, 1371. His
fellow-townsmen of St. Albans appear to have believed that his body was
brought home to the place of his birth, and buried in St. Albans Abbey,
for the following doggrel verses were inscribed as his epitaph on one of
the pillars there:--

    “All ye that pass by, on this pillar cast eye,
    This Epitaph read if you can;
    ‘Twill tell you a Tombe once stood in this room
    Of a brave, spirited man,
    Sir John Mandevil by name, a knight of great fame,
    Born in this honoured Towne;
    Before him was none that ever was knowne
    For travaile of so high renowne.
    As the Knights in the Temple cross-legged in Marble,
    In armour with sword and with shield,
    So was this Knight grac’d which Time hath defac’d
    That nothing but Ruines doth yield.
    His travailes being done, he shines like the Sun
    In heavenly Canaan.
    To which blessed place the Lord, of His grace,
    Bring us all, man after man.”

There is no doubt, however, that Sir John Mandeville was buried in the
Abbey of the Gulielmites in the town of Liege, where he died; for
Abrahamus Ortelius, in his ‘Itinerarium Belgiæ’ (p. 16), has printed the
following epitaph there set over him:--

“_Hic jacet vir nobilis Dominus Johannes de Mandeville, aliter dictus ad
Barbam, Miles, Dominus de Campdi, natus de Angliâ, medicine professor,
devotissimus orator, et bonorum largissimus pauperibus erogator; qui
toto quasi orbe lustrato Leodii diem viti sui clausit extremum Anno
Domini 1371, Mensis Novembris die 17._”

Ortelius adds, that upon the same stone with the epitaph is engraven a
man in armour with a forked beard, treading upon a lion, and at his head
a hand of one blessing him, and these words in old French: “_Vos ki
paseis sor mi, pour l’amour Deix proies por mi_”--that is, “Ye that pass
over me, for the love of God pray for me.” There is also a void place
for an escutcheon, whereon, Ortelius was told, there was formerly a
brass plate with the arms of the deceased knight engraven thereon--viz.,
a Lion _argent_ with a Lunet _gules_, at his breast, in a Field _azure_,
and a Border engraled _or_. The clergy of the Abbey also exhibited the
knives, the horse-furniture, and the spurs used by Sir John Mandeville
in his travels. John Weever, in his ‘Ancient Funeral Monuments’ (p.
568), says that he saw the above epitaph at Liege, and also the
following verses hanging near by on a tablet:--

    Hoc jacet in tumulo cui totus patria vivo
    Orbis erat: totium quem peragrasse ferunt
    Anglus, Equesque fuit; num ille Britannus Ulysses
    Dicatur, Graio clarus, Ulysse magis.
    Moribus, ingenio, candore, et sanguine clarus,
    Et vere cultor Religionis erat
    Nomen si quæras est Mandevil, Indus, Arabsque,
    Sat notum dicit finibus esse suis._”

B (p. 8).


Odoricus did not write his account of his travels with his own hand, but
dictated it to his brother friar, William de Solanga, who wrote it as
Odoricus related it. Having “testified and borne witness to the Rev.
Father Guidolus, minister of the province of S. Anthony, in the
Marquesate of Treviso (being by him required upon his obedience so to
do), that all that he described he had seen with his own eyes, or heard
the same reported by credible and substantial witnesses,” Odoricus
prepared to set out on another and a longer journey “into all the
countries of the heathen.” He, therefore, determined to present himself
to Pope John XXII., and to obtain his benediction on his missionary
enterprise. Accordingly, at the commencement of the year 1331, he left
Utina with this intention. On his way, however, he was met, near Pisa,
by an old man who, hailing him by his name, told him that he had known
him in India, and warned him to return to his monastery, “for that in
ten days thence he would depart from this present world.” Having said
this, he vanished from sight. Odoricus obeyed the admonition, and
returned to Utina “in perfect health, feeling no crazednesse nor
infirmity of body. And being in his convent the tenth day after the
forsayd vision, having received the Communion, and prepared himself unto
God, yea, being strong and sound of body, he happily rested in the Lord,
whose sacred departure was signified to the Pope aforesaid under the
hand of the public notary of Utina.” Odoricus died January 14th, 1331,
and was beatified.

C (p. 11).


