CHAP. XI. OF METTALS TO BE HAD IN OUR LAND.
ALL mettals receiue their beginning of quicksiluer and sulphur, which are as mother and father to them. And such is the purpose of nature in their generations: that she tendeth alwaies to the procreation of gold, neuerthelesse she sildome reacheth vnto that hir end, bicause of the vnequall mixture and proportion of these two in the substance ingendered, whereby impediment and corruption is induced, which as it is more or lesse, dooth shew it selfe in the mettall that is producted. First of all therefore the substance of sulphur and quicksiluer being mixed in due proportion, after long and temperate decoction in the bowels of the earth, orderlie ingrossed and fixed, becommeth gold, which Encelius dooth call the sunne and right heire of nature: but if it swarue but a little (saith he) in the commixtion and other circumstances, then dooth it product siluer the daughter, not so noble a child as gold hir brother, which among mettall is worthilie called the cheefe. Contrariwise, the substances of the aforesaid parents mixed without proportion, and lesse digested and fixed in the entrailes of the earth, whereby the radicall moisture becommeth combustible and not of force to indure heat and hammer, dooth either turne into tin, lead, copper, or iron, which were the first mettals knowne in time past vnto antiquitie, although that in these daies there are diuerse other, whereof neither they nor our alchumists had euer anie knowledge. Of these therfore which are reputed among the third sort, we here in England haue our parts, and as I call them to mind, so will I intreat of them, and with such breuitie as may serue the turne, and yet
not altogither omit to saie somewhat of gold and siluer also, bicause I find by good experience how it was not said of old time without great reason, that all countries haue need of Britaine, and Britaine it selfe of none. For truelie if a man regard such necessities as nature onelie requireth, there is no nation vnder the sunne, that can saie so much as ours: sith we doo want none that are conuenient for vs. Wherefore if it be a benefit to haue anie gold at all, we are not void of some, neither likewise of siluer: whatsoeuer Cicero affirmeth to the contrarie, Lib. 4. ad Atticum epi. 16. in whose time they were not found, "Britannici belli exitus (saith he) expectatur, constat enim aditus insulæ esse munitos mirificis molibus: etiam illud iam cognitum est, neque argenti scrupulum esse vllum in ilia insula, neque vllam spem prædæ nisi ex mancipijs, ex quibus nullos puto te litteris aut musicis eruditos expectare.' And albeit that we haue no such abundance of these (as some other countries doo yéeld) yet haue my rich countrimen store inough of both in their pursses, where in time past they were woont to haue least, bicause the garnishing of our churches, tabernacles, images, shrines and apparell of the préests consumed the greatest part, as experience hath confirmed.
Of late my countriemen haue found out I wot not what voiage into the west Indies, from whence they haue brought some gold, whereby our countrie is inriched: but of all that euer aduentured into those parts, none haue sped better than sir Francis Drake whose successe 1582 hath far passed euen his owne expectation. One Iohn Frobisher in like maner attempting to séeke out a shorter cut by the northerlie regions into the peaceable sea and kingdome. of Cathaie, happened 1577 vpon certeine Ilands by the waie, wherein great plentie of much gold appeared, and so much that some letted not to giue out for certeintie, that Salomon had his gold from thence, wherewith he builded the temple. This golden shew made him so desirous also of like successe, that he left off his former voiage, & returned home to bring news of such things as he had seene. But when after another voiage it was found to
be but drosse, he gaue ouer both the enterprises, and now keepeth home without anie desire at all to séeke into farre countries. In truth, such was the plentie of ore there séene and to be had, that if it had holden perfect, might haue furnished all the world with abundance of that mettall; the iorneie also was short and performed in foure or flue moneths, which was a notable incouragement. But to proceed.
