Experiments and Considerations Touching Colours (1664)
by Robert Boyle
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7. Fourthly, In a Darkned Room, I purposely observ'd, that if the Sun-beams, which came in at the Hole were receiv'd upon White or any other Colour, and directed to a Convenient place of the Room, they would Manifestly, though not all Equally, Encrease the Light of that Part; whereas if we Substituted, either a piece of Black Cloth or Black Velvet, it would so Dead the Incident Beams, that the place (newly mention'd) whereto I Obverted the Black Body, would be Less Enlightned than it was before, when it received its Light but from the Weak and Oblique Reflections of the Floor and Walls of a pretty Large Room, through which the Beams that came in at the Hole were Confusedly and Brokenly Dispers'd.

8. Fifthly, And to shew that the Beams that fall on Black Bodies, as they do not Rebound Outwards to the Eye, so they are Reflected towards the Body it self, as the Nature of those Erected Particles to which we have imputed Blackness, requires, we will add an Experiment that will also confirm our Doctrine touching Whiteness; Namely, that we took a Broad and Large Tile, and having Whitened over one half of the Superficies of it, and Black'd the other, we expos'd it to the Summer Sun; And having let it lye there a convenient time (for the Difference is more Apparent, if it have not lain there too long) we found, as we expected, that whilst the Whited part of the Tile remained Cool enough, the Black'd part of the same Tile was grown not only Sensible, but very Hot, (sometimes to a strong Degree.) And to satisfie some of our Friends the more, we have sometimes left upon the Surface of the Tile, besides the White and Black parts thereof, a part that Retain'd the native Red of the Tile it self, and Exposing them to the Sun, we observ'd this Last mention'd to have Contracted a Heat in comparison of the White, but a Heat Inferiour to that of the Black, of which the Reason seems to be, that the Superficial Particles of Black Bodies, being, as we said, more Erected, than those of White or Red ones, the Corpuscles of Light falling on their sides, being for the most part Reflected Inwards from one Particle to another, and thereby engag'd as it were and kept from Rebounding Upwards, they communicate their brisk Motion, wherewith they were impell'd against the Black Body, (upon whose account had they fallen upon a White Body, they would have been Reflected Outwards) to the Small parts of the Black Body, and thereby Produce in those Small parts such an Agitation, as (when we feel it) we are wont to call Heat. I have been lately inform'd, that an Observation near of Kin to Ours, has been made by some Learned Men in France and Italy, by long Exposing to a very Hot Sun, two pieces of Marble, the one White, the other Black; But though the Observation be worthy of them, and may confirm the same Truth with Our Experiment, yet besides that our Tryal needs not the Summer, nor any Great Heat to succeed, It seems to have this Advantage above the other, that whereas Bodies more Solid, and of a Closer Texture, though they use to be more Slowly Heated, are wont to receive a Greater Degree of Heat from the Sun or Fire, than (Caeteris paribus) Bodies of a Slightest Texture; I have found by the Information of Stone-cutters, and by other ways of Enquiry, that Black Marble is much Solider and Harder than White, so that possibly the Difference betwixt the Degrees of Heat they receive from the Sunbeams will by many be ascrib'd to the Difference of their Texture, rather than to that of their Colour, though I think our Experiment will make it Probable enough that the greater part of that Difference may well be ascrib'd to that Disposition of Parts, which makes the one Reflect the Sunbeams Inward; and the other Outwards. And with this Doctrine accords very well, that Rooms hung with Black, are not only Darker than else they would be, but are wont to be Warmer too; Insomuch that I have known a great Lady, whose Constitution was somewhat Tender, complain that she was wont to catch Cold, when she went out into the Air, after having made any long Visits to Persons, whose Rooms were hung with Black. And this is not the only Lady I have heard complain of the Warmth of such Rooms, which though perhaps it may be partly imputed to the Effluvia of those Materials wherewith the hangings were Dy'd, yet probably the Warmth of such Rooms depends chiefly upon the same Cause that the Darkness does; As (not to repeat what I formerly Noted touching my Gloves,) to satisfie some Curious Persons of that Sex, I have convinc'd them, by Tryall, that of two Pieces of Silken Stuff given me by themselves, and expos'd in their Presence, to the same Window, Shin'd on by that Sun, the White was considerably Heated, when the Black was not so much as Sensibly so.

9. Sixthly, I remember, that Acquainting one Day a Virtuoso of Unsuspected Credit, that had Visited Hot Countries, with part of what I have here Deliver'd concerning Blackness, he Related to me by way of Confirmation of it, a very notable Experiment, which he had both others make, and Made himself in a Warm Climate, namely, that having carefully Black'd over Eggs, and Expos'd them to the Hot Sun, they were thereby in no very Long time well Roasted, to which Effect I conceive the Heat of the Climate must have Concurr'd with the Disposition of the Black Surface to Reflect the Sunbeams Inward, for I remember, that having made that among other Tryals in England, though in Summer-time, the Eggs I Expos'd, acquir'd indeed a considerable Degree of Heat, but yet not so Intense a One, as prov'd Sufficient to Roast them.

10. Seventhly, and Lastly, Our Conjectures at the Nature of Blackness may be somewhat Confirm'd by the (formerly mention'd) Observation of the Blind Dutch-man, that Discerns Colours with his Fingers; for he Says, that he Feels a greater Roughness upon the Surfaces of Black Bodies, than upon those of Red, or Yellow, or Green. And I remember, that the Diligent Bartholinus says,[9] that a Blind Earl of Mansfield could Distinguish White from Black only by the Touch, which would Sufficiently Argue a great Disparity in the Asperities, or other Superficial Textures of Bodies of those two Colours, if the Learn'd Relator had Affirm'd the Matter upon his own Knowledge.

[9] Hist. Anatom. Cent. 3. Hist. 44.

II. These, Pyrophilus, are the chief things that Occurr to me at present, about the Nature of Whiteness and Blackness, which it they have Rendred it so much as Probable, that in Most; or at least Many Cases, the Causes of these Qualities may be such as I have Adventur'd to Deliver, it is as much as I Pretend to; for till I have Opportunity to Examine the Matter by some further Tryals, I am not sure, but that in some White and Black Bodies, there may Concurr to the Colour some peculiar Texture or Disposition of the Body, whereby the Motion of the Small Corpuscles that make up the Incident Beams of Light, may be Differingly Modify'd, before they reach the Eye, especially in this, that White Bodies do not only Copiously Reflect those Incident Corpuscles Outwards, but Reflect them Briskly, and do not otherwise Alter them in the manner of their Motion. Nor shall I now stay to Enquire, whether some of those other ways, (as a Disposition to Alter the Velocity, the Rotation, or the Order and Manner of Appulse so the Eye of the Reflected Corpuscles that Compos'd the Incident Beams of Light) which we mention'd when we consider'd the Production of Colours in General, may not in some Cases be Applicable to those of White and Black Bodies: For I am yet so much a Seeker in this Matter, and so little Wedded to the Opinions I have propos'd, that what I am to add shall be but the Beginning of a Collection of Experiments and Observation towards the History of Whiteness and Blackness, without at present interposing my Explications of them, that so, I may assist your Enquires without much Fore-stalling or Biassing your Judgment.

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EXPERIMENT IN CONSORT, Touching Whiteness & Blackness.

* * * * *


Having promis'd in the 114, and 115. Pages of the foregoing Discourse of Whiteness and Blackness, to shew, that those two Colours may by a change of Texture in bodies, each of them apart Diaphanous and Colourless, be at pleasure and in a trice as well Generated as Destroy'd, We shall begin with Experiments that may acquit us of that promise.

Take then what Quantity you please of Fair Water, and having Heated it, put into it as much good Common Sublimate, as it is able to Dissolve, and (to be sure of having it well glutted:) continue putting in the Sublimate, till some of it lye Untouch'd in the bottom of the Liquor, Filter this Solution through Cap-paper, to have it cleer and limpid, and into a spoonfull or two thereof, (put into a clean glass vessel,) shake about four or five drops (according as you took more or less of this Solution) of good limpid Spirits of Urine, and immediately the whole mixture will appear White like Milk, to which mixture if you presently add a convenient proportion of Rectifi'd Aqua Fortis (for the number of drops is hard to determine, because of the Differing Strength of the liquor, but easily found by tryal) the Whiteness will presently disappear, and the whole mixture become Transparent, which you may, if you please, again reduce to a good degree of Whiteness (though inferiour to the first) onely by a more copious affusion of fresh Spirit of Urine. N. First, That it is not so necessary to employ either Aqua Fortis or Spirit of Urine about this Experiment, but that we have made it with other liquors instead of these, of which perhaps more elsewhere. Secondly, That this Experiment, though not made with the same Menstruums, nor producing the same Colour is yet much of Kin to that other to be mentioned in this Tract among our other Experiments of Colours, about turning a Solution of Praecipitate into an Orange-colour, and the Chymical Reason being much alike in both, the annexing it to one of them may suffice FOR both.


