Pepper is one of the oldest known spices mentioned in Sanskrit and ancient Indian literature. In the 4. century B. C. it is mentioned by Theophrastus.7) Dioscorides,8) and Pliny9) already distinguished between black, white and long pepper and counted the first among the most important spices of their time. Toward the end of the 1. century, we already find special warehouses (horreae piperatariae) for this precious ware. As ports of exports for pepper, places on the west Indian coast, between
1) Rumphius, Herbarium Amboinense (Het Amboinische Kruidboek). Editio Johanni Burmanni. Amstelod. 1741 - 1755. Vol.5, p. 152 also plate 65. Amomum Cardamomum. (This work had been completed by Georg Eber-hard Rumpf in 1690, but was not published until after his death viz. in 1741.)
2) Valer. Cordus, De artificiosis extraction/bus. 1561. fol. 226.
3) Caspar Neumann, Chymia medica dogmatico-experimentalis. Editio Kessel. 1749. Vol. 1, p. 328.
4) ). C. S. Schweigger's Journal fur Chemie u. Physik 3 (1811), 311.
5) Jacob R. Spielmann, Cardamomi historiae et vindicias. Argentor. 1762.
6) Porta, De destillatione. Romae 1608. Lib. IV. Cap. 4.
7) Theophrasti Eresii opera quae supersunt omnia. IX. 20. - Editio Wimmer. Vol. 1, p. 162; vol. 2, p. 476.
8) Dioscorides, De materia medica libri quinque. Editio Kuhn-Sprengel. 1829. Vol. 1, p. 298.
9) Plinii Naturalis historiae libri. Lib. XII, 14. - Editio Littre. Vol. 1, p. 478.
Mangalose and Cochin, are enumerated in the Per/plus of the Erythrean sea, a commercial catalogue that was presumably written in A. D. 76, in Alexandria.1)
Into western Europe pepper was likewise introduced at an early date. The quantities in which it was imported, in spite of its high price at the beginning of the 5. century, become apparent from the statement that the west Roman Emperor, Honorius paid a tribute of 3000 lbs. pepper to Alaric, King of the Vesigoths in 408, while the latter was besieging Rome.2) Pepper retained its high price late into the middle ages. Hence, it was used in place of the noble metals in the payment of tribute, taxes, rent, duty and ransom; as gifts and as objects of bequest.3) Among the presents made to the popes by the East and West Roman emperors, pepper is usually enumerated first among the costly spices. According to a privilege granted 716 by the Merovingian king, Chilperich II, the monastery at Corbie in southern France obtained among other objects pepper, cloves, cinnamon and spike as annual revenue.4) Boniface, the apostle of the Germans, repeatedly obtained from Roman prelates,5) presents of aromatics for incense purposes, among which pepper is enumerated.
In 1290 Marco Polo found pepper in abundance in the islands of the Malay Archipelago and on the Indian coast. It constituted an important article of commerce with China.6)
The increasing demand for pepper and the high price paid therefor constituted not the least of the motives for the search of an all water route to the East Indies. This was accomplished by the Portugese under the leadership of Vasco da Gama in 1498. The cultivation of the pepper plant having been spread over several islands of the Malay archipelago, the production of pepper was greatly increased. This resulted in a larger export with the consequent reduction in price and increased consumption. The discovery of an all water route naturally deviated the spice trade from Venice which then was a commercial republic at its prime. In 1504, Portugese vessels laden with pepper sailed up the Thames and embarked at London and in 1522 they also entered the harbor of Antwerp. In spite of all the endeavors of the Venetian captains of commerce, the trade in pepper became a Portuguese monopoly1) from that time on, and remained such nearly up to the 18. century.
1) Fabricius, Der Periplus des Erythraischen Meeres von einem Un-bekannten. Greek and German. Leipzig 1883. p. 188. - Vincent, Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean. London 1807. Vol. 2, pp. 458 and 754.
2) Zosimi Comitis et exadvocati fisci Historiae novas libri septem. Basiliae. Lib. V, cap. 41. - Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter. - Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders. London 1880. p. 347.
3) Wilh. Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels im Mittelalter. 1879. Vol. 1, p. 99; vol. 2, pp. 458 and 754.
4) Pardessus, Diplomata, chartae etc. Paris 1849. Tom. 2, p. 309. - W. Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels im Mittelalter. 1879. Vol. 1, p. 99.
5) Jaffe, Bibliotheca rerum germanicarum. Berlin 1866. Vol.3, pp. 156, 157, 199, 218 and 231.
6) W. Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels im Mittelalter. 1879. Vol. 1, p. 634.
The estimate in which pepper was held during the middle ages is indicated by the fact that it was symbolic for the entire spice trade. Already in Rome the spice peddlers were known as Piperrarii. Later in France they were called Pebriers, and in England Pepperers.-)
In all probability, oil of pepper was known during the middle ages. It is first mentioned, however, by Saladin.3) It was first described by Valerius Cordus4) and later by Giov. Batt. Porta.5) The method of distillation of the oil is first described by Winther6) of Andernach, who, about 1550, distilled the oils of pepper, cinnamon, cloves, etc. The Dispensatorium Nor/cum of 1589 was the first of the pharmacopoeias to include the oil. It is also enumerated in the municipal pharmaceutical price ordinance of Berlin of 1574, also in that of Frankfurt of 1688.7)
1) W. Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels im Mittelalter. 1879. Vol. 2, pp. 502-527.
2) Ibidem, vol. 2, pp. 634-640.
3) Saladini Asculani Compendium aromatariorum. Venetii 1488. Index.
4) Val. Cordi Annotationes in Pedacei Dioscoridis Anazarbei de materia medica libros quinque. De artificiosis extractionibus. Editio Gesner. Argentorati. 1561. fol. 226.
5) Portae Magiae natural is libri viginti. Liber de destillatione. 1567. p. 379. Editio 1589, p. 184.
6) Guintheri Andernacensi de medicina veteri et nova. Basil. 1571. pp. 630 - 635.
7) H. A. van Rheede tot Draakestein. Hortus indicus malabaricus. Vol. 7, p. 14. "Oleum ex pipere destillatum levem piperis odorem spirans, sapor is parum acris."
The first chemical investigations of pepper were conducted by Caspar Neumann1) and H. D. Gaubius,2) later ones by Willert,3) Oerstedt,4) and Pelletier/')