Robert Boyle (1627-91): Work-diary XXX1II ('Relationes Physicae continued')

Content: Reports of phenomena from travellers and vitruosi from the late 1670s; informants include Robert Morison and Thomas Henshaw describing (in a letter originally addressed to Henry Oldenburg) experiments concerning cold in Denmark

General Information

Work-diary entries

/BP 9, fol.166/

[Authorial heading]:

Entry 1: Editorial notes:

An excellent Artifier whom I often employ, complained to me that having lately cast a kind of bell metall upon a very strong solid [d] instrument of iron of a considerable superficial area thô the metal were suffer'd in a warm roome to coole from about 8 of clock on saturday night 'till 10 or 11 on munday morning and were then considerably hot to touch, yet it coold so far that shrinkeing from the iron that would not shrinke with it, the bell metal crack'd in divers places with [d] noises <loud as the report> of a [d] pistol. [d] thô the metal he affirm'd to me was an inch & half or 2 inches thick, & the same person shew'd <me> a large [d] Cylinder of iron <about> which for a certain purpose a coat of bell metal had been cast some dayes before, <on> which (bell metal) there was a crack near one end made by the coldness of the iron thô the thickness of the belmetal as near as I could measure it exceeded an inch. & as the workman affirmed about an inch and a quarter.

Entry 2: Editorial notes:

He tooke out the vessells, beginning at the small 'till he came to some of the larger, and there [d] made ligaturs, and so proceeded to the larger branches and the trunks themselves, to each of these portions cut off had a small string tyed <to it> and was marked by a letter /BP 9, fol.166v/ or letters of the Alphabet, & were not written on with inke, least they should be obliterated by the subsequent operations, but had their shapes cut out in a strong parchement, that was made use of insteed of paper; the vessells being all taken out were laid to soake in good wine vinegar, made in to a pietty strong brine with sea salt, to free them from blood & juices & to make them white. Then being taken out they were for 3 days put into a strong infusion <made of Aloes myrr and olibanum (or Frankincese)> in rich malago sack, or the like strong <Menstruum> these preparatery infusions being ended, the Heap of vessells was taken out for to draine, & then were cast into a larger quantity of fresh infusion of the same kind with the former, & there they were kept 30 dayes. [d] This infusion, as well as the foregoing, being made all this while without Heat) at the end of which the now prepar'd vessells were taken out, and put into a much wider vessell, where <one> might by gently tumbling them up and down, disintangle them by degrees, and then being taken out, by the [direction] of the <above mention'd> parchment letters tied to the several vessells, they were [d] transferr'd to a table made of 2 or 3 smooth boards, either of Cypress or of firr, & [d] if any of them chanc'd to be entangled they were made more easy to be extricated by being plentifully moisten'd with spunges dipt in the vinous infusion allready described. The vessells being plac'd in their due situation, were pasted on one by one, the greater vessells by fish-glew dissolved in an infusion of Aloes and Myrr /BP 9, fol.167/ and the smaller vessells with the like infusion, that had instead of fish glew Gum Tragacanth dissolved in it. The infusion made with wine, did so plentifully flow from the spunges over all the boards, as to soake deepe into the pores, & make the worke looke as if it were varnished, & [d] thereby did so preserve the wood, as well as the other, parts, that thô they have been made these 16 years, and past the seas, I could not perceive any wormhole or sign of Corruption in any one of them. This way was deliver'd me by word of Mouth by the excellent Author himself, when I was alone with him [d] in his study, vewing those accurate pieces.

Entry 3: Editorial notes:

Doctor M. overseer of the Duke of Orleans's famous Physic garden at Blois, assur'd me, that he had divers times growing three Pumpions that weighed 20,30, or more pounds a piece; and that once seeing a prodigiously vast fruit of that kind, in so much that a man could scarse commodiously take it up and carry it away, he caus'd it to be carryed to a shop that was not far off, where there was a very large balance for weighing bulky and heavy <wares> where <the weight of> this Pompion amounted to no les then 88 pound.

Entry 4: Editorial notes:

The same Doctor told me that haveing sowed the seeds of Pompions, and <taken note of> what they produced, he found that the seeds of the self same Pompion, yielded fruits that differ'd, even in their outward shape, allmost as if they had been of distinct kinds [d] as smooth <rough,> Salcate &c

Entry 5: Editorial notes:

A man of Letters who came lately from Barbadoes answerd me, that he had found that bituminous substance that is commonly call'd Barbadoes Tar in a little Spring near the upper part of a hilly ground, about 5 or 6 miles distant from the Sea; that he discerned it by the discocolartion and <blackishness> of the ground at the places where it issued out, with or very near some small veins of water, on which stagnating in little receptacles he gatherd it.

Entry 6: Editorial notes:

An Ingenious Gentlew. of my acquaintance being big with Child, and whilst in that Condition very subject to longings & Passions, and by the negligence of her maide, that had forgott to remove something that she had laid in her Mistrisses way, hit her skin against a piece of wood, which, thô it did not breake her skin, bruis'd the part & discolor'd it. This gentlewoman, I say, <a good while after she had been angry with her maid> , being [d] brought to bed of a daughter, observ'd, as herself assured me, [d] that the child had on the leg of the same side, and the correspondent part of the skinn a large discolor'd spott, with divers reddish speks, like that which she had had upon her own Legg. [d] And it seems this impressive disposition was hereditary to her. For she told me that when her mother was with Child of Her, as she chanc'd to goe out of a dore, being put into a great fright, by being smartly but casually hit by the latch of the doore upon the back the Gentlewoman was born with <something betwixt a tumor &> excrescence on the Correspondent part of her back, which yet continues in the same place, & especially at certain seasons, is sore or tender, when <she do's> (as she sometimes does for Curiosity) touch it.