Make a strong Infusion of broken Galls in Fair Water, and having Filtred it into a clean Vial, add more of the same liquor to it, till you have made it somewhat Transparent, and sufficiently diluted the Colour, for the credit of the Experiment, lest otherwise the Darkness of the liquor might make it be objected, that 'twas already almost Ink; Into this Infusion shake a convenient quantity of a Cleer, but very strong Solution of Vitriol, and you shall immediately see the mixture turn Black almost like Ink, and such a way of producing Blackness is vulgar enough; but if presently after you doe upon this mixture drop a small quantity of good oyl of Vitriol, and, by shaking the Vial disperse it nimbly through the two other liquors, you shall (if you perform your part well, and have employ'd oyl of Vitriol Cleer and Strong enough) see the Darkness of the liquor presently begin to be discuss'd, and grow pretty Cleer and Transparent, losing its Inky Blackness, which you may again restore to it by the affusion of a small quantity of a very strong Solution of Salt of Tartar. And though neither of these Atramentous liquors will seem other than very Pale Ink, if you write with a clean Pen dipt in them, yet that is common to them with some sorts of Ink that prove very good when Dry, as I have also found, that when I made these carefully, what I wrote with either of them, especially with the Former, would when throughly Dry grow Black enough not to appear bad Ink. This Experiment of taking away and restoring Blackness from and to the liquors, we have likewise tryed in Common Ink; but there it succeeds not so well, and but very slowly, by reason that the Gum wont to be employed in the making it, does by its Tenacity oppose the operations of the above mention'd Saline liquors. But to consider Gum no more, what some kind of Praecipitation may have to do in the producing and destroying of Inks without it, I have elsewhere given you some occasion and assistance to enquire; But I must not now stay to do so my self, only I shall take notice to you, that though it be taken for granted that bodies will not be Praecipitated by Alcalizat Salts, that have not first been dissolved in some Acid Menstruums, yet I have found upon tryals, which my conjectures lead me to make on purpose, That divers Vegetables barely infus'd, or, but slightly decocted in common water, would, upon the affusion of a Strong and Cleer Lixivium of Potashes, and much more of some other Praecipitating liquors that I sometimes employ, afford good store of a Crudled matter, such as I have had in the Praecipitations of Vegetable substances, by the intervention of Acid things, and that this matter was easily separable from the rest of the liquor, being left behind by it in the Filtre; and in making the first Ink mention'd in this Experiment, I found that I could by Filtration separate pretty store of a very Black pulverable substance, that remain'd in the Filtre, and when the Ink was made Cleer again by the Oyl of Vitriol, the affusion of dissolv'd Sal Tartari seem'd but to Praecipitate, and thereby to Unite and render Conspicuous the particles of the Black mixture that had before been dispers'd into very Minute and singly Invisible particles by the Incisive and resolving power of the highly Corrosive Oyl of Vitriol.

And to manifest, Pyrophilus, that Galls are not so requisite as many suppose to the making Atramentous Liquors, we have sometimes made the following Experiment, We took dryed Rose leaves and Decocted them for a while in Fair Water, into two or three spoonfulls of this Decoction we shook a few drops of a strong and well filtrated Solution of Vitriol (which perhaps had it been Green would have done as well) and immediately the mixture did turn Black, and when into this mixture presently after it was made, we shook a just Proportion of Aqua Fortis, we turn'd it from a Black Ink to a deep Red one, which by the affusion of a little Spirit of Urine may be reduc'd immediately to an Opacous and Blackish Colour. And in regard, Pyrophilus, that in the former Experiments, both the Infusion of Galls, and the Decoction of Roses, and the Solution of Copperis employ'd about them, are endow'd each of them with its own Colour, there may be a more noble Experiment of the sudden production of Blackness made by the way mention'd in the Second Section of the Second Part of our Essays, for though upon the Confusion of the two Liquors there mention'd, there do immediately emerge a very Black mixture, yet both the Infusion of Orpiment and the Solution of Minium were before their being joyn'd together, Limpid and Colourless.


If pieces of White Harts-horn be with a competent degree of Fire distill'd in a Glass-retort, they will, after the avolation of the Flegm, Spirit, Volatile Salt, and the looser and lighter parts of the Oleagenous substance, remain behind of a Cole-black colour. And even Ivory it self being skilfully Burnt (how I am wont to do it, I have elsewhere set down) affords Painters one of the best and deepest Blacks they have, and yet in the Instance of distill'd Harts-horn, the operation being made in Glass-vessels carefully clos'd, it appears there is no Extraneous Black substance that Insinuates it self into White Harts-horn, and thereby makes it turn Black; but that the Whiteness is destroy'd, and the Blackness generated, only by a Change of Texture, made in the burnt Body, by the Recess of some parts and the Transposition of others. And though I remember not that in many Distillations of Harts-horn I ever sound the Cap. Mort. to pass from Black to a true Whiteness, whilst it continu'd in Clos'd vessels, yet having taken out the Cole-black fragments, and Calcin'd them in Open vessels, I could in few hours quite destroy that Blackness, & without sensibly changing their Bulk or Figure, reduce them to great Whiteness. So much do these two Colours depend upon the Disposition of the little parts, that the Bodies wherein they are to be met with do consist of. And we find, that if Whitewine Tartar, or even the white Crystalls of such Tartar be burnt without being truly Calcin'd, the Cap. Mortuum (as the Chymists call the more Fixt part) will be Black. But if you further continue the Calcination till you have perfectly Incinerated the Tartar, & kept it long enough in a Strong fire, the remaining Calx will be White. And so we see that not only other Vegetable substances, but even White woods, as the Hazel, will yield a Black Charcoal, and afterwards Whitish ashes; And so Animal substances naturally White, as Bones and Eggshels, will grow Black upon the being Burnt, and White again when they are perfectly Calcin'd.


But yet I much Question whether that Rule delivered by divers, as well Philosophers as Chymists, adusta nigra, sed perusta alba, will hold as Universally as is presum'd, since I have several Examples to allege against it: For I have found that by burning Alablaster, so as both to make it appear to boyl almost like Milk, and to reduce it to a very fine Powder, it would not at all grow Black, but retain its Pure and Native Whiteness, and though by keeping it longer than is usual in the fire, I produced but a faint Yellow, even in that part of the Powder that lay nearest the top of the Crucible, yet having purposely enquired of an Experienced Stone-cutter, who is Curious enough in tryng Conclusions in his own Trade, he told me he had found that if Alabaster or Plaster of Paris be very long kept in a Strong fire, the whole heap of burnt Powder would exchange its Whiteness for a much deeper Colour than the Yellow I observ'd. Lead being Calcin'd with a Strong fire turns (after having purhaps run thorough divers other Colour) into Minium, whose Colour we know is a deep red; and if you urge this Minium, as I have purposely done with a Strong fire, you may much easier find a Glassie and Brittle Body darker than Minium, than any white Calx or Glass. 'Tis known among Chymists, that the white Calx of Antimony, by the further and more vehement operation of the fire, may be melted into Glass, which we have obtain'd of a Red Colour, which is far deeper than that of the Calx of Burnt Antimony, and though common Glafs of Antimony being usually Adulterated with Borax, have its Colour thereby diluted, oftentimes to a very pale Yellow; yet not onely ours made more sincerily, was, as we said, of a Colour less remote from Black, than was the Calx; but we observ'd, that by Melting it once or twice more, and so exposing it to the further operation of the Fire, we had, as we expected, the Colour heightned. To which we shall add but this one Instance, (which is worth the taking notice of in Reference to Colours:) That, if you take Blew, but Unsophisticated, Vitriol, and burn it very slowly, and with a Gentle degree of Heat, you may observe, that when it has Burnt but a Little, and yet so far as that you may rub it to Powder betwixt your fingers, it will be of a White or Whitish Colour; But if you Prosecute the Calcination, this Body which by a light Adustion was made White, will pass through other Colours, as Gray, Yellowish, and Red; and if you further burn it with a Long and Vehement fire, by that time it comes to be Perustum, it will be of a dark purple, nearer to Black, not only than the first Calx, but than the Vitriol before it at all felt the fire. I might add that Crocus Martis (per se as they call it) made by the Lasting violence of the Reverberated flames is not so near a Kin to White, as the Iron or Steel that afforded it was before its Calcinations; but that I suppose, these Instances may Suffice to satisfie you, that Minerals are to be excepted out of the forementioned Rule, which perhaps, though it seldome fail in substances belonging to the Vegetable or Animal Kingdome, may yet be Question'd even in some of these, if that be true, which the Judicious Traveller Bellonius affirms, that Charcoales made out of the Wood of Oxycaeder are White; And I could not find that though in Retorts Hartshorn and other White Bodies will be Denigrated by Heat, yet Camphire would not at all lose its Whiteness, though I have purposely kept it in such a heat, as made it melt and boyl.


And now I speak of Camphire, it puts me in mind of adding this Experiment, That, though as I said in Clos'd Glasses, I could not Denigrate it by Heat, but it would Sublime to the sides and top of the Glass, as it was before, yet not only it will, being set on fire in the Free Air, send forth a Copious smoak, but having purposely upon some of it that was Flaming, clapt a Large Glass, almost in the form of a Hive, (but more Slender only) with a Hole at the top, (which I caus'd to be made to trye Experiments of Fire and Flame in) it continued so long burning that it Lin'd all the Inside of the Glass with a Soot as Black as Ink, and so Copious, that the Closeness of the Vessel consider'd, almost all that part of the White Camphire that did take Fire, seem'd to have been chang'd into that deep Black Substance.


