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of mountains and vallies, land and water, heat and cold, would never allow
theory and experiments to agree. But after the French gentlemen, who are
now about measuring a degree, and making experiments with pendulums in the
north and south, shall have finished their design, we may expect new light in
this matter.

Of the Mexican Filtering Stone. By Dr. Abraham Voter, F, R, S. &c. N° 438,
p. 106. Abridged from the Latin.

This stone has the name filtre from its porosity, by which it suffers liquors
to pass through it : and for this reason pots and mortars are made from larger
pieces of it, to strain liquors, particularly water to drink: for it is thought,
that the water filtered through this stone is freed from all its impurities, and
becomes clearer and purer, and more wholesome. Hence these stones are
highly valued in Japan, and sold at the price of gold; because the Japanese,
who know nothing of the stone or any other disorder in the kidneys, and who
prefer health far before all other blessings, are of opinion, that these petrified
fungi have the power of prolonging life. This species of fungus, it is said,
grows on the rocks in some places of the gulph of Mexico, about 100 elns
under water, and spontaneously hardens and petrifies in the air. Dr. Vater
does not attempt to determine the origin of the filtre stone, nor its produc-
tions, though both appear to be very suspicious, and invented only to prevent
its being thought a common stone. For Lentilius writes that there are
vessels made of two sorts of it ; one of a dark grey colour, like the lapis scis-
silis from Canada, and sold at a dearer rate; and others of a tophaceous colour,
of the growth of Italy. And, according to Le Clerc, in his physics, it is like-
wise dug up in the bishopric of Liege, and much used in Holland. Dr.
Ehrhart of Memmingen, presented Dr. Vater with a choice collection of fos-
sils, among which was a tophus very porous, found about Memmingen, and
which he was assured would strongly imbibe water. For, no sooner does it
touch the surface of the water, but the water ascends, and is carried quite


through its porous substance, as in sugar, salt, filtering paper and sponge.
This immediately suggested the hint, whether it might not be used instead of
the Mexican filtre to strain water. He accordingly made a hollow in a little
bit of it, and on pouring water into it, it strained very fast through the pores.
He then took the tophaceous tubes of osteocoUa, and stopping one extremity,
he poured water on it; when it transuded very fast through its porous substance.
He also recollected that he had a sponge for several years, which when he lived
at the Caroline bath, he had put in a pipe that conveyed the hot waters, and
by this means the sponge being incrustated with the ochre, which the hot
waters carry along with them and deposit in their passage, degenerated into
a tophus: he made a pit in the sponge, and filled it with water, when it ran
very fast through it. On this he resolved to make trial with a tophus of the
hot bath, of which he had a pretty large piece ; and for this purpose he had it
hollowed into a mortar, to see whether the water would pass through that
dense and solid stone: and it answered his expectation; as the water strained
through in the same manner as through the Mexican filtre and other tophi;
but by reason of the density of the stone, slower than through more porous

Hence the Dr. thought, that the tophus of the hot baths is generated
from the water depositing its ochre, in flowing through the pipes, and is in-
sensibly concreted ; in like manner might the sea, beating on the rocks, deposit
saline earthy particles, from whose successive concretion this stone is gene-
rated, and rather grow on the rocks, than like rock-mushrooms, spring from
them. But considering the remarkable density of the hot bath tophus, through
which water filtrates, he had a mind to try the same experiment with the com-
mon stone used in building. The success answered expectation : for, a mortar
made of such stone served instead of the Mexican filtre, the water straining
equally clear through both. The water strained in this manner acquired at
first an earthy taste, which yet on repeated filtration it lost.

As to the purifying quality of these filtres, the Dr. does not deny, but that
muddy and slimy waters may, by straining through such stones, become clear
and pellucid ; because these impurities do not dissolve in the water or inti-
mately incorporate with it, but only float in it. But besides these, no other
waters can by any means become purer, as he learned from repeated expe-
riments, both with the filtre from Holland, and with those made from the
tophus of the Caroline hot baths and common stone, on several kinds of river
and spring water; and with an hydrometer examining their weight both before
and after filtration, he found little or no difference. , ,

A -lol ?ii


A Continuation of an Account of an Essay towards a Natural History of Ca-
rolina and the Bahama /stands, by Mark Catesby, F. R. S. fVith some
Extracts out of the Seventh Set. By Dr. Mortimer, R. S. Secret. N° 438,
p. 112.

This 7th set consists of the description of fishes.

A Halo observed at Rome, Aug. 11, 1732. By Sig. De Revillas. N° 438,

p. 118. From the Latin.

1 From 9 o'clock in the forenoon, till 2 in the afternoon, a simple halo was
observed to surround the sun. It was exactly circular, and well defined; and
its breadth equal to the sun's apparent diameter. The innermost colour was
red; the rest pretty dilute, and analogous to those in the rainbow, but termi-
nating in a whitish brightness.

