Alum

 Alum

Dissolve one drachm of alum in fifteen ounces of water, then add half an ounce of treacle, and one drachm of diluted sulphuric acid.

Use  as an astringent. 


 Alum Confection

Mix two scruples of powdered alum with four scruples of treacle. 

Dose , half a drachm.

Use  as astringent in sore throat, relaxed uvula, and ulcerations of mouth. 


This substance affords a striking instance how readily one may be deceived in giving names without proper examination. Our alum was certainly not known to the Greeks or the Romans; and what the latter called alumen 487 was vitriol, (the green sulphate of iron)488 ; not however pure, but such as forms in mines. To those who know how deficient the ancients were in the knowledge of salts, and of mineralogy in general, this assertion will without further proof appear highly probable 489. Alum and green vitriol are saline substances which have some resemblance; both contain the same acid called the vitriolic or sulphuric; both have a strong astringent property, and on this account are often comprehended under the common name of styptic salts; and both are also not only found in the same places, but are frequently obtained from the same minerals. The difference, that the vitriols are combinations of sulphuric acid with a metallic oxide, either that of iron, copper or zinc, and alum on the other hand with a peculiar white earth, called on this account alumina, has been established only in modern times 490.

A stronger proof however in favour of my assertion, is what follows:—The Greeks and the Romans speak of no other than natural alum; but our alum is seldom produced spontaneously in the earth, and several of our most accurate mineralogists, such as Scopoli and Sage, deny the existence of native alum 491. Crystals of real alum are formed very rarely on minerals which abound in a great degree with aluminous particles, when they have been exposed a sufficient time to the open air and the rain; and even then they are so small and so much scattered, that it requires an experienced and attentive observer to know and discover them. The smallest trace of alum-works is not to be found in the ancients, nor even of works for making vitriol (sulphate of iron), except what is mentioned by Pliny, who tells us that blue vitriol was made in Spain by the process of boiling; and this circumstance he considers as the only one of its kind, and so singular, that he is of opinion no other salt could be obtained in the same manner 492. Besides, everything related by the ancients of their alum agrees perfectly with native vitriols: but to describe them all might be difficult; for they do not speak of pure salts, but of saline mixtures, which nature of itself exhibits in various ways, and under a variety of forms; and every small difference in the colour, the exterior or interior conformation, however accidental, provided it could be clearly distinguished, was to them sufficient to make a distinct species, and to induce them to give it a new name 493.

The celebrity which the ancient alum had, as a substance extremely useful in dyeing and medicine, was entirely forgotten when the alum of the moderns became known; but this celebrity was again revived when it was discovered that real alum could be often made from minerals containing sulphur compounds; or that where the latter are found there are generally minerals which abound with it. In many of these places alum-works have in the course of time been erected; and this circumstance has served in some measure to strengthen the opinion that the alum of the ancients and that of the moderns are the same salt; because where the former was found in ancient times, the latter has since been procured by a chemical process. Some historians of the fifteenth century even speak of the alum-works erected at that period, as if the art of making this salt had only been revived in Europe.

The ancients procured their alum from various parts of the world. Herodotus mentions Egyptian alum; for he tells us that when the people of Delphos, after losing their temple by a fire, were collecting a contribution in order to rebuild it, Amasis king of Egypt sent them a thousand talents of alum 494. In Pliny's time the Egyptian alum was accounted the best. It is well known that real alum is reckoned among the exports of Egypt at present, but I am acquainted with no author who mentions the place where it is found or made, or who has described the method of preparing it.

The island of Melos, now called Milo, was particularly celebrated on account of its alum, as we learn from Diodorus Siculus, Celsus, Pliny and others, though none was to be found there in the time of Diodorus 495. This native vitriol has been observed in the grottos of that island by several modern travellers, especially Tournefort 496 , who very properly considers it as the real alum of the ancients.

The islands of Lipara and Strongyle, or, as they are called at present, Lipari and Stromboli, contained so great a quantity of this substance, that the duty on it brought a considerable revenue to the Romans 497. At one period, Lipari carried on an exclusive trade in alum, and raised the price of it at pleasure; but in that island at present there are neither vitriol nor alum-works. Sardinia, Macedonia, and Spain, where alum was found formerly, still produce a salt known under that name 498.

When our alum became known, it was considered as a species of the ancient; and as it was purer, and more proper to be used on most occasions, the name of alum 499  was soon appropriated to it alone. The kinds of alum however known to the ancients, which were green vitriol, maintained a preference in medicine and for dyeing black; and on this account, these impure substances have been still retained in druggists' shops under the name of misysory, &c. But a method was at length found out of procuring thence crystallized martial salts (salts of iron), which obtained the new name of vitriol. This appellation had its rise first in the eleventh or twelfth century; at least I know no writer older than Albertus Magnus by whom it is mentioned or used. Agricola conjectures that it was occasioned by the likeness which the crystals of vitriol had to glass. This is also the opinion of Vossius 500 ; and it is very singular that Pliny says nearly the same thing; for he observes, speaking of blue vitriol, the only kind then known, that one might almost take it for glass 501.

