A Museum Catalogue and the Crapandina

Some interesting entries in a catalogue of Dr. John Bargrave’s personal museum, 1676:

(22) . Ten miles, almost, round about Rome, under the vineyards and cornfields, are hollow caves, streets, rooms, chappells, finely paynted, &c., which is called Rome underground, or the Catacombe, wherein to the poor Christians in the times of persecution fledd to hide themselves, to perform the Christian duties of preaching and prayer and sacraments. And some of these underground streets were for their burials,–not on the flat, as we bury on the ground, but the corps were at their lenght immuralld in thecas, or, as it were, in hollow shelves dug into the wall on both sides; and it is a horrid place to go to, and dangerous, for fear of damps, for which we had little bottles of essences and spirits to put to our noses, and tynder purses (as the mode is), with flint, steel, and match, to lighten our torches and candles when they went out. My curiosity held me there about 3 hours at one time in one of these cymeteries; I going down a pair of stayre, and so walked some streets in Rome underground, a second story deep, until we came to water, which made us return. But the best and freest from danger, and easiest to be seen, are those at St. Agnese, out of the Porta St. Agnese, where in half an hour I came to a street that I could tell 10 stories of corps high; and so all along, about 30 or 40 in lenght. I and other gentlemen with me observed that, though there were divers epitaphs and writings, with p + ̲o, Xto, p + ̲o, Xo, with a turtle dove and an olive branch in its beack, and a palm branch, with p + ̲o †o, yet, I taking all along on the one side, and my companions on the other, we could meett with never an Orate pro anima–praying for the souls of the dead not being then known, in the primitive times, there being no such thing as purgatory then known in the world,–that being of a later invention, to bring a vast revenue to the Pope or Camera Apostolica.

From this Rome underground I brought a very fair small ancient lamp, and a small bottle with a long neck–both of them of a very fine red earth; which, by Dr. Plott, I sent as a present to the cabinet of Oxford Library. One other earthen lamp, and a glass bottle with such a long neck, and a broken one in two pieces, I have in my cabinet. These bottles are called lachrymatorij, or tear-bottles, because the friends and relations of the defunct were in ancient time accustomed at the funeral to carry each of them a lachrymatorio in his hand, to save his tears that he shed for his deceased friend, and then leave those bottles behind them with the immuralld corps. David seemeth to have allusion to this ancient custom when he saith, Psalm 56, 8, “Thou hast put my tears into thy bottle.”

(30) . It., Confetti di Tivoli, a box full of sugar plums of the town of old Tybur, now called Tivoli. They seem to be so like sugar plums that they will deceive any man that only seeth them, especially when the counterfeit amand and muske comfeits, made out of the same materials, are mixed amongst them. But the things themselves are nothing but the gravel or sand of the river Teverone, that runneth by Tyvoly (10 miles from Rome), and entreth into the river of Tybur. The plumms are of a chauchy or brimstony matter.

(33) . Item, Aëtifes, Lapis Aquilaris, or the eagle stone, which I bought of an Armenian at Rome. They differ sometimes in colour. This is a kind of a rough, dark, sandy colour, and about the bigness of [a] good wallnut. It is rare, and of good value, because of its excellent qualities and use, which is, by applying it to childbearing women, and to keep them from miscarriages. . . . It is so useful that my wife can seldom keep it at home, and therefore she hath sewed the strings to the knitt purse in which the stone is, for the convenience of the tying of it to the patient on occasion; and hath a box she hath, to put the purse and stone in. It were fitt that either the dean’s or vice-dean’s wife (if they be marryed men) should have this stone in their custody for the public good as to neighbourhood; but still, that they have a great care into whose hand it be committed, and that the midwives have a care of it, so that it still be the Cathedral Church’s stone.

(34) . A very artificial anatomy of a human eye, with all its films or tunicles, by way of turnery in ivory and horn; together with the optick nerve which runneth into the brain, from which nerve the. eye receiveth all its several motions. This excellent piece of art hath, when it is opened, fourteen pieces in it; but are, indeed, but a little more parcels in themselves than half so many. When you take them in sunder, the best way to keep them in order is to lay them all in a row, and then you shall find that the first piece and the last are in nature but one tunicle, and by art two, if you join them together; each half (but one) hath its correspondent–the corneus with the corneus, the two black ones likewise the same, and so the rest. The little apple of it also is included in two half tunicles. The usual way of anatomizing an eye, longways, by turning the films flat over one another, could not be so visibly imitated by art; but this, or roundway, was the invention of the College of Physicians at Padoiia, where an artist of High Germany imployed his skill in turning according to these doctors’ orders, and at length produced this excellent piece of art–this anatomy of the human eye.

I have one also of an oxes eye, but that is very rude, gross, and not exact.

I bought this eye at Venice of a High Dutch turner, and, for the proof of it, I went a double share in two anatomies, of a man’s body and a woman’s, chiefly for this eye’s sake, and it was found to be exact.