And this also brings into my mind another Experiment that I made about the production of Blackness, whereof, for Reasons too long to be here deduced, I expected and found a good Success, an it was this: I took Rectifi'd Oyl of Vitriol (that I might have the Liquor Clean as well as Strong) and by degrees mixt with it a convenient proportion of the Essential Oyl, as Chymists call it, of Wormwood, drawn over with store of Water in a Limbec, and warily Distilling the mixture in a Retort, there remain'd a scarce credible quantity of dry Matter, Black as a Coal. And because the Oyl of Wormwood, though a Chymical Oyl drawn by a Virtuoso, seem'd to have somewhat in it of the Colour of the Plant, I Substituted in its Room, the Pure and Subtile Essential Oyl of Winter-Savory, and mixing little by little this Liquor, with (if I mis-remember not) an Equal weight of the formerly mention'd Rectifi'd Oyl of Vitriol, and Distilling them as before in a Retort, besides what there pass'd over into the Receiver, even these two clear Liquors left me a Considerable Proportion, (though not so great as the two former) of a Substance Black as Pitch, which I yet Keep by me as a Rarity.


A way of Whiting Wax Cheaply and in Great Quantity may be a thing of good Oeconomical Use, and we have elsewhere set down the Practice of Trades-men that Blanch it; But here Treating of Whiteness only in Order to the Philosophy of Colours, I shall not Examine which of the Slow wayes may be best Employ'd, to free Wax from the Yellow Melleous parts, but shall rather set down a Quick way of making it White, though but in very Small Quantities. Take then a little Yellow Wax, scraped or thinly sliced, and putting it into a Bolts-head or some other Convenient Glass, pour to it a pretty deal of Spirit of Wine, and placing the Vessel in Warm Sand, Encrease the Heat by degrees, till the Spirit of Wine begin to Simper or to Boyl a little; and continuing that degree of Fire, if you have put Liquor enough, you will quickly have the Wax dissolv'd, then taking it off the fire, you may either suffer it to Cool as hastily as with Safety to the Glass you can, or Pour it whilst 'tis yet Hot into a Filtre of Paper, and either in the Glass where it Cools, or in the Filtre, you will soon find the Wax and Menstruum together reduc'd into a White Substance, almost like Butter, which by letting the Spirit Exhale will shrink into a much Lesser Bulk, but still retaining its Whiteness. And that which is pretty in the working of this Magistery of Wax, is, that the Yellowness vanishes, neither appearing in the Spirit of Wine that passes Limpid through the Filtre, nor in the Butter of Wax, if I may so call it, that, as I said, is White.


There is an Experiment, Pyrophilus, which though I do not so exactly remember, and though it be somewhat Nice to make, yet I am willing to Acquaint You with, because the thing Produc'd, though it be but a Curiosity, is wont not a little to please the Beholders, and it is a way of turning by the help of a Dry Substance, an almost Golden-Colour'd Concrete, into a White one, the Several Tryals are not at present so fresh in my Memory to enable me to tell you Certainly, whether an Equal onely or a Double weight of Common Sublimate must be taken in reference to the Tinglass, but if I mistake not, there was in the Experiment that succeeded best, Two parts of the Former taken to One of the Latter. These Ingredients being finely Powdred and Exactly mix'd, we Sublim'd together by degrees of fire (the due Gradation of which is in this Experiment a thing of main Importance) there ascended a matter of a very peculiar Texture, for it was for the most part made up of very Thin, Smooth, Soft and Slippery Plates, almost like the finest sort of the Scales of Fishes, but of so Lovely a White Inclining to Pearl-Colour, and of so Curious and Shining a Gloss, that they appear'd in some respect little Inferiour to Orient Pearls, and in other Regards, they seem'd to Surpass them, and were Applauded for a sort of the Prettiest Trifles that we had ever prepar'd to Amuse the Eye. I will not undertake that though you'l hardly miss changing the Colour of your shining Tinglass, yet you will the first or perhaps the second time hit Right upon the way of making the Glistring Sublimate I have been mentioning.


When we Dissolve in Aqua Fortis a mixture of Gold and Silver melted into one Lump, it usually happens that the Powder of Gold that falls to the bottom, as not being Dissoluble by that Menstruum, will not have its own Yellow, but appear of a Black Colour, though neither the Gold, nor the Silver, nor the Aqua Fortis did before manifest any Blackness. And divers Alchymists, when they make Solutions of Minerals they would Examine, are very Glad, if they see a Black Powder Praecipitated to the Bottom, taking it for a Hopefull Sign, that those Particles are of a Golden Nature, which appear in a Colour so ordinary to Gold parted from other Metalls by Aqua Fortis, that it is a trouble to the Refiner to Reduce the Praecipitated Calx to its Native Colour. For though, (as we have try'd,) that may be Quickly enough done by Fire, which will make this Gold look very Gloriously (as indeed 'tis at least one of the Best wayes that is Practis'd for the Refining of Gold,) yet it requires both Watchfulness and Skill, to give it such a Degree of Fire as will serve to Restore it to its Lustre, without giving it such a One, as may bring it to Fusion, to which the Minuteness of the Corpuseles it consists of makes the Powder very apt. And this brings into my Mind, that having taken a Flat and Bright piece of Gold, that was Refin'd by a Curious and Skilfull Person on purpose to Trye to what height of Purity Gold could be brought by Art, I found that this very piece, as Glorious as it look'd, being rubb'd a little upon a piece of fine clean Linnen, did sully it with a kind of Black; and the like I have observ'd in Refin'd Silver, which I therefore mention, because I formerly suspected that the Impurity of the Metall might have been the only Cause of what I have divers times obferv'd in wearing Silver-hilted Swords, Namely, that where they rubb'd upon my Clothes, if they were of a Light-Colour'd Cloath, the Affriction would quickly Black them; and Congruously hereunto I have found Pens Blackt almost all over, when I had a while carri'd them about me in a Silver Ink-case. To which I shall only add, that whereas in these several Instances of Denigration, the Metalls are worn off, or otherwise Reduc'd into very Minute Parts, that Circumstance may prove not Unworthy your Notice.


That a Solution of Silver does Dye Hair of a Black Colour, is a Known Experiment, which some persons more Curious than Dextrous, have so Unluckily made upon themselves as to make their Friends very Merry. And I remember that the other day, I made my self some Sport by an Improvement of this Observation, for having dissolv'd some Pure Silver in Aqua Fortis, and Evaporated the Menstruum ad siccitatem, as they speak, I caus'd a Quantity of fair Water to be pour'd upon the Calx two or three several times, and to be at each Evaporated, till the Calx was very Drye, and all the Greenish Blewness that is wont to appear in Common Crystals of Silver, was quite carry'd away. Then I made those I meant to Deceive, Moisten some part of their Skin with their own Spittle, and slightly Rub the moistned parts with a little of this Prepar'd Silver, Whereupon they Admir'd to see, that a Snow-white Body laid upon the White Skin should presently produce a deep Blackness, as if the stains had been made with Ink, especially considering that this Blackness could not, like that produc'd by ordinary Ink, be readily Wash'd off, but requir'd many Hours, and part of it some dayes to its Obliteration. And with the same White Calx and a little Fair Water we likewise Stain'd the White Hafts of Knives, with a lasting Black in those parts where the Calx was Plentifully enough laid on, for where it was laid on but very Thinly, the Stain was not quite of so Deep a Colour.