By inquiring into the uses to which the ancients applied their alum, I find that it was sometimes employed to secure wooden buildings against fire. This remark I have here introduced to show that this idea, which in modern times has given occasion to many expensive experiments, is not new. Aulus Gellius 502  relates, from the works of an historian now lost, that Archelaus, one of the generals of Mithridates, washed over a wooden tower with a solution of alum, and by these means rendered it so much proof against fire, that all Sylla's attempts to set it in flames proved abortive. Many have conjectured that the substance used for this purpose was neither vitriol nor our alum, but rather asbestos, which is often confounded with Atlas-vitriol 503 ; and against this mistake cautions are to be found even in Theophrastus. But it may be asked, With what was the asbestos laid on? By what means were the threads, which are not soluble in water, made fast to the wood? How could a tower be covered with it? I am rather inclined to believe, that a strongly saturated solution of vitriol might have in some measure served to prevent the effects of the fire, at least as long as a thin coat of potters' earth or flour-paste, which in the present age have been thought deserving of experiments attended with considerable expense. It does not however appear that the invention of Archelaus, which is still retained in some old books 504 , has been often put in practice 505 ; for writers on the art of war, such, for example, as Æneas, recommended vinegar to be washed over wood, in order to prevent its being destroyed by fire.

I shall now proceed to the history of our present alum, which was undoubtedly first made in the East. The period of the invention I cannot exactly determine, but I conclude with certainty that it is later than the twelfth century 506 ; for John, the son of Serapion, who lived after Rhazes, was acquainted with no other alum than the impure vitriol of Dioscorides 507. What made the new alum first and principally known was its beneficial use in the art of dyeing, in which it is employed for fixing as well as rendering brighter and more beautiful different colours. This art therefore the Europeans learned from the Orientals, who, even yet, though we have begun to apply chemistry to the improvement of dyeing, are in some respects superior to us, as is proved by the red of Adrianople, their silks and their Turkey leather. The Italians procured their first alum from the Levant, along with other materials for dyeing; but when these countries were taken possession of by the Turks, it grieved the Christians to be obliged to purchase these necessary articles from the common enemy, and bitter complaints on that subject may be seen in the works of various authors. In the course of time the Italians became acquainted with the art of boiling alum; for some of them had rented Turkish alum-works, and manufactured that salt on their own account. They at length found aluminous minerals in their own country, on which they made experiments. These having answered their expectations, they were soon brought into use; and this branch of trade declined afterwards so much in Turkey, that many of the alum-works there were abandoned.

We are told by many historians that the Europeans who first made alum in Italy learned their art, as Augustin Justinian says, at Rocca di Soria, or Rocca in Syria. Neither in books of geography nor in maps, however, can I find any place of this name in Syria. I at first conjectured that Rocca on the Euphrates might be here meant, but at present it appears to me more probable that it is Edessa, which is sometimes called Roha, Raha, Ruha, Orfa, and also Roccha, as has been expressly remarked by Niebuhr 508. Edessa is indeed reckoned to be in Mesopotamia, but some centuries ago Syria perhaps was understood in a more extended sense. This much at least is certain, that minerals which indicate alum have been often observed by travellers in that neighbourhood.

It appears that the new alum was at first distinguished from the ancient vitriol by the denomination of Rocca, from which the French have made alun de roche, and some of the Germans rotzalaun 509 . Respecting the origin of this name very different conjectures have been formed. Some think it is derived from rocca, which in the Greek signifies a rock, because this salt is by boiling procured from a stone; and these translate the word alumen rupeum, from which the French name is formed 510. Some are of opinion that alum obtained from alum-stone has been so called to distinguish it from that procured from schists, which is generally mixed with more iron than the former 511 ; and others maintain that alum acquired the name of Rocca  from the alum-rocks in the neighbourhood of Tolfa 512. It is to be remarked, on the other hand, that Biringoccio, that expert Italian, confesses he does not know whence the name has arisen 513. For my part I am inclined to adopt the opinion of Leibnitz, that alumen roccæ was that kind first procured from Rocca in Syria; and that this name was afterwards given to every good species of alum, as we at present call the purest Roman alum 514.

In the fifteenth century there were alum-works in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, from which John di Castro, of whom I shall have occasion to speak hereafter, learned his art. May not these alum-works be those visited by Bellon, and of which he has given an excellent description 515 ? He names the place Cypsella  or Chypsilar, and says that the alum in commerce is called alumen Lesbium, or di Metelin. The alum procured from Constantinople at present may perhaps be brought from the same spot; but I am not sufficiently acquainted with its situation to determine that point with certainty, for Büsching makes no mention of it. In some maps I find the names Ypsala  and Chipsilar  on the western side of the river Mariza, Maritz or Maricheh, which was the Hebrus of the ancients; in others stands the name Scapsiler  on the west bank of the sea Bouron; and it is not improbable that these may be all derived from the old Scaptesyle  or Scapta Hyla, where, according to the account of Theophrastus, Pliny and others, there were considerable mines.