Concerning an Ancient Date found at JVidgel-Hall in Hertfordshire. By Mr.

John Cope. N° 439, P- ^ •O-

Fig. 4, pi. 2, represents an ancient chimney-piece, as Mr. Cope was informed,
found on pulling down part of Widgel-Hall in Hertfordshire. There is cut on
it a date expressed part in Roman numerals, and part in Indian figures ; which
is the earliest instance he has met with of the Indian figures being used here in
England, viz. 99- l6, or I0l6; that at Colchester being in the year lOgO. See
Philos. Trans. N° 266. The carving is very fair, the letter 31^ and the figure
project out above a quarter of an inch. The whole chimney-piece is of English
oak plank, and is now very firm, though T iS years old, and was never painted
over; it is 4 feet S\ inches long; the part under the l6 was broken off in
taking it down in August, 1733, when the house was on fire. ♦ * *

Remarks on the foregoing Ancient Date, found at Widgel-Hall near Bunting-
ford in Hertfordshire, on an Oaken Plank. By John Ward, Rhet. Pr. Gresh.

and F. R. S. N° 439, P- 120.

April 4, 1734, a curious draught of an ancient date, carved in an oaken

plank, at Widgel-Hall, the seat of Francis Gulston, Esq. was laid before the

Royal Society, as the most early instance of our common figures, usually called

Arabian, which had ever been observed in England. It was read 3l9l6, and

thought to express the year 1016, the 2|B being taken for a Roman numeral,

and the \Q for Arabian figures.


Doctor Wallis had, in l683, communicated to the R. S. the draught of a
mantle-tree, somewhat like this, which he saw at the parsonage-house at
Helmdon in Northamptonshire. The date, which was likewise carved in mixed
characters, expressed the year &} 133, as the Doctor read it. This being the
oldest monument of that sort, which had then been discovered among us, was
published first in the Philos. Trans. N" 154, and afterwards in the Doctor's
Algebra, cap. 4, p. 14.

In 1700, another draught of a date at Colchester, which had been sent to
Dr. Wallis by Mr. Luffkin, who copied it from the under cell of a wooden
window, and read the figures lOQO, being all Arabian, was printed likewise in
the Transactions, N° 266, as more ancient than the former.

None earlier than these last two had yet appeared, till that from Widgel-
Hall. On the sight of this, Mr. Ward thought the reading given to it looked
very plausible. The mixed characters were no just objection, which Dr. Wallis
had accounted for in the Helmdon date, and Mr. Ward himself observed in
some manuscripts. Yet one difficulty seemed to remain, which was the want
of some character in the place of hundreds. And therefore soon after going
into Hertfordshire, he took that opportunity to wait upon Mr. Gulston, in
order to see the original.

That gentleman afterwards informed him, by letter, that the house was
always esteemed ancient : that before it was burnt, on the timbers there were
several old coats of arms ; some were considered as belonging to the family of
the Scalers, who were possessors of Widdihale, with other estates, soon after
the conquest ; and at the time of the conquest it was in the possession of a
considerable follower of Harold.

Widdihale, in Hertfordshire, in the time of the Conqueror was parcel of the
estate of Hardwin de Scalers, as appears by Domesday Book, fol. 141. It con-
tinued in that family for several generations, till it came to Anthony Widvile,
by the marriage of the daughter and heir of Scalers. But when he would not
comply with Richard the Third to destroy the young Princes, all his lands were
seized, and the manor continued in the crown, till Henry the Eighth granted
it to George Canon and John Gill: George Gill, the son of John, marrying the
daughter of George Canon, obtained the whole. In this family it continued till
the beginning of the reign of James the First, when it was sold to John
Goulston, Esq. whose descendants now hold it.

The piece of timber was the top of a door-way, in a timber built house, and
plastered over with mortar. From the date on the plastered wall, the door had
not been used at least 343 years ; for on the outside was plainly to be seen the



date 1390. Part of the room this was found in, was burnt too much to
repair again.

On considering the characters on this plank, and those of the other two
dates mentioned above, with the accounts given by learned men of the time
when the Arabian figures were first introduced into these parts of the world,
and the various forms they have since received, as exhibited in fig. 4, pi. 1.
Mr. Ward was at last satisfied, that none of these 3 dates prove they were ever
used among us, in less than 100 years after the reading given to the latest
of them.

