Page images
PDF
EPUB

workmen from Italy to settle in France. The manufactures, thus established, were, however, at first entirely supplied with their raw silk from Piedmont and Sicily. In 1494, several of the great landed proprietors who had followed Charles VIII. in his Italian wars, brought with them, on their return from Naples and Sicily, some plants of the white mulberry, which they planted in Provence, in the vicinity of Montelimart. In 1520, Francis I., having taken possession of Milan, prevailed on some artisans of the city to establish themselves at Lyons; and, to encourage them to remain there, he granted them especial privileges and immunities. Henry II. and Charles IX. appear to have been the next sovereigns who endeavoured to promote the culture of the mulberry and the silkworm in France; and in the reign of the latter monarch, in 1564, François Traucat, a gardener of Nismes, formed a large nursery, expressly_for raising white mulberry plants, from which he supplied all the south of France. Henry IV. was no sooner established on the throne, than he exerted himself to promote the culture of the silkworm throughout his dominions; and by his desire, Olivier de Serres, seigneur de Pradel, in 1601, formed a plantation of white mulberry trees in the garden of the Tuileries, where a large building for the silkworms was erected. (Ann. d'Hort., vol. xviii. p. 130.) In 1603, an edict was passed for encouraging the planting of mulberry trees throughout France; promising to reward such manufacturers as had supported and pursued the trade for twelve years with patents of nobility. (See M'Culloch's Dict. of Commerce, p. 1029.)

Under Louis XIII. the silk manufactures of France were neglected; but they were again brought under the attention of the government in the reign of Louis XIV.; whose minister, Colbert, seeing the advantages that might be drawn from the culture of mulberry trees, resolved to enforce it by every means in his power. He reestablished the royal nurseries; gave plants to all who desired them; and even planted by force the lands of those proprietors who were not willing to cultivate the trees voluntarily. This arbitrary measure disgusted the proprietors, and the mulberry plantations were soon suffered to decay. Colbert now tried more gentle measures; and he offered a premium of 24 sous for every mulberry that had stood in a plantation three years. This plan succeeded ; and, in the course of a few years, mulberry plantations were general throughout France. (See Nouv. Cours d'Agricull., art. Múrier.) At present the silk manufactures of France constitute a very important part of her commerce ; and some idea may be formed of the silk goods annually sent to England from that country, from the fact, that the quantity on which duty was paid, from 1688 to 1741, averaged 500,0001. a year. (M'Culloch.) It is, however, remarkable, that, notwithstanding the great quantity of silk now raised in France, the manufacturers of that country still import to the annual value of 30,000 francs of raw silk from Piedmont and Italy. The culture of silk was first introduced into Germany by Frederick II., who had mulberry trees planted extensively in different parts of his dominions; and the example was soon afterwards followed in Saxony, Austria, and in some of the smaller states. In Bavaria, the silk culture was commenced under the auspices of government, and of the Munich Agricultural Society, about 1820, at the recommendation of a highly patriotic individual, M. Hazzi. A great many mulberry plants have since been raised in the government nurseries, and distributed throughout the provinces (see Gard. Mag., vol. v. p. 424.); but, on the whole, neither in this part of Germany, nor in any other, have the silk manufactories ever been considerable. In many of the southern states, pollarded mulberry trees may be seen bordering the highways; and in some of the cities silk goods are made from German silk ; but the only establishments of this kind worth mentioning are at Vienna, at Roveredo in the Tyrol, at Creveldt, at Cologne, and at Berlin. The culture of silk has been introduced into Belgium (Ann. d'Hort. de Paris, vi. p. 368.), with every prospect of success; and the tree has also been planted in the southern states of Denmark. In Sweden, an attempt has been made to introduce silk culture in the southern provinces ; but, as far as we have been able to learn, with very little success. "In Russia, silk culture has been

