George Streynsham Master.

The Century, Volume 19 online

. (page 145 of 160)
Online LibraryGeorge Streynsham MasterThe Century, Volume 19 → online text (page 145 of 160)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

bian. But the lithographers and copper-
plate printers had a superior method of
doing press-work. Applying impression by
means of a scraper or a cylinder gradually
passed over the surface of the stone or the
''opper, they could give strong impression

with comparatively htde exertion and little
risk of breakage. They had a decided^atd-
vantage over the wood-cut printer, viw»
by one sUdden blow through a ^pHc
pull of the bar, diffused a greater force i^Rtr
a surface a hundred times^ sometinM^a
thousand times, greater than the inifn'im^i
pressed at one instant on stone or
The power of the hand-press was w€
by its diffusion over too large a surfiEice.

The strong press which the i nofl giu
printer needed came in an unexpoGied
shape. On the 28th of November, z9k4,
the " Times " of London was printed &r
the first time upon a machine^ — a rotalfag
cylinder which gradually but quickly iai-
pressed the types laid upon a reciprocatiDg
bed-plate. This new machine did the im-
pressing part of its work by original mechan-
ism, but in the same way that impression
was given by the presses of the plate aixl
stone printers — sprinting little by litde at a
time. It was imperfect, but, from the be-
ginning it gave assurance of strength aad
speed ; it foretold a revolution in typograp^.
The new machine was not welcomedl^
book printers, who, with one accord, i3t-
nounced it It was bulky, complex, expen-
sive, destructive to type, deficient in j[»o-
vision for inking. The last charge was too
true, for the leather rollers which had to be
used instead of leather balls did not faiify
ink the types. On this apparently roitKn*
feature the fate of the invention depended.
Cloth, silk and felt rollers were tried and '
rejected, and from the failure of all kinds of
rollers, the failure of the machine was pie-
dieted. Many printers held stoutly to the
notion that wood-cuts couldi be properly
inked only by the inking-ball in the hands
of an expert pressman, and that mechanical
or automatic inking must be a failure. Hie
reasoning was plausible. The inking-ball
permitted the pressman to put as much or
as little ink as he pleased on any part of
the cut or form, while the inking-roller in
the machine compelled the pressman to
accept an equal distribution and an equal
supply of ink over every part of the fonn,
even in forms that called for unequal sup-
ply. The builders of the machine were
slow to admit the inferiority of the roller,
for the use of inking-balls on machines was
out of the question. Speed could be had
only through the use of the swiftly rotating

At this critical time, somewhere about
181 5, while the capability of the machine
for doing good book printing was still un-

Digitized by




Reduced facsimile. From the original print In the collection of Mr. N. Orr.

proved, the attention of a printer was acci-
lentally called to the merits of the dabber
-.omposition of the Staflfordshire potteries.
This composition, a mixture of glue and
• nolasses, was smooth, firm, elastic, accept-
ng and imparting oily ink much more freely
ban the leather inkmg-ball. It was soon
Vol. XIX.— r>o.

shown that this was the proper material
for the machine roller. More — it was
proved beyond cavil, that a fairly man-
aged composition roller on a machine
that printed ordinary book-work would
ink the types more smoothly than could be
done by leather balls on the hand-press.

Digitized by

Goo gle



This was a great gain, but much more
was needed. To do fine or even fair wood-
cut press-work, paper of uniform thickness
and of a reasonable smoothness of surface
was of importance. These qualities could
not be had in hand-made papers at reason-
able price. To meet the demand for finer
and cheaper papers in larger sheets, Louis
Robert and St. Leger Didot of France, aided
by the brothers Fourdrinier and Bryan Don-
kin of England, patented in England, be-
tween 1 80 1 and 1810, a machine for making
paper in a continuous web. Although this
machine originated with Robert, it has been
called the Fourdrinier, in honor of the broth-
ers, who spent sixty thousand pounds on it,
and became bankrupt, before it was per-
fected. It did not meet with much favor
from book printers. They condemned, not
without reason, the early machine-made
paper as weak, spongy, badly sized, and
every way unfit for fine books. In spite
of these grave defects, some publishers en-
courged the inventors to renewed exertion.
The publishers of periodicals were espe-
cially interested, for they knew that the
daily newspaper and monthly magazine of
100,000 copies, and New Testaments, to be
read by millions and sold for a sixpence,
the possibility of which had even then been
foreshadowed, could hot be without ma-