Sigismund von Herberstein was born at Vippach, in Styria, in 1486. He
distinguished himself so greatly in the war against the Turks that the
Emperor entrusted him with various missions, and made him successively
commandant of the Styrian cavalry, privy councillor, and president of
finance of Austria. During two periods of residence at Moscow, in all
about sixteen months, as ambassador from the Emperor Maximilian to the
Grand Duke of Muscovy, Vasilez Ivanovich, he earnestly studied and
sagaciously observed everything that came under his notice, and
neglected nothing which could instruct or profit him. His work on
Russia, above referred to, is universally regarded as the best ancient
history of that State. He renounced public life in 1555, and died in

D (p. 14).


Julius Cæsar Scaliger, born in 1484, probably at Padua, was one of the
most celebrated of the many great writers of the sixteenth century. He
was a man of real talent, but of unbounded vanity and unscrupulous
ambition. Originally baptized “Jules,” he added “Cæsar” to his name,
and, to enhance his own merits by the éclat of high birth, made for
himself a false genealogy, and asserted that he was the hero of
adventures in which he had taken no part. In order to force himself into
notice he attacked Erasmus, and in two harangues, which the latter
disdained to answer, used towards him the grossest invectives. Scaliger
next directed his insolent hostility against Girolamo Cardano. Jealous
of the fame of the great Pavian physician and mathematician, he, in a
critique containing more insults than arguments, ferociously assailed
Cardano’s treatise, “_De Subtilitate_”; and so exaggerated was the
estimate he formed of the effect of his diatribes on the objects of his
malice, that when Erasmus died, and a false rumour of the decease of
Cardano was spread abroad, he believed, or affected to believe, that the
death of both had been caused by his conduct towards them, and in the
course of a fulsome eulogy expressed his regret for having deprived the
world of letters of two such valuable lives. Scaliger died in 1558, aged
seventy-five years.

E (p. 21).


Jean de Struys, in 1647, shipped at Amsterdam as sailmaker’s mate on
board a vessel bound to Genoa. On arriving there the ship was bought by
the Republic, equipped as a privateer, and sent to the East Indies. She
was, however, captured by the Dutch, and Struys took service on board a
ship belonging to the Dutch East India Company, and after visiting Siam,
Japan, Formosa, &c., he returned to Holland in 1681. Having stayed at
home with his father for four years, he went to sea again, but finding
at Venice an armed flotilla on the point of departure to fight the
Turks, he joined it, was several times taken prisoner, and as often
escaped or was rescued. In 1657 he returned to Holland, was married, and
led a quiet life for ten years, but hearing that the Tzar was fitting
out at Amsterdam some vessels to go to Persia by the Caspian Sea,
“nothing,” to use his own words, “could hold him back.” He therefore
started in a vessel bound to the Baltic, landed at Riga, and found his
way overland, through Moscow and by the Oka and Volga to Astrachan. In
June, 1670, the fleet in which he served set sail for the Caspian. His
vessel went ashore on the coast of Daghestan, and he was made prisoner
and taken to the Kan or Tchamkal of Bayance, by whom he was sold as a
slave to a Persian. After passing through the possession of several
masters he was bought by a Georgian, an ambassador to the King of
Poland, who allowed him to purchase his freedom. On the 30th of October,
1671, he joined a caravan travelling to Ispahan, made his way to the
coast, embarked for Batavia, and, after innumerable adventures, arrived
in Holland in 1673, and retired to Ditmarsch, where he died in 1694. His
memoirs of his life were published in Dutch, at Amsterdam, in 1677, and
translated into German in the following year, and into French in 1681.

F (p. 28).


Furnished with letters of introduction to Dr. Areskine, chief physician
and privy councillor to the Czar Peter I., Bell “embarked at London in
July, 1714, on board the _Prosperity_ of Ramsgate, Captain Emerson, for
St. Petersburg.” As the Czar was about to send an ambassador, Artemis
Petronet Valewsky, to “the Sophy of Persia, Schach Hussein,” Bell, by
the good offices of Dr. Areskine, obtained an appointment in his suite,
and set out from St. Petersburg on the 15th of July, 1715. He kept a
diary, and was evidently an enlightened, discriminating and careful

G (p. 52).



The following is the story referred to in the text. It well illustrates
the process by which the first rumour concerning cotton--that “wool as
white and soft as that of a lamb grew on trees”--was exaggerated to a
statement that “lambs grew on certain trees,” and were, therefore,
partly animal and partly vegetable.

