On the Magnet/II-2
Attraction of Amber, or more truly, on the
Attaching of Bodies to Amber.
ἤλεκτρον because it attracts straws to itself, when it is warmed by rubbing; then it is called ἅρπαξ; and χρυσοφόρον from its golden colour. But the Moors call it Carabe, because they are accustomed to offer the same in sacrifices and in the worship of the Gods. For Carab signifies to offer in Arabic; so Carabe, an offering: or seizing chaff, as Scaliger quotes from Abohalis, out of the Arabic or Persian language. Some also call it Amber, especially the Indian and Ethiopian amber, called in Latin Succinum, as if it were a juice. The Sudavienses or Sudini call it geniter, as though it were generated terrestrially. The errors of the ancients concerning its nature and origin having been exploded, it is certain that amber comes for the most part from the sea, and the rustics collect it on the coast after the more violent storms, with nets and other tackle; as among the Sudini of Prussia; and it is also found sometimes on the coast of our own Britain. It seems, however, to be produced also in the soil and at spots of some depth, like other bitumens; to be washed out by the waves of the sea; and to become concreted more firmly from the nature and saltness of the sea-water. For it was at first a soft and viscous material; wherefore also it contains enclosed and entombed in pieces of it, shining in eternal sepulchres, flies, grubs, gnats, ants; which have all flown or crept or fallen into it when it first flowed forth in a liquid state. The ancients and also more recent writers recall (experience proving the same thing), that amber attracts straws and chaff. The same is also done by jet, which is dug out of the earth in Britain, in Germany, and in very many lands, and is a rather hard concretion from black bitumen, and as it were a transformation into stone. There are many modern authors who have written and copied from others about amber and jet attracting chaff, and about other substances generally unknown; with whose labours the shops of booksellers are crammed. Our own age has produced many books about hidden, abstruse, and occult causes and wonders, in all of which amber and jet are set forth as enticing chaff; but they treat the subject in words alone, without finding any reasons or proofs from experiments, their very statements obscuring the thing in a greater fog, forsooth in a cryptic, marvellous, abstruse, secret, occult, way. Wherefore also such philosophy produces no fruit, because very many philosophers, making no investigation themselves, unsupported by any practical experience, idle and inert, make no progress by their records, and do not see what light they can bring to their theories; but their philosophy rests simply on the use of certain Greek words, or uncommon ones; after the manner of our gossips and barbers nowadays, who make show of certain Latin words to an ignorant populace as the insignia of their craft, and snatch at the popular favour. For it is not only amber and * jet (as they suppose) which entice small bodies; but Diamond, Sapphire, Carbuncle, Iris gem, Opal, Amethyst, Vincentina, and Bristolla (an English gem or spar), Beryl, and Crystal do the same. Similar powers of attraction are seen also to be possessed by glass (especially when clear and lucid), as also by false gems made of glass or Crystal, by glass of antimony, and by many kinds of spars from the mines, and by Belemnites. Sulphur also attracts, and mastick, and hard sealing-wax compounded of lac tinctured of various colours. Rather hard resin entices, as does orpiment, but less strongly; with difficulty also and indistinctly under a suitable dry sky, Rock salt, muscovy stone, and rock alum. This one may see when the air is sharp and clear and rare in mid-winter, when the emanations from the earth hinder electricks less, and the electrick bodies become * more firmly indurated; about which hereafter. These substances draw everything, not straws and chaff only, but all metals, woods, leaves, stones, earths, even water and oil, and everything which is subject to our senses, or is solid; although some write that amber does not attract anything but chaff and certain twigs; (wherefore Alexander Aphrodiseus falsely declares the question of amber to be inexplicable, because it attracts dry chaff only, and not basil leaves), but these are the utterly false and disgraceful tales of the writers. But in order that you may be able clearly to test how such attraction occurs, and what those materials are which thus entice other bodies (for even if bodies incline towards some of these, yet on account of weakness they seem not to be raised by them, but are more easily turned), make yourself a versorium of any metal you like, three or four digits in length, resting rather lightly on its point of support after the manner of a magnetick needle, to one end of which bring up a piece of amber or a smooth * not allure by heat, since if warmed by fire and brought near straws, it does not attract them, whether it be tepid, or hot, or glowing, or even when forced into the flame. Cardan (as also Pictorio) reckons that this happens in no different way than with the cupping-glass, by the force of fire. Yet the attracting force of the cupping-glass does not really come from the force of fire. But he had previously said that the dry substance wished to imbibe fatty humour, and therefore it was borne towards it. But these statements are at variance with one another, and also foreign to reason. For if amber had moved towards its food, or if other bodies had inclined towards amber as towards provender, there would have been a diminution of the one which was devoured, just as there would have been a growth of the other which was sated. Then why should an attractive force of fire be looked for in amber? If the attraction existed from heat, why should not very many other bodies also attract, if warmed by fire, by the sun, or by friction? Neither can the attraction be on account of the dissipating of the air, when it takes place in open air (yet Lucretius the poet adduces this as the reason for magnetical motions). Nor in the cupping-glass can heat or fire attract by feeding on air: in the cupping-glass air, having been exhausted into flame, when it condenses again and is forced into a narrow space, makes the skin and flesh rise in avoiding a vacuum. In the open air warm things cannot attract, not metals even or stones, if they should * be strongly incandescent by fire. For a rod of glowing iron, or a flame, or a candle, or a blazing torch, or a live coal, when they are brought near to straws, or to a versorium, do not attract; yet at the same time they manifestly call in the air in succession; because they consume it, as lamps do oil. But concerning heat, how it is reckoned by the crowd of philosophizers, in natural philosophy and in materia medica to exert an attraction otherwise than nature allows, to which true attractions are falsely imputed, we will discuss more at length elsewhere, when we shall determine what are the properties of heat and cold. They are very general qualities or kinships of a substance, and yet are not to be assigned as true causes, and, if I may say so, those philosophizers utter some resounding words; but about the thing itself prove nothing in particular. Nor does this attraction accredited to amber arise from any singular quality of the substance or kinship, since by more thorough research we find the same effect in very many other bodies; and all bodies, moreover, of whatever quality, are allured by all those bodies. Similarity also is not the cause; because all things around us placed on this globe of the earth, similar and dissimilar, are allured by amber and bodies of this kind; and on that account no cogent analogy is to be drawn either from similarity or identity of substance. But neither do similars mutually attract one another, as stone stone, flesh flesh, nor aught else outside the class of magneticks and electricks. Fracastorio would have it that "things which mutually attract one another are similars, as being of the same species, either in action or in right subjection. Right subjection is that from which is emitted the emanation which attracts and which in mixtures often lies hidden on account of their lack of form, by reason of which they are often different in act from what they are in potency. Hence it may be that hairs and twigs move towards amber and towards diamond, not because they are hairs, but because either there is shut up in them air or some other principle, which is attracted in the first place, and which bears some relation and analogy to that which attracts of itself; in which diamond and amber agree through a principle common to each." Thus far Fracastorio. Who if he had observed by a large number of experiments that all bodies are drawn to electricks except those which are aglow and aflame, and highly rarefied, would never have given a thought to such things. It is easy for men of acute intellect, apart from experiments and practice, to slip and err. In greater error do they remain sunk who maintain these same substances to be not similar, but to be substances near akin; and hold that on that account a thing moves towards another, its like, by which it is brought to more perfection. But these are ill-considered views; for towards all electricks all things move except such as are aflame or are too highly rarefied, as air, which is the universal effluvium of this globe and of the world. Vegetable substances draw moisture by which their shoots are rejoiced and grow; from analogy with that, however, Hippocrates, in his De Natura Hominis, Book I., wrongly concluded that the purging of morbid humour took place by the specifick force of the drug. Concerning the action and potency of purgatives we shall speak elsewhere. Wrongly also is attraction inferred in other effects; as in the case of a flagon full of water, when buried in a heap of wheat, although well stoppered, the moisture is drawn out; since this moisture is rather resolved into vapour by the emanation of the fermenting wheat, and the wheat imbibes the freed vapour. Nor do elephants' tusks attract moisture, but drive it into vapour or absorb it. Thus then very many things are said to attract, the reasons for whose energy must be sought from other causes. Amber in a fairly large mass allures, if* it is polished; in a smaller mass or less pure it seems not to attract without friction. But very many electricks (as precious stones and some other substances) do not attract at all unless rubbed. On the other hand many gems, as well as other bodies, are polished, yet do* not allure, and by no amount of friction are they aroused; thus the emerald, agate, carnelian, pearls, jasper, chalcedony, alabaster, porphyry, coral, the marbles, touchstone, flint, bloodstone, emery, do not acquire any power; nor do bones, or ivory, or the hardest woods, as ebony, nor do cedar, juniper, or cypress; nor do metals, silver, gold, brass, iron, nor any loadstone, though many of them are finely polished and shine. But on the other hand there are some other polished substances of which we have spoken before, toward which, when they have been rubbed, bodies incline. This we shall understand only when we have more closely looked into the prime origin of bodies. It is plain to all, and all admit, that the mass of the earth, or rather the structure and crust of the earth, consists of a twofold material, namely, of fluid and humid matter, and of material of more consistency and dry. From this twofold nature or the more simple compacting of one, various substances take their rise among us, which originate in greater proportion now from the earthy, now from the aqueous nature. Those substances which have received their chief growth from moisture, whether aqueous or fatty, or have taken on their form by a simpler compacting from them, or have been compacted from these same materials in long ages, if they have a sufficiently firm hardness, if rubbed after they have been polished and when they remain bright with