For many years the book printers of
England and America opposed machines
and machinery. It was the almost unani-
mous opinion of the printing trade, even as
late as 1840, that really fine wood-cut press-
work must be done on the hand-press and
on hand-made paper. This was an unfortu-
nate conclusion, for it confirmed engravers
on wood in fashions of making cuts that
could be printed only on the hand-press.
Publishers of fine books were told that good
wood-cut press- work could be had by print-
ing small forms only (never more than eight
small octavo pages) on the hand-press, by
cutting overlays and by inking the form
with hand-rollers or balls. This advice was
accepted, but publishers soon found that
although hand-press work under these con-
ditions was expensive, it was not always
good. Few hand-pressmen could cut a
proper overlay .• How to do it could not be
taught by rote and rule. If the pressman
did not instinctively see the proper relations

•This interesting, but little-known, process in
wood-cut printing will be fully treated in the next


of light and shade in the cut on which he
worked, and did not at once catch the
intent of the artist, the overlay he made for
it would not help but would spoil the print
Occasionally a pressman of ability produced
prints of merit, which increased the amateur's
admiration for wood-cuts, but the greater
portion of the wood-cut printing done on
hand-presses was below mediocrity. Nor
did the most successful printing on the
hand-press tend to make engraving on
wood popular. It did tend to make it
impracticable, for it more than doubled
the cost of illustrated books. Many pub-
lishers discovered that it was cheaper to
have illustrations crayoned on stone, or
etched on copper, and inserted in the book,
in the form of detached leaves; for, on
small editions of wood-cut work the per-
formance of the hand-press was but little
more than that of the lithographic or
copper-plate press, and the quality of the
wood-cut work was inferior. In 1835, the
admiration for wood -cuts which Bewick
had called into life was really declining.
It is more than probable that it soon would
have died out, if an earnest attempt had not
been made to print wood>cuts on machlneSi






It is stated on good authority, that along
the whole Atlantic coast, from Nova Scotia
to Mexico, not a single cavity above the
present level of the sea has yet been discov-
ered deep enough to give darkness. True
caverns are possible only where rocks of
much thickness and uniformity of structure,
having once been ruptured, are after>vard
washed out by acidulated water. They
are the deserted channels of subterranean
streams; and must, therefore, if geological
conditions favor, exist on the most extended
scale in regions furrowed by the largest
rivers. This accounts for the immense and
unrivaled openings developed in the lime-
stones of the Mississippi Valley and its
noble tributaries, where, as Shaler affirms,
" there are at least 100,000 miles of open

The cave-region of Indiana, whose mys-
teries my friend Barton and I had agreed
to explore, begins forty-four miles above the
Falls of the Ohio, which are near Louis-
ville, Kentucky. At Madison, Indiana, the
river bluf& boldly rise 400 feet, from thin
layers of blue limestone to a crest of massive
marble, whence many cascades toss them-
selves into foam, washing out wide, shaUow
grottoes, that look exceedingly pretty behind
their silvery veils. Occasionally there is a
broad amphitheater, whose roof finally falls
by its own weight — a process resulting, by
repetidon, in a steep ravine, and suggesting
the manner in which all valleys have been
carved, at least in calcareous regions. For
twenty miles north of Madison, nearly
every ravine has its rock-houses and water-
swept chasms. Occasionally true caverns
are found whose roof is the solid lime-
stone of the Upper Silurian, while tlie
excavation itself is in the softer rocks of !
the Lower. One of these is estimated
to be a mile and a half long ; though, at
a point about a thousand yards from its
entrance, the roof has fallen in, and the
obscure opening, by which access is gained
to the ample chambers and winding ])as-
sages beyond, might readily escape notice.
The stream flowing out of this cave runs
through the village of Hanover, and then
turns capriciously toward the Wabash, from
the very banks of the Ohio. Some of
the streams of the region, after receiving
tributaries and increasing in volume, sud-

denly sink into the sand, or leap down a
gorge and disappear, as

**Alph, the sacred river, ran,
Through caverns measureless to man,
Down to a sunless sea."

One such stream is significantly named
the Lost River. It pursues its way for
miles underground, visible only here and
there at the bottom of wild and romantic
ravines, some of which are in the depths
of the forest. A portion of it has been ex-
plored by means of a small boat.