commenced in the Crimea, by the planting of all the best varieties of M. álba in the government garden at Odessa ; where, according to M. Descemet (Tab. Hist., &c., p. 55.), they succeed perfectly. In Spain, the culture of silk was introduced, as we have already seen, by the Arabs; and it is universally allowed to have been in a highly flourishing state in the fifteenth century; but it has declined ever since; and at the present day, as Capt. S. E. Cook informs us, it is one of the most neglected branches of agriculture in Spain; being almost confined “to Valencia, Catalonia, Murcia, and a part of Grenada." (Sketches in Spain, &c., vol. ü. p. 38.) In Egypt, the culture of silk was introduced some years since, by the Pacha Ibrahim, and it is in a prosperous state. M.a. multicaulis is also mentioned among the trees that have been planted in the government gardens at Algiers. (See p. 178.)

The first record of silk in Britain is of a present sent by Charlemagne to Offa, king of Mercia, in 780, consisting of a belt and two silken vests. Silk is mentioned in a chronicle of the date of 1286, in which we are told that some ladies wore silk mantles at a festival at Kenilworth about that period; and, by other records, we find that silk was worn by the English clergy in 1534. Henry VIII. bad the first pair of silk stockings that were ever seen in England sent to him from Spain ; and Edward VI. had “a pair of long' silk hose," from the same country, presented to him by Sir Thomas Gresham (who built the Royal Exchange); "a present which was thought much of.(Howell's Hist. of the World, iii. p. 222.) These stockings were cut out of a piece of silk, and sewed together, like the cloth hose that were worn previously; the first knit silk stockings were worn in England by Queen Elizabeth. Silk manufactures were introduced into England in the fifteenth century; but they do not appear to have made much progress“ till the age of Elizabeth ; the tranquillity of whose long reign, and the influx of the Flemings, occasioned by the disturbances in the Low Countries, gave a powerful stimulus to the manufacturers of England.” (M Culloch.) In 1609, James I., probably in imitation of Henry IV., passed his famous edict for introducing the culture of the silkworm into Britain (see p. 1344.); and from the Issues of the Exchequer, &c., of his reign, lately published, it appears that he planted largely himself. One of the entries in this curious work is an order, dated Dec. 5. 1608, directing the payment to “ Master William Stallenge of the “sum of 935l., for the charge of four acres of land, taken in for His Majesty's use, near to his palace of Westminster, for the planting of mulberry trees; together with the charge of walling, levelling, and planting thereof with mulberry trees,” &c. By another entry, we find that the attempt to rear silkworms was not hastily abandoned ; as it contains an order, dated January 23. 1618, nine years after the preceding one, for 501. to be paid the keeper of His Majesty's house and gardens at Theobald's, “ for timber-board, glass, and other materials, together with workmanship, for making a place for His Majesty's silkworms, and for making provision of mulberry leaves for them.” Hartlib, in his Legacy, &c., printed in 1652, quotes some passages from Boneil on Mulberries, a work, printed in 1609; and among others a letter from King James to his lords lieutenants, recommending the planting of mulberry trees, and offering them at 2 farthings each. (See Legacy, &c., ed. 2., p.59.) Though this attempt to rear silkworms in England proved unsuccessful, the manufacture of the raw material, supplied by other countries, was extraordinarily flourishing. The silk-throwsters (twisters) of the metropolis were united into a fellowship in 1562; and were incorporated in 1629. Though retarded by the civil wars in the time of Charles I. and the commonwealth, the manufacture continued gradually to advance; and so flourishing had it become, that it is stated in a preamble to a statute passed in 1666 (13 & 14 Chas. 2. c. 15.), that there were at that time no fewer than 40,000 individuals engaged in the trade. (M'Culloch.) A considerable stimulus was given to the English silk manufacture by thé revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685; when above 50,000 French artisans took refuge in England. At this period, the consumption of silk goods was so great in England, that, besides the quantity manufactured in the country, from 600,000/. to 700,0001. worth were imported annually. In 1719, the first silk mill was erected at Derby. After the failure of James I.'s attempts to establish the silkworms and the mulberry, no effort of any importance seems to have been made for many years; though several individuals had, at different times, reared the worms, and produced silk. In 1825, however, a company was established, under the name of “ The British, Irish, and Colonial Silk Company,” with a large capital, and under the direction of the celebrated Count Dandolo, whose treatise on the management of the silkworm, &c., is considered the best work extant on the subject in Italy. This company formed extensive plantations in England and Ireland, particularly near Slough, and near Cork; and Mr. John Heathcoat of Tiverton, Devonshire, one of its most influential members, invented a method of rceling which was attended with the most complete success. The company also formed plantations in Devonshire: but, after numerous trials, it was found that the climate of the British Isles was too humid for the production of useful silk ; and the company was finally broken up, and its plantations destroyed, in 1829. For further details respecting this company, and its operations, see Encyc. of Agric., 2d edit., p. 1105. The cause of the entire failure of this spirited undertaking, as well as that of James I., will, we think, be found in the following very judicious observations from the Journal d'Agriculture des Pays-Bas ; which will show the impracticability of any future attempt to rear silkworms as an article of commerce in Britain, or in any similar climate :“ The mulberry tree is found in different climates ; but the juice of the leaves grown in the north is much less suitable for the production of good silk, than that of the leaves of the south. In this respect, mulberry leaves and silk differ as much as wines, according to the climate and soil in which they are produced. In general, every climate and soil that will grow good wheat will produce large succulent mulberry leaves; but these leaves will

