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In the flesh of some trees we find both fibres1 and veins: they are easily distinguished. The veins2 are larger, while the fibres are of whiter material, and are to be found in those woods more particularly which are easily split. Hence it is that if the ear is applied to the extremity of a beam of wood, however long, a tap with a graver3 even upon the other end may be distinctly heard, the sound penetrating by the passages which run straight through it: by these means it is that we ascertain whether timber runs awry, or is interrupted by knots. The tuberosities which we find on trees resemble the kernels4 that are formed in flesh: they contain neither veins nor fibres, but only a kind of tough, solid flesh, rolled up in a sort of ball: it is these tuberosities that are the most esteemed parts5 in the citrus and the maple. As to the other kinds of wood which are employed for making tables, the trees are split into planks lengthwise, and the parts are then selected along which the fibres run, and properly rounded; for the wood would be too brittle to use if it were cut in segments crosswise.6 in the beech, the grain of the fibrous part runs crosswise;7 hence it is that the ancients held in such high esteem all vessels made with the wood of it. Manius Curius made oath, on one occasion, that he had not touched an article of all the spoil except a single oil cruet8 of beech, to use for sacrificing. Wood is always put lengthwise into the water to season, as that part which was nearest the root will sink to a greater9 depth than the other. In some wood there is fibre, without veins, and merely consisting of filaments slightly knit together: wood of this nature is remarkably fissile. Other wood, again, is more easily broken across than split, such as the wood of those trees that have no fibre, the olive and the vine, for instance: on the other hand, in the fig-tree, the whole of the body consists of flesh.10 The holm-oak, the cornel, the robur, the cytisus, the mulberry, the ebony, the lotus, and the other trees which we have mentioned11 as being destitute of marrow, consist entirely of bone.12 All these woods are of a blackish colour, with the exception of the cornel, of which glossy yellow hunting-spears are made, marked with incisions for their further embellishment. In the cedar, the juniper, and the larch, the wood is red.

(39.) In Greece the female larch furnishes a wood13 which is known as ægis, and is just the colour of honey. This wood has been found to be proof against decay, and forms the pannels used by painters, being never known to gape or split; the portion thus employed is that which lies nearest to the pith. In the fir-tree this part is called "leuson" by the Greeks. In the cedar, too, the hardest part is the wood that lies nearest to the sap: after the slimys14 pith has been carefully removed, it has a similar degree of hardness to the bones in the bodies of animals. It is said, too, that in Greece the inner part of the elder is remarkably firm: indeed, those whose business it is to make hunting spears, prefer this material to all others, it being a wood composed wholly of skin and bone.

1 "Pulpæ." The ligneous fibres which form the tissue of the bark.

2 "Venæ." By this term he probably means the nutritive vessels and the ligneous fibres united. It was anciently the general belief that the fibres acted their part in the nutriment of the tree.

3 "Graphium." Properly a stylus or iron pen.

4 "Glandia." This analogy, Fée remarks, does not hold good.

5 See B. xiii. c. 29, and c. 27 of this Book.

6 And at an angle with the grain or fibre of the wood.

7 And at right angles. In the Dicotyledons, the disposition of the fibres is longitudinal and transversal.

8 Guttum.

9 For the simple reason, because the part near the root is of greater diameter.

10 Soft ligneous layers.

11 In c. 72 of this Book.

12 Hard wood-such as we know generally as "heart;" "heart of oak" for instance.

13 Probably that of the ligneous layers near the pith or sap.

14 "Limo:" the alburnum previously mentioned.

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