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rimental conviction, Matthiolus affirmeth, he saw a salamander burnt in a very short time; and of the like assertion is Amatus Lusitanus; and most plainly Pierius, whose words in his hieroglyphicks are these : “ Whereas it is commonly said, that a salamander extinguisheth fire, we have found by experience, that it is so far from quenching hot coals, that it dyeth inmediately therein.” As for the contrary assertion of Aristotle, it is but by hearsay, as common opinion believeth,'--Hæc enim (ut aiunt) ignem ingrediens eum extinguit ; and therefore, there was no absurdity in Galen, when as a septical medicine* he commended the ashes of a salamander; and magicians in vain, from the power of this tradition, at the burning of towns and houses expect a relief from salamanders.
The ground of this opinion might be some sensible resistance of fire observed in the salamander : which being, as Galen determineth, cold in the fourth, hd mois in the third degree, and having also a mucous humidity above and under the skin, by virtue thereof it may awhile endure the flame; which being consumed it can resist no more. Such an humidity there is observed in newts or water-lizards, especially if their skins be perforated or pricked; thus will frogs and snails endure the flame; thus will whites of eggs, vitreous or glassy phlegm, extinguish a coal; thus are unguents made which protect awhile from the fire; and thus, beside the Hirpini, there are later stories of men that have passed untouched through the fire. And therefore some truth we allow in the tradition: truth according unto Galen, that it
for a time resist a flame, or, as Scaliger avers, extinguish or put out a coal; for thus much will many humid bodies perform: but that it perseveres and lives in that destructive element, is a fallacious enlargement. Nor do we reasonably conclude, because for a time it endureth fire, it subdueth and extinguisheth the same, -because by a cold and aluminous moisture it is able awhile to resist it, from a peculiarity of nature it subsisteth and liveth in it.
It hath been much promoted by stories of incombustible napkins and textures which endure the fire, whose materials are called by the name of salamander's wool. Which many too literally apprehending, conceive some investing part, or tegument of the salamander: wherein, beside that they mistake the condition of this animal (which is a kind of lizard, a quadruped corticated and depilous, that is, without wool, fur, or hair), they observe not the method and general rule of nature, whereby all quadrupeds oviparous, as lizards, frogs, tortoises, chameleons, crocodiles, are without hair, and have no covering part or hairy investment at all. And if they conceive that, from the skin of the salamander, these incremable8 pieces are composed, beside the experiments made upon the living, that of Brassavolus will step in, who, in the search of this truth, did burn the skin of one dead.
* A corruptive medicine, destroying the parts like arsenic.
Nor is this salamander's wool desumedo from any animal, but a mineral substance, metaphorically so called from this received opinion. For (besides Germanicus's heart, and Pyrrhus's great toe, which would not burn with the rest of their bodies), there are, in the number of minerals, some bodies incombustible; more remarkably that which the ancients named asbeston, and Pancirollus treats of in the chapter of linum vivum. Whereof by art were weaved napkins,? shirts, and coats, inconsumable by fire ; and wherein
7 which is a kind of lizard, &c.] Lacerta Salamandra, Lin. The salamanders constitute a separate group among the order Batrachia, of the class Reptilia :--divided into land and water salamanders ; to the former of which belongs the Linnean salamander, and to the latter, the water-lizard, or newt. It is scarcely necessary to say that the fire story is a mere fable.
8 incremable.] Incombustible.
I asbeston.] Asbeston is a mineral, of which there are five varieties ;1. Amianthus, or fibrous. The ancients manufactured cloth of this ; and several moderns have succeeded in doing the same. 2. Common asbestus. 3. Mountain leather, or when very thin, mountain paper : consists of fibrous parts so interwoven as to become tough. 4. Mountain cork, or elastic asbestus : resembles the preceding, but elastic. It swims on water ; receives an impression from the nail ; and is very tough. 5. Mountain wood, or ligniform asbestus, has the aspect of wood; internal lustre glimmering ; soft, sectile, and tough. (Ure.) Fibres of asbestus have been employed
to make lamps. It is not, however, absolutely indestructible by fire, though it long resists its action.
napkins.] Sir Henrye Wooton (embassador att Venice almost twenty yeares) among many other choyce rarittyes had one of these
in ancient times, to preserve their ashes pure
and without commixture, they burnt the bodies of kings. A napkin hereof Pliny reports that Nero had; and the like, saith Paulus Venetus, the emperor of Tartary sent unto Pope Alexander; and also affirms that in some part of Tartary there were mines of iron whose filaments were woven into incombustible cloth. Which rare manufacture, although delivered for lost by Pancirollus, yet Salmuth, his commentator, affirmeth, that one Podocaterus, a Cyprian, had showed the same at Venice; and his materials were from Cyprus, where indeed, Dioscorides placeth them; the same is also ocularly confirmed by Vives upon Austin, and Maiolus in his Colloquies. And thus in our days do men practise to make long-lasting snasts for lamps out of alumen plumosum; and by the same we read in Pausanias, that there always burnt a lamp before the image of Minerva.
