the wool-bearing trees of the Seres

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All the wool-bearing trees of the Seres,

Original French:  Toutes les arbres lanificques des Seres,

Modern French:  Toutes les arbres lanificques des Sères,



Notes

Toutes les arbres lanificques des Seres,

116. divisae arboribus patriae. sola India nigrum
fert hebenum, solis est turea virga Sabaeis.
quid tibi odorato referam sudantia ligno
balsamaque et bacas semper frondentis acanthi?
quid nemora Aethiopum molli canentia lana,
velleraque ut foliis depectant tenuia Seres?

trees have their allotted climes. India alone bears black ebony; to the Sabaeans alone belongs the frankincense bough. Why should I tell you of the balsams that drip from the fragrant wood, or of the pods of the ever blooming acanthus? Why tell of the Ethiopian groves, all white with downy wool [molli lana, i.e. cotton], or how the Seres comb from leaves their fine fleeces [In Virgil’s time the Romans, knowing nothing of the silkworm, supposed that the silk they imported from the East grew on the leaves of trees] ?

Virgil (70 – 19 BC), Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid: Books 1-6. H. Rushton Fairclough, translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1916. Georgic 2.116, p. 145. Loeb Classical Library

Toutes les arbres lanificques des Seres,

primi sunt hominum qui vocantur Seres, lanicio silvarum nobiles, perfusam aqua depectentes frondium canitiem, unde geminus feminis nostris labos redordiendi fila rursusque texendi: tam multiplici opere, tam longinquo orbe petitur ut in publico matrona traluceat.

The first human occupants are the people called the Chinese, who are famous for the woollen substance [The substance referred to, though confused with silk, is probably cotton made into calico or muslin. For silk see XI. 76] obtained from their forests; after a soaking in water they comb off the white down of the leaves, and so supply our women with the double task of unravelling the threads and weaving them together again; so manifold is the labour employed, and so distant is the region of the globe drawn upon, to enable the Roman matron to flaunt transparent raiment in public.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 2: Books 3 – 7. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1942. 6.20. Loeb Classical Library

Attire so many people

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.

XXI. In the same gulf is the island of Tyros [now Bahrein, cf. VI. 148]… On a more elevated plateau in the same island there are tree [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 cynas [prhaps Bombas ceiba] from which cloth is made, which has foliage resembling a palm-leaf.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 4: Books 12–16. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1945. 12.38, p. 29. Loeb Classical Library

the silk-moth

XXV. Among these is a fourth genus, the silk-moth, which occurs in Assyria; it is larger than the kinds mentioned above. Silk-moths make their nests of mud like a sort of salt; they are attached to a stone, and are so hard that they can scarcely be pierced with javelins. In these nests they make combs on a larger scale than bees do, and then produce a bigger grub.
XXVI. These creatures are also produced in another way. A specially large grub changes into a caterpillar with two projecting horns of a peculiar kind, and then into what is called a cocoon, and this turns into a chrysalis and this in six months into a silk-moth. They weave webs like spiders, producing a luxurious material for women’s dresses, called silk. The process of unravelling these and weaving the thread again was first invented in Cos by a woman named Pamphile, daughter of Plateas, who has the undeniable distinction of having devised a plan to reduce women’s clothing to nakedness.
XXVII. Silk-moths are also reported to be born in the island of Cos, where vapour out of the ground creates life in the blossom of the cypress, terebinth, ash and oak that has been stripped off by rain. First however, it is said, small butterflies are produced that are bare of down, and then as they cannot endure the cold they grow shaggy tufts of hair and equip themselves with thick jackets against winter, scraping together the down of leaves with the roughness of their feet; this is compressed by them into fleeces and worked over by carding with their claws, and then drawn out into woof-threads, and thinned out as if with a comb, and afterwards taken hold of and wrapped round their body in a coiled nest. Then (they say) they are taken away by a man, put in earthenware vessels and reared with warmth and a diet of bran, and so a peculiar kind of feathers sprout out, clad with which they are sent out to other tasks; but tufts of wool plucked off are softened with moisture and then thinned out into threads with a rush spindle. Nor have even men been ashamed to make use of these dresses, because of their lightness in summer: so far have our habits departed from wearing a leather cuirass that even a robe is considered a burden! All the same we so far leave the Assyrian silk-moth to women.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 3: Books 8– 11. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1940. 11.25 p. 479. Loeb Classical Library

