Among the 'Antient Cryes of London' we find the following : -
Oysters are imported very largely from France; also from the Netherlands, from the Eastern Scheldt and the Zuyder Zee, and the latter are sold under the name of "Anglo-Dutch". Dr. Knapp tells us that not less than 800,000 tubs of oysters, each tub containing two English bushels, are annually procured from the Normandy coast for the English market and the Channel Islands, and large quantities are sent from Arcachon. The principal oyster fisheries on the French coast are those of Courseulles-sur-Mer, Les Sables d'Olonne, Marennes, and La Tremblade, which are used simply for rearing and fattening purposes; and those which may be regarded as places of reproduction, are Granville, Cancale, Auray, Vannes, Ile d'Oleron, and Arcachon.*
* 'Report on Oyster Fisheries,' 1876. Letter in Appendix, by Edward Vale, factor for Sir G. G. Suttie.
† Kirby's 'Wonderful Museum,' vol. ii. p. 233.
An interesting paragraph appeared in the 'Times,' November 13th, 18(52, on the cultivation of oysters on the western coast of France. It is as follows: - "M. Coste has just communicated a paper to the Academy of Sciences on the progress of his artificial oyster-beds. Several thousands of the inhabitants of the island of Re have been for the last four years engaged in cleansing their muddy coast of the sediments which prevented oysters from congregating there, and as the work advances, the seed, wafted from Nieulle and other oyster localities, settles in the new beds, and, added to that transplanted, peoples the coast; so that 72,000,000 of oysters from one to four years old, and nearly all marketable, is the lowest average re-gistered per annum by the local administration, representing at the rate of from 25 to 30 francs per thousand, which is the current price in the locality, a sum of about two millions of francs, the produce of an extremely limited surface. That the waves or currents carry the seed of oysters is a well-known fact, since the walls of sluices newly erected are often covered with them. In the island of Re the existence of oyster-beds, however, no longer depends upon this contingency, they being now in a state of permanent self-reproduction. Again, in some localities it is sufficient to prepare the emerging banks for collection, to see them soon covered with seed; but in other places nothing would be obtained without transplanting proper subjects. The concession of emerging banks is anxiously applied for by the inhabitants of the coast, - the more so, as improvements in the working of this branch of trade are of daily occurrence. Thus, Dr. Kemmerer, of Re, covers a number of tiles with a coating of a kind of mastic, brittle enough to enable him to detach the small oysters from it. When this coating is well covered with seed, he gets it off all in one piece, which he carries to the place where the seed is to grow. The same tile he coats a second time, and so on". In France, oysters having a green tint are considered great delicacies, and the art of greening oysters is carried to the greatest perfection on the coasts of Aunis, whence come the celebrated green oysters of Marennes. They receive their colour and peculiar flavour when transplanted to certain beds or claires, which, at the approach of winter, are lined with a kind of vegetation, which disappears in the spring; and the oysters are said to owe their colouring to the absorption of the chlorophyl with which the waters of the claires are saturated. It is a fact that the oyster assumes its green colour when the claire grows green, and loses its colour when the claire is deprived of its vegetation. Some have thought that the greening of the Marennes oysters was due to the essentially argillaceous soil of Marennes, to the brackish waters of the Seudre, or to oxide of iron; but at La Trem-blade, where the greening process is also carried on, it is attributed as much to the action of fresh water as to the nature of the soil, and reeds grow on the edges of the claires which could not grow in salt water. The greening takes place in a few days. A fortnight is sufficient when the claire is in the humour. But the greatest care must be taken not to empty the claire, as it would be a long time before it became green again.* Oysters are imported into Marennes for fattening and rearing from all parts of France, and the number in 1880-81, including Portuguese oysters, amounted to 130,000,000. In 1882, Marennes sent out 151,000,000 oysters, representing a value of 5,900,000 francs.† Some years since these Marennes oysters were so much in demand, that the white oyster-beds in the neigbour-hood had become insufficient to stock these peculiar beds where the creature acquires the green colour and delicious taste which causes the Marennes oyster to be so eagerly sought after. White oysters had therefore to be imported from Spain, Brittany, Ireland, and England. A considerable quantity of oysters were at one time imported from Falmouth, and these contain copper, which imparts an acrid taste. They were generally, on their arrival, deposited in certain beds apart from the others, and there kept for six months, after which it was proved by experience that they lost their copper, salt, and bad flavour. A Marennes fisherman, whose trade was not very extensive, procured a few thousand oysters from Falmouth, and, out of thirst for gain, he sent them off to Rochefort, before they had sojourned more than three weeks in the beds set apart for their purification. These oysters caused alarming symptoms, and M. Cuzent, being called upon to test them, as they had been seized in the market at Roche-fort, found copper in them, the quantity being about twenty-three centigrammes per dozen oysters.* I have elsewhere given an account of the finding of copper in the Falmouth oysters; one of the tests used by M. Cuzent was so very simple, that any one might discover the presence of copper. It is as follows : - An ordinary needle is thrust into the green part of the oyster, and then the mollusk was immersed in pure vinegar. When copper was present, thirty seconds sufficed to cover the portion of the needle embedded in the oyster with a red coating of copper.†
* 'Report on the Principal Oyster Fisheries of France,' by Major Hayes, 1878.
* 'Oyster Culture in France,' Translation of Report, by M. G. Bou-cbon-Brandeley. Edward Stauhope, 1877.
† 'Translation of Report on Oyster Culture in France,' by M. Brocchi, Aug. 1st, 1882. T. H. Farrer.