Most writers, who have treated of the use of these figures, have thought
they came first from the Persians or Indians, to the Arabians, and from them
to the Moors, and so to the Spaniards, from whom the other Europeans re-
ceived them. This was the opinion of John Gerard Vossius, (De Natura Art.
lib. iii, cap. 8, § 6,) Mr. John Greaves, (De Siglis Arabum et Persarum Astro-
nomicis, p. 2, where the form of them may be seen,) Bishop Beveridge,
(Arithmet. Chronolog. lib. i, cap. 5,) Dr. Wallis, (De Algebra, cap. 3, p. 10,)
and many others. And the Arabians themselves acknowledge that they had
them from the Indians, as both Dr. Wallis (Ibid. p. 9), and Mr. Greaves (De
Siglis Arabum, &c.) have shown from their writers.

But Isaac Vossius thought the ancient Greeks and Romans were acquainted
with these figures, and that the Arabians took them from the Greeks, and the
Indians from the Arabians, (Observat. ad Pomp. Mel. p. 64). For the proof of
this he refers to Tyro and Seneca's Notes, (Vid. Grut. Inscript. vol. ii, ad fin.)
and the treatise of Boethius De Geometria, (Lib. i, sub. fin.) But as to the
notes of Tyro and Seneca, they seem to have no affinity with these figures,
either in the number or nature of them ; for they are not limited to 9, but are
many times that number, and all different in form. Nor are they simple signs
of numbers, but complex characters of several letters of those numeral words
which they stand for in the Roman language, like our short-hands ; and there-
fore vary in their shape, as they are designed to express cardinals, ordinals, or
adverbs of number. This will appear by the table of characters annexed to
these papers, in which are given the first 10 of each. But as to what Vossius
says concerning Boethius, Mr. Ward observed in a curious manuscript of that
writer, now in the library of Dr. Mead, nine characters, which he says were
invented and used by some of the Pythagoreans in their calculations ; while
others of them made use of the letters of the alphabet for the same purpose.
Boethius calls them apices vel characteres, (Lib. i, sub. fin.) These also are
inserted in the table, to show the great affinity between them and the Arabian
figures, as these latter were written two or three centuries since.


The opinion of Daniel Huetius differed from either of the former ; for he
imagined, the Arabian figures were only the letters of the Greek alphabet, cor-
rnpted and altered by ignorant librarians, (Demonstrat. Evangel, prop. iv. c. 13,

p. 17 '2.)

From this summary account of the rise and antiquity of these figures, it
seems probable that they might owe their original to the Greeks, those com-
mon masters of all science, and passing from them first to the eastern nations,
come round to these western parts, in the manner before described. We have
no other author, who speaks of this matter, near so ancient as Boethius, whose
words are very express, and much strengthened by the similitude of his cha-
racters with the Arabian figures. And therefore we may rather suppose they
took their rise from these, than from the small Greek letters, with which
Huetius compared them ; since these latter are neither so like them, nor so old
as the time of Boethius, And though what the Arabians say may be true, that
they had them from the Indians, and not the Indians from them, as Isaac
Vossius conjectured ; yet it may be equally true, that the Indians had them first
from the Greeks, and those Arabian writers, who are not very ancient, not
have known it ; nor are there any Indian monuments of sufficient antiquity to
render this opinion questionable. >\;ii'

But whichever of these suppositions may be esteemed the most credible, with
respect to the origin of these figures ; Joseph Scaliger thought they were not
received by the Europeans, as they came of later ages from the Arabians, long
before the year 1300, (Lib. iii, Ep. 223.)

But John Gerard Vossius, was of the opinion they began to use them about
the middle of the 13th century, or the year 1250, (De Natur. Art. lib. iii,

cap. 8, ^7-)

Father Mabillon, in his treatise De Re Diplomatica, was necessarily led to
attend to the use of these figures, particularly in dates. And he informs us,
that they were rarely used before the 14th century, except in some few books of
geometry and arithmetic. And presently after he says, it was not much to his
purpose to treat of them, since he did not design to carry his work lower than
the 13th century, (Lib. ii, c. 28, § 10.) By which he seems to intimate, that
he had met with very few, if any, instances of Arabian figures, in such instru-
ments at least, before the year 1 300.

But no one appears to have examined this subject more carefully than Dr.
Wallis ; who has off^ered some arguments to prove that Gerbert, a monk, who
was afterwards advanced to the papal see, and took the name of Sylvester II,
had before the year 1000 learned the art of arithmetic, as now practised, with
the use only of g characters (whatever their form then was) from the Saracens

F 2


in Spain, which he afterwards carried into France, (De Algebra, c. 4, p. 17).
But the Doctor thinks those characters or figures were known for a long time
after only to such artists, and principally used by them in astronomical calcula-
tions ; the Roman numerals being still retained in common use to express
smaller numbers, (Ibid. p. 1 1, 15, l6.) Nor has he given the figures used by
any of those writers before Johannes de Sacro Bosco, who died in the year
1256; and Maximus Planudes, a Greek, who flourished after him ; which are
here copied from him, in fig. 4.