The Cause of the Blackness of those many Nations, which by one common Name we are wont to call Negroes, has been long since Disputed of by Learned Men, who possibly had not done amiss, if they had also taken into Consideration, why some whole races of other Animals besides Men, as Foxes and Hares, are Distinguish'd by a Blackness not familiar to the Generality of Animals of the same Species; The General Opinion (to be mention'd a little lower) has been rejected even by some of the Antient Geographers, and among our Moderns Ortelius and divers other Learned Men have Question'd it. But this is no place to mention what thoughts I have had to and fro about these Matters: Only as I shall freely Acknowledge, that to me the inquiry seems more Abstruse than it does to many others, and that because consulting with Authors, and with Books of Voyages, and with Travellers, to satisfie my self in matters of Fact, I have met with some things among them, which seem not to agree very well with the Notions of the most Classick Authors concerning these things; for it being my Present Work to deliver rather matters Historical than Theorys, I shall Annex Some few of my Collections, instead of a Solemn Disputation. It is commonly presum'd that the Heat of the Climate wherein they live, is the reason, why so many Inhabitants of the Scorching Regions of Africa are Black; and there is this familiar Observation to Countenance this Conjecture, That we plainly see that Mowers, Reapers, and other Countrey-people, who spend the most part of the Hot Summer dayes expos'd to the Sun, have the skin of their Hands and Faces, which are the parts immediately Expos'd to the Sun and Air, made of a Darker Colour than before, and consequently tending to Blackness; And Contrarywise we observe that the Danes and some other people that Inhabit Cold Climates, and even the English who feel not so Rigorous a Cold, have usually Whiter faces than the Spaniards, Portugalls and other European Inhabitants of Hotter Climates. But this Argument I take to be far more Specious than Convincing; for though the Heat of the Sun may Darken the Colour of the Skin, by that Operation, which we in English call Sun-burning, yet Experience doth not Evince, that I remember, That that Heat alone can produce a Discolouring that shall amount to a true Blackness, like that of Negroes, and we shall see by and by that even the Children of some Negroes not yet 10. dayes Old (perhaps not so much by three quarters of that time) will notwithstanding their Infancy be of the same Hue with their Parents. Besides, there is this strong Argument to be alleg'd against the Vulgar Opinion, that in divers places in Asia under the same Parallel, or even of the same Degree of Latitude with the African Regions Inhabited by Blacks, the People are at most but Tawny;[10] And in Africa it self divers Nations in the Empire of Ethiopia are not Negroes, though Situated in the Torrid Zone, and as neer the AEquinoctial, as other Nations that are so (as the Black Inhabitants of Zeylan and Malabar are not in our Globes plac'd so near the Line as Amara the Famousest place in Ethiopia.) Moreover, (that which is of no small Moment in our present Disquisition) I find not by the best Navigators and Travellers to the West-Indies, whose Books or themselves I have consulted on this Subject, that excepting perhaps one place or two of small extent, there are any Blacks Originally Natives of any part of America (for the Blacks now there have been by the Europeans long Transplanted thither) though the New World contain in it so great a Variety of Climates, and particularly reach quite Cross the Torri'd Zone from one Tropick to another. And enough it be true that the Danes be a Whiter People than the Spaniards, yet that may proceed rather from other causes (not here to be enquired into) than from the Coldness of the Climate, since not onely the Swedes and other Inhabitants of those Cold Countreys, are not usually so White as the Danes, nor Whiter than other Nations in proportion to their Vicinity to the Pole. [And since the Writing of the former part of this Essay, having an opportunity on a Solemn occasion to take Notice of the Numerous Train of Some Extraordinary Embassadours sent from the Russian Emperour to a great Monarch, observ'd, that (though it were then Winter) the Colour of their Hair and Skin was far less Whitish than the Danes who Inhabit a milder Region is wont to be, but rather for the most part of a Darkish Brown; And the Physician to the Embassadour with whom those Russes came, being ask'd by me whether in Muscovy it self the Generality of the People were more inclin'd to have Dark-colour'd Hair than Flaxen, he answer'd Affirmatively; but seem'd to suspect that the True and Antient Russians, a Sept of whom he told me he had met with in one of the Provinces of that vast Empire, were rather White like the Danes, than any thing near so Brown as the present Muscovites whom he guesses to be descended of the Tartars, and to have inherited their Colour from them.] But to Prosecute our former Discourse, I shall add for further Proof of the Conjecture I was countenancing that good Authors inform us that there are Negroes in Africa not far from the Cape of good Hope, and consequently beyond the Southern Tropick, and without the Torrid Zone, much about the same Northern Latitude (or very little more) wherein there are divers American Nations that are not Negroes, and wherein the Inhabitants of Candia, some parts of Sicily, and even of Spain are not so much as Tawny-Mores. But (which is a fresh and strong Argument against the common Opinion,) I find by our recent Relations of Greenland (our Accounts whereof we owe to the Curiosity of that Royal Virtuoso the present King of Denmark,) that the Inhabitants are Olive-colour'd, or rather of a Darker Hiew. But if the Case were the same with Men, and those other kinds of Animals I formerly nam'd, I should offer something as a considerable proof, That, Cold may do much towards the making Men White or Black, and however I shall let down the Observation as I have met with it, as worthy to come into the History of Whiteness and Blackness, and it is, that in some parts of Russia and of Livonia it is affirm'd by Olaus Magnus and others, that Hares and Foxes (some add Partridges) which before were Black, or Red, or Gray, do in the depth of Winter become White by reason of the great Cold; (for that it should be, as some conceive, by Looking upon the Snow, seems improbable upon divers accounts) And I remember that having purposely enquir'd of a Virtuoso who lately Travell'd through Livonia to Mosco concerning the Truth of this Tradition, he both told me, he believ'd it, and added, that he saw divers of those lately nam'd Animals either in Russia or Livonia, (for I do not very well remember whether of the two) which, though White when he saw them in Winter, they assur'd him had been Black, or of other Colours before the Winter began, and would be so again when it was over. But for further satisfaction, I also consulted one that had for some years been an Eminent Physician in Russia, who though he rejected some other Traditions that are generally enough believ'd concerning that Countrey, told me nevertheless, that he saw no cause to doubt of this Tradition of Olaus Magnus as to Foxes and Hares, not onely because 'tis the common and uncontroul'd Assertion of the Natives, but also because he himself in the Winter could never that he remember'd see Foxes and Hares of any other Colour than White; And I my self having seen a small White Fox brought out of Russia into England towards the latter end of Winter, foretold those that shew'd him me, that he would change Colour in Summer, and accordingly coming to look upon him again in July, I found that the Back and Sides, together with the upper part of the Head and Tayl were already grown of a Dark Colour, the lower part of the Head and Belly containing as yet a Whiteness. Let me add, that were it not for some scruple I have, I should think more than what Olaus relates, confirm'd by the judicious Olearius, who was twice employ'd into those parts as a Publick Minister, who in his Account of Moscovy has this Passage: The Hares there are Gray; but in some Provinces they grow white in the Winter. And within some few Lines after: It is not very Difficult to find the Cause of this Change, which certainly proceeds only from the Outward Cold, since I know that even in Summer, Hares will change Colour, if they be kept a competent time in a Cellar; I say, were it not for Some Scruple, because I take notice, that in the same Page the Author Affirms, that the like change of Colour that happens to Hares in some Provinces of Muscovy, happens to them also in Livonia, and yet immediately subjoyns, that in Curland the Hares vary not their Colour in Winter, though these two last named Countries be contiguous, (that is) sever'd only by the River of Dugna; For it is scarce conceivable how Cold alone should have, in Countries so near, so strangely differing an operation, though no less strange a thing is confess'd by many, that ascribe the Complexion of Negroes to the Heat of the Sun, when they would have the River of Cenega so to bound the Moors, that though on the North-side they are but Tawny, on the other side they are Black.

[10] Olearius Voyage de Mosco. et de Perse liv. 3.

There is another Opinion concerning the Complexion of Negroes, that is not only embrac'd by many of the more Vulgar Writers, but likewise by that ingenious Traveller Mr. Sandys, and by a late most learned Critick, besides other men of Note, and these would have the Blackness of Negroes an effect of Noah's Curse ratify'd by God's, upon Cham; But though I think that even a Naturalist may without disparagement believe all the Miracles attested by the Holy Scriptures, yet in this case to flye to a Supernatural Cause, will, I fear, look like Shifting off the Difficulty, instead of Resolving it; for we enquire not the First and Universal, but the Proper, Immediate, and Physical Cause of the Jetty Colour of Negroes; And not only we do not find expressed in the Scripture, that the Curse meant by Noah to Cham, was the Blackness of his Posterity, but we do find plainly enough there that the Curse was quite another thing, namely that he should be a Servant of Servants, that is by an Ebraism, a very Abject Servant to his Brethren, which accordingly did in part come to pass, when the Israelites of the posterity of Sem, subdued the Canaanites, that descended from Cham, and kept them in great Subjection. Nor is it evident that Blackness is a Curse, for Navigators tell us of Black Nations, who think so much otherwise of their own condition, that they paint the Devil White. Nor is Blackness inconsistent with Beauty, which even to our European Eyes consists not so much in Colour, as an Advantageous Stature, a Comely Symmetry of the parts of the Body, and Good Features in the Face. So that I see not why Blackness should be thought such a Curse to the Negroes, unless perhaps it be, that being wont to go Naked in those Hot Climates, the Colour of their Skin does probably, according to the Doctrine above deliver'd, make the Sun-beams more Scorching to them, than they would prove to a people of a White Complexion.

