CHAP. 32.—CHALCANTHUM, OR SHOEMAKERS' BLACK: SIXTEEN REMEDIES.
The Greeks, by the name1
which they have given to it,
have indicated the relation between shoemakers' black2
copper; for they call it "chalcanthum."3
Indeed there is no
so singular in its nature. It is prepared in Spain,
from the water of wells or pits which contain it in dissolution.
This water is boiled with an equal quantity of pure
water, and is then poured into large wooden reservoirs.
Across these reservoirs there are a number of immovable
beams, to which cords are fastened, and then sunk into the water
beneath by means of stones; upon which, a slimy sediment
attaches itself to the cords, in drops of a vitreous5
somewhat resembling a bunch of grapes. Upon being removed,
it is dried for thirty days. It is of an azure colour, and of a
brilliant lustre, and is often taken for glass. When dissolved,
it forms the black dye that is used for colouring leather.
Chalcanthum is also prepared in various other ways: the
earth which contains it being sometimes excavated into
trenches, from the sides of which globules exude, which
become concrete when exposed to the action of the winter
frosts. This kind is called "stalagmia,"6
and there is none
more pure. When its colour is nearly white, with a slight
tinge of violet, it is called "lonchoton."7
It is also prepared
in pans hollowed out in the rocks; the rain water carrying the
slime into them, where it settles and becomes hardened. It is
also formed in the same way in which we prepare salt;8
intense heat of the sun separating the fresh water from it.
Hence it is that some distinguish two kinds of chalcanthum,
the fossil and the artificial; the latter being paler than the
former, and as much inferior to it in quality as it is in
The chalcitis which comes from Cyprus is the most highly
esteemed for the purposes of medicine, being taken in doses of
one drachma with honey, as an expellent of intestinal worms.
Diluted and injected into the nostrils, it acts detergently
upon the brain, and, taken with honey or with hydromel, it
acts as a purgative upon the stomach. It removes granulations
upon the eye-lids, and is good for pains and films upon
the eyes; it is curative also of ulcerations of the mouth. It
arrests bleeding at the nostrils, and hæmorrhoidal discharges.
In combination with seed of hyoscyamus, it brings away
splinters of broken bones. Applied to the forehead with a
sponge, it acts as a check upon defluxions of the eyes. Made
up into plasters, it is very efficacious as a detergent for sores
and fleshy excrescences in ulcers. The decoction of it, by the
contact solely, is curative of swellings of the uvula. It is laid
with linseed upon plasters which are used for relieving pains.
The whitish kind is preferred to the violet in one instance
only, for the purpose of being blown into the ears, through a
tube, to relieve deafness. Applied topically by itself, it heals
wounds; but it leaves a discoloration upon the scars. It has
been lately discovered, that if it is sprinkled upon the mouths
of bears and lions in the arena, its astringent action is so
powerful as to deprive the animals of the power of biting.