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Murrhine vessels come from the East, in numerous localities of which, remarkable for nothing else, they are to be found. It is in the empire of the Parthians, more particularly, that they are met with, though those of the very finest quality come to us from Carmania.1 It is generally thought that these vessels are formed of a moist substance, which under ground becomes solidified by heat.2 In size they never ex- ceed a small waiter,3 and, as to thickness, they rarely admit of being used as drinking-cups, so large as those already4 mentioned. The brightness of them is destitute of strength, and it may be said that they are rather shining than brilliant.5 But the chief merit of them is the great variety of their colours, and the wreathed veins, which, every here and there, present shades of purple and white, with a mixture of the two; the purple gradually changing, as it were, to a fiery red, and the milk-white assuming a ruddy hue. Some persons praise the edges of these vessels more particularly, with a kind of reflection in the colours, like those beheld in the rain-bow. Others, again, are more pleased with them when quite opaque, it being considered a demerit when they are at all transparent, or of a pallid hue. The appearance, too, of crystals6 in them is highly prized, and of spots that look like warts; not prominent, but depressed, as we mostly see upon the human body. The perfume,7 too, of which they smell, is looked upon as an additional recommendation.

1 See B. vi. cc. 27, 28, 32.

2 Ajasson is of opinion that this passage bears reference to crystallization. Both he and Desfontaines see in the present Chapter a very exact description of Fluor spar; and there is certainly great difficulty in recognizing any affinity between murrhine vessels, as here described, and porcelain.

3 "Abacus."

4 In the preceding Chapter.

5 Meaning that they are semitransparent, Ajasson thinks. One great characteristic of Fluor spar is its being subtranslucent.

6 This would appear to be the meaning here of "sales." See p. 396.

7 One of the grounds, Ajasson says, on which may be based the opinion that they were artificial.

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