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giving the same effect with the needle, they have been called Phrygiones. But to weave cloth with gold thread was the invention of an Asiatic king, Attalus, from whom the name Attalic was derived; and the Babylonians were most noted for their skill in weaving cloths of various colours."
The question still remains undecided respecting the time when silver thread came into use; and as no mention of silver stuffs occurs in the writings of ancient authors, it has been supposed that its introduction was of late date. Silver wire, however, was already known in Egypt about 3300 years ago, being found at Thebes of the third Thothmes: nor is there any reason to suppose it was then a novel invention; and it was probably known and used nearly as soon as gold wire, which we find attached to rings bearing the name of Osirtasen the First, who lived more than 600 years earlier.
This wire is supposed not to have been drawn, like our own, through holes in metal plates, but to have been beaten out, and rounded with the file: but the appearance of some found at Thebes justifies the conclusion that a mode of drawing it was not unknown to them; and the omission of every representation of the process in the paintings is no argument against it, since they have also failed to introduce the casting of metals, and various other arts, with which we see they were acquainted.
Wire-drawing was first attempted with the most ductile metals, gold and silver being used before brass and iron, because the wire was originally employed for ornamental purposes. Gold thread and wire were always made entirely of metal, even to the time of the latter Roman Emperors; and there is no instance of flattened wire wound round silk or linen threads, or of silver or other wire gilt; though gilding was so common on vases and other articles of bronze. That the Egyptians had arrived at great perfection in the art of making the thread is evident, from its being sufficiently fine for weaving into cloth, and for embroidery; and the exceeding delicacy of the linen corslet of Amasis, on which numerous figures of animals were worked in gold, required a proportionate degree of fineness in the gold thread used for the purpose.
The coloured dresses represented in the Egyptian paintings, worn by women of rank, and by the deities, much resemble our modern chintzes, in the style of their patterns, though it is probable that they were generally of linen instead of calico: some appear to have been worked with the needle, and others woven with gold threads.
Another very remarkable discovery of the Egyptians was the use of mordants. They were acquainted with the effect of acids on colour, and submitted the cloth they dyed to one of the same processes adopted in our modern manufactories; and while, from his account, we perceive how little Pliny understood the process he was describing, he at the same time gives us the strongest evidence of its truth. "In Egypt," he says, 66 they stain cloths in a wonderful manner. They take them in their original state, quite white, and imbue them, not with a dye, but with certain drugs which have the power of absorbing and taking colour. When this is done, there is still no appearance of change in the cloths; but so soon as they are dipped into a bath of the pigment, which has been prepared for the purpose, they are taken out properly coloured. The singular thing is, that though the bath contains only one colour, several hues are imparted to the piece, these changes depending on the nature of the drug employed: nor can the colour be afterwards washed off; and surely if the bath had many colours in it, they must have presented a confused appearance on the cloth."
From this it is evident that the cloth was prepared before steeping; the momentary effect he mentions could only be produced by the powerful agency of mordants; and they not only used them to make the cloth take the colour equally, but also to change the hues.
Whether the Egyptians really understood the principle, on which the salts and acids of the mordants acted, or calculated their effects solely from the experience they had acquired, it is difficult to decide. They had long been used in Europe, before their chemical agency was properly explained; and when the' term mordant was first applied by the French dyers, they imagined "that the intention of passing the substances, which were to be
dyed, through certain saline liquors, was to corrode something that opposed the entering of the colouring principle, and to enlarge the pores of the substances" (the effect of acids in changing the hues being a later discovery); we cannot therefore positively prove that the Egyptians had a knowledge of chemistry, though from their long experience, and from their skill in the employment of the metallic oxides, we may find strong reasons to infer it. For if at first ignorant of the reason of such changes, it is probable that in process of time, they were led to investigate the causes, by which they were effected.
Many discoveries, and even inventions, are more the effect of chance than of studious reflection, and the principle is often the last to be understood. In discoveries this is generally the case, in inventions frequently. But when men have observed, from long practice, a fixed and undeviating result, their curiosity naturally becomes excited, the thirst for knowledge, and above all the desire of benefiting by the discovery, prompt them to scrutinise the causes to which they have been so much indebted; and few people, who have made any advance in the arts of civilised life, long remain ignorant of the means of improving their knowledge.
We may, therefore, suppose some general notions of chemistry, or at least of chemical agency, were known to the Egyptians; and the beautiful colours they obtained from copper, the composition of various metals, and the knowledge of the effects produced on different substances by the salts of the earth, tend to confirm this opinion.
The Egyptian yarn seems all to have been spun with the hand, and the spindle is seen in all the pictures representing the manufacture of cloth. Spinning was principally the occupation of women; and our word "wife" is nearly related to "woof," "weaving," and "web." But men were also employed at the spindle and the loom; though not, as Herodotus would lead us to suppose, to the exclusion of women, who he pretends undertook the duties of men in other countries, "by going to market, and engaging in business, while the men, shut up in the house, worked at the loom." Men, to this day, are employed in making cloth in
Egypt and in other countries, but it cannot be said that they have relinquished their habits for those of women; and we find from the paintings executed by the Egyptians themselves, that both men and women were employed in manufacturing cloth.
"Other nations," continues the historian, "make cloth by pushing the woof upwards, the Egyptians, on the contrary, press it down; " and this is confirmed by the paintings * which represent the process of manufacturing cloth; but at Thebes,† a man who is engaged in making a piece of cloth, with a co+ Woodcut 384, fig. 2.
In woodcut 382, fig. 2.
Part 1. Men engaged in spinning, and making a sort of network.
loured border or selvage, appears to push the woof upwards, the cloth being fixed above him to the upper part of the frame. They had also the horizontal loom, which occurs at Beni Hassan and other places; and at El Bersheh we see the mode of taking up the increasing length of the cloth by pegs in the ground (as still done in Ethiopia), and how the women wound off numerous threads from balls placed within a slight framework, the fineness of which is indicated by the number taken to form one twist.
In the hieroglyphics over persons employed with the spindle, it is remarkable that the word saht, which in Coptic signifies to "twist," constantly occurs. The spindles were generally small, being about one foot three inches in length, and several, found at Thebes, are now in the museums of Europe.* They were generally of wood, and in order to increase their impetus in turning,
British Museum, which I found at Thebes, had some of