Another alum-work, no less celebrated in the fifteenth century, was established near the city Phocæa Nova, at present called Foya Nova, not far from the mouth of the Hermus, in the neighbourhood of Smyrna. Of this work, Ducas, who had a house there, has given a particular description, from which we learn that in his time, that is under the reign of Michael Palæologus, it was farmed by Italians, who sold the produce of it to their countrymen, and to the Dutch, French, Spaniards, English, Arabs, Egyptians, and people of Syria. This author relates very minutely in what manner the alum was made, but that work has been long since abandoned 516 : alum howevermade in the neighbourhood is still exported from Smyrna 517. It is much to be wished that ingenious travellers would examine the alum-works in Thrace, around Smyrna, and in Turkey in general, and give an accurate description of them according to the state in which they are at present 518.

The oldest alum-works in Europe were established about the middle of the fifteenth century, but where they were first erected cannot with certainty be ascertained; for it appears that several were set on foot in different places at the same period. Some affirm that the first alum made in Europe was manufactured in the island Ænaria, or Pithacusa, at present called Ischia, by a Genoese merchant, whom some name Bartholomew Perdix, and others Pernix. This man, who is praised on account of his ingenuity and attachment to the study of natural history, having often travelled through Syria, learned the method of boiling alum at Rocca; and on his return found alum-stones among the substances thrown up by the eruption of a volcano which had destroyed part of the island, and gave occasion to their being first employed in making that salt. Such is the account of respectable historians,Pontanus 519 Bizaro 520 , Augustine Justinian 521 , and Bottone 522 , who wrote much later. Bizaro says that this happened in the year 1459, which agrees perfectly with the account of Pontanus; for he tells us that it was under the reign of Ferdinand I., natural son of Alphonsus, who ascended the throne in 1458. Besides, the earthquake, which had laid waste the island one hundred and sixty-three years before, took place in 1301, which makes the time of this invention to fall about the year 1464. So seems Bottone also to have reckoned, for he mentions expressly the year 1465.

The alum-work which is situated about an Italian mile northwest from Tolfa, and six from Civita Vecchia, in the territories of the Church, is by some Italian historians reckoned to have been the first. However this may be, it is certain that it is the oldest carried on at present. The founder of it was John di Castro, a son of the celebrated lawyer, Paul di Castro 523 , who had an opportunity at Constantinople, where he traded in Italian cloths and sold dye-stuffs, of making himself acquainted with the method of boiling alum. He was there at the time when the city fell into the hands of the Turks; and after this unfortunate event, by which he lost all his property, he returned to his own country. Pursuing there his researches in natural history, he found in the neighbourhood of Tolfa a plant which he had observed growing in great abundance in the aluminous districts of Asia: from this he conjectured that the earth of his native soil might also contain the same salt; and he was confirmed in that opinion by its astringent taste. At this time he held an important office in the Apostolic Chamber; and this discovery, which seemed to promise the greatest advantages, was considered as a real victory gained over the Turks, from whom the Italians had hitherto been obliged to purchase all their alum. Pope Pius II., who was too good a financier to neglect such a beneficial discovery, caused experiments to be first made at Viterbo, by some Genoese who had formerly been employed in the alum-works in the Levant, and the success of them was equal to his expectations. The alum, which was afterwards manufactured in large quantities, was sold to the Venetians, the Florentines, and the Genoese. The Pope himself has left us a very minute history of this discovery, and of the circumstances which gave rise to it 524. Some pretend that Castro was several years a slave to a Turk who traded in alum 525 ; others affirm that he had even been obliged to labour as a slave in alum-works 526 ; and others, that he learned the art of boiling alum from a citizen of Corneto, a town in the dominions of the Pope, and from a Genoese, both of whom had acquired their knowledge in the Levant 527. But as I do not wish to ascribe a falsehood to the Pontiff, I am of opinion that the history of this discovery must have been best known to him. He has not, indeed, established the year with sufficient correctness; but we may conclude from his relation that it must have been 1460 or 1465. The former is the year given by Felician Bussi; and the latter that given in the history of the city of Civita Vecchia.

The plant which first induced John di Castro to search for alum was that evergreen, prickly shrub, the Ilex aquifolium, or holly, which in Italy is still considered as an indication that the regions where it grows abound with that salt. But though it is undoubtedly certain that the quality of the soil may be often discovered by the wild plants which it produces, it is also true that this shrub is frequently found where there is not the smallest trace of alum; and that it is not to be seen where the soil abounds with it, as has been already remarked by Boccone 528  and Tozzetti 529.

Among the earliest alum-works may be reckoned that which was erected at Volterra, in the district of Pisa, in 1458, by a Genoese named Antonius 530. Others say that it was constructed by an architect of Sienna; but this opinion has perhaps arisen only from the work having been farmed by a citizen of Sienna, or built at his expense. On account of this alum-work an insurrection of the inhabitants of Volterra broke out in 1472; but it was at length quelled by the Florentines, who took and plundered the city 531. Brutus, who wrote his History of Florence in the year 1572, says that this alum-work was carried on in his time: but this is certainly false; for Raphael di Volterra 532 , who died in 1521 in his native city, expressly tells us that in his time alum was no longer boiled there; and this is confirmed by Baccius 533 , who also lived in the sixteenth century. At present no remains of it are left; so that Tozzetti was not able to discover the place where the alum-stones were broken 534.