the friction—towards those substances everything, if presented to them in the air, turns, if its too heavy weight does not prevent it. For amber has been compacted of moisture, and jet also. Lucid gems are made of water; just as Crystal, which has been concreted from clear water, not always by a very great cold, as some used to judge, and by very hard frost, but sometimes by a less severe one, the nature of the soil fashioning it, the humour or juices being shut up in definite cavities, in the way in which spars are produced in mines. So clear glass is fused out of sand, and from other substances, which have their origin in humid juices. But the dross of metals, as also metals, stones, rocks, woods, contain earth rather, or are mixed with a good deal of earth; * and therefore they do not attract. Crystal, mica, glass, and all electricks do not attract if they are burnt or roasted; for their primordial supplies of moisture perish by heat, and are changed and exhaled. All things therefore which have sprung from a predominant moisture and are firmly concreted, and retain the appearance of spar and its resplendent nature in a firm and compact body, allure all bodies, whether humid or dry. Those, however, which partake of the true earth-substance or are very little different from it, are seen to attract also, but from a far different reason, and (so to say) magnetically; concerning these we intend to speak afterwards. But those substances which are more mixed of water and earth, and are produced by the equal degradation of each element (in which the magnetick force of the earth is deformed and remains buried; while the watery humour, being fouled by joining with a more plentiful supply of earth, has not concreted in itself but is mingled with earthy matter), can in no way of themselves attract or move from its place anything which they do not touch. On this account metals, marbles, flints, woods, herbs, flesh, and very many other things can neither allure nor solicit any body either magnetically or electrically. (For it pleases us to call that an electrick force, which hath * its origin from the humour.) But substances consisting mostly of humour, and which are not very firmly compacted by nature (whereby do they neither bear rubbing, but either melt down and become soft, or are not levigable, such as pitch, the softer kinds of resin, camphor, galbanum, ammoniack, storax, asafœtida, benzoin, asphaltum, especially in rather warm weather) towards them small bodies are not borne; for without rubbing most electricks do not * emit their peculiar and native exhalation and effluvium. The resin turpentine when liquid does not attract; for it cannot be rubbed; but if it has hardened into a mastick it does attract. But now at length we must understand why small bodies turn towards those substances which have drawn their origin from water; by what force and with what hands (so to speak) electricks seize upon kindred natures. In all bodies in the world two causes or principles have been laid down, from which the bodies themselves were produced, matter and form. Electrical motions become strong from matter, but magnetick from form chiefly; and they differ widely from one another and turn out unlike, since the one is ennobled by numerous virtues and is prepotent; the other is ignoble and of less potency, and mostly restrained, as it were, within certain barriers; and therefore that force must at times be aroused by attrition or friction, until it is at a dull heat and gives off an effluvium and a polish is induced on the body. For spent air, either blown out of the mouth or given* off from moister air, chokes the virtue. If indeed either a sheet of paper or a piece of linen be interposed, there will be no movement. But a loadstone, without friction or heat, whether dry or suffused with moisture, as well in air as in water, invites magneticks, even with the most solid bodies interposed, even planks of wood or pretty thick slabs of stone or sheets of metal. A loadstone appeals to magneticks* only; towards electricks all things move. A loadstone raises great weights; so that if there is a loadstone weighing two ounces and strong, it attracts half an ounce or a whole ounce. An electrical substance only attracts very small weights; as, for instance, a piece of amber of three ounces weight, when rubbed, scarce raises a fourth part of a grain of barley. But this attraction of amber and of electrical substances must be further investigated; and since there is this particular affection of matter, it may be asked why is amber rubbed, and what affection is produced by the rubbing, and what causes arise which make it lay hold on everything? As a result of friction it grows slightly warm and becomes smooth; two results which must often occur together. A large polished fragment of amber or jet attracts indeed, even without friction, but less strongly; but if it be brought gently near a flame or a live coal, so that it equally becomes warm, it does not attract small bodies because* it is enveloped in a cloud from the body of the flaming substance, which emits a hot breath, and then impinges upon it vapour from a foreign body which for the most part is at variance with the nature of amber. Moreover the spirit of the amber which is called forth is enfeebled by alien heat; wherefore it ought not to have heat excepting that produced by motion only and friction, and, as it were, its own, not sent into it by other bodies. For as the igneous heat emitted from any burning substance cannot be so used that electricks may acquire their force from it; so also heat from the solar rays does not fit an electrick by the loosening of its* right material, because it dissipates rather and consumes it (albeit a body which has been rubbed retains its virtue longer exposed to the rays of the sun than in the shade; because in the shade the effluvia are condensed to a greater degree and more quickly). Then again the fervour from the light of the Sun aroused by means of a* burning mirror confers no vigour on the heated amber; indeed it dissipates and corrupts all the electrick effluvia. Again, burning* sulphur and hard wax, made from shell-lac, when aflame do not allure; for heat from friction resolves bodies into effluvia, which flame consumes away. For it is impossible for solid electricks to be resolved into their own true effluvia otherwise than by attrition, save in the case of certain substances which by reason of innate vigour emit effluvia constantly. They are rubbed with bodies which do not befoul their surface, and which produce a polish, as pretty stiff silk or a rough wool rag which is as little soiled as possible, or the dry palm. Amber also is rubbed with amber, with diamond, and with glass, and numerous other substances. Thus are electricks manipulated. These things being so, what is it which moves? Is it the body itself, inclosed within its own circumference? Or is it something imperceptible to us, which flows out from the substance into the ambient air? Somewhat as Plutarch opines, saying in his Quæstiones Platonicæ: That there is in amber something flammable or something having the nature of breath, and this by the attrition of the surface being emitted from its relaxed pores attracts bodies. And if it be an effusion does it seize upon the air whose motion the bodies follow, or upon the bodies themselves? But if amber allured the body itself, then what need were there of friction, if it is bare and smooth? Nor does the force arise from the light which is reflected from a smooth and polished body; for a Gem of Vincent's rock, Diamond, and clear glass, attract when they are rough; but not so powerfully and quickly, because they are not so readily cleansed from extraneous moisture on the surface, and are not rubbed equally so as to be copiously resolved at that part. Nor does the sun by its own beams of light and its rays, which are of capital importance in nature, attract bodies in this way; and yet the herd of philosophizers considers that humours are attracted by the sun, when it is only denser humours that are being turned into thinner, into spirit and air; and so by the motion of effusion they ascend into the upper regions, or the attenuated exhalations are raised up from the denser air. Nor does it seem to take place from the effluvia attenuating the air, so that bodies impelled by the denser air penetrate towards the source of the rarefaction; in this case both hot and flaming bodies would also allure other bodies; but not even the lightest chaff, or any versorium moves towards a flame. If there is a flow and rush of air towards the body, how can a small diamond of the size of a pea summon towards itself so much air, that it seizes hold of a biggish long body placed in equilibrio (the air about one or other very small part of an end being attracted)? It ought also to have slopped or moved more slowly, before it came into contact with the body, especially if the piece of amber was rather broad and flat, from the accumulation of air on the surface of the amber and its flowing back again. If it is because the effluvia are thinner, and denser vapours come in return, as in breathing, then the body would rather have had a motion toward the electrick a little while after the beginning of the application; but when electricks which have been rubbed are applied quickly to * a versorium then especially at once they act on the versorium, and it is attracted more when near them. But if it is because the rarefied effluvia produce a rarefied medium, and on that account bodies are more prone to slip down from a denser to a more attenuated medium; they might have been carried from the side in this way or downwards, but not to bodies above them; or the attraction and apprehension of contiguous bodies would have been momentary only. But with a single friction jet and amber draw and attract bodies to them strongly and for a long time, sometimes for the twelfth part of an hour, especially in clear weather. But if the mass of amber be rather large, and the surface polished, it attracts without friction. Flint is rubbed and emits by attrition an inflammable matter that turns into sparks and heat. Therefore the denser effluvia of flint producing fire are very far different from electrical effluvia, which on account of their extreme attenuation do not take fire, nor are fit material for flame. Those effluvia are not of the nature of breath, for when emitted they do not propel anything, but are exhaled without sensible resistance and touch bodies. They are highly attenuated humours much more subtile than the ambient air; and in order that they may occur, bodies are required produced from humour and concreted with a considerable degree of hardness. Non-electrick bodies are not resolved into humid effluvia, and those effluvia mix with the common and general effluvia of the earth, and are not peculiar. Also besides the attraction of bodies, they retain them longer. It is probable therefore that amber does exhale something peculiar to * itself, which allures bodies themselves, not the intermediate air. Indeed it plainly does draw the body itself in the case of a spherical drop of water standing on a dry surface; for a piece of amber applied to it at a suitable distance pulls the nearest parts out of their position and draws it up into a cone; otherwise, if it were * drawn by means of the air rushing along, the whole drop would have moved. That it does not attract the air is thus demonstrated: take a very thin wax candle, which makes a very small and clear flame; bring up to this, within two digits or any convenient distance, a piece of amber or jet, a broad flat piece, well prepared * and skilfully rubbed, such a piece of amber as would attract bodies far and wide, yet it does not disturb the flame; which of necessity would have occurred, if the air was disturbed, for the flame would have followed the current of air. As far as the effluvia are sent out, so far it allures; but as a body approaches, its motion is accelerated, stronger forces drawing it; as also in the case of magneticks