A Catechism of Familiar Things; Their History, and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery
by Benziger Brothers
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Who are the Maltese?

The inhabitants of Malta, an island of the Mediterranean, situated between Africa and Sicily.

Whence are Lemons brought?

The Lemon is a native of Eastern Asia, whence it was brought to Greece, and afterwards to Italy; from Italy it was transplanted to Spain, Portugal, and the South of France, whence lemons are imported in great plenty.

What is the Citron?

The fruit of the Citron Tree, resembling the lemon, but somewhat larger, and having a finer pulp. The citron was also brought originally from the East of Asia, but has since been produced in the warm parts of Europe, like the orange and lemon; Genoa especially is the greatest nursery for them. Its rind is principally brought to this country in a candied state, and is applied by confectioners to various purposes.

Where is Genoa?

A city of Northern Italy, on the Mediterranean, between the rivers Bisagno and Polcevera.

What is the Lime?

The Lime is by some thought to be a species of lemon, by others not; it is a smaller fruit, and in the West Indies is greatly preferred to the lemon. It is cultivated in the South of Europe, the West Indies, and the warm parts of America. The agreeable scent called Bergamot is prepared from the rind of a small species of lime.

What are Olives?

The fruit of the Olive Tree, an evergreen, now common in the woods of France, Spain, and Italy; but in the wild state producing a small fruit of no value; when cultivated, however, (which it is extensively, both for the fruit and the quantity of oil which it yields,) it forms one of the richest productions of Southern Europe. The olive came originally from Asia. Its use is very ancient; it is frequently spoken of in the Bible, both as in a wild and cultivated state. The promised land of the Israelites was "a land of oil, olive, and honey." From the time that the dove returned to Noah in the Ark with an "olive leaf plucked off," in all ages and countries, wherever this tree is known, down to the present day, has an olive-branch been the favorite emblem of peace.

What nation holds the olive in great repute?

This tree was a great favorite with the ancient Greeks, and scarcely an ancient custom existed in which the olive was not in some way associated: at their marriages and festivals, all parts of their dwellings, especially the doors, were ornamented with them, and the same custom prevails at the present day, both in public and private rejoicings. It was also scarcely less a favorite with the Romans, although it was not held in the same sacred light as amongst the Greeks. The olive-branch has likewise been universally considered the emblem of plenty, and as such, is found on the coins of those countries of which it is not a native. Two centuries after the foundation of Rome, both Italy and Africa were strangers to this useful plant; it afterwards became naturalized in those countries, and at length arrived in Spain, France, &c. Olive trees sometimes attain a great age.

How are the Olives eaten?

The olives while on the tree are intolerably bitter, without any of that peculiar taste which gains them admittance at the richest tables; to fit them for which they are pickled. Ripe olives are eaten in the Eastern countries, especially amongst the Greeks, as an article of food, particularly in Lent. The oil, which they yield in great quantities, is very highly esteemed; being that chiefly used for salads, &c., in medicine, and in various manufactures.

Lent, a time of fasting; the time from Ash-Wednesday to Easter.

How is the Oil drawn from the Olive?

By presses or mills made for the purpose. The sweetest and best olive oil comes from the South of France, from Naples, Florence, and Lucca; quantities are also brought from Spain and the Ionian Islands.

Where is Naples?

In the South of Italy.

Where are Florence and Lucca situated?

In Italy. Florence is a very ancient, large, and celebrated city, the capital of Italy; Lucca, formerly a republic, belongs now to the kingdom of Italy.

Republic, a state in which the supreme power of government is lodged in representatives chosen by the people, instead of being vested in an emperor or king.

You said that the olive is an Evergreen: to what plant or shrub is the term particularly applied?

To any shrub or tree whose leaves continue fresh and green all the year round, winter and summer, as the laurel, pine, cedar, holly, &c., which do not shed their leaves in autumn as other trees.

Is oil a production confined to the Olive alone?

By no means. Oil is a fatty, inflammable matter, drawn from many vegetable and animal bodies. The oils in common use are of three different kinds. The first are mere oily or fatty bodies, extracted either by pressure, or by decoction: of the first kind are those of almonds, nuts, olives, &c.; and of the other, those of different berries, &c., which are procured by boiling the substance in water, which causes the oil to collect on the top.

Decoction, act of boiling—a chemical term.

What are the second and third kinds of Oils?

The second are those drawn from vegetables by common distillation in the alembic, with the aid of water; these contain the oily and volatile part of the plant, and are called essential oils. The third sort are those produced by distillation, but of a different kind in an open vessel, and without the help of water. They are likewise divided into vegetable oils, animal oils, and mineral oils; which last are those drawn from amber, and a few other substances partaking both of the vegetable and mineral natures, as Petroleum, commonly known as kerosene or coal oil.

Alembic, a chemical vessel used in distilling. It consists of a vessel placed over a fire, containing the substance to be distilled; the upper part, which receives and condenses the steam, is called the head; the beak of this is fitted to a vessel called a receiver.

Volatile, easily escaping, quickly flying off.

Whence is the word Oil derived?

From the Latin oleum, formed from olea, olive-tree, the fruit of which abounds in oil.

What immense fish is it that furnishes us with a quantity of animal oil?

The Whale, the largest and noblest inhabitant of the waters. It is protected from the cold by a case or coating of blubber, that is, a thick oily fat from which the oil is made; numbers of them are caught for the sake of that. Ambergris, highly prized in perfumery, is a product of the sperm whale.

In what seas are they found?

Chiefly in the Northern Seas: extensive whale fisheries are carried on by the Americans, English, Dutch, &c., and numbers of vessels are sent out for the purpose of taking the fish: they usually sail in the latter end of March, and begin fishing about May. The whale fishery continues generally from that time till the latter end of June or July. There are also other fishes and animals which afford us oils of different kinds, which are used for various purposes in medicine and the arts.

Is the oil called castor, which is so much used in medicine, the product of an animal or a plant?

Castor oil is expressed from a West Indian shrub, called Palma Christi; and especially from the ripe seeds, which are full of this oil. It is prepared by collecting these ripe seeds, and freeing them from the husks; then bruising and beating them into a paste; they are next boiled in water, when the oil rising to the surface is skimmed off as it continues to appear. The Castor-oil plant is found growing abundantly in Sumatra, particularly near the sea-shore.

Where is Sumatra situated?

In the Oriental Archipelago, off the south eastern part of the continent of Asia.

In what other countries is this plant found?

In some parts of Africa, Syria, and Egypt. It was anciently cultivated in the two last-mentioned countries in large quantities, the seeds being used for the oil they yielded, which was burnt in lamps.

Is not the Palma Christi much affected by soil and situation?

Greatly so. In some places it attains the stature of a tree, and is not a biennial plant, but endures for many years, as in the warm plains of Irak, Arabia, and some parts of Africa.

Biennial, lasting for the space of two years only.

What are Melons?

A species of the Cucumis, a genus of plants to which the cucumber belongs. There are great varieties of this fruit cultivated in different parts of the world; that sort called the Cantaleup (so named from being cultivated at a place of that name in the neighborhood of Rome, whither it was brought from Armenia,) is a species of musk-melon; the mature fruit is juicy, and delicately flavored.

Where is Armenia situated?

Armenia is a large country situated in Asiatic Turkey, to the west of the Caspian Sea.

What species of Melon is that which almost makes up for a scarcity of good water in hot countries?

The water-melon, which affords a cool, refreshing juice, and quenches the thirst produced by the excessive heats. It requires a dry, sandy soil, and a warm climate; the pulp of the fruit is remarkably rich and delicious.

What are Tamarinds?

The fruit of the Tamarind Tree, a native of both the Indies, Asia, Africa, &c. It is of a roundish form, and composed of two pods inclosed one within the other, between which is a soft pulpy substance, of a tart but agreeable taste; the inner pod contains the seeds or stones.

Tart, sharp, acid.

For what are they used?

We use them only as medicine; but the Africans, and many of the Oriental nations, with whom they are common, make them into a kind of preserve with sugar, which they eat as a delicacy, and which cools them in the violent heats of their climate.

From what nation was the knowledge of their use in medicine obtained?

From the Arabians.

What does the word Oriental signify?

Belonging to the East; therefore those countries of the globe situated in the East are called Oriental, those in the West, Occidental, from Oriens, signifying East, and Occidens, West.

What are Dates?

The fruit of the Palm, a beautiful and graceful tree, peculiar to the warmer regions of the globe; the growth of the palm is extremely singular, for although some species attain to the height of the largest forest trees, their structure differs materially from that of a tree, properly so called. The leaves of the young plant arise directly from the surface of the ground, and there is no appearance of any stem for several years; this stem once formed, never increases in size, the growth of the plant being always upward, so that the stem itself is formed by the prior growth of the green portions of the palm.

Structure, the manner of formation.

How often does this tree cast its circle of leaves?

Every year; so that the number of years a palm has existed is known by the scars which are left by their falling off. The palm is an evergreen.

What are the uses of this Tree?

The Palm is of the utmost importance to the inhabitants of the tropical regions; the fruit and sap providing them with food, the fibrous parts with clothing, and the leaves forming the greater part of their slightly-constructed huts; the leaves of some species are formed into fans, hats, and parasols; others are written on, in the same manner that we write on paper; artificial flowers are made of the pith of some; the light and supple rattan walking-cane is the slender shoot of another kind; and solid and useful utensils are made of the shell of the cocoa-nut. The fibres of the Date Palm are formed into ropes and twine; a liquor is drawn from the trunk, called palm wine; the trunks of the old trees furnish a hard and durable wood; and even the nuts or stones of the fruit are useful for feeding cattle; a wholesome flour is also made of the fruit, when dried and reduced to powder.

Constructed, put together.

Whence is its name derived?