Of the Amphisbæna. That the amphisbæna, that is, a smaller kind of serpent, which moveth forward and backward, hath two heads, or one at either extreme, was affirmed first by Nicander, and after by many others—by the author of the book, De Theriaca ad Pisonem, ascribed unto Galen; more plainly Pliny, Geminum habet caput, tanquam parum esset uno ore effundi venenum ; but Ælian most confidently, who referring the conceit of chimæra and hydra unto fables, hath set down this as an undeniable truth.
Whereunto while men assent, and can believe a bicipitous conformation in any continued species, they admit a gemination of principal parts, not naturally discovered in any animal. True it is, that other parts in animals are not equal; for some make their progression with many legs, even to the number of an hundred, as juli, scolopendre, or napkins, which hee told mee hee could never gaine for moneye, till the Duke sent him that one for a new year's gifte. Wr.
3 snasts.] The burnt wicks of candles. A Norfolk provincialism. See Porby's Vocab.
such as are termed centipedes ; some fly with two wings, as birds and many insects; some with four, as all farinaceous or mealy-winged animals, as butterflies and moths; all vaginipennous or sheath-winged insects, as beetles and dorrs ; some have three testicles, as Aristotle speaks of the buzzard; and some have four stomachs, as horned and ruminating animals; but, for the principal parts, the liver, heart, and especially the brain, regularly they are but one in any kind of species whatsoever.
And were there any such species or natural kind of animal, it would be hard to make good those six positions of body, which according to the three dimensions are ascribed unto every animal ; that is, infra, supra, ante, retro, dextrorsum, sinistrorsum : for if (as it is determined) that be the anterior and upper part wherein the senses are placed, and that the posterior and lower part which is opposite thereunto, there is no inferior or former part in this animal: for the senses being placed at both extremes, doth make both ends anterior, which is impossible, the terms being relative, which mutually subsist, and are not without each other. And therefore this duplicity was ill contrived, to place one head at both extremes, and had been more tolerable to have settled three or four at one. And, therefore, also, poets have been more reasonable than philosophers, and Geryon or Cerberus less monstrous than amphisbæna. Again, if any such thing there were,
it were not to be obtruded by the name of amphisbæna, or as an animal of one denomination; for properly that animal is not one, but multiplicious or many, which hath a duplicity or gemination of principal parts. And this doth Aristotle define, when he affirmeth a monster is to be esteemed one or many, according to its principle, which he conceived the heart; whence he derived the original of nerves, and thereto ascribed many acts which physicians assign unto the brain. And therefore, if it cannot be called one, which hath a duplicity of hearts in his sense, it cannot receive that appellation with a plurality of heads in ours. And this the practice of Christians hath acknowledged, who have baptized these geminous births and double connascencies, with several names, as conceiving in them a distinction of souls, upon the divided execution of their functions; that is, while one wept, the other laughing;
while one was silent, the other speaking ; while one awaked, the other sleeping; as is declared by three remarkable es. amples in Petrarch, Vincentius, and the Scottish history of Buchanan.
It is not denied there have been bicipitous serpents with the head at each extreme, for an example hereof we find in Aristotle, and of the like form in Aldrovandus we meet with the icon of a lizard; and of this kind, perhaps, might that amphisbæna be, the picture whereof Cassianus Puteus showed unto the learned Faber.4 Which double formations do often happen unto multiparous generations, more especially that of serpents; whose productions being numerous, and their eggs in chains or links together (which sometime conjoin and inosculate into each other), they may unite into various shapes, and come out in mixed formations. But these are monstrous productions, beside the intention of nature, and the statutes of generation, neither begotten of like parents, nor begetting the like again; but, irregularly produced, do stand as anomalies in the general book of nature. Which being shifts and forced pieces, rather than genuine and proper effects, they afford us no illation; nor is it reasonable to conclude from a monstrosity unto a species, or from accidental effects unto the regular works of nature.
Lastly, the ground of the conceit was the figure of this animal, and motion ofttimes both ways; for described it is to be like a worm, and so equally framed at both extremes, that at an ordinary distance it is no easy matter to determine which is the head; and therefore, some observing them to move both ways, have given the appellation of heads unto both extremes, which is no proper and warrantable denomi. nation ;5 for many animals, with one head, do ordinarily perform both different and contrary motions ; crabs move sideling, lobsters will swim swiftly backward, worms and leeches + and of this kind, &c.] First in 3rd edition.
80 equally framed, &c.] This explanation is quite correct. The amphisbæna is characterized by the rings of square scales which surround its body, and by its tail, being nearly similar in form and size to the head, so that it is not easy at a glance to distinguish the one from the other, the eyes being remarkably small. They are not venomous; and have the power of moving both backwards and forwards—whence their
It is very unaccountably spelt amphisbæna, in Griffith's Cuvier, and in Gray's Synopsis, at the end of the 9th vol. of that work.