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. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1945. 12.21. Loeb Classical Library

Toutes les arbres lanificques des Seres,

Lanigeras Serum in mentione gentis eius narravimus, item Indiae arborum magnitudinem. unam e peculiaribus Indiae Vergilius celebravit hebenum, nusquam alibi nasci professus.
We have already described the wool-bearing trees of the Chinese in making mention of that race, and we have spoken of the large size of the trees in India. One of those peculiar to India, the ebony, is spoken of in glowing terms by Virgil, who states that it does not grow in any other country.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 4: Books 12–16. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1945. 12.08. Loeb Classical Library

in the land of the Seres

Now while hemp and flax, both the ordinary and the fine variety, are sown by those whose soil is suited to grow it, the threads from which the Seres make the dresses are produced from no bark, but in a different way as follows. There is in the land of the Seres an insect which the Greeks call ser, though the Seres themselves give it another name. Its size is twice that of the largest beetle, but in other respects it is like the spiders that spin under trees, and furthermore it has, like the spider, eight feet. These creatures are reared by the Seres, who build them houses adapted for winter and for summer. The product of the creatures, a clue of fine thread, is found rolled round their feet. They keep them for four years, feeding them on millet, but in the fifth year, knowing that they have no longer to live, they give them green reed to eat. This of all foods the creature likes best; so it stuffs itself with the reed till it bursts with surfeit, and after it has thus died they find inside it the greater part of the thread. Seria is known to be an island lying in a recess of the Red Sea. But I have heard that it is not the Red Sea, but a river called Ser, that makes this island, just as in Egypt the Delta is surrounded by the Nile and by no sea. Such another island is Seria said to be. These Seres themselves are of Aethiopian race, as are the inhabitants of the neighbouring islands, Abasa and Sacaea. Some say, however, that they are not Aethiopians but a mongrel race of Scythians and Indians.

Pausanias (ca. 120–180), Description of Greece. Volume III: Books 6-8.21. W. H. S. Jones, translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1933. 6.26, p. 159. Loeb Classical Library

Lanifique

Lanifique. Wooll-breeding.

Cotgrave, Randle (–1634?), A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongue. London: Adam Islip, 1611. PBM

Seres

Voiez Pline, l. 6 chap 17 & son abbréviateur Solin, chap. 53.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres de Maitre François Rabelais. Publiées sous le titre de : Faits et dits du géant Gargantua et de son fils Pantagruel, avec la Prognostication pantagrueline, l’épître de Limosin, la Crême philosophale et deux épîtres à deux vieilles de moeurs et d’humeurs différentes. Nouvelle édition, où l’on a ajouté des remarques historiques et critiques. Tome Troisieme. Jacob Le Duchat (1658–1735), editor. Amsterdam: Henri Bordesius, 1711. p. 265. Google Books

lanific

Urquhart translates lanificques as “lunific,” which Ozell corrects to “lanific.”

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), The Works of Francis Rabelais, M.D. The Third Book. Now carefully revised, and compared throughout with the late new edition of M. Le du Chat. John Ozell (d. 1743), editor. London: J. Brindley, 1737.