It appears from what has been said, that the art of boiling alum in Europe was first known in Italy, but not before the year 1548. That document therefore of the year 1284, quoted by Tozzetti, and in which alum-works,alumifodinæ, are mentioned, must, as he himself thinks, be undoubtedly false 535.

The great revenue which the Apostolical Chamber derived from alum, induced many to search for aluminous minerals, and works were erected wherever they were found. Several manufactories of this substance were established therefore in various parts, which are mentioned by Baccius 536 , Biringoccio, and other writers of the sixteenth century. The pope however understood his own interest so well, that he never rested until he had caused all the works erected in the territories of others to be given up, and until he alone remained master of the prize. He then endeavoured by every method possible to prevent foreigners from acquiring an accurate knowledge of the art of boiling alum; and at the same time found means, by entering into commercial treaties with other nations, and by employing the medium of religion, which has always the greatest effect on weak minds, to extend his commerce in this article more and more. The price was raised from time to time, and it at length became so high that foreigners could purchase this salt at a cheaper rate from the Spaniards, and even when they sent for it to Turkey. His Holiness, that he might convert this freedom of trade into a sin, and prevent it by the terror of excommunication, artfully gave out that he meant to set apart the income arising from his alum-works to the defence of Christianity; that is, towards carrying on war against the Turks. Prohibitions and threats now followed in case any one should be so unchristian as to purchase alum from the Infidels; but every person was at liberty to make what bargain he could with his Holiness for this commodity.

In the year 1468 Pope Paul II. entered into a commercial treaty respecting alum with Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy; but in 1504 Roman alum had risen to such an exorbitant price, that Philip the Fair, archduke of Austria, caused a council of inquiry to be held at Bruges, by which it appeared that this article could be purchased at a much cheaper rate in Turkey. Commissions therefore were sent thither for that purpose; but scarcely was this known at Rome, when a prohibition, under pain of excommunication, was issued by Pope Julius II. This pontiff however was not the only one from whom such prohibitions proceeded: bulls of the like kind were issued also by Julius III., Paul III., Paul IV., Gregory XIII. and others 537.

But these means, like all those founded on the simplicity of others, could not be of long duration; and as soon as men became a little more enlightened, they learned to know their own interest, and to discover the selfishness of the Pope's bulls. Unless Biringoccio, who visited a part of the German mines, be under a mistake, the first European alum-work out of Italy was erected in Spain; and is that still carried on with considerable profit at Almacaron, not far from Carthagena 538. In the beginning of the sixteenth century very large quantities of alum were brought to Antwerp, as we learn from Guicciardini's Description of the Netherlands.

At what time the first alum-work was erected in Germany, I am not able to determine; but it appears that alum began to be made at Oberkaufungen in Hesse in the year 1554. For the alum-work at Commotau in Bohemia, the first letters-patent were granted in 1558. An alum-work was established at Lower Langenau in the county of Glatz in 1563; but it was soon after abandoned. Several other manufactories of alum are mentioned by Agricola, such as that of Dieben or Duben, in the circle of Leipsic, and those of Dippoldiswalda, Lobenstein, &c.

In England the first alum-work was erected at Gisborough in Yorkshire, in the reign of queen Elizabeth; though Anderson 539  says in 1608. Sir Thomas Chaloner, who had an estate there, conjecturing from the nature of the plants which grew wild that there must be minerals in the neighbourhood, after making some search, at length discovered alum. As there was however no one in England at that time who understood the method of preparing it, he privately engaged workmen belonging to the Pope's alum-works; and it is said, that as soon as the Pontiff heard this, he endeavoured to recall them by threats and anathemas. These however did no injury to the heretics; and in a little time the alum-work succeeded so well, that several more of the same kind were soon after established 540. But what more dishonoured the Pontiff's denunciations was, that in later times the proprietors of the English alum-works farmed those of the Apostolic Chamber, and increased in various ways the benefit derived from them 541.

At what period alum-works were established in other countries I have not been able to learn. I however know that one was erected at Andrarum 542  in Sweden in 1630.

[The process for obtaining alum from the alum-stone of Tolfa, which is also found in Hungary, Auvergne, and other parts of the world, and which contains all  the ingredients requisite for the production of alum, has been fully described. The greater portion however of the alum manufactured in this country is obtained from alum-slate,—a bituminous schist containing iron-pyrites (sulphuret of iron) diffused in extremely fine particles throughout its mass. Many of these schists crumble to pieces when they are exposed to the air; the sulphur of the pyrites becomes gradually converted by the absorption of oxygen from the atmosphere into sulphuric acid, while, at the same time, the iron is peroxidized, and having in this state no very great affinity for the sulphuric acid, parts with the greater portion of it to the clay, which is thus converted into sulphate of alumina. Many of these schists are of such a loose texture, and contain the pyrites in so fine a state of division, that the requisite heat is generated by the rapidity with which the several chemical changes proceed; others, from their compactness and deficiency in combustible matter, require calcining by a slow smothered fire. When the calcination is complete, the mass is lixiviated, the solutions are run into cisterns for evaporation, and when they have attained a certain strength, are precipitated with sulphate or muriate of potash or ammonia. The precipitated alum is washed, drained, and separated from various impurities by re-solution and crytallization, and is then fit for the market.