Greater probability there is, That the Principal Cause (for I would not exclude all concurrent ones) of the Blackness of Negroes is some Peculiar and Seminal Impression, for not onely we see that Blackmore boyes brought over into these Colder Climates lose not their Colour; But good Authors inform us, That the Off-spring of Negroes Transplanted out of Africa, above a hundred years ago, retain still the Complexion of their Progenitors, though possibly in Tract of time it will decay; As on the other side, the White people removing into very Hot Climates, have their Skins by the Heat of the Sun scorch'd into Dark Colours; yet neither they, nor their Children have been observ'd, even in the Countreys of Negroes, to descend to a Colour amounting to that of the Natives; whereas I remember I have Read in Pisos[11] excellent account of Brasile, that betwixt the Americans and Negroes are generated a distinct sort of Men, which they call Cabocles, and betwixt Portugalls and AEthiopian women, He tells us, he has sometimes seen Twins, whereof one had a White skin, the other a Black; not to mention here some other instances, he gives, that the productions of the mixtures of differing people, that is (indeed,) the effects of Seminal Impressions which they consequently argue to have been their Causes; and we shall not much scruple at this, if we consider, that even Organical parts may receive great Differences from such peculiar Impressions, upon what account soever they came to be setled in the first Individual persons, from whom they are Propogated to Posterity, as we see in the Blobber-Lips and Flat-Noses of most Nations of Negroes. And if we may Credit what Learned men deliver concerning the Little Feet of the Chinesses, the Macrocephali taken notice of by Hippocrates, will not be the only Instance we might apply to our present purpose. And on this occasion it will not perchance be Impertinent to add something of what I have observ'd in other Animals, as that there is a sort of Hens that want Rumps; And that (not to mention that in several places there is a sort of Crows or Daws that are not Cole-black as ours, but partly of a Whitish Colour) in spight of Porphyries examples of Inseparable Accidents, I have seen a perfectly White Raven, as to Bill as well as Feathers, which I attentively considered, for fear of being impos'd upon. And this recalls into my Memory, what a very Ingenious Physician has divers times related to me of a young Lady, to whom being call'd, he found that though she much complain'd of want of Health, yet there appear'd so little cause either in her Body, or her Condition to Guess that She did any more than fancy her self Sick, that scrupling to give her Physick, he perswaded her Friends rather to divert her Mind by little Journeys of Pleasure, in one of which going to Visit St. Winifrids Well, this Lady, who was a Catholick, and devout in her Religion, and a pretty while in the Water to perform some Devotions, and had occasion to fix her Eyes very attentively upon the Red pipple-stones, which in a scatter'd order made up a good part of those that appear'd through the water, and a while after growing Bigg, she was deliver'd of a Child, whose White Skin was Copiously speckl'd with spots of the Colour and Bignesss of those Stones, and though now this Child have already liv'd several years, yet she still retains them. I have but two things to add concerning the Blackness of Negroes, the one is, that the Seat of that Colour seems to be but the thin Epidermes, or outward Skin, for I knew a young Negroe, who having been lightly Sick of the Small Pox or Measles, (for it was doubted which of the two was his Disease) I found by enquiry of a person that was concern'd for him, that in those places where the little Tumors had broke their passage through the Skin, when they were gone, they left Within specks behind them; And the lately commended Piso assures us, that having the opportunity in Brasil to Dissect many Negroes, he cleerly found that their Blackness went no deeper than the very outward Skin, which Cuticula or Epidermis being remov'd, the undermost Skin or Cutis appear'd just as White as that of Europaean Bodyes. And the like has been affirmed to me by a Physician of our own, whom, hearing he had Dissectcd a Negroe here in England, I consulted about this particular. The other thing to be here taken notice of concerning Negroes is, That having enquir'd of an Intelligent acquaintance of mine (who keeps in the Indies about 300. of them as well Women as Men to work in his Plantations,) whether their Children come Black into the world; he answer'd, That they did not, but were brought forth of almost the like Reddish Colour with our European Children; and having further enquir'd, how long it was before these Infants appear'd Black, be reply'd, that 'twas not wont to be many daies. And agreeable to this account I find that, given us in a freshly publish'd French Book written by a Jesuit, that had good opportunity of Knowing the Truth of what he Delivers, for being one of the Missionaries of his Order into the Southern America upon the Laudable Design of Converting Infidels to Christianity, he Baptiz'd several Infants, which when newly Born, were much of the same Colour with European Babes, but within about a Week began to appear of the Hue of their Parents. But more Pregnant is the Testimony of our Countrey-man Andrew Battel, who being sent Prisoner by the Portugalls to Angola, liv'd there, and in the adjoyning Regions, partly as a Prisoner, partly as a Pilot, and partly as a Souldier, near 18. years, and he mentioning the African Kingdom of Longo, peopl'd with Blacks, has this passage:[12] The Children in this Countrey are Born White, and change their Colour in two dayes to a Perfect Black. As for Example, The Portugalls which dwell in the Kingdome of Longo have sometimes Children by the Negroe-women, and many times the Fathers are deceived, thinking, when the Child is Born, that it is theirs, and within two dayes it proves the Son or Daughter of a Negroe, which the Portugalls greatly grieve at; And the same person has elsewhere a Relation, which, if he have made no use at all of the liberty of a Traveller, is very well worth our Notice, since this, together with that we have formerly mention'd of Seminal Impressions, shews a possibility, that a Race of Negroes might be begun, though none of the Sons of Adam, for many Precedent Generations were of that Complexion. For I see not why it should not be at least as possible, that White Parents may sometimes have Black Children, as that African Negroes should sometimes have lastingly White ones, especially since concurrent causes may easily more befriend the Productions of the Former kind, than under the scorching Heat of Africa those of the Latter. And I remember on the occasion of what he delivers, that of the White Raven formerly mention'd, the Possessor affirm'd to me, that in the Nest out of which he was taken White, they found with him but one other Young one, and that he was of as Jetty a Black as any common Raven. But let us hear our Author himself[13]; Here are (sayes he, speaking of the formerly mention'd Regions) Born in this Countrey White Children, which is very rare among them, for their Parents are Negroes; And when any of them are Born, they are presented to the King, and are call'd Dondos; these are as White as any White Men. These are the Kings Witches, and are brought up in Witchcraft, and alwayes wait on the King: There is no man that dare meddle with these Dondos, if they go to the Market they may take what they lift, for all Men stand in awe of them. The King of Longo hath four of them. And yet this Countrey in our Globes is plac'd almost in the midst of the Torrid Zone (four or five Degrees Southward of the Line.) And our Author elsewhere tells us of the Inhabitants, that they are so fond of their Blackness, that they will not suffer any that is not of that Colour (as the Portugalls that come to Trade thither) to be so much as Buri'd in their Land, of which he annexes a particular example,[14] that may be seen in his Voyage preserv'd by our Industrious Countreyman Mr. Purchas. But it is high time for me to dismiss Observations, and go on with Experiments.

[11] Piso Nat. & Med. Hist. Brasil. lib 1. in fine.

[12] Purchas Pilgrim. Second part, Seventh Book 3. Chap. Sect 5.

[13] Purchas. Ibid.

[14] Purchas Ibid. in fin


The way, Pyrophilus, of producing Whiteness by Chymical Praecipitations is very well worth our observing, for thereby Bodyes of very Differing Colours as well as Natures, though dissolv'd in Several Liquors, are all brought into Calces or Powders that are White. Thus we find that not only Crabs-eyes, that are of themselves White, and Pearls that are almost so, but Coral and Minium that are Red, being dissolv'd in Spirit of Vinegar, may be uniformly Praecipitated by Oyl of Tartar into White Powders. Thus Silver and Tin separately dissolv'd in Aqua Fortis, will the one Praecipitate it self, and the other be Praecipitated by common Salt-water into a White Calx, and so will Crude Lead and Quicksilver first dissolv'd likewise in Aqua Fortis. The like Calx will be afforded as I have try'd by a Solution of that shining Mineral Tinglass dissolv'd in Aqua Fortis, and Praecipitated out of it; and divers of these Calces may be made at least as Fair and White, if not better Colour'd, if instead of Oyl of Tartar they were Praecipitated with Oyl of Vitriol, or with another Liquor I could Name. Nay, that Black Mineral Antimony it self, being reduc'd by and with the Salts that concurr to the Composition of common Sublimate, into that Cleer though Unctuous Liquor that Chymists commonly call Rectifi'd Butter of Antimony, will by the bare affusion of store of Fair Water be struck down into that Snow-white Powder, which when the adhering Saltness is well wash'd off, Chymists are pleas'd to call Mercurius Vitae, though the like Powder may be made of Antimony, without the addition of any Mercury at all. And this Lactescence if I may so call it, does also commonly ensue when Spirit of Wine, being Impregnated with those parts of Gums or other Vegetable Concretions, that are suppos'd to abound with Sulphureous Corpuscles, fair Water is suddenly pour'd upon the Tincture or Solution. And I remember that very lately I did, for Tryal sake, on a Tincture of Benjamin drawn with Spirit of Wine, and brought to be as Red as Blood, pour some fair Water, which presently mingling with the Liquor, immediately turn'd the whole Mixture White. But if such Seeming Milks be suffer'd to stand unstirr'd for a convenient while, they are wont to let fall to the bottome a Resinous Substance, which the Spirit of Wine Diluted and Weakned by the Water pour'd into it was unable to support any longer. And something of Kin to this change of Colour in Vegetables is that, which Chymists are wont to observe upon the pouring of Acid Spirits upon the Red Solution of Sulphur, dissolv'd in an Infusion of Pot-ashes, or in some other sharp Lixivium, the Praecipitated Sulphur before it subsides, immediately turning the Red Liquor into a White one. And other Examples might be added of this way of producing Whiteness in Bodyes by Praecipitating them out of the Liquors wherein they have been Dissolv'd; but I think it may be more usefull to admonish you, Pyrophilus, that this observation admits of Restrictions, and is not so Universal, as by this time perhaps you have begun to think it; For though most Praecipitated Bodyes are White, yet I know some that are not; For Gold Dissolv'd in Aqua Regis, whether you Praecipitate it with Oyl of Tartar, or with Spirit of Sal Armoniack, will not afford a White but a Yellow Calx. Mercury also though reduc'd into Sublimate, and Praecipitated with Liquors abounding with Volatile Salts, as the Spirits drawn from Urine, Harts-horn, and other Animal substances, yet will afford, as we Noted in our first Experiment about Whiteness and Blackness, a White Praecipitate, yet with some Solutions hereafter to be mentioned, it will let fall an Orange-Tawny Powder. And so will Crude Antimony, if, being dissolv'd in a strong Lye, you pour (as farr as I remember) any Acid Liquor upon the Solution newly Filtrated, whilst it is yet Warm. And if upon the Filtrated Solution of Vitriol, you pour a Solution of one of these fix'd Salts, there will subside a Copious substance, very farr from having any Whiteness, which the Chymists are pleas'd to call, how properly I have elsewhere examin'd, the Sulphur of Vitriol. So that most part of Dissolv'd Bodyes being by Praecipitation brought to White Powders, and yet some affording Praecipitates of other Colours, the reason of both the Phaenomena may deserve to be enquir'd into.