From the Latin word palma, a hand, given to these productions of the vegetable world, from the supposed resemblance of their broad leaves to the human hand. The Date, the fruit of the Date Palm, derives its name from the Greek dactylus, a finger, from its mode of growing in clusters spreading out like the fingers of the hand. The Palm sometimes forms impenetrable forests; but more frequently is found in small groups of two or three, or even singly, beside springs and fountains of water, affording a kindly shade to the thirsty traveller.

Impenetrable, not easily penetrated or got through.

From what countries are Dates brought?

From Egypt, Syria, Persia, Africa, and the Indies. Among the Egyptians and Africans, they make a principal article of food. Dates, when ripe, are of a bright coral red, of an oblong form, and possess a sharp biting taste: they are usually gathered in autumn, before being perfectly ripe.



Of what are Hats made?

Of felt and wool. Dress hats for men's wear, were formerly made of beaver-fur, but the increasing scarcity of this article led to the introduction of silk plush as a substitute, and the result is that beaver is entirely superseded, and plush is used altogether. They possess many advantages over the beaver hat, as they are light, glossy, and durable. Hats are also made of straw, plaited and sewed together.

When did Hats come into general use?

The first mention made of hats is about the time of the Saxons, but they were not worn except by the rich. Hats for men were invented at Paris, by a Swiss, in 1404. About the year 1510, they were first manufactured in London, by Spaniards. Before that time both men and women in England commonly wore close, knitted, woollen caps. They appear to have become more common in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It is related, that when Charles the Second made his public entry into Rouen, in 1449, he wore a hat lined with red velvet, surmounted with a plume or tuft of feathers; from which entry, or at least during his reign, the use of hats and caps is to be dated; and from that time they took the place of chaperons and hoods, that had been worn before in France.

Where is Rouen?

In the province of Lower Seine, in France; it was formerly the capital of Normandy.

Describe the Castor, or Beaver, and its habits.

The Beaver has a broad, flat tail, covered with scales, serving as a rudder to direct its motion in the water; the toes of its hind feet are furnished with membranes, after the manner of water-fowl; the fore feet supply the place of hands, like those of the squirrel. The Beaver has two kinds of hair, of a light brown color, one long and coarse, the other short and silky. The teeth resemble those of a rat or squirrel, but are longer, and admirably adapted for cutting timber or stripping off the bark from trees.

Membranes, thin, flexible, expanded skins, connecting the toes of water-fowl and amphibious animals, and thus enabling them to swim with greater ease.

Where do Beavers usually fix their habitations?

Their houses are always situated in the water; they are composed of clay, which they make into a kind of mortar with their paws: these huts are of an oval figure, divided into three apartments raised one above the other, and erected on piles driven into the mud. Each beaver has his peculiar cell assigned him, the floor of which he strews with leaves or small branches of the pine tree. The whole building is generally capable of containing eight or ten inhabitants.

On what does the Beaver feed?

Its food consists of fruit and plants; and in winter, of the wood of the ash and other trees. The hunters and trappers in America formerly killed vast numbers for their skins, which were in great demand, as they were used in making hats, but as the only use they are now put to is for trimming, and for men's gloves and collars, the demand has fallen off.

Of what are stockings made?

Of cotton, silk, or wool, woven or knitted. Anciently, the only stockings in use were made of cloth, or stuff sewed together; but since the invention of knitting and weaving stockings of silk, &c., the use of cloth has been discontinued.

From what country is it supposed that the invention of silk knitted stockings originally came?

From Spain, in 1589. The art of weaving stockings in a frame was invented by William Lee, M.A., of St. John's College, Cambridge, England.

Explain the signification of M.A.

Master of Arts, a degree of honor conferred by the Universities.

What are Shoes?

A covering for the foot, now usually made of leather. In different ages and countries, shoes have been made of various materials, as raw skins, rushes, broom, paper, silk, wool, iron, silver, and gold.

What nation wore Shoes made of the bark of the papyrus?

The Egyptians. The Turks always take off their shoes, and leave them at the door, when they enter Mosques or dwelling-houses. The same custom also prevails in other Eastern nations.

What is a Mosque?

A Mahomedan church or temple.

What is meant by Mahomedan?

Belonging to the religion of Mahomed, the warrior and prophet of Arabia and Turkey, who was its founder. He was born at Mecca, a city of Arabia, in 571; and died in 631, at Medina, a city situated between Arabia Felix and Arabia Deserta. His creed maintains that there is but one God, and that Mahomed is his Prophet; it enjoins the observance of prayers, washings, almsgiving, fasting, sobriety, pilgrimage to Mecca, &c.

What do the appellations of Felix and Deserta signify?

Arabia, a country of Asia, lying on the borders of the Red Sea, is divided into Petraea, Deserta, and Felix; Petraea, signifying the Stony; Deserta, the Desert; and Felix, the fortunate or fruitful.

What is Leather?

The skins of various animals, as oxen, cows, calves, &c., dressed and prepared for use.

How is the Leather prepared?

By tanning; that is, steeping the skins in an infusion of tan, by which they are rendered firm, durable, and, in a great degree, impervious to water.

Infusion, a liquor made by steeping anything in water, or other liquids, without boiling.

What is Tan?

The bark of the oak-tree, &c., ground by a mill into a coarse powder.

What is Lime?[5]

A white, soft, friable, earthy substance, prepared from marble, chalk, and other lime-stones, or from shells, by burning in a kiln.

[Footnote 5: For a further account of it, see Chapters XIII. & XVI.]

Friable, easily powdered.

For what is it used?

Its greatest use is in the composition of mortar for building; it is also much used by tanners, skinners, &c., in the preparation of leather; by soap-boilers in the manufacture of soap; and by sugar-bakers for refining sugar.

What is a Kiln?

A fabric of brick or stone, formed for admitting heat in order to dry or burn materials placed in it.

Of what are Gloves made?

Of leather, silk, thread, cotton, worsted, &c.

What skins are generally used for Gloves?

Those of the chamois, kid, lamb, dog, doe, and many other animals.

What are Furs, and how are they prepared?

Furs are the skins of wild animals, dressed with the hair on, and used as apparel, either for warmth, ornament, or distinction of rank or dignity.

Name a few of the principal furs in use.

The fur of the ermine, an animal inhabiting the cold regions of Europe and America, is highly valued, and much used for ornamental purposes. In summer, the upper part of the body is of a yellowish-brown color; the under parts white, slightly tinged with yellow. It is then called a stoat. In winter, the fur is closer and finer, and is of a snowy white color; the tip of the tail is black throughout the year. In Europe the fur is much used for ornamenting the state robes of sovereigns and nobles. The sable is another animal much prized for its rich fur; it is a native of Northern Europe and America. The skins of the marten, found in North America, as well as in Northern Asia and the mountains of Kamtschatka; and also of the bear, fox, raccoon, badger, lynx, musk-rat, rabbit, hare, and squirrel, which are all procured in North America, are valuable. One of the most valuable descriptions of fur is that of the seal.

How is it procured?

By hunting the animals, which is the employment both of natives and settlers from other countries; the hunters sell the skins for money, to a company established for the purpose of trading in furs, or more frequently exchange them for clothes, arms, and other articles. The Alaska Commercial Company of San Francisco is granted by the United States Government the exclusive privilege of catching the fur seal.

What is Alum?

A kind of mineral, of a strong, sharp taste. It dissolves both in cold and boiling water, but best in the latter. It is of some use in medicine; a principal ingredient in dyeing and coloring, neither of which can be well performed without it, as it sets and brightens the colors, and prevents them from washing out. It is also extremely useful in many arts and manufactures.

Are there not different sorts of this material?

The principal kinds are native alums: viz. those prepared and perfected underground by the spontaneous operations of nature; as the roch, commonly called rock alum, from Rocha, in Syria, whence it is brought.

Spontaneous, unassisted by art.

Orientals, inhabitants of the Eastern parts of the world.

What is Ink?

A liquor used in writing on paper or parchment, made of copperas, galls; and gum arabic[6] mixed together. There are likewise several plants that may serve for the making of ink, as oak-bark, red roses, log-wood, &c. It is also made from an infusion of oak galls and iron filings: there are also many other ways, as well as materials, employed in the making of this useful article. Ink is the name applied to all liquids used in writing, of whatever color they may be, as red, blue, &c., though black is the most used for common purposes. The ink of the ancients seems to have been of a thick, oily nature, unlike the modern ink; it consisted of nothing more than a species of soot, or ivory black, mixed with one fourth of gum.

[Footnote 6: See Chapter XI.]

What is Copperas?

A kind of vitriol. Copperas is the name given to green vitriol, which is a preparation from iron. The blue vitriol is a sulphate of copper, and the white vitriol a sulphate of zinc.

For what is Vitriol used?

In the making of glass, to color it; in many arts and manufactures; and in medicine.

What are Galls?

Excrescences formed on a kind of oak tree in certain warm climates; perforations are made by an insect into the bark of the tree, whence issues a liquid which hardens by exposure. They are used in dyeing, making ink, and other compositions. There are two sorts of oak galls in our shops, brought from the Levant, and the southern parts of Europe.

What does the word Levant signify?

A country to the eastward. It is applied to the countries of Turkey, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, &c., which are washed by the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

Is the Ink used in Printing the same as writing Ink?

No; it is more of the nature of paint, being thicker and more glutinous: it chiefly consists of a mixture of oil and lamp-black, or some other ingredient, according to the color required; and is remarkable for the ease with which it adheres to paper that is moistened.

Glutinous, gummy, resembling glue.

What is Indian, or Chinese Ink?

An admirable composition, not liquid like our ink, but solid, and made into cakes somewhat like the mineral colors we use in painting. It is made into all sorts of figures, usually long, and about an inch thick; sometimes gilt with the figures of birds, flowers, &c. To use this ink, it must be rubbed with water, on stone or earthenware, till it produces a beautiful, liquid, shining black. It is used in drawing, &c., and is brought from China. It is composed of lamp-black and size, or animal glue, or gum, to which perfumes and other substances are sometimes added.