, in many cases, be too nutritive; that is, they will have too much sap, and too much substance and succulency. The wild mulberry, with small leaves, answers better, for such a soil, than the grafted mulberry, with large leaves. A general rule, and one to be depended on, is, that the mulberry, to produce the best silk, requires the same soil and exposure that the vine does to produce the best wine. Experience has proved that silkworms nourished by leaves gathered from a dry soil succeed much better, produce more cocoons, and are less subject to those diseases which destroy them, than those which have been nourished by leaves produced by an extremely rich soil.”. (See Gard. Mag., vol. iv. p. 52.) The silkworm was introduced into America by James I.; who, at the same time that he published his edict for the planting of the mulberry tree in England, sent over mulberry trees and silkworms to Virginia, accompanied by a book of instructions for their culture, and exhortations to the inhabitants to pursue it instead of that of tobacco. The worms thus introduced were partially cultivated; but, not being so lucrative as tobacco, rice, and indigo, they made but small progress till the time of Dr. Franklin. That truly great man established a silk manufactory at Philadelphia, which was put a stop to by the war of independence. Silk has still continued to be raised in some remote parts of the country; but it is only since about 1825 that any establishments have been formed on a large scale. It is now produced extensively through all the southern provinces of the United States; and it seems probable, from the heat and dryness of the American summers, that it will equal the silk of Italy. Since the introduction of M. a. multicaulis into America, which took place in 183), an attempt has been made to obtain two crops in one year, which, it is said, is attended with every prospect of success. The same may be observed of the culture of silk in South America, in which it has been commenced at Rio Janeiro, the Caraccas, Buenos Ayres, and other places.

In India, the culture of the mulberry and the silkworm continues to be practised ; but how far it will be promoted or retarded by the progress of this culture in Europe and America remains to be proved. "It appears probable, however, from the superior climate of Eastern Asia, that, when general com

merce is once free, it will far exceed its former extent. In Australia, the culture of silk has been commenced, and it appears likely to succeed in that fine climate ; but very little, as yet, can be said on the subject with certainty, One great object that we have had in view, in giving this article at such length, is, the promotion of silk culture in that interesting part of the world.