Seres

Anciens peuples de l’Asie Orientale, qui poirroient bien être les Chinois. Leur pays produisoit beaucoup de soye.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Rabelais moderne, ou les Œuvres de Rabelais mises à la portée de la plupart des lecteurs. François-Marie de Marsy (1714-1763), editor. Amsterdam: J.-F. Bernard, 1752. p. 160. Google Books

arbres lanificque des seres

[Addendum to Le Duchat] — Anciens peuples de l’Asie orientale, qui pourroient bien être les Chinois. Leur pays produisoit beaucoup de soie.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres de Rabelais (Edition Variorum). Tome Cinquième. Charles Esmangart (1736–1793), editor. Paris: Chez Dalibon, 1823. p. 280\1. Google Books

arbres lanificques

Qui produisent de la laine.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres de F. Rabelais. Nouvelle edition augmentée de plusieurs extraits des chroniques admirables du puissant roi Gargantua… et accompagnée de notes explicatives…. L. Jacob (pseud. of Paul Lacroix) (1806–1884), editor. Paris: Charpentier, 1840. p. 310.

les arbres lanificques des Seres

Sères, peuple de la Sérique, contrée sise au nord de l’Inde (Thibet? et régions voisines) dont parle Pline: «Seres, lanicio silvarum nobiles. perfusam aqua depectentes frondium canitiem: unde geminus feminis nostris labor redordiendi fila, rursumque texendi.» (VI, 20.) Pline cite ailleurs «Langieras Serum.» (XII, 8.) «Velleraque ut foliis depectant folia Seres», dit aussi Virgile, Géorg., l. II, v. 121.
Les arbres des forêts à laine de Sères — si arbre il y a — étaient sans doute de cotonniers. Cependant Gossellin a prétendu que cette laine si renommée était tiré des chèvres de Thibet. D’autres enfin estiment qu’il s’agit de la soie, produit du Bombyx du mûrier, dont on ne connut que plus tard la véritable origine. (Paul Delaunay)

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931. p. 366. Internet Archive

Tylos

Tylos, île d’Arabie, dont parle Théophraste (H.P., l. IV, ch 9). — «Tylos insula in eodem sinu [Persico] est… ejusdem insulæ excelsiore suggestu lanigeræ arbores alio modo quam Serum… Ferunt cotonei mali amplitudine cucurbitas, quæ maturitate ruptæ ostendunt laanuginis pilas ex quibus vestes pretioso linteo faciunt. Arbores vocant gossympinos.» (Pline, XII, 21.) Lémery a cru retrouver dans le Gossampinus Plinii, le Fromager (Bombax ceyba, L.). Mais la brièveté des fibres du duvet de son fruit (Kapok) l’a rendu (sauf depuis ces derniers temps) impropre à tout usage textile. Mieux vaunt y voir un cotonnier soit Gossypium arboreum, L., avec Fée, soit plutôt, avec de Candolle, G. herbaceum, L. (Paul Delaunay)

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931. p. 366. Internet Archive

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).

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Michael Andrew Screech (1926-2018), editor. Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964.

Sères

Peuple de la Sérique, au nord de l’Inde; les arbres à laine sont vraisemblablement des cotonniers.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres complètes. Mireille Huchon, editor. Paris: Gallimard, 1994. p. 507, n. .

Seres

Seres [Latin Seres whence sericum silk]

The name of a people anciently inhabiting some part of Eastern Asia (prob. China), whose country was believed to be the original home of silk. Hence, the Seres wool, silk.

1580 Lyly Euphues (Arb.) 388 Yet oftentimes the softnesse of Wooll, which the Seres sende, sticketh so fast to the skinne… that it fetcheth bloud.

1697 John Dryden, translator Virgil’s Georgics 11.169 How the Seres spin their fleecy forests in a slender twine.


lanific

lanific, rare. [adaptation of Latin la¯nific-us, formed on la¯na wool + -ficus making]

Wool-bearing. Busied in spinning wool.

1693 Urquhart’s Rabelais iii. li. (1737) 353 All the Lanific Trees of Seres.


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Posted 22 January 2013. Modified 26 April 2020.

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