What is the name of the remarkable stone of which a cloth has been made, that resists the action of fire?

The Asbestus, a mineral substance of a whitish or silver color. There are several species of this mineral, which are distinguished by different names, according to the appearance of each, as fibrous asbestus, hard asbestus, and woody asbestus; it is the fibrous sort which is most noted for its uses in the arts. It is usually found inclosed within very hard stones; sometimes growing on their outside, and sometimes detached from them.

Fibrous, full of fibres or threads.

What are its qualities?

It is insipid; will not dissolve in water; and exposed to the fire, it neither consumes nor calcines. The industry of mankind has found a method of working upon this untoward mineral and employing it in making cloth and paper; the process is, however, difficult.

Insipid, without taste.

Was not this curious mineral better known to the ancients than it is at present?

The linen made from it was highly esteemed by them; it was not only better known, but more common, than among us, being equally valuable with the richest pearls; but the superiority of all other cloths to this in every respect, except the resistance to fire, has caused incombustible cloth to be regarded in modern times merely as a curiosity, but it is still employed in chemical preparations.

Incombustible, remaining undestroyed in fire.

To what use did they put it?

In royal funerals, it formed the shroud to wrap the body in that its ashes might be prevented from mingling with the wood, &c., that composed the pile. Some of the ancients made themselves clothes of it, particularly the Brahmins among the Hindoos; it formed wicks for their perpetual lamps; thread, ropes, nets, and paper were also made of it. Pliny, the Roman naturalist, says he has seen napkins of asbestus taken soiled from the table after a feast, which were thrown into the fire, and by that means better scoured than if they had been washed with water.

Naturalist, a person who studies nature, especially in what relates to minerals, vegetables, and animals.

Brahmins, Hindoo priests.

Where is the Asbestus found?

This mineral is found in the greatest quantity in the silver mines of Saxony; at Bleyburg, in Carinthia; in Sweden, Corsica, and sometimes in France, England, and the United States; also in Tartary and Siberia.

What method is used in preparing the Asbestus?

The stone is laid in warm water to soak, then opened and divided by the hands, that the earthy matter may be washed out. This washing is several times repeated, and the flax-like filaments collected and dried; these are easily spun with the addition of flax. The cloth when woven is best preserved by oil from breaking or wasting; on exposure to the fire, the flax and the oil burn out, and the cloth remains of a pure white. The shorter threads, which separate on washing the stone, may be made into paper in the usual manner.

What is Salt?

A saline crystallization of a sharp, pungent taste, and cleansing quality, used to season flesh, fish, butter, &c., and other things that are to be kept. It is distinguished, with reference to the general sources from which it is most plentifully derived, into three different sorts, namely, fossil, or rock salt; sea, or marine salt; and spring salt, or that drawn from briny springs and wells.

Marine, belonging to the sea.

Saline, consisting of salt.

Briny, consisting of brine; which means water tasting of salt; it is used to signify the waters of the sea, or any salt water.

What is Fossil or Rock Salt?

That which is found in large beds in the bowels of the earth, and which has not undergone any artificial preparation; it is sometimes colorless, but more frequently red, yellow, or blue, and mixed with earthy impurities; this salt was entirely unknown to the ancients, who by rock salt meant that which adheres to the rocks above high-water mark, being lodged there by the spray of the sea, which is evaporated by the heat of the sun; this is the purest salt, and is to be found on the rocks of Sicily, and several islands of the West Indies.

Artificial, produced by art, and the labor of man.

Evaporated, converted into vapor and dissipated.

What is Marine Salt?

That which is made from sea-water, concentrated by repeated evaporations, and at length crystallized.

What is Spring Salt?

That salt which is not made from sea-water, but from the water of salt wells or springs; large quantities of this salt are made in the United States, in some parts of which saline springs are numerous.

In what manner is it obtained?

The means employed for extracting the salt from the water vary according to circumstances. In hot countries, the water is merely exposed to the action of the sun, until the water is evaporated; the salt procured in this manner is considered the best.

What method is usually employed in countries where the sun's heat is not sufficiently powerful?

In climates where the rays of the sun do not afford sufficient heat, the water, which has been partly evaporated in large shallow reservoirs formed in the earth, called salt-pans, is poured into enormous coppers and boiled for four or five hours: when the contents of the copper are wasted to half the quantity, the liquid begins to be crystallized; the vessel is again filled up, and the brine again boiled and purified: this is repeated three or four times. After the last purifying the fire is kept very low for twelve or fourteen hours, and when the moisture is nearly evaporated the salt is removed, and, after the remaining brine has drained off, is placed in the store-houses.

In what countries is Salt generally found?

This substance, so necessary to the comfort of mankind, is widely distributed over the face of the earth, and nothing, except, perhaps, the air we breathe, is more easily placed within our reach. The ocean is an exhaustless store-house of this valuable article. Those nations of the earth which are placed at a distance from the sea, find themselves provided with magazines of salt, either in solid masses, or dissolved in the waters of inland lakes, or issuing from the solid rocks in springs of brine. At Salina, Syracuse, and other places in Onondaga Co., New York, salt springs are remarkably abundant, and yield annually several millions of bushels; immense quantities are also obtained from the salt-wells on the Great and Little Kanawha, and other places in Western Virginia; it is also extensively manufactured in the western part of Pennsylvania, and throughout the Western States.

Name the countries most noted for mines of Salt.

Poland, Upper Hungary, and the mountains of Catalonia, have extensive salt mines; those in the village of Wieliczca, in Poland, about five leagues from Cracow, are of a surprising depth and size. In the interior of Hindostan, there is a remarkable salt lake; and in several parts of the globe there are spots of ground impregnated entirely with this substance: an island of the East Indies contains a singular kind of fossil, or native dry salt; the soil there is in general very fruitful, but in certain parts of the island, there are spots of ground entirely barren, without the appearance of anything vegetable upon them; these spots taste very much of salt, and abound with it in such quantities, as to supply not only the whole island, but the greater part of the adjacent continent. In Utah Territory, especially in the neighborhood of the Mormon city, at the Great Salt Lake, are found extensive plains thus impregnated with salt, which is procured in great abundance.

Fossil, the remains of minerals or shells dug from the earth.

Impregnated, filled, saturated.

Catalonia, a considerable province of Spain, situated to the north-east.

Adjacent, adjoining, lying near, or contiguous.

To what use did the ancient inhabitants of Africa and Arabia put this substance?

The large slabs of rock salt, with which their country abounds, were employed by them instead of stones, in building their dwellings, the pieces being easily cemented together by sprinkling the joints with water, which, melting the parts of the two surfaces that opposed each other, formed the whole, when dry, into one solid block.

Does Rock Salt undergo any preparation before it is used?

Yes; when taken from the earth it is dissolved in cold water, and afterwards drawn off into salt-pans, and refined in the same manner as the sea salt.

What is Coal?

A hard, black, sulphurous and inflammable substance, dug out of the earth, serving in many countries as fuel. It is common in most of the countries of Europe and America. In some parts of the United States, it is found in beds having an area of several thousand square miles.

From what is Coal supposed to have originated?

Its origin is supposed to be derived from gigantic trees which flourished in the swamps and forests of the primeval earth. These having been torn away from their native bed, by storms and inundations, were transported into some adjacent lake, river, or sea. Here they floated on the waters until, saturated with them, they sank to the bottom, and being buried in the lower soil of adjacent lands, became transformed into a new state among the members of the mineral kingdom. A long interment followed, during which a course of chemical changes, and new combinations of their vegetable elements, converted them to the mineral condition of coal.

Primeval, original, existing before the flood.

Gigantic, extremely large, greater than the usual size.

Interment, burial under the ground.

Elements, the several parts or principles of which bodies are composed.

What is a Coal Mine?

A subterraneous excavation, from which coal is obtained.

Do the terms Coal and Charcoal signify the same substance?

No; Charcoal is an artificial fuel, made in imitation of coal, by burning wood covered with earth so as partially to exclude the air. It is used for various purposes, as the making of gunpowder,[7] polishing brass and copper, &c., and when a clear and bright fire is required, as it burns with little or no smoke; it is dangerous, however, for one to remain many hours in a close room with a charcoal fire, as the fumes it throws out are hurtful, and would destroy life. Charcoal, in fact, is the coaly residuum of any vegetables burnt in close vessels; but the common charcoal is that prepared from wood, and is generally black, very brittle, light, and destitute of taste or smell. It is a powerful antiseptic, unalterable and indestructible.

[Footnote 7: See Chapter XII.]

Residuum, the remaining part, that which is left.

Antiseptic, that which prevents putrefaction.

What is Iron?

One of the most useful and abundant metals; being found in all mineral earths, and stones; in plants, and animal fluids; and is the chief cause of the varieties of color in all. Iron is found in great masses, in various states, in the bowels of the earth; it is usually, however, compounded with stone, from which it is separated by the action of fire. In some parts of the world, whole mountains are formed of iron; among these may be mentioned the Pilot Knob and the Iron Mountain, in Missouri, being unsurpassed by anything of the kind found elsewhere.

What are its characteristics?

It is hard, fusible, not very malleable, but extremely ductile, and very tenacious; it is of a greyish color, and nearly eight times heavier than water. Without iron, society could make no progress in the cultivation of the ground, in mechanical arts or trades, in architecture or navigation; it is therefore of the greatest use to man. Iron tools have been used in all European countries as long as their histories have existed; this metal appears likewise to have been known and used by the inhabitants of the world in the earliest ages, being frequently mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. In the fourth chapter of Genesis, Tubalcain is spoken of as "a hammerer and artificer in every work of brass and iron," and thus their existence was evidently known at that early period of the world.