Properties and Uses. The bark, and more especially the leaves, of the white mulberry abound in a milky juice, which is found to have more or less of the properties of caoutchouc, according to the climate in which the tree is grown., It is thought by many to be owing to this property in the leaves of the mulberry that the cocoons of the silkworm have so much more tenacity of fibre than those of any other insect that feeds on the leaves of trees. Hence, also, the silk, like the tobacco and the wine, of warm climates, and of poor dry soils, is always superior to that produced in colder climates, and from rich and moist soils. The fruit of some of the varieties, particularly of M. a. multicaulis, is used for making robs and syrups; and is said to be remarkably good to eat; for which reason this variety, in warm climates, might be introduced into orchards. The bark, according to Rosier, may be converted into linen of the fineness of silk. “ For this purpose, the young wood is gathered in August, during the ascent of the second sap, and immersed for three or four days in still water. It is then taken out, at sunset, spread on the grass, and returned to the water at sunrise. This is daily repeated; and, finally, it is prepared, and spun like flax." (Amer. Sık-Grow. Guide, p. 24.) The bark is also used, like that of the lime tree, for making bast for mats. The wood weighs only 44 lb. per cubic foot: that of the branches is used for vine props, posts and rails, and fire-wood; and that of the trunk for making wine casks, for which it is highly valued, as it is said to impart an agreeable violet-like flavour to white wines. (Dict. des Eaux et Forêts, &c.) By far the most important use of the white mulberry, however, is as food for the silk-moth; and this subject we shall here notice under two heads; viz. that of the management of the trees and leaves, and the management of the insects.

Mulberry Plantations. In India and China, these are made much in the same manner as those of the sugar-cane, and other agricultural plants. A field is laid out into squares of 5 ft. or 6 ft. on the sides; and in the centre of each square a hollow is formed;, the soil stirred and manured ; and five or six mulberry cuttings inserted in a group in the centre. These plants are never allowed to grow higher than 3 ft. or 4 ft.; being cut down to the ground every year, in the same manner as a raspberry plantation. In the south of Europe, the white mulberry is grown in plantations by itself, like willows and fruit trees; also in hedgerows, and as hedges; but in all cases the plants are kept low, for the convenience of gathering the leaves without injuring the trees; the greatest height they are suffered to attain being that of a pollard of 6 ft., which is annually lopped. In Guernsey, and the north of France, and also in some parts of Italy, the mulberry is chiefly grown as a hedgerow pollard, or as a pollard by the road side, in the same manner as fruit trees. (See p. 886.) The leaves of the mulberry should be gathered for feeding the silkworms, when perfectly dry, after the dew bas disappeared in the morning. The person employed to gather them strips them off upwards, and deposits them in a bag kept open with a hoop, and provided with a loop and strap to pass over his shoulder. When the leaves are gathered, the trees must be stripped entirely of every leaf; as this is found not to injure the tree half so much as if only part of the leaves were taken off. In America, the operation of stripping off the leaves is often repeated a second time the same year ; but, in France and Italy, the tree is very rarely subjected to so severe a trial. When labour is sufficiently cheap, the leaves are best cut off with a pair of scissors. After the first stripping, the white mulberry and all its varieties are very soon again covered with leaves; and, if all the leaves were removed at once, the tree does not appear to have been at all injured by the operation ; but, if any leaves were left on, the tree will be found to have received a severe shock. According

to Count Dandolo, a hundred trees, great and small, will furnish 7,000 lb. of leaves, and these will be sufficient for 200,000 silkworms.

Management of the Silkworm. The silkworm is the popular name for the larva, or caterpillar, of the moth known to entomologists as the Bombyx mori Fab. ; a native of China, which was introduced into Europe, as we have before seen, in 550. 'Fig. 1224. represents this insect, in its various stages,

1224

[graphic][graphic][ocr errors]