A very interesting process has recently been patented by Dr. Turner of Gateshead 543. It consists in fusing felspar, which is a silicate of potash and alumina, with more potash. On treating the fused mass with water, it is separated into two parts; the first, a solution containing silicate of potash, from which the potash may be obtained by passing through it a stream of carbonic acid gas, or by filtering it through a bed of caustic lime; the second, an insoluble residue, consisting of a silicate of alumina and potash. On digesting this with sulphuric acid, the silica is separated and a solution of alum obtained.]

Footnotes

487  Called by the Greeks στυπτηρία.

488  [It is scarcely necessary to observe, that many of the compounds of sulphuric acid with metallic oxides were formerly commonly termed vitriols  from their glassy appearance; thus, the green vitriol, or briefly vitriol, is the sulphate of the protoxide of iron, white vitriol is sulphate of zinc, and blue vitriol is the sulphate of copper. Sulphuric acid is still more generally known by the name of oil of vitriol and vitriolic acid, from its having been originally obtained by distilling green vitriol.]

489  [There can be little doubt however that even Pliny was acquainted with our alum, but did not distinguish it from sulphate of iron, for he informs us that one kind of alum was white and was used for dyeing wool of bright colours.—Pereira's Materia Medica, vol. i.]

490  [The alums, for at present several kinds are distinguished, are not merely combinations of sulphuric acid and the earth alumina, but double sulphates, the one constituent being sulphate of alumina, the other either sulphate of potash, sulphate of ammonia, sulphate of soda, &c. The alum of this country generally contains potash, that of France ammonia, or both potash and ammonia, hence the name potash-alum, ammonia-alum, &c.]

491  [Although native alum is not abundant, there is no question of its occasional occurrence.]

492  Plin. lib. xxxiv. c. 12. The same account is given by Isidor. Origin. lib. xvi. c. 2, and by Dioscorides, lib. v. c. 114. The latter, however, differs from Pliny in many circumstances.

493  Those who are desirous of seeing everything that the ancients have left us respecting their alum may consult Aldrovandi Museum Metallicum, Lugd. 1636, fol. p. 334.

494  Herodot. lib. ii. c. 180.

495  Diodor. Sic. lib. v. ed. Wesselingii, i. p. 338.

496  Tournefort, Voyage i. p. 63. Some information respecting the same subject may be seen in that expensive but useful work, Voyage Pittoresque de la Grèce, i. p. 12.

497  Diodor. Sic. lib. c. Strabo, lib. vi. edit. Almel. p. 423.

498  Copious information respecting the Spanish alum-works may be found in Introduccion à la Historia Natural de Espagna, par D. G. Bowles: and in Dillon's Travels through Spain, 1780, 4to, p. 220.

499  The derivation of the Latin name alumen, which, if I mistake not, occurs first in Columella and Pliny, is unknown. Some deduce it from ἅλμη; others from ἄλειμμα; and Isidore gives a derivation still more improbable. May it not have come from Egypt with the best sort of alum? Had it originated from a Greek word, it would undoubtedly have been formed from στυπτηρία. This appellation is to be found in Herodotus; and nothing is clearer than that it has arisen from the astringent quality peculiar to both the salts, and also from στύφειν, as has been remarked by Dioscorides, Pliny, and Galen.

500  Etymol. p. 779.

501  Plin. lib. xxxiv. c. 12.

502  Noct. Att. lib. xv. c. 1.

503  The halotrichum  of Scopoli. The first person who discovered this salt to be vitriolic was Henkel, who calls it Atlas-vitriol. [The mineral halotrichite is, in a chemical sense, a true alum in which the sulphate of potash is replaced by the sulphate of the protoxide of iron. It is composed of one atom of protosulphate of iron, one atom of sulphate of alumina, and contains, like all the true alums, twenty-four atoms of water.]

504  Wecker De Secretis, lib. ix. 18, p. 445.

505  One instance of its being used for this purpose is found in Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xx. c. 12.

506  [This cannot be correct; for Geber, who is supposed to have lived in the eighth century, was acquainted with three kinds of it, and describes the method of preparing burnt alum.]

507  Joh. Serapionis Arabis de simplicibus medicinis opus, cap. 410.

508  Reisebeschreibung, ii. p. 408, 409.

509  This singular appellation occurs in Valentini Historia Simplicium, and several other works.

510  Jul. Cæs. Scaligeri Exot. exercitat. Franc. 1612, 8vo, p. 325.

511  I shall here take occasion to remark, that schist seems to have been employed for making alum in the time of Agricola, as appears by his book De Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum, p. 47.