    Two honest tradesmen, meeting in the Strand,
    One took the other briskly by the hand.
    “Hark ye,” said he, “’tis an odd story this
    About the crows!” “I don’t know what it is,”
    Replied his friend. “No? I’m surprised at that,--
    Where I come from it is the common chat;
    But you shall hear an odd affair indeed!
    And that it happened they are all agreed:
    Not to detain you from a thing so strange,
    A gentleman who lives not far from ‘Change,
    This week, in short, as all the Alley knows,
    Taking a vomit, threw up three black crows!”
    “Impossible!” “Nay, but ‘tis really true;
    I had it from good hands, and so may you.”
    “From whose, I pray?” So, having named the man,
    Straight to inquire his curious comrade ran.
    “Sir, did you tell?”--relating the affair--
    “Yes, sir, I did; and, if ‘tis worth your care,
    ‘Twas Mr.--such a one--who told it me;
    But, by-the-bye, ‘twas _two_ black crows, _not three_!”
    Resolved to trace so wonderous an event,
    Quick to the third the virtuoso went.
    “Sir,”--and so forth. “Why, yes; the thing is fact,
    Though in regard to number not exact;
    It was not _two_ black crows, ‘twas only _one_!
    The truth of which you may depend upon;
    The gentleman himself told me the case.”
    “Where may I find him?” “Why in--” such a place.
    Away he went, and having found him out,
    “Sir, be so good as to resolve a doubt;”
    Then to his last informant he referred,
    And begged to know if true what he had heard.
    “Did you, sir, throw up a black crow?” “Not I!”
    “Bless me, how people propagate a lie!
    Black crows have been thrown up, _three_, _two_, and _one_;
    And here, I find, all comes at last to _none_!
    Did you say nothing of a crow at all?”
    “Crow?--crow?--perhaps I might; now I recall
    The matter over.” “And pray, sir, what was’t?”
    “Why, I was horrid sick, and at the last
    I did throw up, and told my neighbours so,
    Something that was--_as black_, sir, _as a crow_.”

H (p. 71).


This magnificent collection, founded by Ptolemy Soter, and added to by
his successors, was twice partially dispersed before its total
destruction by the Saracens. A great portion of it was burned during the
siege of Alexandria by Julius Cæsar, B.C. 48. The lost volumes were in
some measure replaced by Antony, who (B.C. 36) presented to Cleopatra,
the library of the Kings of Pergamus. At the death of Cleopatra,
Alexandria passed into the power of the Romans, and this second
collection was partly destroyed by fire when the Emperor Theodosius I.
suppressed paganism, A.D. 390. The Alexandrine Library met its memorable
fate in 638, when, after a vigorous resistance for fourteen months, the
city was taken by Amru, the general of Caliph Omar. Abdallah, the
Arabian historian, and favourite of Saladin (1200), gives the following
account of this catastrophe. “John Philoponus, surnamed the Grammarian,
being at Alexandria when the Saracens entered the city, was admitted to
familiar intercourse with Amru, and presumed to solicit a gift,
inestimable in his opinion, but contemptible in that of the
barbarians,--and that was the royal library. Amru was inclined to
gratify his wish, but his rigid integrity scrupled to alienate the least
object without the consent of the Caliph. He accordingly wrote to Omar,
whose well-known answer is a notable example of ignorant fanaticism.
‘If,’ said he, ‘these writings of the Greeks agree with the Koran they
are useless, and need not be preserved; if they disagree with the book
of God they are pernicious, and ought to be destroyed.’ The sentence of
destruction was executed with blind obedience; the volumes of paper or
parchment were distributed to the 4,000 baths of the city; and so great
was their number that six weeks was barely sufficient time for the
consumption of this precious fuel.”


