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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/134

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128
A NEW STIMULANT - PITURY.

Caxton had been deeply interested in the new and wondrous art of printing, and he had exercised himself in making some translations from books that pleased him. "In 1469," he says, "having no great charge or occupation, and wishing to eschew sloth and idleness, which is the mother and nourisher of vices, having good leisure, being at Cologne, I set about finishing the translation [of the "Histories of Troy"]. When, however, I remembered my simpleness and imperfections in French and English, I fell in despair of my works, and after I had written five or six quairs, purposed no more to have continued therein, and the quairs [books] laid apart, and in two years after labored no more in this work, till in a time it fortuned the Lady Margaret sent for me to speak with her good Grace of divers matters among the which I let her have knowledge of the foresaid beginning." "The duchess," he adds, "found fault with myne English, which she commanded me to amend, and to continue and make an end of the residue; which command I durst not disobey." The duchess both encouraged, and rewarded him liberally. He mentions in the prologue and epilogue to this book that his eyes are dim with overmuch looking on the white paper, and that age was creeping on him daily, and enfeebling all his body; that he "had learned and practised at great charge and dispense to ordain this said book in print, and not written with pen and ink, as other books be." This, it seems, was not the first book he had printed at Cologne. He returned to England about 1472, when he would be sixty years old, after having lived thirty years on the Continent. He brought with him some unsold copies of the works he had printed at Cologne. Thomas Milling, Bishop of Hereford and Abbot of Westminster, was Caxton's first patron. It was probably by his permission that Caxton set up his printing-press in the almonry or one of the chapels attached to the Abbey.




From Nature.

A NEW STIMULANT - PITURY.

Baron von Mueller writes to the Australian Medical Journal on the origin of the pitury, a stimulant said to be of marvellous power and known to be in use by the aborigines of central Australia. After years of efforts to get a specimen of the plant, he had obtained leaves, but neither flowers nor fruits. He can almost with certainty, after due microscopic examination, pronounce those of the pitury as derived from his Duboisia Hopwoodii, described in 1861 (Fragm. Phytogr. Austr., ii. 138). This bush extends from the Darling River and Barcoo to West Australia, through desert scrubs, but is of exceedingly sparse occurrence anywhere. In fixing the origin of the pitury, a wide field for further inquiry is opened up, inasmuch as a second species of Duboisia (D. myoporoides, R. Br.) extends in forest land from near Sydney to near Cape York, and is traced also to New Caledonia, and lately by him also to New Guinea. In all probability this D. myoporoides shares the properties of D. Hopwoodii, as he finds that both have the same burning, acrid taste. Baron Mueller adds: "Though the first known species is so near to us, we never suspected any such extraordinary properties in it as are now established for the later discovered species. Moreover, the numerous species of the allied genus Anthocercis, extending over the greater part of the Australian continent and to Tasmania, should now also be tasted, and further the many likewise cognate Schwenkeas of South America should be drawn into the same cyclus of research, nothing whatever of the properties of any of these plants being known. The natives of central Australia chew the leaves of Duboisia Hopwoodii, just as the Peruvians and Chilians masticate the leaves of the coca (Erythroxylon coca), to invigorate themselves during their long foot journeys through the deserts. I am not certain whether the aborigines of all districts in which the pitury grows are really aware of its stimulating power. Those living near the Barcoo travel many days' journeys to obtain this, to them, precious foliage, which is carried always about by them broken into small fragments and tied up in little bags. It is not improbable that a new and perhaps important medicinal plant is thus gained. The blacks use the Duboisia to excite their courage in warfare; a large dose infuriates them."