and in all natural motion; not by attenuating or by expelling the air, so that the body moves down into the place of the air which has gone out; for thus it would have allured only and would not have retained; since it would at first also have repelled approaching bodies just as it drives the air itself; but indeed a particle, be it ever so small, does not avoid the first application made very quickly after rubbing. An effluvium exhales from amber and is emitted by rubbing: pearls, carnelian, agate, jasper, chalcedony, coral, metals, and other substances of that kind, when they are rubbed, produce no effect. Is there not also something which is exhaled from them by heat and attrition? Most truly; but from grosser bodies more blended with the earthy nature, that which is exhaled is gross and spent; for even towards very many electricks, if they are rubbed * too hard, there is produced but a weak attraction of bodies, or none at all; the attraction is best when the rubbing has been gentle and very quick; for so the finest effluvia are evoked. The effluvia arise from the subtile diffusion of humour, not from excessive and turbulent violence; especially in the case of those substances which have been compacted from unctuous matter, which when the atmosphere is very thin, when the North winds, and amongst us (English) the East winds, are blowing, have a surer and firmer effect, but during South winds and in damp weather, only a weak one; so that those * substances which attract with difficulty in clear weather, in thick weather produce no motion at all; both because in grosser air lighter substances move with greater difficulty; and especially because the effluvia are stifled, and the surface of the body that has been rubbed is affected by the spent humour of the air, and the effluvia are stopped at their very starting. On that account in the case of amber, jet, and sulphur, because they do not so easily take up moist air on their surface and are much more plenteously set free, that force is not so quickly suppressed as in gems, crystal, glass, and substances of that kind which collect on their surface the moister breath which has grown heavy. But it may be asked why does amber allure water, when water placed on its surface removes its action? Evidently because it is one thing to suppress it at its very start, and quite another to extinguish it when it has been * emitted. So also thin and very fine silk, in common language Sarcenet, placed quickly on the amber, after it has been rubbed, * hinders the attraction of the body; but if it is interposed in the intervening space, it does not entirely obstruct it. Moisture also from spent air, and any breath blown from the mouth, as well as water put on the amber, immediately extinguishes its force. But oil, which is light and pure, does not hinder it; for although amber * be rubbed with a warm finger dipped in oil, still it attracts. But * if that amber, after the rubbing, is moistened with aqua vitæ or spirits of wine, it does not attract; for it is heavier than oil, denser, and when added to oil sinks beneath it. For oil is light and rare, and does not resist the most delicate effluvia. A breath therefore, proceeding from a body which had been compacted from humour or from a watery liquid, reaches the body to be attracted; the body that is reached is united with the attracting body, and the one body lying near the other within the peculiar radius of its effluvia makes one out of two; united, they come together into the closest accord, and this is commonly called attraction. This unity, according to the opinion of Pythagoras, is the principle of all things, and through participation in it each several thing is said to be one. For since no action can take place by means of matter unless by contact, these electricks are not seen to touch, but, as was necessary, something is sent from the one to the other, something which may touch closely and be the beginning of that incitement. All bodies are united and, as it were, cemented together in some way by moisture; so that a wet body, when it touches another body, attracts it, if it is small. So wet bodies on the surface of water attract wet bodies. But the peculiar electrical effluvia, which are the most subtile material of diffuse humour, entice corpuscles. Air (the common effluvium of the earth) not only unites the disjointed parts, but the earth calls bodies back to itself by means of the intervening air; otherwise bodies which are in higher places would not so eagerly make for the earth. Electrical effluvia differ greatly from air; and as air is the effluvium of the earth, so electricks have their own effluvia and properties, each of them having by reason of its peculiar effluvia a singular tendency toward unity, a motion toward its origin and fount, and toward the body emitting the effluvia. But those substances which by attrition emit a gross or vapourous or aeriform effluvium produce no effect; for either such effluvia are alien to the humour (the uniter of all things), or being very like common air are blended with the air and intermingle with the air, wherefore they produce no effect in the air, and do not cause motions different from those so universal and common in nature. In like manner * bodies strive to be united and move on the surface of water, just * above the water, it no longer attracts, but drives away the stick E F. The same is seen in those bubbles also which are made on water. For we see one drive towards another, and the quicker the nearer they are. Solids are impelled towards solids by the medium of liquid: for example, touch the end of a versorium with the end of a rod on which a drop of water is projecting; as soon as the versorium touches the top of the droplet, immediately it is joined * strongly by a swift motion to the body of the rod. So concreted humid things attract when a little resolved into air (the effluvia in the intermediate space tending to produce unity); for water has on wet bodies, or on bodies wet with abundant moisture on the top of water, the force of an effluvium. Clear air is a convenient medium for an electrical effluvium excited from concreted humour. Wet bodies projecting above the surface of water (if they are near) run together so that they may unite; for the surface of the water is raised around wet substances. But a dry thing is not impelled to a wet one, nor a wet to a dry, but seems to run away. For if all is dry above the water, the surface of the water close to it does not rise, but shuns it, the wave sinking around a dry thing. So neither does a wet thing move towards the dry rim of a vessel; but it seeks ; for it does not suffer itself to be depressed. All electrical attraction occurs through an intervening humour; so it is by reason of humour that all things mutually come together; fluids indeed and aqueous bodies on the surface of water, but concreted things, if they have been resolved into vapour, in air;—in air indeed, the effluvium of electricks being very rare, that it may the better permeate the medium and not impel it by its motion; for if that effluvium had been thick, as that of air, or of the winds, or of saltpetre burnt by fire, as the thick and foul effluvia given out with very great force, from other bodies, or air set free from humour by heat rushing out through a pipe (in the instrument of Hero of Alexandria, described in his book Spiritalia), then the effluvium would drive everything away, not allure it. But those rarer effluvia take hold of bodies and embrace them as if with arms extended, with the electricks to which they are united; and they are drawn to the source, the effluvia increasing in strength with the proximity. But what is that effluvium from crystal, glass, and diamond, since these are bodies of considerable hardness and firmly concreted? In order that such an effluvium should be produced, there is no need of any marked or perceptible flux of the substance; nor is it necessary that the electrick should be abraded, or worn away, or deformed. Some odoriferous substances are fragrant for many years, exhaling continually, yet are not quickly consumed. Cypress wood as long as it is sound, and it lasts a very long time indeed, is redolent; as many learned men attest from experience. Such an electrick only for a moment, when stimulated by friction, emits powers far more subtile and more fine beyond all odours; yet sometimes amber, jet, sulphur, when they are somewhat easily let free into vapour, also pour out at the same time an odour; and on this account they allure with the very gentlest rubbing, often even without rubbing; they also excite more strongly, and retain hold for a longer time, because they have stronger effluvia and last longer. But diamond, glass, rock-crystal, * and numerous others of the harder and firmly concreted gems first grow warm: therefore at first they are rubbed longer, and then they also attract strongly; nor are they otherwise set free into vapour. Everything rushes towards electricks excepting flame, and flaming bodies, and the thinnest air. Just as they do not draw flame, in like manner they do not affect a versorium, if on any side it is very near to a flame, either the flame of a lamp or of any burning matter. It is manifest indeed that the effluvia are destroyed by flame and igneous * heat; and therefore they attract neither flame nor bodies very near a flame. For electrical effluvia have the virtue of, and are analogous with, extenuated humour; but they will produce their effect, union and continuity, not by the external impulse of vapours, not by heat and attenuation of heated bodies, but by their humidity itself attenuated into its own peculiar effluvia. Yet they entice * smoke sent out by an extinguished light; and the more that smoke is attenuated in seeking the upper regions, the less strongly is it turned aside; for things that are too rarefied are not drawn to them; and at length, when it has now almost vanished, it does not * incline towards them at all, which is easily seen against the light. When in fact the smoke has passed into air, it is not moved, as has been demonstrated before. For air itself, if somewhat thin, is not attracted in any way, unless on account of succeeding that which has vacated its place, as in furnaces and such-like, where the air is fed in by mechanical devices for drawing it in. Therefore an effluvium resulting from a non-fouling friction, and one which is not changed by heat, but which is its own, causes union and coherency, a prehension and a congruence towards its source, if only the body to be attracted is not unfitted for motion, either by the surroundings of the bodies or by its own weight. To the bodies therefore of the electricks themselves small bodies are borne. The effluvia extend out their virtue—effluvia which are proper and peculiar to them, and sui generis, differing from common air, being produced from humour, excited by a calorifick motion from attrition and attenuation. And as if they were material rays, they hold and take up chaff, straws, and twigs, until they become extinct or vanish away: and then they (the corpuscles) being loosed again, attracted by the earth itself, fall down to the earth. The difference between Magneticks and Electricks is that all magneticks run together with mutual forces; electricks only allure; that which is allured is not changed by an implanted force, but that which has moved up to * them voluntarily rests upon them by the law of matter. Bodies are borne towards electricks in a straight line towards the centre of the electrick; a loadstone draws a loadstone directly at the poles only, in other parts obliquely and transversely, and in this way also they adhere and hang to one another. Electrical motion is a motion of aggregation of matter; magnetical motion is one of disposition and conformation. The globe of the earth is aggregated and cohæres by itself electrically. The globe of the earth is directed and turned magnetically; at the same time also it both cohæres, and in order that it may be solid, is in its inmost parts cemented together.