Our errand led us to and fro across sev-
eral adjacent counties. The scenery is
diversified by rolling uplands and rocky
glens, forests, and cultivated farms. Large
tracts are so thoroughly under-drained as
to cause a remarkable absence of springs,
brooks and ponds, with an appreciable
effect on the vegetation. This is due to
funnel-shaped depressions, var3ring in diam-
eter from a yard to a thousand feet; on the
slopes of the larger of these, tall trees are
often growing. These are termed "sink-
holes," and each has a central opening into
some fissure or cavern. This is usually vis-
ible on close inspection, but is quite fre-
quently hidden by a clump of brambles,
or a marshy pool. Through one of these
crevices the plummet went down 125 feet
before resting.

Heavy masses of carboniferous limestone
lie between the surface and the level of nat-
ural drainage, inviting the formation of
numerous caves of every conceivable size
and shape. Many of these we explored
for ourselves. Entering one, we reached
before long a lake of crystal purity, whose fur-
ther wall was impenetrable. Far within an-
other our progress was thwarted by a morass
of fathomless mud. From a great gate-
way, eighty feet wide, introducing us to still
another, we found the passage dwindle to
a point where we could barely stand erect.
This colossal trumpet magnifies the human
voice to a deafening volume. A large, swift
stream issues from Blue Spring Cave, which
we explored for three miles, finding great
basins cut down one hundred feet into the
rock and overflowing with limpid water.

After a brief rest from preliminary toils,
we turned toward the Rothrock farm,
^s^ miles from Leavenworth, a village on
the Ohio River. From the doors of the

Digitized by V^jOOQ IC




rural inn that admitted us as guests, are to
be seen the mouths of the two most impor-
tant caves — Sibert's and Wyandot.

sibert's cave.

A narrow path, along a ridge shaded by
oaks and beeches, leads us to a sink, at the
bottom of which is a shaft. Having entered
through this, we pick our way amid rocky
fragments, and soon find ourselves on a
rounded and slippery wall but a foot thick.
Along this we creep between two yawning
chasms, black as Erebus. A misstep here
would be fatal. Midway, we clamber over
a smooth, wet stalagmite. Beyond the
wall, a ledge six inches wide skirts the left-
hand pit. After moving a few yards along
this slender shelf we squeeze past a ponder-
ous stalactite that has fallen and lodged
against another. The level gallery above
can only be gained by laboriously climbing
up a treacherous slope. As this offers
nothing to be grasped as a safeguard
against sliding into the abyss, nicks have
been cut to afford foot-hold in the pre-
carious passage. The risk is compensated
for, however, by admission into a wilderness
of beauty and grandeur. A stately pillar
guards the way, ten feet thick and as
many high, and its base expands in huge
masses of gypsum overlapping the edge of
the pit. Nestling by its side, as if for pro-
tection, equal in height but only three inches
in diameter, rises a smooth, slender shaft
of semi-transparent, snow-white alabaster.
The floor beyond is strewn with stalagmitic
•xiules and cones, and occasionally a

prostrate column.
One of these once
bore the name of
the Pillar of Thun-
der, because when
struck by the
open palm, tt
emitted a loud,
musical sound ;
but the last blow
detached it from
its pedestal, and
now it thunders
no more. We
wander on, fac-
etted with glistening
illars and pilasters,
d interlacing arches,
in mid-air transmuted
into stone, and there clustered columns
containing a sculptured cell 1 This gal-
lery of marvels ends in the Peri's Prison,
an exquisite grotto, not more than five feet
deep, crossed by a row of pillarets, like
the bars of a cage. Red-fire, burned within
this dainty cavity, produces a magical
effect, throwing roseate hues over the frm-
tastic and snowy piles.