Artificer, one who works or makes.

Fusible, capable of being melted by fire.

What do you mean by Metals?

Useful substances dug from the bowels of the earth, being sometimes found pure, but mostly combined with other matter. They are distinguished by their weight, tenacity, hardness, opacity, color, and peculiar lustre, known as the metallic lustre; they are fusible by heat, and good conductors of heat and electricity; many of them are malleable, and some extremely ductile. Those which were first known are gold, silver, iron, copper, mercury, lead, and tin.

Tenacity, the firmness with which one part adheres to another.

Opacity, want of transparency or clearness.

What are Metals called in their natural state?

Ores; so named because the metal contained in them is either mixed with other metals, or with mineral earths, from which they are separated and purified by various means: such as washing, roasting, &c., but the method is always regulated by the nature of the ore.

What is Copper?

A hard, heavy, ductile metal, found native, and in many ores; of these the most important is copper pyrites, which is a sulphuret of copper. Next to gold, silver, and platinum, copper is the most malleable and ductile of metals; it may be drawn into wires as fine as hair, or beaten into leaves as thin as those of silver. The rust of copper is very poisonous. Copper, mixed with a certain quantity of tin, forms bell-metal. With a smaller proportion, it forms bronze, a substance used in sculpture for casting figures and statues. It is an abundant metal, and is found in various parts of the world. Native oxides of copper are found in Cornwall, Siberia, and in North and South America.

Oxide, a substance combined with Oxygen,[8] in a proportion not sufficient to produce acidity.

Sulphuret, a combination of sulphur with a base.

[Footnote 8: See Chapter XIII., article Oxygen.]

What are the uses of Copper?

They are too various to be enumerated. In sheets it is much used to sheathe the bottoms of ships, for boilers, and other utensils. Copper coin was the only money used by the Romans till the 485th year of their city, when silver began to be coined. In Sweden, houses are covered with this metal.

What is a Mine?

A cavity under ground, formed for the purpose of obtaining metals, &c.; mines are often very deep and extensive. The descent into them is by a pit, called a shaft; the clues by which mines are discovered, are, mineral springs, the discoloration of vegetables, the appearance of pieces of ore, &c.

Clues, signs or means by which things hidden are brought to light.

What is Brass?

A factitious metal, consisting of copper and zinc. Brass is lighter and harder than pure copper, and less subject to rust; owing to these properties, together with its beautiful color, it is extremely useful in the manufacture of many utensils.

Factitious, made by art, not found in a natural state.

What is Zinc?

A metal of a brilliant bluish white color. Its name was unknown to the ancient Greeks and Arabians. It is mixed with other substances in the ore, from which it is obtained by smelting in the furnace. It has never yet been found native or pure.

For what is Zinc used?

From its readiness to dissolve in all acids, and unite with other metals, it is used in alloy with them in the composition of brass, &c. Thin sheets of zinc are also used to cover roofs of houses, and in the manufacture of various household utensils.

What is Lapis Calaminaris?

Lapis Calaminaris, or calamine stone, is a native carbonate of zinc, of some use in medicine, but chiefly in founding. It is, sometimes brownish, as that found in Germany and England, or red, as that of France. It is dug out of mines, usually in small pieces; generally out of those of lead. Calamine is mostly found in barren, rocky soils.

Founding, the art of casting metals.



What are Yams?

The roots of a climbing plant growing in tropical climates. The root of the yam is wholesome and well-flavored; nearly as large as a man's leg, and of an irregular form. Yams are much used for food in those countries where they grow; the natives either roast or boil them, and the white people grind them into flour, of which they make bread and puddings. The yam is of a dirty brown color outside, but white and mealy within.

What are Mangoes?

The fruit of the Mango Tree, a native of India and the south-western parts of Asia; it also grows abundantly in the West Indies and Brazil. It was introduced into Jamaica in 1782; where it attains the height of thirty or forty feet, with thick and wide-extended branches. The varieties of the mango are very numerous,—upwards of eighty are cultivated; and the quality of these varies according to the countries and situations in which they grow. The mangoes of Asia are said to be much better than those of America.

Describe the appearance of the Mango Tree.

The flowers of this tree are small and whitish, formed in pyramidal clusters. The fruit has some resemblance to a short thick cucumber, about the size of a goose's egg; its taste is delicious and cooling; it has a stone in the centre, like that of a peach. At first this fruit is of a fine green color, and some varieties continue so, while others change to a fine golden or orange color. The mango tree is an evergreen, bearing fruit once or twice a year, from six or seven years old to a hundred.

Pyramidal, resembling a pyramid.

How is this fruit eaten?

When ripe, it is eaten by the natives either in its natural state, or bruised in wine. It is brought to us either candied or pickled, as the ripe fruit is very perishable; in the latter case, they are opened with a knife, and the middle filled up with fresh ginger, garlic, mustard, salt, and oil or vinegar. The fruit of the largest variety weighs two pounds or upwards. The several parts of this tree are all applied to some use by the Hindoos: the wood is consecrated to the service of the dead; from the flour of the dried kernels different kinds of food are prepared; the leaves, flowers, and bark, are medicinal.

Medicinal, fit for medicine, possessing medical properties.

Consecrated, separated from a common to a sacred use.

Is there not a tree which bears a fruit that may be used for bread?

Yes; the Bread-fruit Tree, originally found in the southeastern parts of Asia and the islands of the Pacific Ocean, though introduced into the tropical parts of America. It is one of the most interesting, as well as singular productions of the vegetable kingdom, being no less beautiful than it is useful. This tree is large and shady; its leaves are broad and indented, like those of the fig tree—from twelve to eighteen inches long, rather fleshy, and of a dark green. The fruit, when full-grown, is from six to nine inches round, and of an oval form—when ripe, of a rich, yellow tinge; it generally hangs in clusters of two or three, on a small thick stalk; the pulp is white, partly farinaceous, and partly fibrous, but when ripe, becomes yellow and juicy.

Indented, toothed like the edge of a saw.

Farinaceous, mealy, consisting of meal or flour; from farina, flour.

How is the Bread-Fruit eaten?

It is roasted until the outside is of a brown color and crisp; the pulp has then the consistency of bread, which the taste greatly resembles; and thus it forms a nourishing food: it is also prepared in many different ways, besides that just mentioned. The tree produces three, sometimes four crops in a year, and continues bearing for fifty years, so that two or three trees are enough for a man's yearly supply. Its timber, which at first is of a rich yellow, but afterwards assumes the color of mahogany, is used in the building of houses and canoes; the flowers, when dried, serve as tinder; the sap or juice serves for glue; the inner bark is made, by the natives of some of the islands of the Pacific Ocean, into a kind of cloth; and the leaves are useful for many purposes. One species of the bread-fruit, called the Jaca tree, grows chiefly on the mainland of Asia.

Mainland, the continent.

Describe the Jaca Tree.

This kind grows to the same, if not a larger size than the bread-fruit of the islands, but is neither so palatable nor so nutritious; the fruit often weighs thirty pounds, and contains two or three hundred seeds, each four times as large as an almond. December is the time when the fruit ripens; it is then eaten, but not much relished; the seeds are also eaten when roasted. There are also other trees in different parts of the world, mostly of the palm species, which yield bread of a similar kind.

Is there not a tree which produces a substance resembling the Butter which we make from the milk of the cow?

The Shea, or Butter Tree, a native of Africa: it is similar in appearance to the American oak, and the fruit, (from the kernel of which the butter is prepared,) is somewhat like an olive in form. The kernel is inclosed in a sweet pulp, under a thin, green rind.

How is the Butter extracted?

The kernel, being taken out and dried in the sun, is boiled in water; by which process a white, firm, and rich-flavored butter is produced, which will keep for a whole year without salt. The growth and preparation of this commodity is one of the first objects of African industry, and forms a principal article of their trade with one another.

You have given me an account of a useful Butter prepared from a plant; is there not also a tree which can supply the want of a cow?

In South America there is a tree, the juice of which is a nourishing milk; it is called the Cow Tree. This tree is very fine; the leaves are broad, and some of them ten inches long; the fruit is rather fleshy, and contains one or two nuts or kernels. The milk is very abundant, and is procured by incisions made in the trunk of the tree; it is tolerably thick, and of a glutinous quality, a pleasant taste, and agreeable smell. The negroes and people at work on the farms drink it, dipping into it their bread made of maize.

Glutinous, having the quality of glue,—an adhesive, gummy substance, prepared from the skins of animals: it is used in joining wood, &c., and for many other purposes.

What time of the day is the best for drawing the juice?

Sunrise; the blacks and natives then hasten from all quarters with large bowls to receive the milk; some drink it on the spot, others carry it home to their families.

What island possesses a remarkable substitute for the want of springs of Water?

Ferro, one of the Canary Isles, situated in the Atlantic Ocean. In this island there is no water, except on a part of the beach which is nearly inaccessible; to supply the place of a fountain, Nature has bestowed on the island a particular kind of tree, unknown in other parts of the world. It is of a moderate size, with straight, long, evergreen leaves; on its top a small cloud continually rests, which so drenches the leaves with moisture, that it perpetually distils upon the ground a stream of clear water. To these trees, as to perennial springs, the inhabitants of Ferro repair, and are supplied with abundance of water for themselves and cattle.

Perennial, lasting through the year, perpetual.

What is Licorice?

A plant, the juice of which is squeezed from the roots, and then boiled with sugar, and used as a remedy for coughs, &c. Great quantities are exported from Spain, Italy, &c. The dried root is of great use in medicine, and makes an excellent drink for colds and other affections of the lungs by boiling it with linseed.

What are the Lungs?

The organs of respiration in man and many other animals. There are two of these organs, one on each side of the chest.

Respiration, breathing; the act of inhaling air into the lungs, and again expelling it, by which animal life is supported.