512  Mercati, Metallotheca, p. 54.

513  Pyrotechnia. Ven. 1559, 4to.

514  Leibnitii Protogæa, p. 47.

515  Bellonii Observationes, cap. lxi.

516  “In Phocis, which lies close to Ionia, there is a mountain abundant in aluminous mineral. The stones found on the top of this mountain are first calcined in the fire, and then reduced to powder by being thrown into water. The water mixed with that powder is put into a kettle; and a little more water being added to it, and the whole having been made to boil, the powder is lixiviated, and the thick part which falls to the bottom in a cake is preserved; what is hard and earthy is thrown away as of no use. The cake is afterwards suffered to dissolve in vessels for four days; at the end of which the alum is found in crystals around their edges, and the bottoms of them also are covered with pieces and fragments of the like nature. The remaining liquor, which at the end of four days does not harden, is poured into a kettle, more water and more powder are added to it, and being boiled as before, it is put into proper vessels, and the alum obtained in this manner is preserved as an article very necessary for dyers. All masters of ships bound from the Levant to Europe, consider alum as a very convenient and useful lading for vessels.... In the reign of Michael Palæologus, the first emperor of his family, some Italians requested a lease of that mountain, for which they promised to pay a certain sum annually.... The Romans and the Latins built Phocæa Nova on the sea-shore, at the bottom of that mountain which lies on the east side of it. On the west it has the island of Lesbos, on the north the neighbouring bay of Elæa, and on the south it looks towards the Ionian sea.”—Ducæ Historia Byzantina. Venet. 1729, p. 71.

517  The alum of Smyrna is mentioned by Baumé in his Experimental Chemistry, i. p. 458.

518  Some account of other Eastern alum-works is contained in a treatise of F. B. Pegolotti, written in the middle of the fourteenth century, on the state of commerce at that time, and printed in a book entitled Della decima e di varie altre gravezze imposte dal commune di Firenze. Lisbona e Lucca, 1765, 4to, 4 vols. It appears from this work, that in the fourteenth century the Italians were acquainted with no other than Turkish alum.

519  “I shall embrace this opportunity of giving a brief account of the situation of the island, and of the nature of its soil. That Ænaria has been at some time violently separated from the continent by an earthquake, seems proved by a variety of circumstances, such as calcined rocks; the ground full of caverns; and the earth, which, like that of the main land, being abundant in warm springs, and dry, feeds internal fire, and on that account contains a great deal of alum. A few years ago Bartholomew Perdix, a Genoese merchant passing this island in his way to Naples, observed some aluminous rocks scattered here and there along the sea-coast. About a hundred and sixty-three years before that period, the earth having suddenly burst by the effects of fire confined in its bowels, a considerable part of Ænaria was involved in flames. By this eruption a small town was burned and afterwards swallowed up; and large masses of rock mixed with flames, sand and smoke, thrown up where the shore looks towards Cumæ, fell upon the neighbouring fields, and destroyed the most fruitful and the most pleasant part of the island. Some of these huge pieces of rock being at that time still lying on the shore, Bartholomew, by calcining them in a furnace, extracted alum from them, and revived that art which he had brought from Rocca in Syria, where he had traded for several years, and which had been neglected in Italy for many centuries.”—Pontani Hist. Neapol. in Grævii Thesaurus Antiq. Italiæ, ix. part 3. p. 88.

520  “I must not omit to mention that about this time Bartholomew Pernix, a citizen and merchant of Genoa, who had resided long in Syria for the purpose of commerce, returned to his native country. Soon after, he made a voyage to the island of Ænaria, situated in the Tuscan sea, called formerly Pythacusa, and now in the vulgar Greek Iscla or Ischia; and being a man of an acute genius, and a diligent investigator of natural objects, he observed near the sea-coast several rocks fit for making alum. He took some fragments of them therefore, and having calcined them in a furnace, he procured from them most excellent alum. He was the first person who, to the incredible benefit of many, brought as it were again into use that art long abandoned and almost lost in Italy and the greater part of other countries. On that account his name deserves to be rescued from oblivion.”—Genuensis Rerum Annal. auct. P. Bizaro Sentinati. Antv. 1579, fol. p. 302.

521  “About that period (1459) Bartholomew Pernix, a Genoese merchant, sailing past the island of Ænaria or Ischia, learned that there were near the shore many aluminous rocks, that is to say, fit for making alum. He took some of them, therefore, and having caused them to be calcined in a furnace, he procured from them most excellent alum. This Bartholomew brought back to Italy from the city of Rocca, in Syria, where he had traded many years, the art of making alum, which had been neglected and lost for a long space of time.”—Annali della Republica di Genoa, per Agostino Giustiniano. Genoa, 1537, fol. lib. v. p. 214.

