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The wood, too, of the beech is easily worked, although it is brittle and soft. Cut into thin layers of veneer, it is very flexible, but is only used for the construction of boxes and desks. The wood, too, of the holm-oak is cut into veneers of remarkable thinness, the colour of which is far from unsightly; but it is more particularly where it is exposed to friction that this wood is valued, as being one to be depended upon; in the axle-trees of wheels, for instance; for which the ash is also employed, on account of its pliancy, the holm-oak for its hardness, and the elm, for the union in it of both those qualities. There are also various workman's tools made of wood, which, though but small, are still remarkably useful; in this respect, it is said that the best materials for making auger handles are the wild olive, the box, the holm-oak, the elm, and the ash. Of the same woods also mallets are made; the larger ones, however, are made of the pine and the holm- oak. These woods, too, have a greater degree of strength and hardness if cut in season than when hewn prematurely; indeed, it has been known for hinge-jambs, made of olive, a wood of remarkable hardness, after having remained a considerable time on the spot, to put out buds1 like a growing plant. Cato2 recommends levers to be made of holly, laurel, or elm; and Hyginus speaks highly of the yoke-elm, the holm-oak, and the cerrus, for the handles of agricultural implements.

The best woods for cutting into layers, and employing as a veneer for covering others, are the citrus, the terebinth, the different varieties of the maple, the box, the palm,3 the holly, the holm-oak, the root of the elder, and the poplar. The alder furnishes also, as already stated,4 a kind of tuberosity, which is cut into layers like those of the citrus and the maple. In all the other trees the tuberosities are of no value whatever. It is the central part of trees that is most variegated, and the nearer we approach to the root the smaller are the spots and the more wavy. It was in this appearance that originated that requirement of luxury which displays itself in covering one tree with another, and bestowing upon the more common woods a bark of higher price. In order to make a single tree sell many times over, laminæ of veneer have been devised; but that was not thought sufficient—the horns of animals must next be stained of different colours, and their teeth cut into sections, in order to decorate wood with ivory, and, at a later period, to veneer it all over. Then, after all this, man must go and seek his materials in the sea as well! For this purpose he has learned to cut tortoise-shell into sections; and of late, in the reign of Nero, there was a monstrous invention devised of destroying its natural appearance by paint, and making it sell at a still higher price by a successful imitation of wood.

It is in this way that the value of our couches is so greatly enhanced; it is in this way, too, that they bid the rich lustre of the terebinth to be outdone, a mock citrus to be made that shall be more valuable than the real one, and the grain of the maple to be feigned. At one time luxury was not content with wood; at the present day it sets us on buying tortoiseshell in the guise of wood.

1 This could only have happened in the first year that they were so employed.

2 De Re Rust. c. 31.

3 It is singular. Fée says, to find the wood of the palm, and that of the poplar, which are destitute of veins, enumerated among those employed for veneering.

4 In c. 27.

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