Tin and lead, mettals which Strabo noteth in his time to be carried vnto Marsilis from
hence, as Diodorus also confirmeth, are verie plentifull with vs, the one in Cornewall, Deuonshire (& else-where in the north the other in Darbishire, Weredale, and sundrie places of this Iland; whereby my countriemen doo reape no small commoditie, but especiallie our pewterers, who in time past imploied the vse of pewter onelie vpon dishes, pots, and a few other trifles for seruice here at home, whereas now they are growne vnto such exquisit cunning, that they can in maner imitate by infusion anie forme or fashion of cup, dish, salt, bowle, or goblet, which is made by goldsmiths craft, though they be neuer so curious, exquisite, and artiflciallie forged. Such furniture of houshold of this mettall, as we commonlie call by the name of vessell, is sold vsuallie by the garnish, which dooth conteine twelue platters, twelue dishes, twelue saucers, and those are either of siluer fashion, or else with brode or narrow brims, and bought by the pound, which is now valued at six or seuen pence, or peraduenture at eight pence. Of porringer, pots, and other like I speake not, albeit that in the making of all these things there is such exquisite diligence vsed, I meane for the mixture of the mettall and true making of this commoditie (by reason of sharpe laws prouided in that behalfe) as the like is not to be found in any other trade. I haue béene also informed that it consisteth of a composition, which hath thirtie pounds of kettle brasse to a thousand pounds of tin, whervnto they ad thrée or foure pounds of tinglasse: but as too much of this dooth make the stuffe brickle, so the more the brasse be, the better is the pewter, and more profitable vnto him that dooth buie and purchase the same. But to proceed.
In some places beyond the sea a garnish of good flat English pewter of an ordinarie making (I saie flat, bicause dishes and platters in my time begin to be made déepe like basons, and are indéed more conuenient both for sawce, broth, and kéeping the meat warme) is estéemed almost so pretious, as the like number of vessels that are made of fine siluer, and in maner no lesse desired amongst the great estates, whose workmen are nothing so skilfull in that trade as ours, neither their mettall so good, nor plentie so great, as we haue here in England. The Romans made excellent looking glasses of our English tin, howbeit our workemen were not then so exquisite in that feat as the Brundusiens: wherefore the wrought mettall was carried ouer vnto them by waie of merchandize, and verie highlie were those glasses estéemed of till siluer came generallie in place, which in the end brought the tin into such contempt, that in manner euerie dish washer refused to looke in other than siluer glasses for the attiring of hir head. Howbeit the making of siluer glasses had béene in vse before Britaine was knowne vnto the Romans, for I read that one Praxiteles deuised them in the yoong time of Pompeie, which was before the comming of Caesar into this Iland.
There were mines of lead sometimes also in Wales, which indured so long till the people had consumed all their wood by melting of the same (as they did also at Comeristwith six miles from Stradfleur) and I suppose that in Plinies time the abundance of lead (whereof he speaketh) was to be found in those parts, in the seauentéenth of his thirtie fourth booke: also he affirmeth that it laie in the verie swart of the earth, and dailie gotten in such plentie, that the Romans made a restraint of the cariage thereof to Rome, limiting how much should yearelie be wrought and transported ouer the sea. And here by the waie it is worthie to be noted, of a crow which a miner of tin, dwelling néere Comeristwith (as Leland saith) had made so tame, that it would dailie flie and follow him to his worke and other places where soeuer he happened to trauell. This labourer working on a time in the bottome or vallie, where the first mine was knowne to be, did laie his pursse and girdle by him, as men commonlie doo that addresse themselues to applie their businesse earnestlie, and he himselfe also had vsed from time to time before. The crow likewise was verie busie flittering about him,
and so much molested him, that he waxed angrie with the bird, & in his furie threatened to wring off his necke, if he might once get him into his hands; to be short, in the end the crow hastilie caught vp his girdle and pursse, and made awaie withall so fast as hir wings could carrie hir. Héerevpon the poore man falling into great agonie (for he feared to lose peraduenture all his monie) threw downe his mattocke at aduenture and ran after the bird curssing and menacing that he should lose his life if euer he got him againe: but as it felt out, the crow was the means whereby his life was saued, for he had not béene long out of the mine, yer it fell downe and killed all his fellowes. If I should take vpon me to discourse and search out the cause of the thus dealing of this bird at large, I should peraduenture set my selfe further into the briers than well find which waie to come out againe: yet am I persuaded, that the crow was Gods instrument herein, wherby the life of this poore labourer was preserued. It was doone also in an other order than that which I read of another tame crow, kept vp by a shoomaker of Dutch land in his shop or stoue: who séeing the same to sit vpon the pearch among his shoone, verie heauilie and drousie, said vnto the bird: What aileth my iacke, whie art thou sad and pensiue? The crow hearing his maister speake after this sort vnto him, answered (or else the diuell within him) out or the psalter: "Cogitaui dies antiquos & æternos in mente habui." But whither am I digressed, from lead vnto crowes, & from crowes vnto diuels? Certes it is now high time to returne vnto our mettals, and resume the tractation of such things as I had earst in hand.