  Ahasuerus, cotton hangings in the palace of, at Shushan, 66
  Alexander the Great, descent of the Indus and Hydaspes by, 68
      „          „     sagacity and wise policy of, 67, 72
      „          „     opens up the Euphrates and Tigris, 71
      „          „     selects the site of Alexandria, 68
      „          „     Europe indebted to, for the introduction of
                       cotton, 72
  Alexandria made the centre of the Indian trade, 72
      „      Lighthouse, Library, and Temple of Serapis at, 71
      „      destruction of the Library of--Appendix H, 105
  Amasis II., Corselet padded with cotton presented to Sparta by King,
  Aristobulus mentions “a tree bearing wool, which was carded,” 47
       „      report by, of the great heat at Susiana-Shushan, 66
  Arrian’s account of the cotton trade in his day, 73

  Barnacle Geese, the fable of, compared with that of the Barometz, 52
  Barometz the, described by Sir John Mandeville, 2
      „       „       „      Claude Duret, 5, 16
      „       „       „      Talmudical writers, 6
      „       „       „      Odoricus of Friuli, 8
      „       „       „      Fortunio Liceti, 11
      „       „       „      Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, 11
      „       „       „      Sigismund von Herberstein, 11
      „       „       „      Guillaume Postel, 13
      „       „       „      Michel, the Interpreter, 13
      „       „       „      Girolamo Cardano, 13
      „       „       „      Julius Cæsar Scaliger, 14
      „       „       „      Antonius Deusingius, 15
      „       „       „      Athanasius Kircher, 21
      „       „       „      Jean de Struys, 21
      „       „  in verse by Guillaume de Saluste, Sieur du Bartas, 17
      „       „       „      Joshua Sylvester, translator of the above,
      „       „       „      Dr. Erasmus Darwin, 35
      „       „       „      Dr. De la Croix, 36
      „       „   sought for by Dr. Engelbrecht Kaempfer, 23
      „       „       „      „  John Bell, of Autermony, 28, Appendix F,
      „       „       „      „  the Abbé Chappe d’Auteroche, 30
  Barometz, origin of the word, 23
      „     the fable of the, 1
      „        „        „     compared with that of the “Barnacle
                              Geese,” 52
      „        „        „     its various phases and transformations, 1,
  Bartas, the Sieur du, lines by, on the Barometz, 17
  Bell, John, seeks ineffectually the “Vegetable Lamb,” 28
  Borametz. _See_ Barometz.
  Breyn, Dr., describes to the Royal Society his Chinese artificial
  “Lamb,” 30
  British Museum, specimen of the “Scythian Lamb” in, 24, 43
  Buckley, Mr., Chinese articles presented to the Royal Society by, 27
     „      „   his Chinese dog fashioned from rhizome of a fern, 27

  Canal from Suez to the East Nile commenced by Ptolemy Philadelphus, 71
    „     „     „    Aden, constructed by De Lesseps, 94
  Cape route, the, discovered by Vasco da Gama, 83, 88
  Cardano describes the “Vegetable Lamb,” 13
     „    exposes the unreasonableness of believing the fable, 14
  Central America, ancient use of cotton in, 85, 86
  Chappe d’Auteroche, the Abbé seeks for the “Barometz,” 30
  Chinese artificial dogs made from root-stocks of ferns, 27, 28, 34,
  39, 44
  Columbus finds cotton in use in America, 84
  Cotton, its use of great antiquity in India, 65
    „     reaches Persia from India, 66
    „     hangings of, in the palace of Ahasuerus at Shushan, 66
    „     found in use in India by Alexander the Great, 58
    „     piece-goods introduced into Europe by the Macedonians, 72
    „     shipped from Patala and Barygaza to Aduli, 72
    „     conveyed by a circuitous coasting route, 73
    „         „    in a straight course by Hippalus, 73
    „         „    by the Romans viâ Palmyra, 74
    „     the trade in, through Egypt, checked by the Saracens, 74
    „     ancient Egyptians unacquainted with, 75
    „     breast-plate padded with, sent by King Amasis to Sparta, 46,
    „     Mark Antony’s soldiers wear, in Egypt, 76
    „     Egyptians, till the 17th century, importers, not growers of,
    „     in Rome and Greece manufactured by slaves, 78
    „     vestments presented to ancient Emperors of China, 79
    „     manufactured by the Moors and Saracens in Spain, 80
    „     paper made from, by the Spanish Arabs, 80
    „     manufacture in Spain relapsed after the conquest of Grenada,
    „     conveyed by Tartar caravans from India to Europe, 56, 57, 58,
          81, 82
          conveyed again through Egypt by the Venetians, 82
    „     manufacture in Saxony, the Netherlands, and Germany, 83
    „     found by Columbus in daily use in the West Indies, 84
    „        „     Magalhaens in use in Brazil, 84
    „     used by the ancient Mexicans and Peruvians, 85, 86
    „     mummy cloths brought from ancient Peruvian tombs, 86
    „     imported into England in the 16th century through Antwerp, 91
    „     statistics, 92
    „     now crosses from India by the route planned by Alexander, 95
  Cotton-plant, the, described by Theophrastus, 47
        „        „        „       Pomponius Mela, 48
        „        „        „       Julius Pollux, 49
        „       botany of the, 63
        „       the, indigenous to India, 64
        „        „   noticed in India by Alexander and his army, 58
        „       culture of the, in China encouraged by the Mongols, 79
        „        „        „        Arabia and Syria, 77
        „        „        „        Spain by the Saracens and Moors, 80
        „        „        „          „   relapsed after the conquest of
                                         Grenada, 80
        „       the, still grows wild in the Peninsula, 81
  Cotton-wool the fleece of the “Scythian Lamb,” 63
  Ctesias writes of the “trees that bear wool,” 46