What is Manna?

A sweet, white juice, oozing from the branches and leaves of a kind of ash tree, growing chiefly in the southern parts of Italy, during the heats of summer. When dry, it is very light, easily crumbled, and of a whitish, or pale yellow color, not unlike hardened honey.

Is Manna peculiar to the Ash Tree of Southern Italy?

No. Manna is nothing more than the nutritious juices of the tree, which exude during the summer heats; and what confirms this is, that the very hot summers are always those which are most productive of manna. Several different species of trees produce a kind of manna; the best and most used is, however, that of Calabria, in Italy.

What are its uses?

It was much esteemed formerly in medicine, but it has now gone nearly into disuse. The peasants of Mount Libanus eat it as others do honey. The Bedouin Arabs consume great quantities, considering it the greatest dainty their country affords. In Mexico, they are said to have a manna which they eat as we do cheese. At Briancon, in France, they collect it from all sorts of trees that grow there, and the inhabitants observe, that such summers as produce the greatest quantities of manna are very fatal to the trees, many of them perishing in the winter.

Is there not another tree which produces Manna?

Yes: the Tamarisk, a tree peculiar to Palestine and parts of Arabia. This remarkable substance is produced by several trees, and in various countries of the East. On Mount Sinai there is a different species of Tamarisk that yields it. It is found on the branches of the tree, and falls on the ground during the heat of the day.

Where is Mount Libanus?

Mount Libanus, or Lebanon, is situated in Asiatic Turkey; it was anciently famous for its large and beautiful cedar trees. The "Cedars of Lebanon" are frequently mentioned in Holy Writ. There are now scarcely any remaining of superior size and antiquity, but they vary from the largest size down to mere saplings; and their numbers seem to increase rather than diminish, there being many young trees springing up.

How is Manna gathered?

From August to September, the Italians collect it in the following manner, viz.: by making an incision at the foot of the tree, each day over that of the preceding, about four inches from one another: these cuts, or incisions, are nearly two inches long, and half an inch deep. When the cut is made, the manna directly begins to flow, at first like clear water, but congealing as it flows, it soon becomes firm: this they collect in baskets. Manna has been found to consist of two distinct substances one nearly resembling sugar, the other similar to a gum or mucilage.

What nation was fed with a kind of Manna?

The Children of Israel, when wandering in the desert wilderness, where no food was to be procured, were fed by a miraculous supply of manna, showered down from Heaven every morning on the ground in such quantities as to afford sufficient food for the whole host.

What is Opium?

A narcotic, gummy, resinous juice, drawn from the head of the white poppy, and afterwards thickened; it is brought over in dark, reddish brown lumps, which, when powdered, become yellow.

Narcotic, producing sleep and drowsiness.

In what countries is it cultivated?

In many parts of Asia, India, and even the southern parts of Europe, whence it is exported into other countries. The Turks, and other Eastern nations, chew it. With us it is chiefly used in medicine. The juice is obtained from incisions made in the seed-vessels of the plant; it is collected in earthen pots, and allowed to become sufficiently hard to be formed into roundish masses of about four pounds weight. In Europe the poppy is cultivated mostly for the seeds. Morphia and laudanum are medicinal preparations of opium.

What is Tobacco?

An herbaceous plant which flourishes in many temperate climates, particularly in North America; it is supposed to have received its name from Tabaco, a province of Mexico; it is cultivated in the West Indies, the Levant, on the coast of Greece, in the Archipelago, Malta, Italy, France, Ceylon, &c. It was not known in Europe till the discovery of America by the Spaniards; and was carried to England about the time of Queen Elizabeth, either by Sir Francis Drake or Sir Walter Raleigh. Tobacco is either taken as snuff, smoked in pipes or in the form of cigars, or chewed in the mouth like opium. There are many different species of this plant, most of them natives of America, some of the Cape of Good Hope and China. Tobacco contains a powerful poison called nicotine.

Herbaceous, like an herb or plant, not a shrub or tree.

What part of the plant is used?

The leaves, which are stripped from the plant, and after being moistened with water, are twisted up into rolls; these are cut up by the tobacconist, and variously prepared for sale, or reduced into a scented powder called snuff.

Who was Sir Francis Drake?

Sir Francis Drake was a distinguished naval officer, who flourished in the reign of Elizabeth. He made his name immortal by a voyage into the South Seas, through the Straits of Magellan; which, at that time, no Englishman had ever attempted. He died on board his own ship in the West Indies, 1595.

Who was Sir Walter Raleigh?

Sir Walter Raleigh was also an illustrious English navigator and historian, born in 1552. He performed great services for Queen Elizabeth, particularly in the discovery of Virginia, and in the defeat of the Spanish Armada; he lived in honor and prosperity during her reign, but on the accession of James the First, was stripped of his favor at court, unaccountably accused of high treason, tried, and condemned to die; being reprieved, however, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London many years, during which time he devoted himself to writing and study. Receiving, at last, a commission to go and explore the gold mines at Guiana, he embarked; but his design having been betrayed to the Spaniards, he was defeated: and on his return to England, in July, 1618, was arrested and beheaded, (by order of the King, on his former attainder,) October 29; suffering his fate with great magnanimity.

High Treason, in England, means an offence committed against the sovereign. In the United States it consists in levying war against the government, adhering to its enemies, and giving them aid and comfort.

Reprieved, respited from sentence of death.

Magnanimity, greatness of mind, bravery.

What is Gum?

A mucilaginous juice, exuding from the bark of certain trees or plants, drawn thence by the warmth of the sun in the form of a glutinous matter; and afterwards by the same cause rendered firm and tenacious. There are many different gums, named after the particular tree or plant from which they are produced.

Mucilaginous, consisting of mucilage.

Tenacious, adhering closely.

What is the character of Gum?

Gum is capable of being dissolved in water, and forming with it a viscid transparent fluid; but not in vinous spirits or oil; it burns in the fire to a black coal, without melting or catching fire; and does not dissolve in water at boiling heat. The name of gum has been inaccurately given to several species of gum-resins, which consist of resin and various other substances, flowing from many kinds of trees, and becoming hard by exposure to the air. These are soluble in dilute alcohol. Gum is originally a milky liquor, having a greater quantity of water mixed with its oily parts, and for that reason it dissolves in either water or oil. Another sort is not oily, and therefore dissolves in water only, as gum Arabic, the gum of the cherry-tree, &c.

Viscid, thick, ropy.

Vinous, having the qualities of wine.

Are the last-mentioned sorts properly called Gums?

No, though commonly called gums, they are only dried mucilages, which were nothing else than the mucilaginous lymph issuing from the vessels of the tree, in the same manner as it does from mallows, comfrey, and even from the cucumber; the vessels of which being cut across, yield a lymph which is plainly mucilaginous, and if well dried, at length becomes a kind of gum, or rather, a hardened mucilage.

Lymph, transparent fluid.

What is Gum Arabic?

The juice of a small tree of the Acacia tribe, growing in Egypt, Arabia Petraea, Palestine, and in different parts of America.

Are there other plants or trees which produce Gum, besides those already mentioned?

A great number, though not all commonly in use. The leaves of rhubarb, the common plum, and even the sloe and the laurel, produce a clear, tasteless gum; there are also a number of different gums, brought from foreign countries, of great use in medicine and the arts. Most of the Acacias produce gums, though the quality of all is not equally good.

What is Rhubarb?

A valuable root growing in China, Turkey, and Russian Tartary. Quantities of it are imported from other parts of the world: that from Turkey is esteemed the best. Rhubarb is also cultivated in our gardens, and the stalks of the leaves are often used in tarts; but the root, from the difference of climate, does not possess any medicinal virtue.



When were Spectacles invented, and who was their inventor?

It is supposed that they were first known about the thirteenth century, and invented by a monk of Pisa, in Italy, named Alexander de Spina. Spectacles are composed of two circular pieces of glass set in a frame.

What are these glasses called?

Lenses. They are either convex or concave, according to the kind of sight requiring them. Old people, and those who can only see things at a distance, from the flatness of the eye, which prevents the rays of light converging so as to meet in the centre, require convex lenses. People who can only distinguish objects when viewed closely, from the eye being too convex, require concave lenses to counteract it by spreading the rays, and thus rendering vision distinct.

Convex, rising outwardly in a circular form; opposite to concave.

Concave, hollow; round, but hollow, as the inner curve of an arch, &c.

Converging, tending to one point from different parts.

Vision, the faculty of seeing.

What is the Mariner's Compass?

A most useful and important instrument, by the aid of which the navigator guides his ship on the sea, and steers his way to the place of his destination. The inventor of the Mariner's Compass is not known, nor the exact time of its introduction; it was employed in Europe in navigation about the middle of the thirteenth century, and has been in use more than five hundred years. The Chinese are said to have been acquainted with it much earlier, but no reliance can be placed on their dates. The power of the loadstone to attract iron was known to the ancient Egyptians, but it was not applied to any practical purpose.

Navigator, one who guides a ship.

Steer, to direct or guide a vessel in its course.

Destination, the place to which a person is bound.

Practical, capable of practice, not merely speculative.

What is the Loadstone?

An ore of iron which possesses the peculiar property of attracting iron, namely, of drawing it in contact with its own mass, and holding it firmly attached by its own power of attraction. A piece of loadstone drawn several times along a needle, or a small piece of iron, converts it into an artificial magnet; if this magnetized needle is carefully balanced, it will turn round of itself, till its end points towards the North. The magnetized needle also possesses the power of attracting iron, and of communicating this power to another piece of iron or steel, similar to that of the loadstone itself.

Contact, touch.

Magnetized, rendered magnetic.

Describe the Mariner's Compass.