Some Learned Modern Writers[15] are of Opinion, that the Account upon which Whiteness and Blackness ought to be call'd, as they commonly are, the two Extreme Colours, is, That Blackness (by which I presume is meant the Bodyes endow'd with it) receives no other Colours; but Whiteness very easily receives them all; whence some of them compare Whiteness to the Aristotelian Materia prima, that being capable of any sort of Forms, as they suppose White Bodyes to be of every kind of Colour. But not to Dispute about Names or Expressions, the thing it self that is affirm'd as Matter of Fact, seems to be True enough in most Cases, not in all, or so, as to hold Universally. For though it be a common observation among Dyers, That Clothes, which have once been throughly imbu'd with Black, cannot so well afterwards be Dy'd into Lighter Colours, the praeexistent Dark Colour infecting the Ingredients, that carry the Lighter Colour to be introduc'd, and making it degenerate into Some more Sad one; Yet the Experiments lately mention'd may shew us, that where the change of Colour in Black Bodies is attempted, not by mingling Bodyes of Lighter Colours with them, but by Addition of such things as are proper to alter the Texture of those Corpuscles that contain the Black Colour, 'tis no such difficult matter, as the lately mention'd Learned Men imagine, to alter the Colour of Black Bodyes. For we saw that Inks of several Kinds might in a trice be depriv'd of all their Blackness; and those made with Logwood and Red-Roses might also be chang'd, the one into a Red, the other into a Reddish Liquor; and with Oyl of Vitriol I have sometimes turn'd Black pieces of Silk into a kind of Yellow, and though the Taffaty were thereby made Rotten, yet the spoyling of that does no way prejudice the Experiment, the change of Black Silk into Yellow, being never the less True, because the Yellow Silk is the less good. And as for Whiteness, I think the general affirmation of its being so easily Destroy'd or Transmuted by any other Colour, ought not to be receiv'd without some Cautions and Restrictions. For whereas, according to what I formerly Noted, Lead is by Calcination turned into that Red Powder we call Minium; And Tin by Calcination reduc'd to a White Calx, the common Putty that is sold and us'd so much in Shops, instead of being, as it is pretended and ought to be, only the Calx of Tin, is, by the Artificers that make it, to save the charge of Tin, made, (as some, of themselves have confess'd, and as I long suspected by the Cheap rate it may be bought for) but of half Tin and half Lead, if not far more Lead than Tin, and yet the Putty in spight of so much Lead is a very White Powder, without disclosing any mixture of Minium. And so if you take two parts of Copper, which is a High-colour'd Metall, to but one of Tin, you may by Fusion bring them into one Mass, wherein the Whiteness of the Tin is much more Conspicuous and Predominant than the Reddishness of the Copper. And on this occasion it may not be Impertinent to mention an Experiment, which I relate upon the Credit of a very Honest man, whom I purposely enquir'd of about it, being my self not very fond of making Tryals with Arsenick, the Experiment is this, That if you Colliquate Arsenick and Copper in a due proportion, the Arsenick will Blanch the Copper both within and without, which is an Experiment well enough Known; but when I enquir'd, whether or no this White mixture being skilfully kept a while upon the Cupel would not let go its Arsenick, which made Whiteness its praedominant Colour, and return to the Reddishness of Copper, I was assur'd of the Affirmative; so that among Mineral Bodyes, some of those that are White, may be far more capable, than those I am reasoning with seem to have known, of Eclipsing others, and of making their Colour Praedominant in Mixtures. In further Confirmation of which may be added, that I remember that I also took a lump of Silver and Gold melted together, wherein by the AEstimate of a very Experienced Refiner, there might be about a fourth or third part of Gold, and yet the Yellow Colour of the Gold was so hid by the White of the Silver, that the whole Mass appear'd to be but Silver, and when it was rubb'd upon the Touchstone, an ordinary beholder could scarce have distinguish'd it from the Touch of common Silver; though if I put a little Aqua Fortis upon any part of the White Surface it had given the Touchstone, the Silver in the moistned part being immediately taken up and conceal'd by the Liquor, the Golden Particles would presently disclose that native Yellow, and look rather as if Gold, than if the above mention'd mixture, had been rubb'd upon the Stone.

[15] See Scaliger Exercit. 325. Sect. 9.


I took a piece of Black-horn, (polish'd as being part of a Comb) this with a piece of broken glass I scrap'd into many thin and curdled flakes, some shorter and some longer, and having laid a pretty Quantity of these scrapings together, I found, as I look'd for, that the heap they compos'd was White, and though, if I laid it upon a clean piece of White Paper, its Colour seem'd somewhat Eclips'd by the greater Whiteness of the Body it was compar'd with, looking somewhat like Linnen that had been sulli'd by a little wearing, yet if I laid it upon a very Black Body, as upon a Beaver Hatt, it then appear'd to be of a good White, which Experiment, that you may in a trice make when you please, seems very much to Disfavour both their Doctrine that would have Colours to flow from the Substantial Forms of Bodyes, and that of the Chymists also, who ascribe them to one or other of their three Hypostatical Principles; for though in our Case there was so great a Change made, that the same Body without being substantially either Increas'd or Lessened, passes immediately from one extreme Colour to another (and that too from Black to White) yet this so great and sudden change is effected by a slight Mechanical Transposition of parts, there being no Salt or Sulphur or Mercury that can be pretended to be Added or Taken away, nor yet any substantial Form that can reasonably be suppos'd to be Generated and Destroy'd, the Effect proceeding only from a Local Motion of the parts which so vary'd their Position as to multiply their distinct Surfaces, and to Qualifie them to Reflect far more Light to the Eye, than they could before they were scrap'd off from the entire piece of Black horn.


And now, Pyrophilus, it will not be improper for us to take some notice of an Opinion touching the cause of Blackness, which I judged it not so seasonable to Question, till I I had set down some of the Experiments, that might justifie my dissent from it. You know that of late divers Learned Men, having adopted the three Hypostatical Principles, besides other Notions of the Chymists, are very inclinable to reduce all Qualities of Bodies to one or other of those three Principles, and Particularly assign for the cause of Blackness the Sootie steam of adust or torrifi'd Sulphur. But I hope that what we have deliver'd above to countenance the Opinion we have propos'd about the Cause of Blackness, will so easily supply you with several Particulars that may be made use of against this Opinion, that I shall now represent to You but two things concerning it.

