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the vines of Malta,

Original French:  les vignes de Malthe,

Modern French:  les vignes de Malthe,


Among the plants that do not attire so many people as does Pantagruelion.

Rabelais mentions “spit as white as Maltese cotton” in Pantagruel, Chapter 7[1][2]. Le Duchat made no comment, but following commentators agree that the vines of Malta are cotton plants. Smith[3] located references to Maltese cotton in Cicero[4][5] and Diodorus[6]. On the reputation of Maltese cotton, Screech cites Scyllius, Textor, Polydore Vergile, and Servius[7]. Vella[8] cites several 15th century records pertaining to the importance of the cotton trade to the island, as well as Bosio’s statement[9] (ca. 1602):

“One could see the majority of the Maltese, even the upper classes, all bearded…. They were apparelled wholly in local cotton, which thrives greatly in the Island.”


1. Rabelais, François (ca. 1483–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Troisiéme: Pantagruel, Prologue—Chapitres I-XI. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1922. p. 73. Archive.org

2. Rabelais, François (ca. 1483–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. p. 235. Archive.org

3. Rabelais, François (ca. 1483–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. Archive.org

4. Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106 BC-43 BC), Against Verres. L. H. G. Greenwood, translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1928. 2.2.72. Loeb Classical Library

5. Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106 BC-43 BC), Against Verres. L. H. G. Greenwood, translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1928. 4.46. Loeb Classical Library

6. Diodorus of Sicily (ca. 80–20 BCE), Library of History. Charles Henry Oldfather (1887–1954), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1933. 5.12. Loeb Classical Library

7. Rabelais, François (ca. 1483–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Michael A. Screech (b. 1926), editor. Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964.

8. Vella, A. P., The Cotton Textile Industry in Malta. Vassallohistory

9. Bosio, Giacomo (1544-1627), Istoria Della Sacra Religione Et Illustrissima Militia Di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano. Volume 3. Rome: Facciotti, 1602. Europeana collections


Notes

Gossipium arboreum

Gossypium arboreum

Prospero Alpini [1553–1617]
De plantis Aegypti liber, editio altera emendatior
Venice, 1592 (reprint 1640)
Plant Illustrations

Vines of Malta

Vines of Malta must be cotton-trees. Vestes Melitenses are mentioned by Cicero, Verr. II. ii. 72, § 176; iv. 46 § 193; and Diodorus v. 12. These were manufactured from cotton, which is still the staple production of the island. Maltese cotton is mentioned Pantagruel, Chapter 7, note 6.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III
William Francis Smith [1842–1919], translator
London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893
Archive.org

Vines of Malta

Dico te maximum pondus auri, argenti, eboris, purpurae, plurimam vestem Melitensem, plurimam stragulam, multam Deliacam supellectilem, plurima vasa Corinthia, magnum numerum frumenti, vim mellis maximam Syracusis exportasse…

I assert that you exported from Syracuse a great weight of gold, silver, ivory, and purple fabrics, a great deal of Maltese cloth and tapestries, a quantity of Delian wares, a large number of Corinthian vessels, a large quantity of corn and an immense amount of honey…

Marcus Tullius Cicero [106 BC-43 BC]
Against Verres
2.2.72
L. H. G. Greenwood, translator
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1928
Loeb Classical Library

Vines of Malta

Insula est Melita, iudices, satis lato a Sicilia mari periculosoque diiuncta; in qua est eodem nomine oppidum, quo iste numquam accessit, quod tamen isti textrinum per triennium ad muliebrem vestem conficiendam fuit.

The island of Melita, gentlemen, is separated from Sicily by a rather wide and dangerous stretch of sea. In it there is a town, also called Melita, which Verres never visited, but which none the less he turned for three years into a factory for the weaving of women’s dresses.

Marcus Tullius Cicero [106 BC-43 BC]
Against Verres
4.46
L. H. G. Greenwood, translator
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1928
Loeb Classical Library

vines of Malta

For off the south of Sicily three islands lie out in the sea, and each of them possesses a city and harbours which can offer safety to ships which are in stress of weather. The first one is that called Melitê [Malta], which lies about eight hundred stades from Syracuse, and it possesses many harbours which offer exceptional advantages, and its inhabitants are blest in their possessions; for it has artisans skilled in every manner of craft, the most important being those who weave linen, which is remarkably sheer and soft…