The Mariner's Compass consists of a circular box, enclosing a magnetized bar of steel, called the needle, carefully balanced on an upright steel pivot, and having that end which points to the North shaped like the head of an arrow; attached to this needle, and turning with it, is a card on which are printed the divisions of North, South. East, and West; called the points of the compass. By simply looking at the position of the needle, the mariner can see the direction in which his vessel is sailing, and regulate his helm accordingly.

Helm, the instrument by which a ship is steered, consisting of a rudder and tiller.

What is a Barometer?

An instrument for measuring the weight of the atmosphere, which enables us to determine the changes of the weather, the height of mountains, &c. It consists of a glass tube hermetically sealed at one end, filled with mercury, and inverted in a basin of mercury; according to the weight of the atmosphere, this mercury rises or falls.

How is the Hermetic seal formed?

By heating the edges of a vessel, till they are just ready to melt, and then twisting them closely together with hot pincers, so that the air may be totally excluded. The word is taken from Hermes, the Greek name for Mercury, the heathen god of arts and learning, and the supposed inventor of chemistry,[9] which is sometimes called the hermetical art; or perhaps from Hermes, an ancient king of Egypt, who was either its inventor, or excelled in it.

[Footnote 9: See Chapter XVIII., article Chemistry.]

What is Mercury?

Quicksilver, or mercury, is a white fluid metal, the heaviest except platina and gold; it readily combines with nearly all other metals, and is used in the manufacture of looking-glasses, barometers, thermometers, &c.; in some of the arts, and in the preparation of several powerful medicines. It is found in California, Hungary, Sweden, Spain, China, and Peru. The quicksilver mine of Guanca Velica, in Peru, is one hundred and seventy fathoms in circumference, and four hundred and eighty deep. In this profound abyss are seen streets, squares, and a chapel, where religious worship is performed. The quicksilver mines of Idria, a town of Lower Austria, have continually been wrought for more than 300 years. The vapor which is continually arising from the mercury is very hurtful to the miners, who seldom survive many years.

Abyss, a gulf, a depth without bottom.

In what state is Mercury usually found?

Either native, or in the form of ore; it is often found mixed with silver, but more frequently with sulphur in the form of sulphuret, which is decomposed by distillation. Running mercury is found in globules, in America, and is collected from the clefts of the rocks. Mercury has the appearance of melted silver; it is neither ductile nor malleable in this state; it is a substance so volatile, when heated, that it may be evaporated like water; it is always seen in a fluid state, even in temperate climates, as a very small portion of heat is sufficient to preserve its fluidity. It is used to separate gold and silver from the foreign matter found with those metals. Calomel, a valuable medicine, and vermilion, a color, are both preparations of mercury.

Globules, small particles of matter having the form of a ball or sphere.

What is a Thermometer?

An instrument for measuring temperature. It consists of a fine glass tube, terminated at one end in a bulb, usually filled with mercury, which expands or contracts according to the degree of heat or cold. On the scale of the Fahrenheit thermometer, the freezing point of water is marked 32 deg. and the boiling point at 212 deg.. In both the Centigrade and the Reaumur scales the freezing point is at 0, and the boiling point at 100 deg. in the Centigrade and at 80 deg. in Reaumur's. The invention of this instrument dates from about the close of the sixteenth century; but it is not known by whom it was first brought into use.

Terminated, finished, ended.

When and by whom were Watches and Clocks invented?

Watches were invented about the year 1500, but who was the inventor is disputed. They were, however, of little value as time-keepers, before the application of the spiral spring as a regulator to the balance; the glory of this excellent invention lies between Dr. Hooke and M. Huygens; the English ascribing it to the former, the Dutch, French, &c., to the latter. Some assert that pocket-watches were first made about 1477, at Nuremberg, in Germany. The most ancient clock of which we possess any certain account, was made in 1634 by Henry de Wycke, a German artist; it was erected in a tower of the palace of Charles V., king of France. The pendulum was applied by Huygens, in 1656.

What is a Pendulum?

A weight so suspended from a fixed point that it may easily swing backward and forward; its oscillations are always performed in equal times, provided the length of the pendulum and the gravity remain the same. It is said that the idea of employing the pendulum for the measurement of time, was first conceived by Galileo, while a young man, upon his observing attentively the regular oscillations of a lamp suspended from the roof of a church in Pisa. It was not, however, till the time of Huygens that a method was devised of continuing its motions, and registering the number of its oscillations.

Oscillation, a swinging backward and forward.

Gravity, the tendency of a body toward the centre of the earth.

Registering, recording.

To whom is the invention of Gunpowder ascribed?

Most authors suppose it was invented by Bartholdus Schwartz, a monk of Goslar, a town of Brunswick, in Germany, about the year 1320; it appears, however, that it was known much earlier in many parts of the world, and that the famous Roger Bacon, who died in 1292, knew its properties; but it is not certain that he was acquainted with its application to fire-arms.

Who was Roger Bacon?

A learned Franciscan, born at Ilchester, England, in 1214. He studied at Oxford, and afterwards became professor at that great University. He was familiar with every branch of human knowledge, but was especially distinguished for his extraordinary proficiency in the natural sciences. To him we owe the invention of the telescope; that of gunpowder is ascribed to him, as stated above, although we have no evidence to show whether he discovered its ingredients himself, or whether he derived the knowledge from some ancient manuscripts. Bacon suffered some from the ignorance of the age in which he lived, many of his experiments being looked upon as magic. He died at Oxford in the year 1294.

What is understood by Magic?

Magic is a term used to signify an unlawful and wicked kind of science, depending, as was pretended, on the assistance of superhuman beings and of departed souls. The term was anciently applied to all kinds of learning, and in particular to the science of the Magi or Wise Men of Persia, from whom it was called magic. Natural magic is no more than the application of natural active causes to passive things or subjects, to produce effects apparently supernatural.

Supernatural, beyond the powers of nature; miraculous.

Of what is Gunpowder composed?

Of saltpetre,[10] sulphur, and charcoal, mixed together and powdered; its explosive force when fired, is owing to the instantaneous and abundant liberation of gaseous matter by the intense heat resulting from the action of the combustibles upon the saltpetre. It is not known by whom it was first applied to the purposes of war, but it is certain that it was used early in the fourteenth century. Cannons were used at the battle of Cressy, in 1346; small guns, or muskets, were introduced into the Spanish army in 1521.

[Footnote 10: See Chapter XIII.]

Explosive, bursting out with violence and noise.

Liberation, a setting at liberty.

Is not Gunpowder highly combustible?

So combustible is gunpowder, that a single spark of fire, lighting upon any of it, will cause it to explode with immense force; and instances have occurred, when any store or magazine of it has taken fire, that have been attended with the most fatal effects. It is useful to the miner and engineer as a ready means of overcoming the obstacles which are presented in their search for mineral treasures, and in procuring materials for building. From many passages in the ancient authors, there is reason to suppose that gunpowder, or a composition extremely like it, was known to them; but it does not appear to have been in general use, and the invention of fire-arms is comparatively modern. Dynamite, a recent invention, has a still greater explosive force than gunpowder.

Engineer, one who works or directs an engine.

Obstacles, hinderances, obstructions.

What is Saltpetre?

A bitter kind of salt, called by the ancients nitre, but more commonly among us saltpetre. It is composed of nitric acid and potassa.[11] It is found in earthy substances; sometimes native or pure, in the form of a shapeless salt. Vast quantities are found in several of the marly earths of the East Indies, China, Persia, and also in South America. In India it is found naturally crystallized, and forming thin crusts upon the surface of the earth. It is especially abundant in the United States, being found in immense quantities in the limestone caves in the south-western States.

[Footnote 11: See Potash, Chapter VII., article Glass.]

What do you mean by Marly?

Consisting of marl, a kind of earth composed of different proportions of clay and carbonate of lime; it is much used for manure. There are several different-colored marls, each possessing different qualities. The most common are the red and the white, though there are grey, brown, blue, and yellow colored marls.

What is a Telescope?

An optical instrument, which serves for discovering and viewing distant objects, either directly by glasses, or by reflection. The invention of the telescope is one of the noblest and most useful of which modern ages can boast, since by means of this instrument the wonderful motions of the planets and fixed stars, and all the heavenly bodies, are revealed to us. The honor of the invention is much disputed; it is certain, however, that the celebrated Galileo was the first who improved the telescope so as to answer astronomical purposes. The name is formed from two Greek words, one signifying far, the other to observe.

Optical, relating to Optics, the science of vision.

Astronomical, relating to Astronomy.

Who was Galileo?

A most eminent astronomer and mathematician, born at Florence, in Italy. His inventions and discoveries in Astronomy, Geometry, and Mechanics, contributed much to the advancement of those sciences. He died in 1642.

Astronomer, one versed in Astronomy.

Mathematician, one versed in Mathematics; a science which treats of magnitude and number.

What is Astronomy?[12]

That science which teaches the knowledge of the heavenly bodies, with the nature and causes of their various phenomena.

[Footnote 12: See Chapter xviii.]

What is Geometry?

An ancient, perfect, and beautiful science, which treats of the relations and properties of lines, surfaces, and solids.

What is meant by Mechanics?

The science which investigates the laws of forces and powers, and their action on bodies, either directly or by machinery. When the term mechanic is applied to a person, it means one skilled in mechanics, accustomed to manual labor.

Investigate, to search, to inquire into.

Manual, performed by the hand.

What is a Microscope?

An optical instrument, by means of which very minute objects are represented exceedingly large, and viewed very distinctly according to the laws of refraction or reflection. Nothing certain is known respecting the inventor of microscopes, or the exact time of their invention, but that they were first used in Germany, about 1621.

Minute, small, diminutive.

Refraction, a change in the direction of a ray of light, when it passes through transparent substances of different densities.

Reflection, a turning back of a ray of light after striking upon any surface.

What is the Steam Engine?