The page and line references given in these notes are in all cases first to the Latin edition of 1600, and secondly to the English edition of 1900.
108 ^ Page 47, line 15. Page 47, line 18. Græci vocant ἠλεκτρον, quia ad se paleas trahit. In this discussion of the names given to amber, Gilbert apparently conceives ἠλεκτρον to be derived from the verb ἑλκεῖν; which is manifestly a doubtful etymology. There has been much discussion amongst philologists as to the derivation of ἠλέκτρον or ἤλεκτρον, and its possible connection with the word ἠλέκτωρ. This discussion has been somewhat obscured by the circumstance that the Greek authors unquestionably used ἤλεκτρον (and the Latins their word electrum) in two different significations, some of them using these words to mean amber, others to mean a shining metal, apparently of having qualities between those of gold and silver, and probably some sort of alloy. Schweigger, Ueber das Elektron der Alten (Greifswald, 1848), has argued that this metal was indeed no other than platinum: but his argument partakes too much of special pleading. Those who desire to follow the question of the derivation of ἤλεκτρον may consult the following authorities: J. M. Gessner, De Electro Veterum (Commentt. Soc. Reg. Scientt. Goetting., vol. iii., p. 67, 1753); Delaunay, Mineralogie der Alten, Part II., p. 125; Buttmann, Mythologus (Appendix I., Ueber das Elektron), Vol. II., p. 355, in which he adopts Gilbert's derivation from ἕλκειν; Beckmann, Ursprung und Bedeutung des Bernsteinnamens Elektron (Braunsberg, 1859); Th. Henri Martin, Du Succin, de ses noms divers et de ses variétés suivant les anciens (Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres, Tome VI., 1re série, 1re partie, 1860); Martinus Scheins, De Electro Veterum Metallico (Inaugural dissertation, Berlin, 1871); F. A. Paley, Gold Worship in relation to Sun Worship (Contemporary Review, August, 1884). See also Curtius, Grundzüge der griechischen Etymologie, pp. 656-659. The net result of the disputations of scholars appears to be that ἠλέκτωρ (he who shines) is a masculine form to which there corresponds the neuter form ἤλεκτρον (that which shines). Stephanus admits the accentuation used by Gilbert, ἠλέκτρον, to be justified from the Timæus of Plato; see <a href="#Nt148">Note</a> to p. 61.
109 ^ Page 47, line 16. Page 47, line 19. ἅρπαξ dicitur, & χρυσοφόρον.—With respect to the other names given to amber, M. Th. Henri Martin has written (see previous note) so admirable an account of them that it is impossible to better it. It is therefore given here entire, as follows:
- "Le succin a reçu chez les anciens des noms très-divers. Sans parler du nom de λυγκούριον, lyncurium, qui peut-être ne lui appartient pas, comme nous le montrerons plus loin, il s'est nommé chez les Grecs le plus souvent ἤλεκτρον au neutre,1 mais aussi ἤλεκτρος au masculin2 et même au féminin,3 χρυσήλεκτρος,4 χρυσόφορος5 et peut-être, comme nous l'avons vu, χαλκολίθανον; plus tard σούχιον6 ou σουχίνος7, et ἠλεκτριανὸς λίθος;8 plus tard encore βερενίκη, βερονίκη ou βερνίκη;9 il s'est nommé ἅρπαξ chez les Grecs établis en Syrie;10 chez les Latins succinum, electrum, et deux variétés, chryselectrum et sualiternicum ou subalternicum;11 chez les Germains, Gless;12 chez les Scythes, sacrium;13 chez les Egyptiens, sacal;14 chez les Arabes, karabé15 ou kahraba;16 en persan, káruba.17 Ce mot, qui appartient bien à la langue persane, y signifie attirant la paille, et par conséquent exprime l'attraction électrique, de même que le mot ἅρπαξ des Grecs de Syrie. En outre, le nom de haur roumi (peuplier romain) était donné par les Arabes, non-seulement à l'arbre dont ils croyaient que le succin était la gomme, mais au succin lui-même. Haur roumi, transformé en aurum par les traducteurs latins des auteurs arabes, et consondu mal à propos avec ambar ou ambrum, nom arabe latinisé de l'ambre gris, a produit le nom moderne d'ambre, nom commun à l'ambre jaune ou succin, qui est une résine fossile, et à l'ambre gris, concrétion odorante qui se forme dans les intestines des cachalots. On ne peut dire avec certitude si le nom de basse grécité βερνίκη est la source ou le dérivé de Bern, radical du nom allemand du succin (Bernstein). Quoi qu'il en soit, le mot βερνίκη a produit vernix, nom d'une gomme dans la basse latinité, d'où nous avons fait vernis.18"
- 1 Voyez Hérodote, III., 115; Platon, Timée, p. 80 c; Aristote, Météor., IV., 10; Théophraste, Hist. des plantes, IX., 18 (19), § 2; Des pierres, § 28 et 29; Diodore de Sic., V., 23; Strabon, IV., 6, no 2, p. 202 (Casaubon); Dioscoride, Mat. méd., I., 110; Plutarque, Questions de table, II., 7, § 1; Questions platoniques, VII., 1 et 7; Lucien, Du succin et des cygnes; le même, De Pastrologie, § 19; S. Clément, Strom. II., p. 370 (Paris, 1641, in-fol.); Alexandre d'Aphr., Quest. phys. et mor., II., 23; Olympiodore, Météor., I., 8, fol. 16, t. I., p. 197 (Ideler) et l'abréviateur d'Etienne de Byzance au mot Ηλεκτρίδες.
- 2 Voyez Sophocle, Antigone, v. 1038, et dans Eustathe, sur l'Iliade, II., 865; Elien, Nat. des animaux, IV. 46; Quintus de Smyrne, V., 623; Eustathe, sur la Périégèse de Denys, p. 142 (Bernhardy), et sur l'Odyssée, IV., 73; et Suidas au mot ὑάλη.
- 3 Voyez Alexandre, Problèmes, sect. 1, proœm., p. 4 (Ideler); Eustathe, sur l'Odyssée, IV., 73, et Tzetzès, Chiliade VI., 650.
- 4 Voyez Psellus, Des pierres, p. 36 (Bernard et Maussac).
- 5 Voyez Dioscoride, Mat. méd., I., 110.
- 6 Voyez S. Clément, Strom., II., p. 370 (Paris, 1641, in-fol.). Il paraît distinguer l'un de l'autre τὸ σούχιον et τὸ ἤλεκτρον, probablement parce qu'il attribue à tort au métal ἤλεκτρον la propriété attractive du succin.
- 7 Voyez le faux Zoroastre, dans les Géoponiques, XV., 1, § 29.
- 8 Voyez le faux Zoroastre, au même endroit.
- 9 Voyez Eustathe, sur l'Odyssée, IV., 73; Tzetzès, Chil. VI., 650; Nicolas Myrepse, Antidotes, ch. 327, et l'Etymol. Gud. au mot ἤλεκτρον. Comparez Saumaise, Exert. plin., p. 778.
- 10 Voyez Pline, XXXVII., 2, s. 11, no 37.
- 11 Voyez Pline, XXXVII., 2, s. 11-13, et Tacite, Germanie, ch. 45. La forme sualiternicum, dans Pline (s. 11, no 33), est donnée par le manuscrit de Bamberg et par M. Sillig (t. V., p. 390), au lieu de la forme subalternicum des éditions antérieures.
- 12 Voyez Tacite et Pline, ll. cc.
- 13 Voyez Pline, XXXVII., 2, s. 11, no 40, Comp. J. Grimm, Gesch. der deutsch. Sprache, Kap. x., p. 233 (Leipzig, 1848, in-8).
- 14 Pline, l. c.
- 15 Voyez Saumaise, De homon. hyles iatricæ, c. 101, p. 162 (1689, in-fol.).
- 16 Voyez Sprengel, sur Dioscoride, t. II., pp. 390-391.
- 17 Voyez M. de Sacy, cité par Buttmann, Mythologus, t. II., pp. 362-363.
- 18 Voyez Saumaise, Ex. plin., p. 778. Il n'est pas probable que le mot βερνίκη ou βερενίκη nom du succin dans la grécité du moyen âge, soit lié étymologiquement avec le nom propre βερενίκη, qui vient de l'adjectif macédonien βερένικος pour φερένικος.
110 ^ Page 47, line 17. Page 47, line 20. Mauri vero Carabem appellant, quià solebant in sacrificijs, & deorum cultu ipsum libare. Carab enim significat offerre Arabicè; ita Carabe, res oblata; aut rapiens paleas, vt Scaliger ex Abohali citat, ex linguâ Arabicâ, vel Persicâ.—The printed text, line 18, has "Non rapiens paleas," but in all copies of the folio of 1600, the "Non" has been altered in ink into "aut," possibly by Gilbert's own hand. Nevertheless the editions of 1628 and 1633 both read "Non." There appears to be no doubt that the origin of the word Carabe, or Karabe, as assigned by Scaliger, is substantially correct. As shown in the preceding note, Martin adopted this view. If any doubt should remain it will be removed by the following notes which are due to Mr. A. Houtum Schindler (member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers), of Terahan.