And First it seems that the favourers of the Chymicall Theories might have pitcht upon some more proper term, to express the Efficient of Blackness than Sulphur adust; for we know that common Sulphur, not only when Melted, but even when Sublim'd, does not grow Black by suffering the Action of the fire, but continues and ascends Yellow, and rather more than less White, than it was before its being expos'd to the fire. And if it be set on fire, as when we make that acid Liquor, that Chymists call Oleum Sulphuris per campanam, it affords very little Soot, and indeed the flame yeelds so little, that it will scarce in any degree Black a sheet of White Paper, held a pretty while over the flame and smoak of it, which is observed rather to Whiten than Infect linnen, and which does plainly make Red Roses grow very Pale, but not at all Black, as far as the Smoak is permitted to reach the leaves. And I can shew you of a sort of fixt Sulphur made by an Industrious Laborant of your acquaintance, who assur'd me that he was wont to keep it for divers weeks together night and day in a naked and Violent fire, almost like that of the Glass-house, and when, to satisfie my Curiosity, I made him take out a lump of it, though it were glowing hot (and yet not melted,) it did not, when I had suffered it to cool, appear Black, the true Colour of it being a true Red. I know it may be said, that Chymists in the Opinion above recited mean the Principle of Sulphur, and not common Sulphur which receives its name, not from its being all perfectly of a Sulphureous Nature, but for that plenty and Predominancy of the Sulphureous Principle in it. But allowing this, 'tis easie to reply, that still according to this very Reason, torrifi'd Sulphur should afford more Blackness, than most other concretes, wherein that Principle is confess'd to be far less copious. Also when I have expos'd Camphire to the fire in Close Vessels, as Inflamable, and consequenly (according to the Chymists) as Sulphureous a Body as it is, I could not by such a degree of Heat, as brought it to Fusion, and made it Boyl in the glass, impress any thing of Blackness, or of any other Colour, than its own pure White, upon this Vegetable concrete. But what shall we say to Spirit of Wine, which being made by a Chymical Analysis of the Liquor that affords it, and being totally Inflamable, seems to have a full right to the title they give it of Sulphur Vegetabile, & yet this fluid Sulphur not only contracts not any degree of Blackness by being often so heated, as to be made to Boyl, but when it burns away with an Actual flame, I have not found that it would discolour a piece of White Paper held over it, with any discernable soot. Tin also, that wants not, according to the Chymists, a Sulphur Joviale, when throughly burned by the fire into a Calx, is not Black, but eminently White. And I lately noted to you out of Bellonius, that the Charcoals of Oxy-cedar are not of the former of these two Colours, but of the latter. And the Smoak of our Tinby coals here in England, has been usually observ'd, rather to Blanch linnen then to Black it. To all which, other Particulars of the like nature might be added, but I rather choose to put you in mind of the third Experiment, about making Black Liquors, or Inks, of Bodies that were non of them Black before. For how can it be said, that when those Liquors are put together actually Cold, and continue so after their mixture, there intervenes any new Adustion of Sulphur to produce the emergent Blackness? (and the same question will be appliable to the Blackness produc'd upon the blade of a Knife, that has cut Lemmons and some kind of Sowr apples, if the juyce (though both Actually and Potentially Cold) be not quickly wip'd of) And when by the instilling either of a few drops of Oyl of Vitriol as in the second Experiment, or of a little of the Liquor mention'd in the Passage pointed at in the fourth Experiment, (where I teach at once to Destroy one black Ink, and make another) the Blackness produc'd by those Experiments is presently destroy'd; if the Colour proceeded only from the Plenty of Sulphurous parts, torrify'd in the Black Bodies, I demand, what becomes of them, when the Colour so suddenly dissappears? For it cannot Reasonably be said, that all those that suffic'd to make so great a quantity of Black Matter, should resort to so very small a proportion of the Clarifying Liquor, (if I may so call it) as to be deluted by it, with out at all Denigrating it. And if it be said that the Instill'd Liquor dispers'd those Black Corpuscles, I demand, how that Dispersion comes to destroy their Blackness, but by making such a Local Motion of their parts, as destroys their former Texture? which may be a Matter of such moment in cases like ours, that I remember that I have in few houres, without addition, from Soot it self, attain'd pretty store of Crystalline Salt, and good store of Transparent Liquor, and (which I have on another occasion noted as remarkable) this so Black Substance had its Colour so alter'd, by the change of Texture it receiv'd from the fire, wherewith it was distill'd, that it did for a great while afford such plenty of very white Exhalations, that the Receiver, though large, seem'd to be almost fill'd with Milk.

Secondly, But were it granted, as it is in some cases not Improbable, that divers Bodies may receive a Blackness from a Sootie Exhalation, occasion'd by the Adustion of their Sulphur, which (for the Reasons lately mention'd I should rather call their Oyly parts;) yet still this account is applicable but to some Particular Bodies, and will afford us no General Theory of Blackness. For if, for example, White Harts-horn, being, in Vessels well luted to each other, expos'd to the fire, be said to turn Black by the Infection of its own Smoak, I think I may justly demand, what it is that makes the Smoak or Soot it self Black, since no Such Colour, but its contrary, appear'd before in the Harts-horn? And with the same Reason, when we are told, that torrify'd Sulphur makes bodies Black, I desire to be told also, why Torrefaction makes Sulphur it self Black? nor will there be any Satisfactory Reason assign'd of these Quaeries, without taking in those Fertile as well as intelligible Mechanical Principles of the Position and Texture of the Minute parts of the body in reference to the Light and the Eye; and these applicable Principles may Serve the turn in many cases, where the Adustion of Sulphur cannot be pretended; as in the appearing Blackness of an Open window, lookt upon at a somewhat remote distance from the house, as also in the Blackness Men think they see in the Holes that happen to be in White linnen, or Paper of the like Colour; and in the Increasing Blackness immediatly Produc'd barely by so rubbing Velvet, whose Piles were Inclin'd before, as to reduce them to a more Erected posture, in which and in many other cases formerly alleg'd, there appears nothing requisite to the Production of the Blackness, but the hindering of the incident Beams of Light from rebounding plentifully enough to the Eye. To be short, those I reason with, do concerning Blackness, what the Chymists are wont also to do concerning other Qualities, namely to content themselves to tell us, in what Ingredient of a Mixt Body, the Quality enquir'd after, does reside, instead of explicating the Nature of it, which (to borrow a comparison from their own Laboratories) is much as if in an enquiry after the cause of Salivation, they should think it enough to tell us, that the several Kinds of Praecipitates of Gold and Mercury) as likewise of Quick-silver and Silver (for I know that make and use of such Precipitates also) do Salivate upon the account of the Mercury, which though Disguis'd abounds in them, whereas the Difficulty is as much to know upon what account Mercury it self, rather than other Bodies, has that power of working by Salivation. Which I say not, as though it were not something (and too often the most we can arrive at) to discover in which of the Ingredients of a Compounded Body, the Quality, whose Nature is sought, resides, but because, though this Discovery it self may pass for something, and is oftentimes more than what is taught us about the same subjects in the Schools, yet we ought not to think it enough, when more Clear and Particular accounts are to be had.

* * * * *

THE Experimental History OF COLOURS Begun.

* * * * *

The Third PART.

* * * * *

Containing Promiscuous Experiments About COLOURS.

* * * * *


Because that, according to the Conjectures I have above propos'd, one of the most General Causes of the Diversity of Colours in Opacous Bodyes, is, that some reflect the Light mingl'd with more, others with less of Shade (either as to Quantity, or as to Interruption) I hold it not unfit to mention in the first place, the Experiments that I thought upon to examine this Conjecture. And though coming to transcribe them out of some Physiological Adversaria I had written in loose Papers, I cannot find one of the chief Records I had of my Tryals of this Nature, yet the Papers that scap'd miscarrying, will, I presume, suffice to manifest the main thing for which I now allege them; I find then Among my Adversaria, the following Narrative.

October the 11. About ten in the Morning in Sun-shiny Weather, (but not without fleeting Clouds) we took several sorts of Paper Stain'd, some of one Colour, and some of another; and in a Darken'd Room whose Window look'd Southward, we cast the Beams that came in at a hole about three Inches and a half in Diameter, upon a White wall that was plac'd on one side, about five foot distance from them.

The White gave much the Brightest Reflection.

The Green, Red, and Blew being Compar'd together, the Red gave much the strongest Reflection, and manifestly enough also threw its Colour upon the Wall; The Green and Blew were scarce Discernable by their Colours, and seem'd to reflect an almost Equal Light.

The Yellow Compar'd with the two last nam'd, Reflected somewhat more Light.

The Red and Purple being Compar'd together, the former manifestly Reflected a good deal more Light.

The Blew and Purple Compar'd together, the former seem'd to Reflect a little more Light, though the Purple Colour were more manifestly seen.

A Sheet of very well fleck'd Marbl'd Paper being Apply'd as the others, did not cast any or its Distinct Colours upon the Wall; nor throw its Light upon it with an Equal Diffusion, but threw the Beams Unstain'd and Bright to this and that part of the Wall, as if it's Polish had given it the Nature of a specular Body. But comparing it with a sheet of White Paper, we found the Reflection of the latter to be much Stronger, it diffusing almost as much Light to a good Extent as the Marble Paper did to one part of the Wall.

The Green and Purple left us somewhat in suspence which Reflected the most Light; only the Purple seem'd to have some little Advantage over the Green, which was Dark in its kind.

Thus much I find in our above mention'd Collections, among which there are also some Notes concerning the Production of Compounded Colours, by Reflection from Bodyes differingly Colour'd. And these Notes we intended should supply us with what we should mention as our second Experiment: but having lost the Paper that contain'd the Particulars, and remembring onely in General, that if the Objects which Reflected the Light were not Strongly Colour'd and somewhat Glossy, the Reflected Beams would not manifestly make a Compounded Colour upon the Wall, and even then but very Faintly, we shall now say no more of that Matter, only reserving our selves to mention hereafter the Composition of a Green, which we still retain in Memory.


We may add, Pyrophilus, on this Occasion, that though a Darken'd Room be Generally thought requisite to make the Colour of a Body appear by Reflection from another Body, that is not one of those that are commonly agreed upon to be Specular (as Polish'd Metall, Quick silver, Glass, Water, &c.) Yet I have often observ'd that when I wore Doublets Lin'd with some silken Stuff that was very Glossy and Vividly Colour'd, especially Red, I could in an Inlightned Room plainly enough Discern the Colour, upon the Pure White Linnen that came out at my Sleeve and reach'd to my Cufs; as if that Fine White Body were more Specular, than Colour'd and Unpolish'd Bodyes are thought Capable of being.


Whilst we were making the newly mention'd Experiments, we thought fit to try also what Composition of Colours might be made by Altering the Light in its Passage to the Eye by the Interposition not of Perfectly Diaphanous Bodies, (that having been already try'd by others as well as by us (as we shall soon have occasion to take notice) but of Semi-opacous Bodyes, and those such as look'd upon in an ordinary Light, and not held betwixt it and the Eye, are not wont to be Discriminated from the rest of Opacous Bodyes; of this Tryal, our mention'd Adversaria present us the following Account.