Iron is found in manie places, as in Sussex, Kent, Weredale, Mendip, Walshall, as also in Shropshire, but chéeflie in the woods betwixt Beluos and Willocke or Wicberie néere Manchester, and elsewhere in Wales. Of which mines diuerse doo bring foorth so fine and good stuffe, as anie that commeth from beyond the sea, beside the infinit gaines to the owners, if we would so accept it, or bestow a little more cost in the refining of it. It is also of such toughnesse, that it yéeldeth to the making of claricord wire in some places of the realme. Neuerthelesse, it was better cheape with vs when strangers onelie brought it hither: for it is our qualitie when we get anie commodities, to vse it with extremitie towards our owne nation, after we haue once found the meanes to shut out forreners from the bringing in of the like. It breedeth in like manner great expense and waste of wood, as dooth the making of our pots and table vessell of glasse, wherein is much losse sith it is so quicklie broken; and yet (as I thinke) easie to be made tougher, if our alchumists could once find the true birth or production of the red man, whose mixture would induce a metallicall toughnesse vnto it, whereby it should abide the hammer.
Copper is latelie not found, but rather restored againe to light. For I haue read of copper to haue béene heretofore gotten in our Iland; howbeit as strangers haue most commonly the gouernance of our mines, so they hitherto make. small gains of this in hand in the north parts: for (as I am informed) the profit dooth verie hardlie counteruaile the charges; whereat wise men doo not a litle maruell, considering the abundance which that mine dooth séeme to offer, and as it were at hand. Leland our countrieman noteth sundrie great likelihoods of naturall copper mines to be eastwards, as betwéene Dudman and Trewardth in the sea cliffes, beside other places, whereof diuerse are noted here and there in sundrie places of this booke alreadie, and therefore it shall be but in vaine to repeat them here againe: as for that which is gotten out of the marchasite, I speake not of it, sith it is not incident to my purpose. In Dorsetshire also a copper mine latelie found is brought to good perfection.
As for our stéele, it is not so good for edge-tooles as that of Colaine, and yet the one is often sold for the other, and like tale vsed in both, that is to saie, thirtie gads to the sheffe, and twelue sheffes to the burden. Our alchumie is artificiall, and thereof our spoones and some salts are commonlie made, and preferred before our pewter with some, albeit in truth it be much subiect to corruption, putrifaction, more heauie and foule to handle than our pewter; yet some ignorant persons affirme it to be a mettall more naturall, and the verie same which Encelius calleth Plumbum cinercum,
the Germans, wisemute, mithan, & counterfeie, adding, that where it groweth, siluer can not be farre off. Neuerthelesse it is knowne to be a mixture
of brasse, lead, and tin (of which this latter occupieth the one halfe) but after another proportion than is vsed in pewter. But alas I am persuaded that neither the old Arabians, nor new alchumists of our time did euer heare of it, albeit that the name thereof doo séeme to come out of their forge. For the common sort indeed doo call it alchumie, an vnwholsome mettall (God wot) and woorthie to be banished and driuen out of the land. And thus I conclude with this discourse, as hauing no more to saie of the mettals of my countrie, except I should talke of brasse, bell mettall, and such as are brought ouer for merchandize from other countries: and yet I can not but saie that there is some brasse found also in England, but so small is the quantitie, that it is not greatlie to be estéemed or accounted of.