522  Dom. Bottone, Pyrologia Topographica. Neapoli, 1692, 4to. This author calls the inventor Perdix, and not Pernix.

523  Fabricii Biblioth. Lat. mediæ et infimæ Ætatis, vol. v. p. 617.

524  “A little before that period came to Rome John di Castro, with whom the Pontiff had been acquainted when he carried on trade at Basle, and was banker to Pope Eugenius. His father, Paul, was a celebrated lawyer of his time, who sat many years in the chair at Padua, and filled all Italy with his decisions; for law-suits were frequently referred to him, and judges paid great respect to his authority, as he was a man of integrity and sound learning. At his death he left considerable riches, and two sons arrived to the age of manhood, the elder of whom, following the profession of the father, acquired a very extensive knowledge of law. The other, who was a man of genius, and who applied more to study, made himself acquainted with grammar and history: but, being fond of travelling, he resided some time at Constantinople, and acquired much wealth by dyeing cloth made in Italy, which was transported thither and committed to his care, on account of the abundance of alum in that neighbourhood. Having by these means an opportunity of seeing daily the manner in which alum was made, and from what stones or earth it was extracted, he soon learned the art. When, by the will of God, that city was taken and plundered about the year 1453, by Mahomet II., emperor of the Turks, he lost his whole property; but, happy to have escaped the fire and sword of these cruel people, he returned to Italy, after the assumption of Pius II., to whom he was related, and from whom he obtained, as an indemnification for his losses, the office of commissary-general over all the revenues of the Apostolic Chamber, both within and without the city. While, in this situation, he was traversing all the hills and mountains, searching the bowels of the earth, leaving no stone or clod unexplored, he at length found some alum-stone in the neighbourhood of Tolfa. Old Tolfa is a town belonging to two brothers, subjects of the Church of Rome, and situated at a small distance from Civita Vecchia. Here there are high mountains, retiring inland from the sea, which abound with wood and water. While Castro was examining these, he observed that the grass had a new appearance. Being struck with wonder, and inquiring into the cause, he found that the mountains of Asia, which enrich the Turkish treasury by their alum, were covered with grass of the like kind. Perceiving several white stones, which seemed to be minerals, he bit some of them, and found that they had a saltish taste. This induced him to make some experiments by calcining them, and he at length obtained alum. He repaired therefore to the Pontiff, and addressing him said, ‘I announce to you a victory over the Turk. He draws yearly from the Christians above three hundred thousand pieces of gold, paid to him for the alum with which we dye wool different colours, because none is found here but a little at the island of Hiscla, formerly called Ænaria, near Puteoli, and in the cave of Vulcan at Lipari, which, being formerly exhausted by the Romans, is now almost destitute of that substance. I have however found seven hills, so abundant in it, that they would be almost sufficient to supply seven worlds. If you will send for workmen, and cause furnaces to be constructed, and the stones to be calcined, you may furnish alum to all Europe; and that gain which the Turk used to acquire by this article, being thrown into your hands, will be to him a double loss. Wood and water are both plenty, and you have in the neighbourhood the port of Civita Vecchia, where vessels bound to the West may be loaded. You can now make war against the Turk: this mineral will supply you with the sinews of war, that is money, and at the same time deprive the Turk of them.' These words of Castro appeared to the Pontiff the ravings of a madman: he considered them as mere dreams, like the predictions of astrologers; and all the cardinals were of the same opinion. Castro, however, though his proposals were often rejected, did not abandon his project, but applied to his Holiness by various persons, in order that experiments might be made in his presence, on the stones which he had discovered. The Pontiff employed skilful people, who proved that they really contained alum; but lest some deception might have been practised, others were sent to the place where they had been found, who met with abundance of the like kind. Artists who had been employed in the Turkish mines in Asia were brought from Genoa; and these, having closely examined the nature of the place, declared it to be similar to that of the Asiatic mountains which produce alum; and, shedding tears for joy, they kneeled down three times, worshiping God, and praising his kindness in conferring so valuable a gift on our age. The stones were calcined, and produced alum more beautiful than that of Asia, and superior in quality. Some of it was sent to Venice and to Florence, and, being tried, was found to answer beyond expectation. The Genoese first purchased a quantity of it, to the amount of twenty thousand pieces of gold; and Cosmo of Medici for this article laid out afterwards seventy-five thousand. On account of this service, Pius thought Castro worthy of the highest honours and of a statue, which was erected to him in his own country, with this inscription: ‘To John di Castro, the inventor of alum;' and he received besides a certain share of the profit. Immunities and a share also of the gain were granted to the two brothers, lords of Tolfa, in whose land the aluminous mineral had been found. This accession of wealth to the Church of Rome was made, by the divine blessing, under the pontificate of Pius II.; and if it escape, as it ought, the hands of tyrants, and be prudently managed, it may increase and afford no small assistance to the Roman Pontiffs in supporting the burdens of the Christian religion.”—Pii Secundii Comment. Rer. Memorab. quæ temp. suis contigerunt. Francof. 1614, fol. p. 185.