An Ingenious & very cred

/BP 9, fol.168/

Entry 7: Editorial notes:

M. M. a very experiencd & credible person, confirmd to me within this weeke, what I remember he formerly answerd me, viz. That, tho he had been a Gilder these 30 years, yet he never found any great inconvenience, as to his health, by the mercurial fumes; which yet I was apt to ascribe, (without much repugnancy on his part) in good measure, to some peculiar disposition of his Body. And when I askt him, whether those fumes had no very ill operation upon his teeth, he told me they had not; & in effect I lookt upon them, & saw them sound & well colour'd: only he confessd to me, that some times when he had been much gilding, his Teeth would be loose for a while, but were easily fasten'd again by being well washd with good Vinegar. I likewise found by inquiry of him, that he is exceedingly dispos'd to sweat, & is besides a strong & lusty man.

He likewise confess'd to me, that, when he had sometimes washd his hands [d] after he had been gilding, so that nothing mercurial appeard, yet unless he employd some peculiar diligence or Artifices, to cleanse & free his skin from the latent mercurial particles, the rubbing of a peice of Gold between his fingers would discolour, & somewhat whiten the Metal.

Entry 8: Editorial notes:

We have had a very sharp frost here ever since the 14th of January, which yet continues in the same vigor, thô the wind hath varyed since to all points of the Compasse. The frost began with the wind 80 west & the wind hath since hung on that point as much as on any other; thô we that have no other Thermometer than our own sence of feeling, have found little difference in the intensenesse of the weather, on the change of the wind. Dr Eras. Bartho. & I have not been unmindfull to make some experiments about Cold, but /BP 9, fol.168v/ being shutt up in a close town, where we have no terrasses or Leads, we could not expose any thing, so that the Current of the Atmosphere might freely roll over it, so the experiments we endeavored to <make> shew'd us not any effects of Cold much above what you have seen in England. But accidental experiences shew'd me, that the Cold here was very much sharper than it is with us. My bottles of French wine, thô not expos'd to the aire, froze allmost at the very [d] beginning of the cold weather, but the Northdowne Ale & Canary not till a good while after. but in all these liquors, for they were kept on purpose in a reasonable warme roome, there was still some part unfrozen, which to the tast was very considerably stronger than the liquor was before. Bottles of Brandy have some of their flegmatic part frozen, <& Ice> & swimming in them. I exposd some small quantity of Brandy in several flat sylver dishes: but I perceiv'd the Spirit was all gone, before it came to an ice, which was all spungy, & of an uneven Superficies, and lookd much like frozen yeast or Barme. The tast of the Ice was small as water, & of a well pleasing Rellish. the Ice of most strong liquors is spungy & porous, which may be causd by the expiring by little and little of the subtile parts. I thinke I told you in my last, that I have a small piece of yellow Amber, with a bubble in it, that moves up & down as you turn the Amber whether the Cuticulæ of the bubble be /BP 9, fol.169/ an oily consistence, containing some electrical effluvia in it, or whether it be plain Aire & water, I know not; but I exposd it to the Cold a wholl winters night & found next day the bubble so frozen it would not stirr: but laying it a while near the fire, it thaw'd & moved as before. But neither Dr. Bartholine nor I could discover by our Eye, that the bubble was at all lesse when frozen. we borrow'd that famous piece of Amber, that hath a much bigger bubble in it, of the Burgemaster of Christian Shaven, who putts a very great value on it; so we durst not tell him what you would doe with it, but every thing succeeded just as in mine. the Baltic Sea has been all frozen over above 6 weeks here about, & people come hither out of schonen laden with Hay wood & Corne. I passed over once in a sled my self. I went twice in a sled to the Ile of wien on the 20th of February I passd on foot from Elsineur to Helsinburg, which is about 4 English miles & back again, but I might have done it in a Coach & six horses, for all the way we met people & wagons, laden, as if it /BP 9, fol.169v/ had been a farie which semd very strange to me, that had so often seene a strong Current set in or out between those Castles as the wind drove it. For there is no manner of Tide in all the sea, when I was on the top of Helringbury Castle lookeing towards the Cate-gate or [d] Sinus Codanus I could see no sea, but all was Ice and Snow; but within a few days a strong wind broke it all open, but it presently froze again when the wind was laid. our envoy at Stockholm said, that very many Country people were frozen to Death this winter in Sweden, travelling in their Slides, that young Count Duglesse hunting with that king, had his brain frozen & dyed. That the king himself had one cheeck mortified, but was presently cured by the usuall application of snow. That his own Cooke haveing boild a piece of beeffe over a great fire, for two howers together, but takeing it out to cutt it to make a hotch pot of it, thô it was boild enough on the outside, found it all raw within, & still frozen. This King of Denmark riding out in the frost, as he does allmost every day, had the skin of his face so seared with the cold that most of the skin came off. But thô I have been very much on the Ice this winter, either sliding or playing at [d] Gole yet I thanke God I never met /BP 9, fol.170/ with any thing but what agreed very well with me. I had allmost forgott to tell you that about the sound the Fishermen make abundance of holes in the Ice, commonly round of 3 or 4 fout Diameter, wherein they hang severall lines with fishcokes Cork & quills, their baite is either worms flesh or [d] chiefly the spleen of beeffe it may be for cheapnesse, or else little pieces of fish, & pull up a pace small whiteings, flounders, place. I met with about a dozen of soles among them, which are very good in this Country, but rare at this time of <the> yeare. I relate this because I know in our ponds in England the fish will not meddle with baite in winter.