A machine that derives its moving power from the force of the steam produced from boiling water, which is very great, especially when, as in the steam engine, it is confined within a limited compass: this useful machine is one of the most valuable presents that the arts of life have received from the philosopher, and is of the greatest importance in working mines; supplying cities with water; in working metals; in many mechanical arts; and in navigation. By the aid of steam, vessels are propelled with greater swiftness than those which are wholly dependent on the winds and tides; and thus trade is facilitated, and we are enabled to communicate with distant lands in a much shorter space of time than was formerly consumed. On land, railroads are constructed, on which steam carriages run with astonishing rapidity, so that a journey which by coach and horses formerly required two or more days, may now be performed in four or five hours.

Mechanical, belonging to Mechanics.

To whom are we indebted for its invention?

Its invention is by most writers ascribed to the Marquis of Worcester, an Englishman, about 1663; but it does not appear that the inventor could ever interest the public in favor of this, or his other discoveries. The steam engine of Captain Savery, also an Englishman, is the first of which any definite description has been preserved. It was invented in 1698. Since that period it has been successively improved by various persons, but it is to Mr. Watt and Mr. Boulton, of England, that it is indebted for much of its present state of perfection.

By whom was the Steam Engine first applied to the purposes of Navigation?

By John Fitch, of Pennsylvania. From papers in the historical collections of Pennsylvania, it appears that the first successful experiments were made at Philadelphia, in 1785, three years before the attempts at Falkirk, and on the Clyde, in Scotland. The boat made several trips on the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, but owing to repeated accidents to her machinery, and the want of funds and competent mechanics for the necessary repairs, she was abandoned. In 1807, Robert Fulton, also of Pennsylvania, made his first experimental trip on the Hudson River, with complete success. To this distinguished and ingenious American justly belongs the honor of having brought navigation by steam to a state of perfection. In 1819, the first steamship crossed the Atlantic from Savannah to Liverpool; and in 1838, a regular communication by steamship was established between Great Britain and the United States. Since that period, ocean navigation by steam-vessels has made rapid progress, and, at the present time, numbers of steamers connect our various seaports with those of other nations, and with each other.

What is the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph?

An instrument, or apparatus, by means of which intelligence is conveyed to any distance with the velocity of lightning. The electric fluid, when an excess has accumulated in one place, always seeks to transfer itself to another, until an equilibrium of its distribution is fully restored. Consequently, when two places are connected by means of a good conductor of electricity, as, for instance, the telegraphic wire; the fluid generated by a galvanic battery, if the communication be rendered complete, instantaneously traverses the whole extent of the wire, and charges, at the distant station, an electro-magnet; this attracts one end of a lever, and draws it downward, while the other extremity is thrown up, and, by means of a style, marks a slip of paper, which is steadily wound off from a roller by the aid of clock-work. If the communication is immediately broken, only one wave of electricity passes over, and a dot is made upon the paper; if kept up, a line is marked. These dots and lines are made to represent the letters of the alphabet, so that an operator employed for the purpose can easily read the message which is transmitted.—The Electro-Magnetic Telegraph was first introduced upon a line between Baltimore and Washington, by Professor Morse, in 1844; at the present time, it is in successful operation between nearly all the important cities and towns of the United States and of Europe.

An Electro-Magnet is a piece of soft iron, rendered temporarily magnetic by being placed within a coil of wire through which a current of electricity is passing.



Of what is Soap composed?

Of soda or potash, and various oily substances; it is so useful for domestic and other purposes, that it may be regarded as one of the necessaries of life; immense quantities of it are consumed in all civilized countries. Soft soap is generally made of a lye of wood-ashes and quicklime, boiled up with tallow or oil; common household soap of soda and tallow, or of potash and tallow; when potash is used, a large portion of common salt, which contains soda, is added to harden it. The finest white soaps are made of olive oil and a lye consisting of soda and quicklime; perfumes are sometimes added, or various coloring matters stirred in to give the soap a variegated appearance. The ancient Greeks and Hebrews appear to have been acquainted with the art of making soap, or a composition very similar to it; and also the ancient Gauls and Germans. A soap-boiler's shop, with soap in it, was found in the city of Pompeii, in Italy, which was overwhelmed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, A.D. 79.

What is Soda?

Soda, or barilla, is obtained from the ashes of marine plants, and by the decomposition of common salt; its great depository is the ocean, soda being the basis of salt. The marine plants from which the soda is obtained, are endowed with the property of decomposing the sea-salt which they imbibe, and of absorbing the soda which it contains. It is found native in Egypt, and is there called natron; a name similar to that which it bore among the Jews and Greeks.

Depository, store-house, place where anything is lodged.

Imbibe, to drink in, to absorb.

Of what are Candles made?

Of Tallow, which means animal fat melted and clarified, that is, cleansed or purified from filth. Tallow is procured from many animals, but the most esteemed, and the most used, is that made from oxen, sheep, swine, goats, deer, bears, &c.; some of which tallows or fats are used in medicine, some in making soap, and dressing leather; others in the manufacture of candles, &c. For the last-mentioned article, that of sheep and oxen is most used; candles of a better sort are likewise made of wax and spermaceti. Candles are kept burning by means of a wick of cotton or rush, placed in the centre of the tallow, which is moulded into a cylindrical form.

Cylindrical, having the form of a cylinder.

Is there not a tree which yields a vegetable Tallow?

Yes; China possesses a tree producing a substance like our tallow, of which the Chinese make their candles; this tallow is extracted from the stone of the fruit, the tallow being a white pulp which surrounds it. In America, likewise, there is a shrub, a native of the temperate parts, especially towards the sea-side, the seeds of which contain a waxy substance used for the same purpose, and which is extracted by boiling; this shrub is a species of myrtle, and does not attain to any great size.

Extracted, drawn from.

What is Spermaceti?

A whitish, flaky, unctuous substance, prepared from an oil of the same name, drawn from a particular kind of whale, distinguished from the common whale by having teeth, and a hunch on its back.

Flaky, having the nature of flakes.

What is Wax?

A soft, yellow, concrete matter, collected from vegetables by the bee, of which this industrious and useful insect constructs its cell. Wax forms a considerable article of trade; it is of two kinds, the yellow and the white; the yellow is the native wax as it is taken from the hive, and the white is the same washed, purified, and exposed to the air.

Concrete, grown together, solid.

What Tree produces the beautiful and well-known wood so much used in making the various articles of household furniture?

The Mahogany Tree, growing in America, and the East and West Indies; it frequently grows in the crevices of rocks, and other places of the same description. This wood was not used for making furniture till near the end of the seventeenth century. A London physician had a brother, the captain of a West India ship, who, on his return to England, having on board several logs of mahogany for the purpose of ballast, made him a present of the wood, he being engaged in a building project; his carpenter, however, threw it aside, observing that it was too hard to be wrought. Some time after, the lady of the physician being in want of a box to hold candles, the cabinet-maker was directed to make it of this wood; he also made the same objection, and declared that it spoiled his tools. Being urged, however, to make another trial, he at length succeeded; when the box was polished, the beautiful color of the wood was so novel, that it became an object of great curiosity. Before this time, mahogany had been used partially in the West Indies for ship-building, but this new discovery of its beauty soon brought it into general use for making furniture.

Crevice, a rent, a crack.

Ballast, the heavy matter placed in the hold of a vessel to keep it steady.

What is India Rubber or Caoutchouc?

An elastic, resinous substance, produced from a tree, growing abundantly at Cayenne, Quito, and other parts of South America; and also in some parts of the Indies. The tree which produces it is large, straight, and about sixty feet high. There is, however, a small species found in Sumatra and Java, and some of the neighboring islands.

How is the Caoutchouc obtained from the Tree?

By making incisions in the trunk of the tree, from which the fluid resin issues in great abundance, appearing of a milky whiteness at first, but gradually becoming of a dark reddish color, soft and elastic to the touch.

To what use is this substance put?

The Indians make of it boots, shoes, bottles, flambeaux, and a species of cloth. Amongst us it is combined with sulphur, forming the vulcanized rubber of commerce, which is used for many purposes. A greater proportion of sulphur, produces vulcanite, a hard black substance, resembling jet.

Flambeaux, torches burnt to give light.

What is Sponge?

A marine substance, found adhering to rocks and shells under the sea-water, or on the sides of rocks near the shore. Sponge was formerly imagined by some naturalists to be a vegetable production; by others, a mineral, or a collection of sea-mud, but it has since been discovered to be the fabric and habitation of a species of worm, or polypus.

What do you mean by Polypus?

A species of animals called Zoophytes, by which are meant beings having such an admixture of the characteristics of both plants and animals, as to render it difficult to decide to which division they properly belong. They are animal in substance, possessed indeed of a stomach, but without the other animal characteristics of blood-vessels, bones, or organs of sense; these creatures live chiefly in water, and are mostly incapable of motion: they increase by buds or excrescences from the parent zoophyte, and if cut off will grow again and multiply; each part becoming a perfect animal. Myriads of the different species of zoophytes reside in small cells of coral, sponge, &c., or in forms like plants, and multiply in such numbers as to create rocks and whole islands in many seas, by their untiring industry. Polypus signifies having many feet, or roots; it is derived from the Greek.

Myriads, countless numbers.

Whence are the best and greatest number of Sponges brought?

From the Mediterranean, especially from Nicaria, an island near the coast of Asia: the collection of sponges forms, in some of these islands, the principal support of their inhabitants. They are procured by diving under water, an exercise in which both men, women, and children are skilled from their earliest years. The fine, small sponges are esteemed the best, and usually come from Constantinople; the larger and coarser sorts are brought from Tunis and Algiers, on the coast of Africa. Sponge is very useful in the arts, as well as for domestic purposes.

What is Coral?