43) . Item, the skin, head, and legs of a cameleon, perfumed and stuffed. The creature was given me alive in Africa, and it liveth (not by the air, as the report goeth, but) by flies chiefly, as the Moores taught me how to feed it in this manner, by laying in the cage, or sometimes out of the cage in which I kept it, upon a paper some sugar and sweetmeats, which allureth the flies to come to it. The creature hath in its gorge or gola a toung that lieth 4 dobled, with a small fibulus button at the end of it, which hath on it a viscous matter. So soon as it seeth the flies at the sweetmeats it dartetli forth that toung at a great distance, and with the viscous matter pulleth in the fly to her mouth, and eateth it; and so it will do many, one after the other, so that while we sailed homewards all along the Africa shore, and came out of the Mediterranean Sea by the Streights of Gibralter into the Atlantick Ocean, and then turning northward by Spain and Portugall–all that time (I say) that we were in those hot and southerly climates, although it was in January 1662, there were store of flies, and the creature fed on them heartily, and lived well. But as we sailed homeward into the more cold and northern climates, as the flies failed us, so that decayed, and at lenght for want of flies it died; and I had the chirurgeon of the shipp embalm it, and put the skin as you see it.It seemeth to be a kind of lizard, but is as slow in pace as a tortes, winding its tail about the sticks of the cage, to help and secure its gradations. The ribs and the back are boned and scaled like fish. Although the story of its living by the air be fabulous, yet the other story of its changing itself into all colours is very true, as I have seen this of all manner of colours, like silk, and sometimes changeable colours, as the sun happened to shine upon it; and sometimes I have seen it coal black. But the story is false that it hath a pellucid body, like cristal, and so it will be the colour of scarlet or any other cloth that you lay it upon. No, no such thing; but one way to make it change its colours was to anger it, and put it into a passion, by touching of it with a stick or a bodkin, or the like. Then it would fetch great breaths, many one after another, by which it made itself swell very much, and in its swellings out came the colours of all sorts, which changed as it was more or less provoked to anger. And when the passion was over, it would look as pale as a clout. It hath no eyelids, and therefore never winketh; but when it aleepeth, the ball of the eye being as round as round can be, it turneth that ball quite round, the inside outward, and so sleepeth. Matthiolus on Dioscorides sayth that it layeth eggs as a tortes doth, and is bred of those eggs.

(44) . Item, the finger of a Frenchman, which I brought from Tholouse, the capital of Languedoc, in France. The occasion this: there is, amongst others, a great monastery of Franciscans, with a very fair large church and cloisters, the earth of which place is different from all others in this, that all the dead men and women’s corps that are buried there turn not into putryfaction and corruption, and so into earth, as in all other places; but, on the contrary, the bodies that are buried there in the space of 2 years are found in the posture that they were laid into the grave, dried into a kind of momy, being all entire and whole, dried to almost skin and bone,–the nerves or sinews and tendons stiffly holding all the body together, that you may take it and place it standing upright against a wall. And in the vaults whither these dried corps are removed there are abundance of them, like so many fagotts, and as stiff and strong. Among which they shewed us the corps of a souldier, that died by the wound of a stabb with a dagger in his breast, upon the orifice of which one of his hands lay flatt, and when they pulled away the hand, the wound was plainly seen; but let the hand go, and it returned to its place with force, as if it had a resort or spring to force it to its proper place. I pulled the hand away several times, and the nerves and tendons were so strong that the hand returned with a lusty clap upon the wound. There likewise they shewed us the corps of a physician (of their acquaintance), which, when they put a clean piece of paper into one hand and a pen into the other, when he stood in such a posture as if he had seriously been a w-writing a dose or prescription. The monks told us that in one vault the principals of their order stood all in a row, in the habit of the order, according to their seniority. They proffered me the whole body of a little child, which I should out of curiosity have accepted of, if I had then been homeward bound; but I was then outward bound for the grand tour of France (or circle, as they call it), and so again into Italy.

(55) . Several pairs of horns of the wild mountain goats which the High Dutch call gemps, the Italians camuchi, the French shammois, from whence we have that leather. I had them amongst the Alps, the people telling me strange stories of the creature, what strange leaps they would take amongst the crags of the rocks, and how, to break a fall, they will hang by the horns, and, when they have taken breath, they unhook themselves and take another leap at a venture, and sometimes they will have great falls without any hurt, they still lighting upon their horns. Some of these horns are polished, and serve for several uses.

Finally, as a bonus, an excerpt on how to procure the crapandina or Toad-stone, from Thomas Lupton’s 1579 A Thousand Notable Things.

Put a great or overgrowne tode into an earthen potte,and put the same into an antes hyllocke, & cover the same with earth, which tode at length antes wyll eate, so that the bones of the toad and stone wyll be left in the potte.

The crapandina serves as a universal and effective antivenom.


One comment on “A Museum Catalogue and the Crapandina

  1. AJC468 says:

    Is it a problem that I read the title as “A Museum Catalogue and Other Various Sundry Assorted Crap”?

    Crapandina is a very (don’t read this Uncle Howard) lovely word! And it’s important enough to be preceded by the definite article and set in italics. I think I’m in love.

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