Slowly returning to the pit, we find it more
gloomy than ever. But there is no other
exit. Steadying myself for a moment on
the brink, I tiun face downward and search

A pbrilous pass, stBKirr's cavb

Digitized by




^ith the right foot for the first little notch,
barely large enough for the toe of my boot
Then, letting go the ledge above, I ding
to the naked rock with one hand, the other
holding the torch, and cautiously lower my
left foot to the next notch. Step by step
the narrow shelf is gained, beyond which,
balancing like an acrobat, I move along on
the perilous ridge between the chasms to a
place of safety. Looking back, to see how
it fares with my artistic comrade, I behold
him coolly sketching these underground

We next paid a visit to the hotel table,
spread with homely abundance. Then, don-
ning caps and overalls, equipped with lamps
and fire-works, line and compass, thennom-
eter and geological hammer, we were ready
for Wyandot Cave, probably the largest
cavern but one in the known world.


Our guide was Rothrock himself, a genu-
ine Hoosier though of German stock, and
full of facts and anecdotes.
. " My father was one of the pioneers,"
said he, as we walked along under the oaks,
" and he bought this farm at Government
price, the year that Indiana was admitted
to the Union, He added to it from time
to time until it now covers, as we suppose,
all possible entrances to the cave."

"How many acres does the farm in-
clude ? " I inquired.

" About S,ooo," he replied, " but much
of it is still uncultivated. Since my father's
death, my brothers run the mill and till the
land, while I manage the cave and the
hotel. My only son, Frank, will be the
owner when I am gone."

We forthwith saluted the heir-apparent, a
bright little lad who had overtaken us,
followed by a tame wolf. The approach
of a party of tourists, and their alarm at the
sight of this rude pet, consigned him to his
kennel, and led one of the ladies to ask the
guide if there were many wild beasts in the
cave. He assured us that none were to be
seen in summer, though in winter a few wild-
cats, race ons, opossums, foxes, and wolves
had been known to take refuge there. Bears
had formerly shown a fondness for cave-
life, and there were places where they had
amused themselves by slidmg down-hill till
the ^cks were blackened and pohshed by
their fur 1

As we drew near to the entrance, the

artist espied an inscription over the arch,
and repeated in Italian, Dante's

** Abandon hope who enter here."

Imagine his chagrin at finding it but an
advertisement of some sort of magic oil,
instead of the famous line from the Divine
Comedy I

Having made one another's acquaintance,
with the easy informality of Western life, we
took a farewell survey of the upper world,
bright in the summer sunshine. The plat-
form of lime-
stone on which
we stood was
elevated 150
feet above Blue
River, visible
near the pict-
uresque old mill
half a mile
away. Around
us the prime-
val forest lift-
ed its aged arms
overhung with
matted vines.
The rocky ridge
above us rose to
the height of
500 feet fix)m
the valley. The
mouth of the
cave yawned at
our feet. As we
entered it, a cur*
rent of cold air
compelled us to
guard our lamps,
and caused the
mercury to fall
at once from
So*' to 60**.
The tempera-
iLi>.a.r,^ sr ture within, as



23 MILES. discovered, ave-

rages 55>^^, and remains the same whether
the thermometer outside indicates 100^ or
zero. The breeze, however, varies with the
season, blowing outward in summer but the
reverse in winter.

"This phenomenon," observed an ama-
teur geologist, whom the others addressed as
the Professor, " explains the idea embodied
by the poetic Greeks in their word for cave,
namely, avr^ov, a breathing-place ; as if these
were the nostrils through which Mother
Earth inhales and exhales the vital air."













y -33











1© ,








> A





Odd FtllowtB



Hall TW









(ymQ^ ^^





1* jy«tao»



Uh' >

' QCi









SmtM^nUt 1

Hotel 4^



^ 1




>H-<\ 0.







» Jf

VLvmyT^AnX 1

Digitized by




The guide told us that he had left the
larger part of the cave in its natural state,
only moving loose stones from the pathway,
and cutting trenches where the roof was
too low for comfort. He next showed us
some barrels of salts and saltpeter made
from nitrous and magnesian earths that
abound here.

The breeze dies away as we go deeper
down into the earth. But we experience
the benefits of a thorough ventilation, aided
by natural chemical processes, which /result
in an atmosphere wholly cleansed from
noxious gases and surcharged with the vital
elements. We are soon sensible of its exhil-
arating influence. The nerves are strung, the
pulse is quickened. We enjoy the purity,
without the rarity, of mountain air.