Diodorus of Sicily [ca. 80–20 BCE]
Library of History
5.12
Charles Henry Oldfather [1887–1954], translator
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1933
Loeb Classical Library

cotton de Malthe

Pantagruel, Chapter 7

De faict vint au lieu où elle estoit et la leva de terre avecques le petit doigt aussi facillement que feriez une sonnette d’esparvier. Et, devant que la porter au clochier, Pantagruel en voulut donner une aubade par la ville et la faire sonner par toutes les rues en la portant en sa main, dont tout le monde se resjouyst fort; mais il en advint un inconvenient bien grand, car, la portant ainsi et la faisant sonner par les rues, tout le bon vin d’Orléans poulsa et se gasta. De quoy le monde ne se advisa que la nuyct ensuyvant, car un chascun se sentit tant alteré de avoir beu de ces vins poulsez qu’ilz ne faisoient que cracher aussi blanc comme cotton de Malthe, disans: « Nous avons du Pantagruel et avons les gorges sallées »

Note 16 re blanc comme cotton de Malthe

L’expression est antérieure à R. Cf. Villon, Test., V. 729 :

Je congnois approcher ma seui
Je crache, blanc comme coton,
Jacoppins gros comme ung esteuf.

La réputation de l’île de Malte pour la culture du cotonnier s’est conservée jusqu’au XVIIIe s. Mais en 1739, le Dictionnaire du commerce de Savary n’enregistre qu’une production de 15 balles, contre 2000 balles de Smyrne et 1100 de Chypre. Sans doute on désignait au XVIe s. sous le nom de coton de Malte, les cotons de diverses provenances entreposées par les vaisseaux des chevaliers de Rhodes (Henri Clouzot) — Le coton de Malte (bambagio di Malta) figure dans la Prattica delta mercatura de Pegolotti (Lisbona e Lucca, 1766, p. 295). D’après Heyd (Histoire du commerce du Levant an moyen âge, t. II, p. 612, Leipzig, 1886), il était coté un peu moins bas que celui de la Sicile (Paul Dorveaux).

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Troisiéme: Pantagruel, Prologue—Chapitres I-XI
p. 73
Abel Lefranc [1863-1952], editor
Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1922
Archive.org

Maltese Cotton

Pantagruel, Chapter 7: …But before carrying it [an enormous big Bell at St. Aignan in the said Town of Orleans] to the Bell-tower, Pantagruel wished to give them a Serenade with it through the City, and to ring it through all the Streets as he carried it in his Hand, at which every one greatly rejoiced; but there came from it one very great Inconvenience, namely, that as he thus carried and rang it through the Streets, all the good Wine of Orleans turned and was spoiled.

The people did not perceive this till the Night following, for every man found himself so thirsty from having drunk of these turned Wines, as they did nothing but spit as white as Maltese Cotton, saying: “We have got the Pantagruel, and have our throats Salted.”

Smith’s note re. spit as white as Cotton.

Je congnoys approcher ma soef :
Je crache blanc comme cotton.
— Villon, Grand Testament [1461], 62.

Falstaff says (2 Henry IV. i. 2, 237) : “If it be a hot day, and I brandish anything but a bottle, I would I might never spit white again.”

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III
p. 235
William Francis Smith [1842–1919], translator
London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893
Archive.org

les vignes de Malthe

Quelque cotonnier? Cicéron (in Verrem, II, 72, IV, 46) mentionne des étoffes ou tapis de Malte, Melitenses vestes. Cf. l. II, ch. VII, n. 16: «blanc comme coton de Malte». (Paul Delaunay)

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre
p. 366
Abel Lefranc [1863-1952], editor
Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931
Archive.org

Toutes les arbres lanificques des Seres,

XXI. Tyros (Tylos) insula in eodem sinu est, repleta silvis qua spectat orientem quaque et ipsa aestu maris perfunditur. magnitudo singulis arboribus fici, flos suavitate inenarrabili, pomum lupino simile, propter asperitatem intactum omnibus animalibus. eiusdem insulae excelsiore suggestu lanigerae arbores alio modo quam Serum; his folia infecunda quae, ni minora essent, vitium poterant videri. ferunt mali cotonei amplitudine cucurbitas quae maturitate ruptae ostendunt lanuginis pilas ex quibus vestes pretioso linteo faciunt.
XXII. arborem vocant gossypinum, fertiliore etiam Tyro minore, quae distat x͞ p. Iuba circa fruticem lanugines esse tradit, linteaque ea Indicis praestantiora, Arabiae autem arborem ex qua vestes faciant cynas vocari, folio palmae simili. sic Indos suae arbores vestiunt. in Tyris autem et alia arbor floret albae violae specie, sed magnitudine quadruplici, sine odore, quod miremur in eo tractu.