525  “The Frangipani a third time acquired lands in the kingdom of Naples. When they possessed in Maremma di Roma, Tolfa, Castello, and a jurisdiction which brings at present eighty thousand crowns annually to the Church, it happened that a son of Paul di Castro, a celebrated doctor, and a vassal of these lords, who had been many years a slave in Turkey to an alum-merchant, returned free to his own country; and observing that in the territories of Tolfa there was abundance of alum mineral, he gave notice of it to Lodovico Frangipani, his lord, and was the cause of greatly increasing his revenues. Pope Paul II., however, pretending that the mineral belonged to the Apostolic See, as supreme lord of the fief, and not being able to persuade Lodovico to give it up to the Church, he declared war against him, but was vigorously opposed by Lodovico and his brother Peter, lords of Tolfa, assisted by the Orsini their relations; so that the Pope was obliged to bring about an accommodation with them by means of king Ferrante I., and to pay them as the price of Tolfa sixteen thousand crowns of gold, of which Lodovico gave twelve thousand to the king, and was invested by him in the lordship of Serino in the year 1469.”

526  Ferbers Briefe über Welschland, p. 246.

527  “This year (1460) is distinguished by the discovery of alum at Tolfa vecchia, no one there having been acquainted with it till that period: and this happened by means of one John di Castro, who had acquired some knowledge of it from a young man of Corneto, and a Genoese, who had learned in Turkey the whole process of making it. The said John having observed that in the mountains of Tolfa there were undoubtedly veins of alum, he caused some of the earth and stones to be dug up, and the first experiments were made on them at Viterbo in the following manner. The stones were first calcined in a furnace; a large quantity of water was then thrown over them; and when they were entirely dissolved, the water was boiled in great leaden caldrons; after which it was poured into wooden vessels, where, evaporating by degrees, the result was alum of the most perfect kind. Pope Pius II., sensible of the great benefit which might arise from this mineral to the Apostolic Chamber, employed more than eight hundred persons at Tolfa in preparing it.”—Historia della Città de Viterbo, di Feliciano Bussi. In Roma 1742, fol. p. 262.

528  Museo di Fisica, &c. Ven. 1697, p. 152.

529  Viaggi, vii. p. 234.

530  Anno 1458. “Rock alum, which the Greeks call pharno, was at this time first discovered by a Genoese in the territories of Volterra, where being boiled and found to be good, it began to be dug up afterwards in many of the mountains of Italy. Till that period the Italians had made no use of mines of this kind; for our alum was all brought from Turkey. The above discovery was therefore a great advantage to us.”

531  An account of this dispute between the Florentines and the people of Volterra may be seen in Machiavelli's History of Florence, book vii.

532  Rap. Volaterrani Comment. Urbani.

533  De Thermis.

534  Viaggi, iii. p. 117.

535  Ibid. vii. p. 51.

536  De Thermis, p. 293. Tozzetti, iv. p. 186.

537  Nicol. Rodrig. Fermosini Tractatus Criminalium. Lugd. 1670, 2 vol. fol. tom. ii. p. 63.

538  Pyrotechn. p. 31. He says expressly that this was the only alum-work in Europe in his time without the boundaries of Italy.

539  History of Commerce, iv. p. 406. “The manufacture of alum,” says he, “was first found out in England, and carried on with success in 1608. It was supported and patronized in the county of York by lord Sheffield, sir John Bourcher, and other landholders of the said county, to the great benefit of England in general, and of the proprietors in particular, to the present day. King James was a great promoter of this alum-work, after he had by the advice of his minister appropriated to himself a monopoly of it, and forbidden the importation of foreign alum.”

540  Such is the account of Pennant in his Tour in Scotland, 1768. “The alum-works in this country are of some antiquity; they were first discovered by sir Thomas Chaloner in the reign of queen Elizabeth, who observing the trees tinged with an unusual colour, made him suspicious of its being owing to some mineral in the neighbourhood. He found out that the strata abounded with an aluminous salt. At that time the English being strangers to the method of managing it, there is a tradition that sir Thomas was obliged to seduce some workmen from the Pope's alum-works near Rome, then the greatest in Europe. If one may judge from the curse which his Holiness thundered out against sir Thomas and his fugitives, he certainly was not a little enraged; for he cursed by the very form that Ernulphus has left us, and not varied a tittle from that most comprehensive of imprecations. The first pits were near Gisborough, the seat of the Chaloners, who still flourish there notwithstanding his Holiness's anathema.” The following passage, extracted from Camden's Britannia, is much to the same purpose: “This (alum) was first discovered a few years since (anno 1607) by the admirable sagacity of that learned naturalist sir Thomas Chaloner, knt. (to whose tuition his majesty (king James the First) committed the delight and glory of Britain, his son prince Henry), by observing that the leaves of trees were of a more weak sort of green here than in other places, &c.”

541  “For some time past the marquis of Lepri has farmed the alum-works at Civita Vecchia for 37,000 scudi. The Apostolical Chamber supplies the necessary wood, which the marquis must be at the expense of cutting down and transporting. About two hundred men are employed in the works; and alum to the amount of from forty-five thousand to fifty thousand scudi is sold annually, particularly to the English and the French.” See Voyage en Italie, par le Baron de R. (Riesch.) Dresden, 1781, 2 vols. 8vo.

542  Voyages Metallurgiques, par M. Jars, vol. iii. p. 297.

543  See Chemical Gazette for July 15, 1843.