of the natural size: а, the eggs, which, when good, are of a pale slate or dark lilac colour; 6 is the larva, or caterpillar, when full grown; c is the insect in its chrysalis state, after the silk has been removed ; d is the male imago, or perfect insect; and e, the female. When full grown, the Jarva is nearly 3 in. long, of a yellowish grey colour, with a horn-like process on the last joint of the body. The eggs, in Britain, may be purchased in Covent Garden Market, at 10s. per oz. ; and care should be taken that they are of the proper colour; because those that are of a pale yellow colour are imperfect. They are preserved in a cool place, that is, in a temperature of from 100 to 190 Réaumur (550 to 590 Fahr.), till wanted for use, and will retain their vitality upwards of a year. To hatch them, a temperature of 869 Fahr. is required, for which purpose, in most parts of Europe where the silkworm is cultivated, the rooms used for that purpose are heated by stoves; though in the East Indies, in the Islands of France and Bourbon, &c., and in the southern parts of the United States, the natural temperature of the air is found sufficient. The houses in which the insects are kept are built with numerous windows, for the admission of air; and fur. nished with tables or shelves, on which the insects are kept. "These shelves have movable ledges, of 1 in, or more in height, on each side, to confine the insects; and several stages of them may be formed one above the other, if care be taken that they are not attached to the wall, in order to admit a free circulation of air on every side. When the mulberry begins to unfold its leaves, it is time to commence the hatching of the eggs. These should be placed on the shelves in the temperature mentioned ; and when they begin to turn white, which will be in about ten days, they should be covered with sheets of writing paper, turned up at the edges, and pierced full of holes with a large knitting needle. On the upper side of the paper should be laid some young twigs of mulberry, which the insects will smell; and, crawling through the holes in the paper, will begin to eat as soon as they are hatched. As fast as these twigs become covered with insects, they are carefully taken up and removed to another shelf,

where they are placed on whity-brown or any absorbent paper, about one to every square inch. The silkworm changes its skin four times before it spins its cocoon. Its life is thus divided into five ages ; during the first of which it is fed with chopped or young leaves, fresh ones being given as soon as it has eaten what it had before. At this time it frequently appears to sleep, when it should on no account be disturbed. When the silkworm is in its second age, it may be fed with young leaves entire, or old ones chopped small; a great part of this age also js passed in sleep. During the third age the silkworms become more lively and vigorolis, and they will devour full-grown leaves without cutting. In the fourth age the silkworm changes to a flesh colour, and eats greedily. In the fifth age the silkworm will

eat the coarsest leaves, and it should be fed abundantly night and day, and have plenty of air and warmth. Each change is preceded by a day or two's apparent sickness and want of appetite in the insect, which becomes torpid before the change of its skin takes place. During the whole period of the silkworm's life, the litter made by the waste leaves, &c., must be frequently removed, the insects being attracted to one corner of their shelves with some fresh leaves, while the other parts are cleaned. When the caterpillars cease to eat, and run to and fro, frequently looking up, it is an indication that they are preparing to make their cocoons. They will now have become transparent, of a clear pearly colour, and the green circles round their bodies will have assumed a golden hue. Twigs of oak, tufts of dandelion, rolled up shavings from the cabinet-maker, cornets of paper, or sprigs of alaternus, phillyrea, heath, or broom, as may be most convenient, are then placed on the tables or shelves, to serve as a support for the insects; the tables or shelves having been previously cleared of all litter, and the branches, or other materials, having been so arranged as to give the insects a feeling of security. They then immediately begin to make their cocoons, which are exuded in threads from the mouth, and which are generally completed in from four to seven days. When the insects have done working, the cocoons are taken from the twigs, and sorted : those that are double, or in any way imperfect, are thrown aside ; a certain num. ber are selected to breed from, and the rest are set apart for reeling the silk. The first operation with these last is to kill the insects enclosed. This is performed, in Italy, by exposing the cocoons to the heat of the sun for three days, from 10 o'clock A. M. to 5 o'clock P. M., when the thermometer stands at 880 Fahr. In France they are put into bags or baskets, and enclosed for half an hour in ovens heated to 880; but in America they are generally placed in sieves or boxes, having perforated bottoms; these are covered very closely with a woollen cloth, an then placed over the

steam either of boiling water, or boiling whiskey or rum. (See New York Farm., vol. vi. p. 297.) The in. sects being killed, and the cocoons cleared of the external floss which is manufactured under the name of foss, or spun, silk), they are thrown by handfuls into basins of pure soft water, placed over small furnaces of charcoal fires. When the water is almost at the boiling point, the cocoons are sunk with a whisk of broom or peeled birch under water for two or three minutes, to soften the gum and loosen the fibre. This, however, is unnecessary when they have been killed by the steam of boiling

« PreviousContinue »