XXI. In the same gulf is the island of Tyros [now Bahrein, cf. VI. 148.], which is covered with forests in the part facing east, where it also is flooded by the sea at high tide. Each of the trees is the size of a fig-tree; they have a flower with an indescribably sweet scent and the fruit resembles a lupine, and is so prickly that no animal can touch it. On a more elevated plateau in the same island there are trees [Cotton-trees] that bear wool, but in a different manner to those [Serica, silk] of the Chinese, as the leaves of these trees have no growth on them, and might be thought to be vine-leaves were it not that they are smaller; but they bear gourds of the size of a quince, which when they ripen burst open and disclose balls of down from which an expensive linen for clothing is made.
XXII. Their name for this tree is the gossypinus; it also grows in greater abundance on the smaller island of Tyros, which is ten miles distant from the other. Juba says that this shrub has a woolly down growing round it, the fabric made from which is superior to the linen of India. He also says that there is an Arabian tree called the cynasc from which cloth is made, which has foliage resembling a palm-leaf. Similarly the natives of India are provided with clothes by their own trees. But in the Tyros islands there is also another tree [Tamarind] with a blossom like a white violet but four times as large; it has no scent, which may well surprise us in that region of the world.

Pliny the Elder [23–79 AD]
The Natural History. Volume 4: Books 12–16
12.21
Harris Rackham [1868–1944], translator
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1945
Loeb Classical Library

arbres lanificques, gossampines, cynes, les vignes de Malthe

Il s’agit de la soie et du coton (Pline, XII, 21 et 22). Les gossampines (gossypion) sont assimilées au lin par Pline, XIX, 2. Le coton de Malthe était très réputé dans l’Antiquité, d’où la « Linigera Melite » de Scyllius, cité par Textor, Officina, lxxvi v. Cf Polydore Vergile, De Inventoribus rerum, III,vi ; Servius, Comment. in Georg., II, 121 (voir plus bas, LII, 146, note).

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique
Michael A. Screech [b. 1926], editor
Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964

les vignes de Malthe

Malte était célèbre pour ses cotons; voir Pantagruel, VII, p. 236 et n. 1.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Œuvres complètes
p. 508, n. 2
Mireille Huchon, editor
Paris: Gallimard, 1994

cracher aussi blanc comme cotton de Malthe

L’îsle était pour la culture du cottonier.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Œuvres complètes
p. 0236 et n. 1
Mireille Huchon, editor
Paris: Gallimard, 1994

les vignes de Malta

Rabelais glane dans Pline, XII, 3, 11 et 12 [not found]. La «vigne de Malthe» doit désigner un cotonnier; voir Pantagruel, VII, p. 145 (ed. Livre de Poche)

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique
p. 464
Jean Céard, editor
Librarie Général Français, 1995

vines de Maltha

Ed. livre de poche. Les habitants d’Orléans altérés «ne faisoient que cracher aussi blanc comme cotton de Malthe…»

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Pantagruel. Les horribles et espouvantables faictz & prouesses du tresrenommé Pantagruel Roy des Dipsodes, filz du grand geant Gargantua, Composez nouvellement par maistre Alcofrybas Nasier
ch. 7 p. 145
Lyon: Claude Nourry, 1532
Athena

The Cotton Textile Industry in Malta

Bosio has left us the following description of the welcome given by the Maltese to Grand Master L’Isle Adam:

“One could see the majority of the Maltese, even the upper classes, all bearded. Their beards, according to the custom of the time and place, were long and thick. All wore a kind of suit reaching down to their knees (“il-geżwira”). They were apparelled wholly in local cotton, which thrives greatly in the Island.”[1]

Indeed, during the Middle Ages our ancestors depended on locally spun cotton material to clothe themselves from head to foot. We cannot determine when it was that our farmers decided to do away with linen for the planting of cotton. A Mayr,[2] without adducing any evidence, says that cotton was introduced into Malta in the IX century by the Arabs. It appears, at any rate, that after the XIV century, Maltese cotton found good foreign markets for on the 19th July, 1414, King Ferdinand ordered that two or three officials be nominated to examine carefully the cotton earmarked for export by the Maltese. These officials were instructed to have the cotton bales clearly marked to indicate the pure quality of their contents.[3]

The export of cotton from the Maltese Islands flourished increasingly. This can be gathered from the fact that in 1472 a tax of two per cent was raised on the exported product, the money to go towards the upkeep of the walls of Mdina.[4]

A. P. Vella
The Cotton Textile Industry in Malta
Vassallohistory

Maltese cotton

Giacomo Bosio [1544-1627]
Istoria Della Sacra Religione Et Illustrissima Militia Di San Giovanni Gierosolimitano. Volume 3
Rome: Facciotti, 1602
Europeana collections

Malta

Malta. The name of an island in the Mediterranean, formerly a dependency of Great Britain and now an independent republic.

1651 Malta cross

1725 J. Coats Dict. Her., Malta-cross, so call’d because worn by the Knights of that Order.


Maltese

Maltese. Of or pertaining to Malta and its inhabitants. Pertaining to the Knights of Malta.

1797 Encyclopædia Britannica (ed. 3) X. 491/1 At the first landing of the Maltese knights.


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Posted 25 January 2013. Modified 1 April 2017.

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