Holding these Sheets, sometimes one sometimes the other of them, before the Hole betwixt the Sun and the Eye, with the Colour'd sides obverted to the Sun; we found them single to be somewhat Transparent, and appear of the same Colour as before, onely a little alter'd by the great Light they were plac'd in; but laying two of them one over another and applying them so to the Hole, the Colours were compounded as follows.

The Blew and Yellow scarce exhibited any thing but a Darker Yellow, which we ascrib'd to the Coarseness of the Blew Papers, and its Darkness in its Kind. For applying the Blew parts of the Marbl'd Paper with the Yellow Paper after the same manner, they exhibited a good Green.

The Yellow and Red look'd upon together gave us but a Dark Red, somewhat (and but a little,) inclining to an Orange Colour.

The Purple and Red look'd on together appear'd more Scarlet.

The Purple and Yellow made an Orange.

The Green and Red made a Dark Orange Tawny.

The Green and Purple made the Purple appear more Dirty.

The Blew and Purple made the Purple more Lovely, and far more Deep.

The Red parts of the Marbl'd Paper look'd upon with the Yellow appear'd of a Red far more like Scarlet than without it.

[Page 191] But the Fineness or Coarseness of the Papers, their being carefully or slightly Colour'd, and divers other Circumstances, may so vary the Events of such Experiments as these, that if, Pyrophilus, you would Build much on them, you must carefully Repeat them.


The Triangular Prismatical Glass being the Instrument upon whose Effects we may the most Commodiously speculate the Nature of Emphatical Colours, (and perhaps that of Others too;) we thought it might be usefull to observe the several Reflections and Refractions which the Incident Beams of Light suffer in Rebounding from it, and Passing through it. And this we thought might be Best done, not (as is usual,) in an ordinary Inlightn'd Room, where (by reason of the Difficulty of doing otherwise) ev'n the Curious have left Particulars Unheeded, which may in a convenient place be easily taken notice of; but in a Darken'd Room, where by placing the Glass in a convenient Posture, the Various Reflections and Refractions may be Distinctly observ'd; and where it may appear what Beams are Unting'd; and which they are, that upon the Bodyes that terminate them, do Paint either the Primary or Secondary Iris. In pursuance of this we did in the above mention'd Darken'd Room, make observation of no less than four Reflections, and three Refractions that were afforded us by the same Prism, and thought that notwithstanding what was taught us by the Rules of Catoptricks and Dioptricks, it would not be amiss to find also, by hiding sometimes one part of the Prism, and sometimes another, and observing where the Light or Colour Vanish'd thereupon, by which Reflection and by which Refraction each of the several places whereon the Light rebounding from, or passing through, the Prism appear'd either Sincere or Tincted, was produc'd. But because it would be Tedious and not so Intelligible to deliver this in Words, I have thought fit to Referr You to the Annexed Scheme where the Newly mention'd particulars may be at one View taken Notice of.


PPP. An Aequilaterotriangular Crystalline Prism, one of whose edges P. is placed directly towards the Sun.

A B & [alpha] [beta] Two rays from the Sun falling on the Prism at B [beta]. and thence partly reflected towards C & [gamma]. and partly refracted towards D & [delta].

B C & [beta] [gamma]. Those reflected Rays.

B D & [beta] [delta]. Those refracted Rays which are partly refracted towards E & [epsilon]. and there paint an Iris 1 2 3 4 5. denoting the five consecutions of colours Red, Yellow, Green, Blew, and Purple; and are partly reflected towards F & [zeta].

D F & [delta] [zeta]. Those Reflected Rays which are partly refracted towards G & [eta]. colourless, and partly reflected, towards H & [theta].

F H & [zeta] [theta]. Those reflected Rays which are refracted towards I & [iota]. and there paint an other fainter Iris, the colours of which are contrary to the former 5 4 3 2 1. signifying Purple, Blew, Green, Yellow, Red, so that the Prism in this posture exhibits four Rainbows.

I know not whether you will think it Inconsiderable to annex to this Experiment, That we observ'd in a Room not Darken'd, that the Prismatical Iris (if I may so call it) might be Reflected without losing any of its several Colours (for we now consider not their Order) not onely from a plain Looking-glass and from the calm Surface of Fair Water, but also from a Concave Looking-glass; and that Refraction did as little Destroy those Colours as Reflection. For by the help of a large (double Convex) Burning-glass through which we Refracted the Suns Beams, we found that one part of the Iris might be made to appear either beyond, or on this side of the other Parts of the same Iris; but yet the same Vivid Colours would appear in the Displac'd part (if I may so term it) as in the other. To which I shall add, that having, by hiding the side of the Prism, obverted to the Sun with an Opacous Body, wherein only one small hole was left for the Light to pass through, reduc'd the Prismatical Iris (cast upon White Paper) into a very narrow compass, and look'd upon it througn a Microscope; the Colours appear'd the same as to kind that they did to the naked Eye.


It may afford matter of Speculation to the Inquisitive, such as you, Prophilus, that as the Colours of outward Objects brought into a Darken'd Room, do so much depend for their Visibility upon the Dimness of the Light they are there beheld by; that the ordinary Light of the day being freely let in upon them, they immediately disappear: so our Tryals have inform'd us, that as to the Prismatical Iris painted on the Floor by the beams of the Sun Trajected through a Triangular-glass; though the Colours of it appear very Vivid ev'n at Noon-day, and in Sun shiny Weather, yet by a more Powerfull Light they may be made to disappear. For having sometimes, (in prosecution of some Conjectures of mine not now to be Insisted on,) taken a large Metalline Concave Speculum, and with it cast the converging Beams of the Sun upon a Prismatical Iris which I had caus'd to be projected upon the Floor, I found that the over-powerfull Light made the Colours of the Iris disappear. And if I so Reflected the Light as that it cross'd but the middle of the Iris, in that part only the Colours vanish'd or were made Invisible; those parts of the Iris that were on the right and left hand of the Reflected Light (which seem'd to divide them, and cut the Iris asunder) continuing to exhibit the same Colours as before. But upon this we must not now stay to Speculate.


I have sometimes thought it worth while to take notice, whether or no the Colours of Opacous Bodies might not appear to the Eye somewhat Diversify'd, not only by the Disposition of the Superficial parts of the Bodyes themselves and by the Position of the Eye in Reference to the Object and the Light, (for these things are Notorious enough;) but according also to the Nature of the Lucid Body that shines upon them. And I remember that in Prosecution of this Curiosity, I observ'd a manifest Difference in some Kinds of Colour'd Bodyes look'd on by Day-light, and afterwards by the light of the Moon; either directly falling on them or Reflected upon them from a Concave Looking-glass. But not finding at present in my Collections about Colours any thing set down of this Kind, I shall, till I have opportunity to repeat them, content my self to add what I find Register'd concerning Colours look'd on by Candle-light, in regard that not only the Experiment is more easie to be repeated, but the Objects being the Same Sorts of Colour'd Paper lastly mention'd, the Collation of the two Experiments may help to make the Conjectures they will suggest somewhat the less uncertain.

Within a few dayes of the time above mention'd, divers Sheets of Colour'd Paper that had been look'd upon before in the Sunshine were look'd upon at night by the light of a pretty big Candle, (snuff'd) and the Changes that were observ'd were these.

The Yellow seem'd much fainter than in the Day, and inclinable to a pale Straw Colour.

The Red seem'd little Chang'd; but seem'd to Reflect Light more strongly than any other Colour (for White was none of them.)

A fair Deep Green look'd upon by it self seem'd to be a Dark Blew: But being look'd upon together with a Dark Blew, appear'd Greenish; and beheld together with a Yellow appear'd more Blew than at first.

The Blew look'd more like a Deep Purple or Murray than it had done in the Daylight.

The Purple seem'd very little alter'd.

The Red look'd upon with the Yellow made the Yellow look almost like Brown Cap-paper.

N. The Caution Subjoyned to the third Experiments is also Applicable to this.


But here I must not omit to subjoyn, that to satisfie our Selves, whether or no the Light of a Candle were not made unsincere, and as it were Ting'd with a Yellow Colour by the Admixtion of the Corpuscles it assumes from its Fuel; we did not content our selves with what appears to the Naked Eye, but taking a pretty thick Rod or Cylinder (for thin Peeces would not serve the turn) of deep Blew Glass, and looking upon the Candles flame at a Convenient distance througn it, we perceiv'd as we expected, the Flame to look Green; which as we often note, is the Colour wont to emerge from the Composition of Opacous Bodies, which were apart one of them Blew, and the other Yellow. And this perchance may be the main Reason of that which some observe, that a sheet of very White Paper being look'd upon by Candle light, 'tis not easie at first to discern it from a light Yellow or Lemon Colour; White Bodyes (as we have elsewhere observ'd) having more than those that are otherwise Colour'd, of a Specular Nature; in regard that though they exhibit not, (unless they be Polish'd,) the shape of the Luminary that shines on them, yet they Reflect its Light more Sincere and Untroubl'd, by either Shades or Refractions, than Bodyes of other Colours (as Blew, or Green, or Yellow or the like.)

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