  Danielovich, Demetrius, describes the “Vegetable Lamb” to Von
  Herberstein, 12
  Darwin, Dr. Erasmus, lines by, on the “Barometz,” 35
  De la Croix, Dr., Latin lines by, on the Barometz, 36
  Deusingius, Antonius, disbelieves the animal-plant monstrosity, 15
  Dicksonia barometz a tree-fern, 40
      „        „     toy dogs made from rhizomes of, by the Chinese, 41
      „        „     does not grow in Tartary or Scythia, 44
  Duret, Claude, describes the “Barometz,” 3
    „      „     avows his entire belief in the rumour, 16

  East India Company incorporated, 92
  Egypt, the route from India to Europe planned by Alexander, 68, 93, 95
    „    conquest of, by the Saracens, 7
    „    the country of flax, 75, 79
    „    the high road to India to be guarded, 96
  Egyptian maritime traffic with the East lasted 1000 years, 74
  Egyptians, the ancient, unacquainted with cotton, 75
      „      till the 17th century importers not growers of cotton, 77

  Ferns, models of dogs made of, by the Chinese, 27, 28, 34, 39, 44
    „    their economic value, 40, 41
  Flemish weavers settle in Manchester, 90

  General belief in the “Vegetable Lamb,” 2

  Hebrew, ancient, version of the fable, 6
  Herberstein, Sigismund von, describes the “Vegetable Lamb,” 11
  Herodotus writes of trees bearing for their fruit fleeces of wool, 46
  Hippalus notices the monsoons, 73

  India, use of cotton in, mentioned by Herodotus, 46
    „         „         „         „     Ctesias, 46
    „         „         „         „     Nearchus, 46
    „         „         „         „     Aristobulus, 47
    „         „         „         „     Strabo, 47
    „    the Indo-Scythia of the ancients, 57
    „    cotton indigenous to, 64
    „    trade with opened by Alexander viâ Egypt, 68
    „         „     viâ the Euphrates and Tigris, 71
    „         „     restored to Egypt by the Venetians, 82
    „    the Cape route to, discovered by Vasco da Gama, 83, 88
  Indo-Scythia, identical with Scinde and the Punjab, 57

  Japanese artificial mermaids compared with Chinese toy-dogs, 42, 54
  Jadua, or Jeduah, the, 7

  Kircher, Athanasius, declares the Barometz to be a plant, 21
  Kaempfer, Dr. Engelbrecht, searches ineffectually for the Vegetable
                             Lamb, 23
     „       „       „       suggests that the fable refers to Astrachan
                             lamb skins, 23

  Lamb, the “Scythian,” why so called, 56
   „     „     „        see “Barometz.”
   „     „  “Tartarian,” why so called, 59
   „     „     „        see “Barometz.”
   „     „  Vegetable, its fleece cotton wool, 60
   „     „     „        see “Barometz.”
  Lesseps, De, constructs the Suez Canal, 94
  Liceti, Fortunio, says the “Vegetable Lamb” was “as white as snow,” 11
  Loureiro, Juan de, describes the making of artificial dogs from ferns,