Reference is made to the magnetic and electric properties of stones in three early Persian lapidaries. There are three stones only mentioned, amber, loadstone, and garnet. The electric property of the diamond is not mentioned. The following extracts are from the Tansûk nâmah, by Nasîr ed dîn Tûsi, A.D. 1260. The two other treatises give the first extracts in the same words.
"Kâhrubâ, also Kahrabâ [Amber],
"Is yellow and transparent, and has its name from the property, which it possesses, of attracting small, dry pieces of straw or grass, after it has been rubbed with cloth and become warm. [Note. In Persian, Kâh = straw; rubâ = the robber, hence Kâhrubâ = the straw-robber.] Some consider it a mineral, and say that it is found in the Mediterranean and Caspian seas, floating on the surface, but this is not correct. The truth is that Kâhrubâ is the gum of a tree, called jôz i rûmî [i.e., roman nut; walnut?], and that most of it is brought from Rûm [here the Eastern Rome] and from the confines of Sclavonia and Russia. On account of its bright colour and transparency it is made into beads, rings, belt-buckles, &c. ... &c.
"The properties of attraction and repulsion are possessed by other substances than loadstone, for instance, by amber and bîjâdah,1 which attract straws, feathers, etc., and of many other bodies, it can be said that they possess the power of attraction. There is also a stone which attracts gold; it has a pure yellow colour. There is also a stone which attracts silver from distances of three or two yards. There are also the stone which attracts tin, very hard, and smelling like asafœtida, the stone attracting hair, the stone attracting meat, etc., but, latterly, no one has seen these stones: no proof, however, that they do not exist."
Avicenna (Ibn Sinâ) gives the following under the heading of Karabe (see Canona Medicinæ, Giunta edition, Venet., 1608, lib. ii., cap. 371, p. 336):
"Karabe quid est? Gumma sicut sandaraca, tendens ad citrinitatem, & albedinem, & peruietatem, & quandoque declinat ad rubedinem, quæ attrahit paleas, & [fracturas] plantarum ad se, & propter hoc nominatur Karabe, scilicet rapiens paleas, persicè.... Karabe confert tremori cordis, quum bibitur ex eo medietas aurei cum aqua frigida, & prohibet sputum sanguinis valde.... Retinet vomitum, & prohibet materias malas a stomacho, & cum mastiche confortat stomachum.... Retinet fluxum sanguinis ex matrice, & ano, & fluxum ventris, & confert tenasmoni."
Scaliger in De Subtilitate, Exercitatio ciii., § 12, the passage referred to by Gilbert says: "Succinum apud Arabas uocatur, Carabe: quod princeps Aboali, rapiens paleas, interpretatur" (p. 163 bis, editio Lutetiæ, 1557).
- 1 Bîjâdah is classified by Muhammad B. Mansûr (A.D. 1470) and by Ibn al Mubârak (A.D. 1520) under "stones resembling ruby"; the Tansûk nâmah describes it in a separate chapter. From the description it can be identified with the almandine garnet, and the method of cutting this stone en cabochon, with hollow back in order to display its colour better is specially mentioned. The Tansûk nâmah only incidentally refers to the electric property of the bîjâdah in the chapter on loadstone, but the other two treatises specially refer to it in their description of the stone. The one has: "Bîjâdah if rubbed until warm, attracts straws and other light bodies just as amber does"; the other: "Bîjâdah, if rubbed on the hair of the head, or on the beard, attracts straws." Surûri, the lexicographer, who compiled a dictionary in 1599, considers the bîjâdah "a red ruby which possesses the property of attraction." Other dictionaries do not mention the attractive property, but some authors confound the stone with amber, calling it Kâbrubâ, the straw-robber. The bîjâdah is not rubellite (red tourmaline) for it is described in the lapidaries as common, whereas rubellite (from Ceylon) has always been rare, and was unknown in Persia in the thirteenth century.
111 ^ Page 47, line 21. Page 47, line 25. Succinum seu succum.—Dioscorides regarded amber as the inspissated juice of the poplar tree. From the Frankfurt edition of 1543 (De Medicinali materia, etc.) edited by Ruellius, we have, liber i., p. 53:
Populus. Cap. XCIII.
"... Lachrymam populorum commemorant quæ in Padum amnem defluat, durari, ac coire in succinum, quod electrum vocant, alii chrysophorum. id attritu jucundum odorem spirat, et aurum colore imitatur. tritum potumque stomachi ventrisque fluxiones sistit."
To this Ruellius adds the commentary:
"Succinum seu succina gutta à succo dicta, Græcis ἤλεκτρομ [sic], esse lachryma populi albæ, vel etiam nigræ quibusdam videtur, ab ejusdem arboris resina. Dioscoridi et Galeno dicta differens et πτερυγοφόρος, id est paleas trahens, quoque vocatur, quantum ei quoque Galenus tribuit li. 37, ca. 9. Succinum scribit à quibusdam pinei generis arboribus, ut gummi à cerasis excidere autumno, et largum mitti ex Germania septentrionali, et insulis maris Germanici. quod hodie nobis est compertissimum: ad hæc liquata igni valentiore, quia à frigido intensiore concrevit. pineam aperte olet, calidum primo gradu, siccum secundo, stomachum roborat, vomitum, nauseam arcet. cordis palpitationi prodest. pravorem humorum generationem prohibet.
"Germani weiss und gelbaugstein et brenstein.
"Galli ambra vocant: vulgo in corollis precariis frequens."
In the scholia of Johann Lonicer in his edition of Dioscorides, we find, lib. i., cap. xcviii., De nigra Populo:
"ἄιγειρος, populus nigra ... idem electrum vel succinum αἱγείρου lachrymam esse adseverat [Paulus], cui præter vires quæ ab Dioscoride recensentur, tribuit etiam vim sistendi sanguinis, si tusum in potu sumatur. Avicennæ Charabe, ut colligitur ex Joanne Jacobo Manlio, est electrum hoc Dioscoridis, attestatur Brunfelsius. Lucianus planè nullum electrum apud Eridanum seu Padum inveniri tradit, quandoquidem ne populus quidem illa ab nautis ei demonstrari potuerit. Plinius rusticas transpadanas ex electro monilia gestare adfirmat, quum à Venetis primum agnoscere didicissent adversus nimirum vitia gutturis et tonsillarum. Num sit purgamentum maris, vel lachryma populi, vel pinus, vel ex radiis occidentis solis nascatur, vel ex montibus Sudinorum profluat, incertum etiam Erasmus Stella relinquit. Sudinas tamen Borussiorum opes esse constat."
Matthiolus (in P. A. Mattioli ... Opera quæ extant omnia, hoc est Commentarii in vi libros P. Dioscoridis de materia medica, Frankfurt, 1596, p. 133) comments on the suggestion of Galen that amber came from the Populus alba, and also comments on the Arabic, Greek, and Latin names of amber.
The poplar-myth is commemorated by Addison (in Italy) in the lines:
- No interwoven reeds a garland made,
- To hide his brows within the vulgar shade;
- But poplar wreathes around his temples spread,
- And tears of amber trickled down his head.
Amber is, however, assuredly not derived from any poplar tree: it comes from a species of pine long ago extinct, called by Göppert the pinites succinifer.
Gilbert does not go into the medicinal uses, real or fancied, that have been ascribed to amber in almost as great variety as to loadstone. Pliny mentions some of these in his Natural Historie (English version of 1601, p. 609):
"He [Callistratus] saith of this yellow Amber, that if it be worne about the necke in a collar, it cureth feavers, and healeth the diseases of the mouth, throat, and jawes: reduced into pouder and tempered with honey and oile of roses, it is soveraigne for the infirmities of the eares. Stamped together with the best Atticke honey, it maketh a singular eyesalve for to help a dim sight: pulverized, and the pouder thereof taken simply alone, or else drunke in water with Masticke, is soveraigne for the maladies of the stomacke."
Nicolaus Myrepsus (Recipe 951, op. citat.) gives a prescription for dysentery and diabetes confiding chiefly of "Electri vel succi Nili (Nili succum appellant Arabes Karabem)."
112 ^ Page 47, line 22. Page 47, line 26. Sudauienses seu Sudini.—Cardan in De Rerum Varietate, lib. iii., cap. xv. (Editio Basil., 1556, p. 152), says of amber:
"Colligitur in quadam penè insula Sudinorum, qui nunc uocātur Brusci, in Prussia, nunc Borussia, juxta Veneticum sinum, & sunt orientaliores ostiis Vistulæ fluuii: ubi triginta pagi huic muneri destinati sunt," etc. He rejects the theory that it consists of hardened gum.
There exists an enormous literature concerning Amber and the Prussian amber industry. Amongst the earliest works (after Theophrastus and Pliny) are those of Aurifaber (Bericht über Agtstein oder Börnstein, Königsberg, 1551); Goebel (De Succino, Libri duo, authore Severino Gœbelio, Medico Doctore, Regiomont., 1558); and Wigand (Vera historia de Succino Borussico, Jena, 1590). Later on Hartmann, P. J. (Succini Prussici Physica et civilis Historia, Francofurti, 1677); and the splendid folio of Nathaniel Sendel (Historia Succinorum corpora aliena involventium, Lipsiæ, 1742), with its wealth of plates illustrating amber specimens, with the various included fossil fauna and flora. Georgius Agricola (De natura Fossilium, liber iv.), and Aldrovandi (Musæeum Metallicum, pp. 411-412) must also be mentioned. Bibliographies of the earlier literature are to be found in Hartmann (op. citat.), and in Daniel Gralath, Elektrische Bibliothek (Versuche und Abhandlungen der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Danzig, Zweiter Theil, pp. 537-539, Danzig and Leipzig, 1754). See also Karl Müllenhoff, Deutsche Altertumskunde, vol. i., Zweites Buch, pp. 211-224, Zinn und Bernsteinhandel (Berlin, 1870), and Humboldt's Cosmos (Bohn's edition, London, 1860, vol. ii., p. 493).
