Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/249

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TIN AND ITS NATIVE LAND.

in convents and churches, where devotional objects of every kind were made out of it—crosses, chandeliers, holy-water bowls, other vessels, organ-pipes, and pilgrim-standards. It was allowed, with gold and silver, to enter into* the composition of the sacred vessels, when wood, lead, copper, and bronze were prohibited as base or insalubrious, and glass on account of its fragility.

Bishops and priests were buried with their symbols, crosses, and chalices represented in tin. This metal served well in place of silver in the illumination of ancient manuscripts, as it now takes the place of gold in the lacquers of China and Tonquin, in which the metallic luster of tin-foil has given the transparent varnish the yellow shine of gold. Some objects found in the Italian tombs have an interesting resemblance to those of Tonquin and China. Curiously, the custom of the Chinese and Anamites, of burning papers to their ancestors bearing the figures of objects which they use while living, finds its equivalent among the peoples of Europe, who placed in the tombs of their dead tin images of similar objects, such as forks, knives, tongs, tripods, and candlesticks.

Tin was likewise employed for numerous purposes, often exalted ones, in the life of the middle ages. The ceremonial cups in which the wine was formally offered to a sovereign or to a lord making a solemn entry into a city, and the goblets given as prizes to the most adroit bowmen, were usually made of it. So were cups and measures for wine and oil, porringers, and dishes of all sizes. Plates came later. This piece, which it seems to us so natural to set on the table in front of each guest, is not of older use than the twelfth century. Even at that time every plate served in common for two or three persons. Before that, our ancestors ate, as I have done myself, among the rajahs of Oceania, each one taking the morsels with his hand from the common dish.

Grand commemorative medals, seals affixed to documents, inkstands, and tokens were struck in tin. The use of this metal was still more general in Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The tin eating-dish came into general use, even among peasants and workingmen, and was provided for animals. Queen Isabella's cats and the Emperor Frederick's hunting-birds had them; and tin drinking-dishes were made for the royal birds and for song-birds of every kind. Barbers' emblems, to the seventeenth century, representing a bearded figure, were of tin, to distinguish them from surgeons' signs, which were of yellow metal or brass.

Relegated till then to the kitchen or the offices of the large convents or the houses of the great lords, save in perilous times when it was brought out to take the place of silver plate on the masters' tables, tin passed, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, into