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By Charles Singer et al (eds)

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In medicine it was known as a powerful cathartic. T h e Lapidario o f K in g Alfonso X the Wise (1252-84) o f Castile, a compilation that was finished in 1279, gives details o f many stones. It is founded partly on classical work, partly on works in Arabic. It has important elements derived from alchemy, ancient chemistry, and astrology. T h e stone there called ecce is argentiferous stibnite, said to be worked at various localities in Spain and Portu­ gal. Its main economic use was in the production o f a ‘beautiful gold-colour’ on the surface o f glass.

While our main concern here is with books five and six, all have some interest for the historian o f mining. F igure 12 — Iron tools fo r splitting rock. A ll have fla t T h e first necessity for a mine was the heads to receive blows from a hammer, (a), says Agri­ cola, 'is in daily u se', (b ) is 'to shatter the hardest shaft, from the bottom o f which, when a veins’ , (c), (o) and (e) are iron wedges, (f ) shows the reasonably promising vein was reached, method o f hafting (a ) and (b ). (a) is about 23 cm long.

Chain o f dippers powered by water-wheel. 1556. Another problem was ventilation, which the owners could not always over­ come ‘either by skill or expenditure, for which reason the digging o f shafts and tunnels is sometimes abandoned’ [31]. Agricola added to these causes o f the abandonment o f mines the presence in them o f poisonous ‘damps’ (German Damp/, vapour) or o f ‘fierce and murderous demons’. Sometimes also ‘the underpinnings become loosened and collapse, and a fall o f the mountain usually follows; the underpinnings are then restored only when the vein is very rich in metal’ .

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