The ancient Greek myth according to which amber was the tears of the Heliades, shed on the banks of the river Eridanus over Phaethon, is not alluded to by Gilbert. It is narrated in well-known passages in Ovid and in Hyginus. Those interested in the modern handling of the myth should refer to Müllenhoff (op. citat., pp. 217-223, der Bernsteinmythus), or to that delightful work The Tears of the Heliades, by W. Arnold Buffum (London, 1896).
113 ^ Page 47, line 30. Page 47, line 36. quare & muscos ... in frustulis quibusdam comprehensos retinet.—The occurrence of flies in amber was well known to the ancients. Pliny thus speaks of it, book xxxvii., chap. iii. (p. 608 of P. Holland's translation of 1601):
"That it doth destill and drop at the first very clear and liquid, it is evident by this argument, for that a man may see diverse things within, to wit, Pismires, Gnats, and Lizards, which no doubt were entangled and stucke within it when it was greene and fresh, and so remain enclosed within as it waxed harder."
A locust embedded in amber is mentioned in the Musæum Septalianum of Terzagus (Dertonæ, 1664).
Martial's epigram (Epigrammata, liber vi., 15) is well known:
- Dum Phaethontea formica vagatur in umbra
- Implicuit tenuem succina gutta feram.
See also Hermann (Daniel), De rana et lacerta Succino Borussiaco insitis (Cracov., 1580; a later edition, Rigæ, 1600). The great work on inclusa in amber is, however, that of Nathaniel Sendel. See the previous note.
Sir Thomas Browne must not be forgotten in this connexion. The Pseudodoxia (p. 64 of the second edition, 1650) says:
"Lastly, we will not omit what Bellabonus upon his own experiment writ from Dantzich unto Mellichius, as he hath left recorded in his chapter De Succino, that the bodies of Flies, Pismires and the like, which are said oft times to be included in Amber, are not reall but representative, as he discovered in severall pieces broke for that purpose. If so, the two famous Epigrams hereof in Martiall are but poeticall, the Pismire of Brassavolus Imaginary, and Cardans Mousoleum for a flie, a meer phancy. But hereunto we know not how to assent, as having met with some whose reals made good their representments." See also Pope's Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, line 169.
114 ^ Page 47, line 34. Page 47, line 40. Commemorant antiqui quod succinum festucas et paleas attrahit.—Pliny (book xxxvii., chap. ii., p. 606 of the English edition of 1601) thus narrates the point:
"Hee [Niceas] writeth also, that in Aegypt it [amber] is engendered.... Semblably in Syria, the women (saith hee) make wherves of it for their spindles, where they use to call it Harpax, because it will catch up leaves, straws, and fringes hanging to cloaths."
p. 608. "To come to the properties that Amber hath, If it bee well rubbed and chaufed betweene the fingers, the potentiall facultie that lieth within, is set on work, and brought into actual operation, whereby you shall see it to drawe chaffe strawes, drie leaves, yea, and thin rinds of the Linden or Tillet tree, after the same sort as loadstone draweth yron."
115 ^ Page 47, line 36. Page 47, line 42. Quod etiam facit Gagates lapis.—The properties of Jet were well known to the mediæval writers. Julius Solinus writes in De Mirabilibus, chapter xxxiv., Of Britaine (English version of 1587 by A. Golding):
"Moreover to the intent to passe the large aboundance of sundry mettals (whereof Britaine hath many rich mynes on all sides), Here is store of the stone called Geate, and ye best kind of it. If ye demaund ye beautie of it, it is a black Jewell: if the qualitie, it is of no weight: if the nature, it burneth in water, and goeth out in Oyle; if the power, rubbe it till it be warme, and it holdeth such things as are laide to it; as Amber doth. The Realme is partlie inhabited of barbarous people, who even frõ theyr childhoode haue shapes of divers beastes cunninglye impressed and incorporate in theyr bodyes, so that beeing engraued as it were in theyr bowels, as the man groweth, so growe the marks painted vpon him...."
Pliny describes it as follows (p. 589, English edition of 1601):
"The Geat, which otherwise we call Gagates, carrieth the name of a toune and river both in Lycia, called Gages: it is said also, that the sea casteth it up at a full tide or high water into the Island Leucola, where it is gathered within the space of twelve stadia, and no where else: blacke it is, plaine and even, of a hollow substance in manner of the pumish stone, not much differing from the nature of wood; light, brittle, and if it bee rubbed or bruised, of a strong flavour." (Book xxxvi., chap. xviii.)
In the Commentary of Joannes Ruellius upon Dioscorides, Pedanii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de medicinali materia libri sex, Ioanne Ruellio Suessionensi interprete ... (Frankfurt, 1543, fol., liber quintus, cap. xcii.) is the following description:
"In Gagatarum lapidum genere, præferendus qui celeriter accenditur, et odorem bituminis reddit. niger est plerunque, et squalidus, crustosus, per quam levis. Vis ei molliendi, et discutiendi. deprehendit sonticum morbum suffitus, recreatque uuluæ strangulationes. fugat serpentes nidore. podagricis medicaminibus, et a copis additur. In Cilicia nasci solet, qua influens amnis in mare effunditur, proxime oppidum quod Plagiopolis dicitur. vocatur autem et locus et amnis Gagas, in cujus faucibus ii lapides inveniuntur.
"Gagates lapis colore atro, Germanis Schwartzer augstein, voce parum depravata, dicitur. odore dum uritur bituminis, siccat, glutinat, digerit admotus, in corollis precariis et salinis frequens."
And in the Scholia upon Dioscorides of Joannes Lonicer (Marpurgi, 1643, cap. xcvii., p. 80) is the following:
"De Gagate Lapide. Ab natali solo, urbe nimirum Gagae Lyciae nomen habet. Galenus se flumen isthuc et lapidem non invenisse, etiamsi naui parua totam Lyciam perlustravit: ait, se autem in caua Syria multos nigros lapides invenisse glebosos, qui igni impositi, exiguam flammam gignerent. Meminit hujus Nicander in Theriacis nempe suffitum hujus abigere venenata."
There is also a good account of Gagates (and of Succinum) by Langius, Epistola LXXV., p. 454, of the work Epistolarum medicinalium volumen tripartitum (Francofurti, 1589).
116 ^ Page 47, line 39. Page 47, line 45. Multi sunt authores moderni.—The modern authors who raised Gilbert's wrath by ignorantly copying out all the old tales about amber, jet, and loadstone, instead of investigating the facts, were, as he says at the beginning of the chapter, some theologians, and some physicians. He seems to have taken a special dislike to Albertus Magnus, to Puteanus (Du Puys), and to Levinus Lemnius.
117 ^ Page 47, line 39. Page 47, line 46. & gagate.—The editions of 1628 and 1633 both read ex gagate.
118 ^ Page 48, line 14. Page 48, line 16. Nam non solum succinum, & gagates (vt illi putant) allectant corpuscula.—The list of bodies known to become electrical by friction was not quite so restricted as would appear from this passage. Five, if not six, other minerals had been named in addition to amber and jet.
(1.) Lyncurium. This stone, about which there has been more obscurity and confusion than about any other gem, is supposed by some writers to be the tourmaline, by others a jacinth, and by others a belemnite. The ancients supposed it to be produced from the urine of the lynx. The following is the account of Theophrastus, Theophrastus's History of Stones. With an English Version ..., by "Sir" John Hill, London, 1774, p. 123, ch. xlix.-l. "There is some Workmanship required to bring the Emerald to its Lustre, for originally it is not so bright. It is, however, excellent in its Virtues, as is also the Lapis Lyncurius, which is likewise used for engraving Seals on, and is of a very solid Texture, as Stones are; it has also an attractive Power, like that of Amber, and is said to attract not only Straws and small pieces of Sticks, but even Copper and Iron, if they are beaten to thin pieces. This Diocles affirms. The Lapis Lyncurius is pellucid, and of a fire Colour." See also W. Watson in Philos. Trans., 1759, L. i., p. 394, Observations concerning the Lyncurium of the ancients.
- (2.) Ruby.
(3.) Garnet. The authority for both these is Pliny, Nat. Hist., book xxxvii., chap. vii. (p. 617 of English edition of 1601).
"Over and besides, I find other sorts of Rubies different from those above-named;... which being chaufed in the Sun, or otherwise set in a heat by rubbing with the fingers, will draw unto them chaffe, strawes, shreads, and leaves of paper. The common Grenat also of Carchedon or Carthage, is said to doe as much, although it be inferiour in price to the former."
(4.) Jasper. Affaytatus is the authority, in Fortunii Affaitati Physici atque Theologi ... Physicæ & Astronomicæ cōsiderationes (Venet., 1549), where, on p. 20, he speaks of the magnet turning to the pole, likening it to the turning of a "palea ab Ambro vel Iaspide et hujuscemodi lapillis lucidis."