A substance which, like sponge, was considered as a vegetable production, until about the year 1720, when a French gentleman of Marseilles commenced (and continued for thirty years,) a series of observations, and ascertained that the coral was a living animal of the Polypus tribe. The general name of zoophytes, or plant animals, has since been applied to them. These animals are furnished with minute glands, secreting a milky juice; this juice, when exuded from the animal, becomes fixed and hard.

Series, a course or continued succession.

Glands, vessels.

Exuded, from exude, to flow out.

Is this substance considered by naturalists as the habitation of the Insect?

Not merely as the habitation, but as a part of the animal itself, in the same manner that the shell of a snail or an oyster is of those animals, and without which they cannot long exist. By means of this juice or secretion, the coral insects, at a vast but unknown depth below the surface of the sea, attach themselves to the points and ridges of rocks, which form the bottom of the ocean; upon which foundation the little architects labor, building up, by the aid of the above-mentioned secretion, pile upon pile of their rocky habitations, until at length the work rises above the sea, and is continued to such a height as to leave it almost dry, when the insects leave building on that part, and begin afresh in another direction under the water. Huge masses of rocky substances are thus raised by this wonderful little insect, capable of resisting the tremendous power of the ocean when agitated to the highest pitch by winds or tempests.

Architect, one who builds.

How do these Coral Rocks become Islands?

After the formation of this solid, rocky base, sea-shells, fragments of coral, and sea-sand, thrown up by each returning tide, are broken and mixed together by the action of the waves; these, in time, become a sort of stone, and thus raise the surface higher and higher; meanwhile, the ever-active surf continues to throw up the shells of marine animals and other substances, which fill up the crevices between the stones; the undisturbed sand on its surface offers to the seeds of trees and plants cast upon it by the waves, a soil upon which they rapidly grow and overshadow the dazzling whiteness of the new-formed land. Trunks of trees, washed into the sea by the rivers from other countries and islands, here find a resting-place, and with these come some small animals, chiefly of the lizard and insect tribe. Even before the trees form a wood, the sea-birds nestle among their branches, and the stray land-bird soon takes refuge in the bushes. At last, man arrives and builds his hut upon the fruitful soil formed by the corruption of the vegetation, and calls himself lord and master of this new creation.

Surf, the white spray or froth of the sea waves.

Where is the Coral Insect found?

In nearly all great seas; but particularly in the Mediterranean, where it produces Corallines of the most beautiful forms and colors: it is in the Pacific Ocean, however, where these tiny workmen are effecting those mighty changes, which exceed the most wonderful works of man.

What is that part of the Pacific called, where the Coral Rocks are most abundant?

The Coral Sea, from the number of coral reefs and sunken islands, with which it abounds; it includes a region of many miles in extent, the whole of which is studded with numberless reefs, rocks, islands, and columns of coral, continually joining and advancing towards each other. All navigators who have visited these seas, state that no charts or maps are of any service after a few years, owing to the number of fresh rocks and reefs which are continually rising to the surface. The wonderful instinct of these animals leads them to continue working without ceasing, until their labors are finished, or their lives extinct.

Reef, a chain or line of rocks lying near the surface of the water.

Extinct, at an end, dead.

What are the names of the principal islands of Coral formation?

The New Hebrides, the Friendly Isles, the Navigator's Isles, the Society Islands, the Marquesas, the Gambier group, and others. These groups are separated from each other by channels or seas, wider than those which divide the individual islands which form the respective groups; but all these waters abound with shoals and minor islets, which point out the existence of a common base, and show that the work by which they will afterwards be united above the level of the sea is continually going forward.

Shoals, shallows; places where the water is of little depth.

Minor, less, smaller than others.

Existence, being.

What is a singular characteristic of the Coral Islands?

On all of them a plentiful supply of sweet and fresh water may be obtained by digging three or four feet into the coral; and even within one yard of high-water mark such a supply is to be found. They are mostly covered with a deep rich soil, and well wooded with trees and evergreens of different kinds. These islands vary in extent, as well as in the degree of finish to which they have arrived; some of the largest being about 30 miles in diameter, and the smallest something less than a mile;—all of various shapes, and all formed of living coral.

Diameter, a straight line through the middle of a circle.

Is Coral put to any use by man?

White Coral, which is nowhere so abundant as about the shores of Ceylon, and others of the neighboring Indian coasts, is employed as lime by the inhabitants of that part of the world, for building houses, &c., by burning it after the manner of our lime. This coral lies in vast banks, which are uncovered at low water. Coral, particularly the beautiful red sort, is likewise made into various ornaments, as necklaces, &c.

Of what is our Lime composed?

Of a useful earth, which absorbs moisture and carbonic acid, and exists as limestone, or in marble and chalk, which, when burnt, become lime: in its native state it is called carbonate of lime, and is burnt to disengage the carbonic acid; when made into a paste, with one part water and three parts lime,[13] and mixed with some other mineral or metallic substances, it forms plastic cements and mortars; and afterwards, imbibing carbonic acid from the atmosphere, it becomes again carbonate of lime, as hard as at first; and hence its use in building.

[Footnote 13: See Chapter XVI., article Lime.]

Plastic, yielding, capable of being spread out or moulded.

What do you mean by Carbon?

A simple substance, whose most common form is purified charcoal: it is, in fact, the base of charcoal, divested of all impurities; combined with oxygen, it forms carbonic acid gas, formerly called fixed air. It is diffused through all animal and vegetable bodies; and may be obtained by exposing them to a red heat. In its pure, crystallized state, it constitutes the diamond, and as graphite, is used in making the so-called lead-pencils.[14]

[Footnote 14: See Chapter XIV., article Diamond.]

What is Oxygen?

Air, mentioned in the first chapter of this work as the gaseous substance which composes the atmosphere, is formed by a mixture of two distinct elements, one called Nitrogen, or Azote, the other Oxygen. Oxygen is, therefore, an element or simple substance diffused generally through nature, and its different combinations are essential to animal life and combustion. It is, in fact, the most active agent in nature, and the principle of acidity and combustion. So wholesome and necessary is oxygen to life, that it is often called vital air.

Agent, an actor; a person or thing possessing the faculty of action.

Essential, necessary.

What are the properties of Nitrogen or Azote?

Nitrogen is a substance also generally diffused through nature, and particularly in animal bodies, and causes great changes in those absorbing or exposed to it. This gas, combined with oxygen and hydrogen, produces neither light, heat, nor combustion, but serves to dilute the others: of itself, it is hurtful to animal life. Nitrogen makes the principal part of the salt we call nitre.

What is meant by Combustion?

The decomposition of bodies by the action of fire; the union of combustible bodies with the oxygen of the atmosphere. The greater access the air has to a burning body, the more rapid and complete is the process.

Combustible, capable of taking fire.

Access, the means or liberty of approach to anything.

Are all bodies equally combustible?

No; some are more so than others, and burn with a bright flame; as wood, dry vegetables, resins, oils, fats, &c.; others with difficulty, and without any sensible flame, as soot, coal, the ashes of plants, &c. There are bodies, also, which are incombustible—that is, incapable of taking fire, as some alkalies, earths, &c.

What is Caloric?

Caloric is that invisible agent which produces the sensation of heat. It exists in all bodies; it is a force we are ever in want of, and thus it is hid in everything around us, and penetrates all matter, however different may be its nature or properties.

What is meant by Gas?

All highly elastic fluids are called gases. Some are salutary, but many extremely noxious, especially such as those arising from the putrefaction of animal bodies; the burning of charcoal; corrupted air at the bottom of mines, cellars, &c. The inflammable gas, which lights our streets, churches, shops, &c., is procured chiefly from coal, burnt in furnaces for the purpose the gas being passed through metal pipes, conveyed underground to the places where the light is required: escaping at the orifice prepared for it, it is lighted when wanted, and burns with, a brilliant flame. This gas consists of hydrogen and carbon; and the oxygen of the air, combined with the hydrogen, causes light as long as hydrogen and oxygen exist and combine.

Salutary, wholesome, healthful.

Noxious, hurtful, unwholesome.

Putrefaction, decay.

Orifice, opening, hole.

What is Hydrogen?

One of the most abundant principles in nature; one part of it, and eight of oxygen, form water. It is only met with in a gaseous form; it is also very inflammable, and is the gas called the fire-damp, so often fatal to miners; it is the chief constituent of oils, fats, spirits, &c.; and is produced by the decomposition of water.

Constituent, that which forms an essential part of anything.

What is Chalk?

A white fossil substance, by some reckoned a stone, but of a friable kind, which cannot, therefore, be polished as marble; by others, more properly ranked among the earths. It is of two sorts, one a hard dry chalk, used for making lime; the other a soft, unctuous kind, used in manuring land, &c. Chalk always contains quantities of flint-stone, and the fossil remains of shells, coral, animal bones, marine plants, &c.; from which circumstance there can be no doubt that chalk is the deposited mud of a former ocean. The chemical name of chalk is carbonate of lime. It effervesces strongly with an acid.

Effervesce, to froth or foam up.

Deposited, placed on anything.

Where is Chalk found?

In large beds or strata in the earth. Chalk, on account of its abundance in England, forms an important feature in the scenery and geology of that country; it causes the whiteness of its sea-cliffs. Scotland and Wales are entirely without chalk. The white chalk is found, with interruptions, over a space above eleven hundred miles long, extending from the north of Ireland, through England, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Southern Russia, to the Crimea, with a breadth of more than eight hundred miles. The Island of Crete, now called Candia, situated in the Mediterranean, was formerly noted for its chalk. This substance is very useful in many of the arts and manufactures.

Where is the Crimea?

The peninsula of the Crimea is a part of Russia, lying on the Black Sea, by which it is bounded on the west and south.

Are there any other kinds of this earth besides the common white chalk?

Yes; there are various kinds of chalk, distinguished by their different colors, as white, black, red, &c., found in various parts of the world, of great use to the painter, both in oil and water colors, and for drawing on paper, &c.

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