cotton trees of Tylos



the cotton trees of Tylos in the Persian Sea,

Original French:  les Goſſampines de Tyle en la mer Perſicque,

Modern French:  les Gossampines de Tyle en la mer Persicque,


Gossampines de Tyle

Tyros 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 insulae1 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 x 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.

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 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 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
Loeb Classical Library

Gossampines de Tyle

Voiez Pline, l. 12 chap. 10 & 11.

François Rabelais [ca. 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
p. 265
Jacob Le Duchat [1658–1735], editor
Amsterdam: Henri Bordesius, 1711
Google Books

Goſſampines de Tyle

Isle du Golfe Persique, où l’arbre qui porte le coton, croît en abondance.

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


[Addendum to Le Duchat] — Les cotonniers de Tylos, île du golfe Persique ou de la mer des Indes, selon Pline, qui dit qu’elle produit des arbres qui portent de la laine, c’est-à-dire du coton : Ejusdem insulœ excelsiore suggestu lanigerœ arbores alio modo quam Serum … Arbores vocant Gossampinos … Sic Indos suœ arbores vestiunt.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Œuvres de Rabelais (Edition Variorum). Tome Cinquième
p. 281
Charles Esmangart [1736-1793], editor
Paris: Chez Dalibon, 1823
Google Books



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


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)

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

Gossampines de Tyle

In the island of Tylos [cf. 5.4.6; Plin. 12.38 and 39; modern name Bahrein], which is situated in the Arabian gulf [Persian Gulf], they say that on the east side there is such a number of trees when the tide goes out that they make a regular fence. All these are in size as large as a fig-tree, the flower is exceedingly fragrant, and the fruit, which is not edible, is like in appearance to the lupin. They say that the island also produces the ‘wool-bearing’ tree (cotton-plant) in abundance. This has a leaf like that of the vine, but small, and bears no fruit; but the vessel in which the ‘wool’ is contained is as large as a spring apple, and closed, but when it is ripe, it unfolds and puts forth the ‘wool,’ of which they weave their fabrics, some of which are cheap and some very expensive.

This tree is also found, as was said [4.5.8], in India as well as in Arabia. They say that there are other trees [Tamarind] with a flower like the gilliflower, but scentless and in size four times as large as that flower. And that there is another tree with many leaves like the rose, and that this closes at night, but opens at sunrise, and by noon is completely unfolded; and at evening again it closes by degrees and remains shut at night, and the natives say that it goes to sleep. Also that there are date-palms on the island and vines and other fruit-trees, including evergreen figs. Also that there is water from heaven, but that they do not use it for the fruits, but that there are many springs on the island, from which they water everything, and that this is more beneficial to the corn and the trees. Wherefore, even when it rains, they let this water over the fields, as though they were washing away the rain water. Such are the trees as so far observed which grow in the outer sea.

Theophrastus [c. 371-c. 287 BC]
Enquiry into Plants. Volume 1: Books 1 – 5
Arthur Hort [1864–1935], translator
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1916
Loeb Classical Library


In the island of Tylos [Plin. 16. 221; cf. 4. 7. 7] off the Arabian coast they say that there is a kind of wood [teak] of which they build their ships, and that in sea-water this is almost proof against decay; for it lasts more than 200 years if it is kept under water, while, if it is kept out of water, it decays sooner, though not for some time. They also tell of another strange thing, though it has nothing to do with the question of decay: they say that there is a certain tree [calamander-wood], of which they cut their staves, and that these are very handsome, having a variegated appearance like the tiger’s skin; and that this wood is exceedingly heavy, yet when one throws it down on hard ground it breaks in pieces like pottery.

Theophrastus [c. 371-c. 287 BC]
Enquiry into Plants. Volume 1: Books 1 – 5
Arthur Hort [1864–1935], translator
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1916
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


Île d’Arabie (Pline, XII, xxi, qui assimile les gossampines au lin).

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–1553]
Œuvres complètes
p. 508, n. 1
Mireille Huchon, editor
Paris: Gallimard, 1994


gossamer. Forms: gosesomer(e, gossom(m)er, gossomyre, gossummer, gossamour, gosimore, gossamire, -ore, gossem-, -im-, -ymear(e, -e(e)re, gothsemay, -imere, gossamere, gossimer, (gosshemere, garsummer), gossamer. [ME. gos(e)somer(e, app. formed on goose sb. + summer sb. Cf. the synonymous English dial. summer-goose (Craven), summer-colt, German mädchensommer (lit. `girls’ summer’), altweibersommer (`old women’s summer’); also German sommerfäden, Dutch zomerdraden, Swedish sommartraåd, all literally `summer thread’. The reason for the appellation is somewhat obscure. It is usually assumed that goose in this compound refers to the `downy’ appearance of gossamer. But it is to be noted that German mädchen-, altweibersommer mean not only `gossamer’, but also a summer-like period in late autumn, a St. Martin’s summer; that the obsolete Scotch go-summer had the latter meaning; and that it is in the warm periods of autumn that gossamer is chiefly observed. These considerations suggest the possibility that the word may primarily have denoted a `St. Martin’s summer’ (the time when geese were supposed to be in season: compare German Gänsemonat `geese-month’, November), and have been hence transferred to the characteristic phenomenon of the period. On this view summer-goose (which by etymologizing perversion appears also as summer-gauze) would be a transposition.]

A fine filmy substance, consisting of cobwebs, spun by small spiders, which is seen floating in the air in calm weather, esp. in autumn, or spread over a grassy surface: occasionally, a thread or web of gossamer.

C. 1325 Gloss. W. de Biblesw. in Wright Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies 147 Filaundre [glossed] gosesomer.

C. 1386 Chaucer Squire’s Tale. 251 On ebbe on flood on gossomer and on myst.

14… Bewte will Shewe 5 in Pol. Rel. & L. Poems 45 Twene gold and gossomer is grete difference.

C. 1440 Promptorium parvulorum sive clericorum 205/1 Gossomer, corrupcyon (H., P. gossummyr, or corrupcion), filandrya.

1592 Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet ii. vi. 18 A Louer may bestride the Gossamours… And yet not fall.

1627 Drayton Nimphidia xvii, Foure nimble Gnats the Horses were, Their Harnasses of Gossamere.

1633 Massinger Guardian ii. iv, A bed of gossamire And damask roses.

1659 Lady Alimony D 2, Small threeds Thin-spun as is the subtil Gothsemay.

1697 John Dryden, translator Virgils’s Georgics i. 543 The filmy Gossamer now flitts no more.

1798 Samuel Taylor Coleridge Rime of the Ancient Mariner iii. ix, Are those her sails that glance in the Sun Like restless gossameres?

1813 Shelley Queen Mab 120 Let even the restless gossamer Sleep on the moveless air!

Transferred sense and figurative. Applied to something light and flimsy as gossamer.

? A. 1400 Morte Arthur 2688 This es bot gosesomere, and gyffene one erles.

1658 John Evelyn The French Gardener(1675) 194 It will… fly away like the down, or gossemeere of dandelyon.



Posted 25 January 2013. Modified 7 July 2018.

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