(5.) Lychnis. Pliny and St. Isidore speak of a certain stone lychnis, of a scarlet or flame colour, which, when warmed by the sun or between the fingers, attracts straws or leaves of papyrus. Pliny puts this stone amongst carbuncles, but it is much more probably rubellite, that is to say, red tourmaline.
(6.) Diamond. In spite of the confusion already noted, à propos of adamas (Note to p. 47), between loadstone and diamond, there seems to be one distinct record of an attractive effect having been observed with a rubbed diamond. This was recorded by Fracastorio, De sympathia et antipathia rerum (Giunta edition, Venice, MDLXXIIII, chap. v., p. 60 verso), "cujus rei & illud esse signum potest, cum confricata quædã vt Succinum, & Adamas fortius furculos trahunt." And (on p. 62 recto); "nam si per similitudine (vt supra diximus) fit hæc attractio, cur magnes non potius magnetem trahit, q' ferrum, & ferrum non potius ad ferrum movetur, quàm ad magnetem? quæ nam affinitas est pilorum, & furculorum cum Electro, & Adamante? præsertim q' si cum Electro affines sunt, quomodo & cum Adamante affinitatem habebunt, qui dissimilis Electro est?" An incontestable case of the observation of the electrification of the diamond occurs in Gartias ab Horto. The first edition of his Historia dei Semplici Aromati was publisht at Goa in India in 1563. In chapter xlviii. on the Diamond, occur these words (p. 200 of the Venetian edition of 1616): "Questo si bene ho sperimentato io più volte, che due Diamanti perfetti fregati insieme, si vniscono di modo insieme, che non di leggiero li potrai separare. Et ho parimente veduto il Diamante dopo di esser ben riscaldato, tirare à se le festuche, non men, che si faccia l'elettro." See also Aldrovandi, Musæum Metallicum (Bonon., 1648, p. 947).
Levinus Lemnius also mentions the Diamond along with amber. See his Occulta naturæ miracula (English edition, London, 1658, p. 199).
119 ^ Page 48, line 16. Page 48, line 18. Iris gemma.—The name iris was given, there can be little doubt, to clear six sided prisms of rock-crystal (quartz), which, when held in the sun's beams, cast a crude spectrum of the colours of the rainbow. The following is the account of it given in Pliny, book xxxvii., chap. vii. (p. 623 of the English version of 1601):
"... there is a stone in name called Iris: digged out of the ground it is in a certaine Island of the red sea, distant from the city Berenice three score miles. For the most part it resembleth Crystall: which is the reason that some hath tearmed it the root of Crystall. But the cause why they call it Iris, is, That if the beames of the Sunne strike upon it directly within house, it doth send from it against the walls that bee neare, the very resemblance both in forme and also in colour of a rainebow; and eftsoones it will chaunge the same in much varietie, to the great admiration of them that behold it. For certain it is knowne, that six angles it hath in manner of the Crystall: but they say that some of them have their sides rugged, and the same unequally angled: which if they be laid abroad against the Sunne in the open aire, do scatter the beames of the Sunne, which light upon them too and fro: also that others doe yeeld a brightnes from themselves, and thereby illuminat all that is about them. As for the diverse colours which they cast forth, it never happeneth but in a darke or shaddowie place: whereby a man may know, that the varietie of colours is not in the stone Iris, but commeth by the reverberation of the wals. But the best Iris is that which representeth the greatest circles upon the wall, and those which bee likest unto rainebowes indeed."
In the English translation of Solinus's De Mirabilibus (The excellent and pleasant worke of Julius Solinus containing the noble actions of humaine creatures, the secretes and providence of nature, the descriptions of countries ... tr. by A. Golding, gent., Lond., 1587), chapter xv. on Arabia has the following:
"Hee findeth likewise the Iris in the Red sea, sixe cornered as the Crystall: which beeing touched with the Sunnebeames, casteth out of him a bryght reflexion of the ayre like the Raynebowe."
Iris is also mentioned by Albertus Magnus (De mineralibus, Venet., 1542, p. 189), by Marbodeus Gallus (De lapidibus, Par. 1531, p. 78), who describes it as "crystallo simulem sexangulam," by Lomatius (Artes of curious Paintinge, Haydocke's translation, Lond., 1598, p. 157), who says, "... the Sunne, which casting his beames vpon the stone Iris, causeth the raine-bowe to appeare therein ...," and by "Sir" John Hill (A General Natural History, Lond., 1748, p. 179).
Figures of the Iris given by Aldrovandi in the Musæum Metallicum clearly depict crystals of quartz.
120 ^ Page 48, line 16. Page 48, line 18. Vincentina, & Bristolla (Anglica gemma siue fluor). This is doubtless the same substance as the Gemma Vincentij rupis mentioned on p. 54, line 16 (p. 54, line 18, of English Version), and is nothing else than the so-called "Bristol diamond," a variety of dark quartz crystallized in small brilliant crystals upon a basis of hæmatite. To the work by Dr. Thomas Venner (Lond., 1650), entitled Via Recta or the Bathes of Bathe, there is added an appendix, A Censure concerning the water of Saint Vincents Rocks neer Bristol (Urbs pulchra et Emporium celebre), in which, at p. 376, occurs this passage: "This Water of Saint Vincents Rock is of a very pure, cleare, crystalline substance, answering to those crystalline Diamonds and transparent stones that are plentifully found in those Clifts."
In the Fossils Arranged of "Sir" John Hill (Lond., 1771), p. 123, is the following entry: "Black crystal. Small very hard heavy glossy. Perfectly black, opake. Bristol (grottos, glass)" referring to its use.
The name Vincentina is not known as occurring in any mineralogical book. Prof. H. A. Miers, F.R.S., writes concerning the passage: "Anglica gemma sive fluor seems to be a synonym for Bristolla, or possibly for Vincentina et Bristolla. Both quartz and fluor are found at Clifton. In that case Vincentina and Bristolla refer to these two minerals, and if so one would expect Bristolla to be the Bristol Diamond, and Vincentina to be the comparatively rare Fluor spar from that locality."
At the end of the edition of 1653 of Sir Hugh Plat's Jewel House of Art and Nature, is appended A rare and excellent Discourse of Minerals, Stones, Gums, and Rosins; with the vertues and use thereof, By D. B. Gent. Here, p. 218, we read:
"We have in England a stone or mineral called a Bristol stone (because many are found thereabouts) which much resembles the Adamant or Diamond, which is brought out of Arabia and Cyprus; but as it is wanting of the same hardnesse, so falls it short of the like vertues."
121 ^ Page 48, line 18. Page 48, line 19. Crystallus.—Rock-crystal. Quartz. Pliny's account of it (Philemon Holland's version of 1601, p. 604) in book xxxvii., chap, ii., is:
"As touching Crystall, it proceedeth of a contrarie cause, namely of cold; for a liquor it is congealed by extreame frost in manner of yce; and for proofe hereof, you shall find crystall in no place els but where the winter snow is frozen hard: so as we may boldly say, it is verie yce and nothing else, whereupon the Greeks have give it the right name Crystallos, i. Yce.... Thus much I dare my selfe avouch, that crystall groweth within certaine rockes upon the Alps, and these so steepe and inaccessible, that for the most part they are constrained to hang by ropes that shall get it forth."
122 ^ Page 48, line 18. Page 48, line 20. Similes etiam attrahendi vires habere videntur vitrum ... sulphur, mastix, & cera dura sigillaris. If, as shown above, the electric powers of diamond and ruby had already been observed, yet Gilbert was the first beyond question to extend the list of electrics beyond the class of precious stones, and his discovery that glass, sulphur, and sealing-wax acted, when rubbed, like amber, was of capital importance. Though he did not pursue the discovery into mechanical contrivances, he left the means of that extension to his followers. To Otto von Guericke we owe the application of sulphur to make the first electrical machine out of a revolving globe; to Sir Isaac Newton the suggestion of glass as affording a more mechanical construction.
Electrical attraction by natural products other than amber after they have been rubbed must have been observed by the primitive races of mankind. Indeed Humboldt in his Cosmos (Lond., 1860, vol. i., p. 182) records a striking instance:
"I observed with astonishment, on the woody banks of the Orinoco, in the sports of the natives, that the excitement of electricity by friction was known to these savage races, who occupy the very lowest place in the scale of humanity. Children may be seen to rub the dry, flat and shining seeds or husks of a trailing plant (probably a Negretia) until they are able to attract threads of cotton and pieces of bamboo cane."
123 ^ Page 48, line 23. Page 48, line 25. arsenicum.—This is orpiment. See the Dictionary of metallick words at the end of Pettus's Fleta Minor.
124 ^ Page 48, line 23. Page 48, line 26. in convenienti cœlo sicco.—The observation that only in a dry climate do rock-salt, mica, and rock-alum act as electrics is also of capital importance. Compare page 56.
125 ^ Page 48, line 27. Page 48, line 31. Alliciunt hæc omnia non festucas modo & paleas.—Gilbert himself marks the importance of this discovery by the large asterisk in the margin. The logical consequence was his invention of the first electroscope, the versorium non magneticum, made of any metal, figured on p. 49.
