Dr. Troost, in an account of some ancient remains discovered by him in Tennesee, mentions the finding of a large conch shell (Cassis flammea), with the interior whorls and columella removed, so that nothing remained but the exterior portion of the shell, which was open in front, and in it was placed a rudely shaped idol, in the form of a kneeling human figure, made of clay with pounded shells. It was ploughed up in the Sequatchy Valley.*
* Long, 'Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains,' 1823, as quoted in 'Flint Chips,' by Edward T. Stevens, pp. 448, 449.
† 'Notes on the Geology of Asambara,' published in the 'Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society,' Sept. 1879.
Conch shells are used in the manufacture of shell cameos, and are known as king, queen (Cassis Mada-gascariensis), and common conch-shells. Large quantities are exported from the Bahamas, and the beautiful pale pink pearl is found in the common species. The value of shells exported from thence is £1200 per annum, and of pearls £3000 per annum, and it is also stated that the bait used in line-fishing is usually the conch, and that the fish are drummed up by striking two conch-shells together. Ground-bait is used at the same time, as in English rivers.†
The shells of Strombus gigas are used not only for making shell cameos, but also in the manufacture of porcelain, and it is stated that in 1850, about 300,000 of these shells were imported to Liverpool for the latter purpose. According to M. Beau, in the Island of Martinique the Creole cooks have recourse to Strombus gigas during the fasting season. The fish, according to its size, sells from twenty to forty centimes each. It is slightly sweet and a little heavy, and not suitable for invalids; but after being well beaten, rubbed with charcoal to take away the mucous, washed in several waters, the last saturated with lemon-juice, and cooked with butter and condiments, it is an agreeable dish, very nourishing, and easy of digestion. The Creole gardeners use the shells of the Lambis or Stromhus gigas, to place round their flower beds, and they are also used for making lime, and the price per 1000 is from forty to fifty francs.*
* 'Trans. Amer. Ethnol. Society,' vol. i. pp. 360, 361; and vol. iii. pp. 360, 364.
† 'Official Introduction to Bahamas Fisheries,' etc, by Rebus.
The manufacture of shell cameos is said to be of Sicilian origin, and has been carried on at Rome since 1805, and in Paris it was commenced by an Italian about twenty-five or thirty years ago, and a larger number of shell cameos are made in Paris than in Italy.†
The German name for the whelk is very appropriate, viz., Trompetcnschnrcke, or Kinlhorn. In Anglo-Saxon whelk is Weolc, but weolc is said to mean that which gives the purple dye (therefore it would apply better to the dog-whelk, Buccinum lapillus, or Purpura lapillus, which yields a purple dye); thus, embroidered with purple is weolc-basn-hewen; scarlet dye is weolc-read. In 1684 Purpura lapillus, the dog-whelk, was employed for dyeing linen in Ireland; and Neumann says that the purple-fish was also found on the coasts of Ireland, and that some persons made considerable profit by marking linen with its juices.
The shell, which is very hard, is broken by a smart blow, taking care not to crush the body of the fish within. After picking off the broken pieces, there appears a white vein or reservoir, lying transversely in a little furrow near the head. This being carefully taken out, and characters drawn with it, or its viscid juice squeezed upon linen or silk, the part immediately acquires, on being exposed to the sun, a pale yellowish green, which quickly deepens into an emerald green, then changes to blue, and at last to a fine purplish-red. If the cloth be now washed with scalding water and soap, and laid again in the sun, the colour changes to a beautiful crimson, which suffers no further alteration from sun, or air, soap, alum, alkaline leys, or any of the substances used for assaying the permanency of colours.
* 'De P Utilité de certains Mollusques Marins de la Guadeloupe et de la Martinique,' par M. Beau.
† 'Dictionary of Terms in Art,' by F. W. Fairholt, F.S.A.
The juice of the purple-fish receives no colour itself, and communicates none to silk or linen, without exposure to the sun. It seems to be the light, and not the heat, of the sun, that calls forth the tincture; for when the cloth is covered with thin opaque bodies, which transmit heat without light, no colour is produced, while transparent ones give no impediment to its production. The juice, itself, in close glass vessels becomes presently purple in the sun.* Lister, in 1686, mentions the discovery of a shellfish, Purpura Anglicana, on the shores of the Severn, in which there is a vein containing a juice giving the delicate and durable tincture of the rich Tyrian purple. A writer in the 'Annual Register' for 1760, says that, being "at a gentleman's house in the west of Ireland, he took particular notice of the gown of the lady of the house. It was a muslin flowered with the most beautiful violet colour .... She told me it was her own work, and took me to the seaside, where she gathered some little shells; . . . beating them open and extracting the liquor with the point of a clean pen, she marked some spots directly before me". He adds: - "1 suppose a hundred fishes would not produce a drop as large as a pea". Richard of Cirencester also mentions as a production of Britain, "shells from which is prepared a scarlet dye of the most beautiful hue, which never fades from the effect of sun or rain".
* 'Neumanu's Chemistry,' p. 510; the Memoirs of the French Academy for 1730. See ' Philosophical Transactions,' No. 178.
It is also stated in the 'Athenaeum' of July 20, 1850, that the Nicaraguan Indians use a purple dye prepared from shellfish.
Pliny says that there are two kinds of fish that produce the purple dye, the Buccinum, and the Purpura, purple or pelagia.* Murex trunculus is generally considered to have yielded it, but Murex brandaris was also used, and most certainly at Tyre, as we shall presently read.