  Magalhaens, Fernando, discovers the route round Cape Horn, 84
  Manchester, Flemish weavers settle in, 90
  Mandeville, Sir John, describes the “Vegetable Lamb,” 2
       „      „     „   biographical sketch of--Appendix A, 97
  Mela, Pomponius, describes the cotton-plant, 48
  Mermaids, Japanese, compared with Chinese dogs, 42, 54
  Mexicans, the ancient, use of cotton by, 85, 86
  Michel, the Interpreter, describes the “Vegetable Lamb” and its uses,
  Monsoons, the, noticed by Hippalus, 73
  Museum, British, supposed “Scythian Lamb” in the, 24, 43
     „    Natural History. _See_ Museum, British.
     „    Hunterian, R. Coll. Surgeons, supposed Scythian Lamb in the,

  Nearchus mentions the “wool-bearing trees,” 46
     „     descent of the Indus by, 68
  Nieremberg, on the “Vegetable Lamb,” 11

  Odoricus of Friuli describes the “Vegetable Lamb,” 8
     „          „    curious incident in the life of--Appendix B, 100

  Peruvians, the ancient, use of cotton by, 86, 87
  Pliny confuses cotton with flax, 48
  Pollux, Julius, describes the cotton-plant, 49
  Postel, Guillaume, informs von Herberstein of the “wool-bearing
  plant,” 13
  Ptolemy Soter follows Alexander’s policy and takes possession of
                Egypt, 71
    „       „   founds the lighthouse, library and temple at Alexandria,
    „     Philadelphus commences a canal from Suez to the East Nile, 71

  Royal Society, supposed “Scythian Lamb” laid before the, by Sir Hans
  Sloane, 24
  Royal Society, supposed “Scythian Lamb” laid before the, by Dr. Breyn,

  Saluste, Guillaume de, Sieur du Bartas. _See_ “Bartas.”
  Scaliger, Julius Cæsar, attacks Cardano on the subject of the
  “Barometz,” 14
  Scythian Lamb, the, why so called, 56
      „     „     „   see “Barometz.”
  Scythians, the, describe snow as “feathers,” 51
  Scythia-Indo the same as Scinde and the Punjab, 57
     „    in Asia identical with Tartary, 57
     „    Parva identical with certain districts of Silistria and
  Bessarabia, 57
  Shushan, cotton hangings in the palace of Ahasuerus at, 66
  Sloane, Sir Hans, lays before the Royal Society a supposed “Scythian
                    Lamb,” 24
     „     „    „   identification of the above by, unsatisfactory, 28
     „     „    „   bequest by, to the Nation, 43
  Strabo mentions the “wool-bearing trees,” 47
  Strauss Jans Janszoon. _See_ “Struys.”
  Struys, Jean de, mentions the “Barometz,” 21
     „       „     doubts the “animal” version of the story, 22
  Suez Canal completed by De Lesseps, 94

  Talmudical writers mention the “Barometz,” under the name of “Jadua,”
  Tartary identical with Scythia in Asia, 57
  Tartar caravans, cotton conveyed by, to Europe, 56, 57, 58, 81, 82
  Tartarian Lamb, the, why so called, 59
      „      „      „  see “Barometz.”
  Theophrastus writes of the cultivation of the “wool-bearing tree,” 47
       „       exactly describes the cotton-plant, 48
  Trees, wool-bearing, described by Herodotus, 46
     „          „          „        Ctesias, 46
     „          „          „        Nearchus, 46
     „          „          „        Aristobulus, 47
     „          „          „        Strabo, 47
     „          „          „        Theophrastus, 47
     „          „          „        Pomponius Mela, 48
     „          „          „        Pliny, 48
     „          „          „        Julius Pollux, 49

  Vasco da Gama opens the Cape route to India, 83, 88
  Vegetable Lamb, the, its fleece cotton wool, 60
      „      „     „   see “Barometz.”

  Waghorn, Lieut., opens the route across the desert, 93
  Wool-bearing trees. _See_ Trees, wool-bearing.

  Zavolha, the, a renowned Tartar horde, 12, 14


Transcriber’s Notes:

Page 24, footnote [14]: The footnote anchor was missing in the source
document, anchor [14] has been inserted where it seems to fit best.

The original language has been retained, including inconsistencies in
spelling, except as mentioned below. Inconsistent lay-out has not been
changed either.

Page 102, ... he returned to Holland in 1681: this seems unlikley in
the context, possibly the year should be 1651.

Changes made to the original text:

Footnotes and illustrations have been moved.

Some wrong or missing punctuation has been corrected or added, some
minor typographical errors have been corrected silently.

Several index entries have been changed to make their spelling conform
to that used in the text.

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