126 ^ Page 48, line 34. Page 48, line 36. quod tantum siccas attrahat paleas, nec folia ocimi.—This silly tale that basil leaves were not attracted by amber arose in the Quæstiones Convivales of Plutarch. It is repeated by Marbodeus and was quoted by Levinus Lemnius as true. Gilbert denounced it as nonsense. Cardan (De Subtilitate, Norimb., 1550, p. 132) had already contradicted the fable. "Trahit enim," he says, "omnia levia, paleas, festucas, ramenta tenuia metallorum, & ocimi folia, perperam contradicente Theophrasto." Sir Thomas Browne specifically refuted it. "For if," he says, "the leaves thereof or dried stalks be stripped into small strawes, they arise unto Amber, Wax, and other Electricks, no otherwise then those of Wheat or Rye."
127 ^ Page 48, line 34. Page 48, line 38. Sed vt poteris manifestè experiri....
Gilbert's experimental discoveries in electricity may be summarized as follows:
- 1. The generalization of the class of Electrics.
- 2. The observation that damp weather hinders electrification.
- 3. The generalization that electrified bodies attract everything,
- including even metals, water, and oil.
- 4. The invention of the non-magnetic versorium or electroscope.
- 5. The observation that merely warming amber does not electrify it.
- 6. The recognition of a definite class of non-electrics.
- 7. The observation that certain electrics do not attract if roasted or
- 8. That certain electrics when softened by heat lose their power.
- 9. That the electric effluvia are stopped by the interposition of a sheet
- of paper or a piece of linen, or by moist air blown from the mouth.
- 10. That glowing bodies, such as a live coal, brought near excited amber
- discharge its power.
- 11. That the heat of the sun, even when concentrated by a burning mirror,
- confers no vigour on the amber, but dissipates the effluvia.
- 12. That sulphur and shell-lac when aflame are not electric.
- 13. That polish is not essential for an electric.
- 14. That the electric attracts bodies themselves, not the intervening air.
- 15. That flame is not attracted.
- 16. That flame destroys the electrical effluvia.
- 17. That during south winds and in damp weather, glass and crystal, which
- collect moisture on their surface, are electrically more interfered
- with than amber, jet and sulphur, which do not so easily take up
- moisture on their surfaces.
- 18. That pure oil does not hinder production of electrification or exercise
- of attraction.
- 19. That smoke is electrically attracted, unless too rare.
- 20. That the attraction by an electric is in a straight line toward it.
128 ^ Page 48, line 35. Page 48, line 39. quæ sunt illæ materiæ.—Gilbert's list of electrics should be compared with those given subsequently by Cabeus (1629), by Sir Thomas Browne (1646), and by Bacon. The last-named list occurs in his Physiological Remains, published posthumously in 1679; it contains nothing new. Sir Thomas Browne's list is given in the following passage, which is interesting as using for the first time in the English language the noun Electricities:
"Many stones also both precious and vulgar, although terse and smooth, have not this power attractive; as Emeralds, Pearle, Jaspis, Corneleans, Agathe, Heliotropes, Marble, Alablaster, Touchstone, Flint and Bezoar. Glasse attracts but weakely though cleere, some slick stones and thick glasses indifferently: Arsenic but weakely, so likewise glasse of Antimony, but Crocus Metallorum not at all. Saltes generally but weakely, as Sal Gemma, Alum, and also Talke, nor very discoverably by any frication: but if gently warmed at the fire, and wiped with a dry cloth, they will better discover their Electricities." (Pseudodoxia Epidemica, p. 79.)
In the Philosophical Transactions, vol. xx., p. 384, is A Catalogue of Electrical Bodies by the late Dr. Rob. Plot. It begins "Non solum succinum," and ends "alumen rupeum," being identical with Gilbert's list except that he calls "Vincentina & Bristolla" by the name "Pseudoadamas Bristoliensis."
129 ^ Page 49, line 25. Page 49, line 30. non dissimili modo.—The modus operandi of the electrical attractions was a subject of much discussion; see Cardan, op. citat.
130 ^ Page 51, line 2. Page 51, line 1. appellunt.—This appears to be a misprint for appelluntur.
131 ^ Page 51, line 22. Page 51, line 23. smyris.—Emery. This substance is mentioned on p. 22 as a magnetic body.
132 ^ Page 52, line 1. Page 51, line 46. gemmæ ... vt Crystallus, quæ ex limpidâ concreuit. See the <a href="#Nt121">note</a> to p. 48.
133 ^ Page 52, line 30. Page 52, line 32. ammoniacum.—Ammoniacum, or Gutta Ammoniaca, is described by Dioscorides as being the juice of a ferula grown in Africa, resembling galbanum, and used for incense.
"Ammoniack is a kind of Gum like Frankincense; it grows in Lybia, where Ammon's Temple was." Sir Hugh Plat's Jewel House of Art and Nature (Ed. 1653, p. 223).
134 ^ Page 52, line 38. Page 52, line 41. duæ propositæ sunt causæ ... materia & forma.—Gilbert had imbibed the schoolmen's ideas as to the relations of matter and form. He had discovered and noted that in the magnetic attractions there was always a verticity, and that in the electrical attractions the rubbed electrical body had no verticity. To account for these differences he drew the inference that since (as he had satisfied himself) the magnetic actions were due to form, that is to say to something immaterial—to an "imponderable" as in the subsequent age it was called—the electrical actions must necessarily be due to matter. He therefore put forward his idea that a substance to be an electric must necessarily consist of a concreted humour which is partially resolved into an effluvium by attrition. His discoveries that electric actions would not pass through flame, whilst magnetic actions would, and that electric actions could be screened off by interposing the thinnest layer of fabric such as sarcenet, whilst magnetic actions would penetrate thick slabs of every material except iron only, doubtless confirmed him in attributing the electric forces to the presence of these effluvia. See also p. 65. There arose a fashion, which lasted over a century, for ascribing to "humours," or "fluids," or "effluvia," physical effects which could not otherwise be accounted for. Boyle's tracts of the years 1673 and 1674 on "effluviums," their "determinate nature," their "strange subtilty," and their "great efficacy," are examples.
135 ^ Page 53, line 9. Page 53, line 11. Magnes vero....—This passage from line 9 to line 24 states very clearly the differences to be observed between the magnetical and the electrical attractions.
136 ^ Page 53, line 36. Page 53, line 41. succino calefacto.—Ed. 1633 reads succinum in error.
137 ^ Page 54, line 9. Page 54, line 11. Plutarchus ... in quæstionibus Platonicis.—The following Latin version of the paragraph in Quæstio sexta is taken from the bilingual edition publisht at Venice in 1552, p. 17 verso, liber vii., cap. 7 (or, Quæstio Septima in Ed. Didot, p. 1230).
"Electrum uero quæ apposita sunt, nequaquàm trahit, quem admodum nec lapis ille, qui sideritis nuncupatur, nec quicquā à seipso ad ea quæ in propinquo sunt, extrinsecus assilit. Verum lapis magnes effluxiones quasdam tum graves, tum etiam spiritales emittit, quibus aer continuatus & iunctus repellitur. Is deinceps alium sibi proximum impellit, qui in orbem circum actus, atque ad inanem locum rediens, ui ferrum fecum rapit & trahit. At Electrum uim quandam flammæ similem & spiritalem continet, quam quidem tritu summæ partis, quo aperiuntur meatus, foras eijcit. Nam leuissima corpuscula & aridissima quæ propè sunt, sua tenuitate atque imbecillitate ad seipsum ducit & rapit, cum non sit adeo ualens, nec tantum habeat ponderis & momenti ad expellendam aeris copiam, ut maiora corpora more Magnetis superare possit & uincere."
138 ^ Page 54, line 16. Page 54, line 18. Gemma Vincentij rupis.—See the <a href="#Nt120">note</a> to p. 48 supra, where the name Vincentina occurs.
139 ^ Page 54, line 30. Page 54, line 35. orobi.—The editions of 1628 and 1633 read oribi.
140 ^ Page 55, line 34. Page 55, line 42. in euacuati.—The editions of 1628 and 1633 read inevacuati.
141 ^ Page 58, line 21. Page 58, line 25. assurgentem vndam ... declinat ab F.—These words are wanting in the Stettin editions.
142 ^ Page 59, line 9. Page 59, line 9. fluore.—This word is conjectured to be a misprint for fluxu but it stands in all editions.
143 ^ Page 59, line 22. Page 59, line 25. Ruunt ad electria.—This appears to be a slip for electrica, which is the reading of the editions of 1628 and 1633.
144 ^ Page 60, line 7. Page 60, line 9. tanq materiales radij.—The suggestion here of material rays as the modus operandi of electric forces seems to foreshadow the notion of electric lines of force.
145 ^ Page 60, line 10. Page 60, line 12. Differentia inter magnetica & electrica.—Though Gilbert was the first systematically to explore the differences that exist between the magnetic attraction of iron and the electric attraction of all light substances, the point had not passed unheeded, for we find St. Augustine, in the De Civitate Dei, liber xxi., cap. 6, raising the question why the loadstone which attracts iron should refuse to move straws. The many analogies between electric and magnetic phenomena had led many experimenters to speculate on the possibility of some connexion between electricity and magnetism. See, for example, Tiberius Cavallo, A Treatise on Magnetism, London, 1787, p. 126. Also the three volumes of J. H. van Swinden, Receuil de Mémoires sur l'Analogie de Electricité et du Magnétisme, La Haye, 1784. Aepinus wrote a treatise on the subject, entitled De Similitudine vis electricæ et magneticæ (Petropolis, 1758). This was, of course, long prior to the discovery, by Oersted, in 1820, of the real connexion between magnetism and the electric current.