And now gigantic forms loom through the
darkness. Here is an immense block of
stone, with fresh, sharp edges, as if it had
just fallen from above, though it probably
fell ages ago. Two miles from the en-
trance, we twist ourselves through the Screw-
hole, and stand literally breathless in the
Senate Chamber, a room that ends what is
termed the Old Cave, in distinction from
more recent discoveries. In the midst of
the Chamber rises a rocky pile, around
which a greater quantity of snowy alabaster
has accumulated than in any other place of
which the writer has knowledge. Chief
marvel in this temple of wonders is the
Pillar of the Constitution, forty feet high,
seventy-five feet in periphery, and with an
enormous base, whose girth is over three
hundred feet I This diflfers from other pil-
lars with which it has been compared, in
being not merely incrusted with what one
might call a veneering of alabaster, but of a
solid, homogeneous mass ; it is probably the
largest of its kind in the world. The shaft
is irregularly fluted from top to bottom, and
is girdled by three narrow belts that give it
•a jointed appearance. The base is studded
with blunt stalagmites of various sizes, whose
shining tops, as Barton said, reminded him
of the cypress-knees of the Dismal Swamp.
A brilliant gallery of stalactitic ornaments
extends bevond the great Pillar. A farmer
n with our party compared
istic wit, to huge beets and
lished with sprigs of celery,
1 to the geologist that this
nder side of a petrified garden,
litude is better than your hy-
1 the man of science. And
er to our further inquiries, he
own theory, as lucidly as his

fondness for technical terms would aJlow.
Reminding us of the peculiarities of X^osd
River, he said that in such stream-smrept
caves these beautiful formations would gen-
erally be impossible. Suppose, however,
that the river should cut its way through to
a lower floor, or be diverted into a new chan-
nel, then the water oozing through from the
surface, though seemingly pure and clear,
would be saturated with mineral substances.


which in some instances had been known to
be so abundantly deposited as to close up
and obliterate caves entirely. Pointing to
the water glistening on the tip of the near-
est pendant, —

" Should it cling there," said he, " till it
evaporates, it would leave a circular deposit
of either the carbonate or the sulphate of
lime, according to the nature of the materi-
als through which it trickles down. And
by a continual repetition of the process, a
thin tube would first be formed, thickening
by further accretions into a stouter cylinder,
and finally into the heavy conical stalac-
tite. The drops coming a little too fast
to be retained above, and consequently
falling on the floor, make a broader deposit,
and there gradually grows up the blunt, firm
stalagmite. The process often goes on un-
til stalactite meets stalagmite in a column,

Digitized by




slender and fragile, like some of those in
Sibert's Cave, or massive, like the noble
pillar at whose base we now stand."

" Stalactites, then," said the artist, " are
only icicles of limestone ; and icicles are but
stalactites of water."

We slaked our thirst at a crystal reservoir,
scooped from the crown of a stalagmite, and
filled by falling drops. A goblet rested on
the rim of this dainty fountain, which each
tried in vain to lift from the stone to which it
was sealed by a transparent film. This is
one of several experiments for measuring the
rate of calcareous deposits, with some hope
of estimating the age of the cave itself.
Their growth is found to vary according to
the strength of the lime-water and the rapid-
ity of evaporation. In this locality points of
stalactites, marked twenty-five years ago,
have advanced during that period one inch,
while stalagmites have grown but one-fourth
of an inch.

The weight of the immense mass of ala-
baster, composing this pillar and its ad-
juncts, caused the pile of rocks that had
previously fallen to settle beneath their bur-
den ; and this, in turn, cracked the base,
opening in it crevices many yards long, and
varying in width from an inch to a foot.
Starting from these, a segment has been cut
having an arc of thirty feet, and a cavity
made in the column itself ten feet wide,
seven feet high, and five feet deep. This
work has been hitherto regarded as a delib-
erate plan of the saltpeter miners to fell
this noble shaft I have a different explana-
tion. Tracing the right edge of the cut, we
found it running underneath a stalagmitic
wrapping, eight feet wide and ten inches
thick at its thickest part. Inspection showed

Online LibraryGeorge Streynsham MasterThe Century, Volume 19 → online text (page 145 of 160)