Mr. David Casley, in his Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the King's Li-
brary, &c. has published a specimen of a manuscript from the Cottonian Library,
called Calendarium Rogeri Bacon, (Plate xv.) and dated I2g2. The figures in
this book are Arabian, and, as Mr. Casley says, the oldest that he remembers
to have met with in either of those libraries: for which reason they have a place
also in the table.

It appeared exceedingly difficult, how to reconcile the opinions and observations
of these several writers, concerning the first use of the Arabian figures in these
western countries, with the time assigned even to the latest of the dates above-
mentioned. And it could not but seem very strange, that no date of any writ-
ing should have been produced in those figures, or any other use of them dis-
covered (except perhaps in some mathematical calculations, or books of arith-
metic) long before the 14th century ; and yet that a date should be found, so
carved in a piece of wood, before the middle of the I'ith century, for so com-
mon a purpose as the mantle-tree of a chimney.

But on a closer examination of the characters, Mr. Ward found reason to
think, this was not really the case ; and that instead of 1 133, they ought to be
read 1233, what has been taken for a 1, being designed for a 2. This reading
seems to be confirmed by the shape of the two 33 that follow it, from which,
if the bottom curve towards the right hand (as it was often made formerly) was
taken off, the upper part would make the 2. Which agreement between those
figures is not only usual at present, but often found in manuscripts of the 14th
and 15th centuries. Though sometimes indeed it is otherwise ; and the 2 has
an angle at the top, when the 3 is round, which would not so well have suited
this square hand. The reason which occasioned the carrying this date so high,
has probably been the similitude between the small i over the preceding abre-
viated word domini and this 2. And he believes this date may claim the pre-
ference of being the oldest of the sort that has hitherto been discovered.

The antiquity ascribed to the Colchester date, namely lOQO, has, it seems,
been occasioned by a mistake in the copy ; for the in the place of hundreds,
should have been made a 4, by drawing down an oblique stroke on each side


from the bottom, which makes it 149O, before which time the 4 had long re-
ceived that shape.

As to the date from Widgel-Hall, which gave occasion to this inquiry, it
seems plainly intended to express the year 1000, and no more, by the Roman
^ in the escutcheon on the right side. For the characters in the other
escutcheon cannot, Mr. Ward thinks, stand for figures, but must be the initial
letters of two names I. G. as W. R. in the Helmdon date ; and were very pro-
bably designed in both to denote the persons who erected those buildings. The
omission of a character in the place of hundreds, is still an argument, that
these last two were not made for figures. But what seems to put the matter
past all doubt, is the want of evidence that the figure 6 had received that form
till some ages afterward : and when it was introduced, the upper part was not
at first made so erect, as it is here, but carried in a small arch just over the top
of the circle. On the other hand, what looks here like the modern 6, was at
that time the usual form of the capital G. This Mr. Ward found fully con-
firmed by a large collection of original grants, made by our ancient kings and
others, and preserved in the Cottonian Library, (Augustus II.) On consulting
these for half a century at least, both before and after the year IO16, the g is
so written in a great number of them. For these reasons therefore he makes
no question, but that character was designed for a g, and not a 6. And it is
plain from other circumstances in Mr. Gulston's letter, that the building might
very probably be as ancient as the year 1000; which renders this relic of it,
considering how firm and sound it still is, a remarkable curiosity.

The use which may be made of these observations, is this : that so far as yet
appears, any coin, inscription, or manuscript, with a supposed date before the
13th century, expressed in Arabian figures, may be justly suspected either not
to be genuine, or not truly read ; unless its antiquity be certain, from other
clear and undoubted circumstances, and the date will bear no other reading ;
and, if it be a copy, that it has been taken with exactness.

Some Considerations on the Antiquity and Use of the Indian Characters or
Figures. By Mr. John Cope. N° 439, p. 131.

The ingenious invention of figures by the sagacious Indians, is of such vast
importance in numbering, that it can never be too much admired, though now
their use is become so familar among us, that very few consider what a loss the
want of them would be to people of every station in life : for, to consider only,
that such a number as not long before the conquest would take up a good
arithmetician whole days to count by the literal characters, is now by the help


of figures commonly expressed by a child in a few minutes. This consideration
of the vast use of figures, put Dr. Wallis, and others since him, on inquiring
at what time they were first happily introduced into this island.

Dr. Wallis informs us, that we had the figures from Spain, into which nation
they were brought by the Moors. The Moors had them from the Arabians ;
and the Arabians from the Indians. And it was the Doctor's opinion, that they
were first brought into England about the year I J30; for that the first instance
of their use which he had met with, was a date upon a chimney-piece, which
date was St^ 133, the character S19 which the Romans used to express 1000,
being mixed with figures, as Dr. Wallis observes, was often done at their first
coming in ; and since that, in Philos. Trans. N° 266, is mentioned a date IO9O,
all in figures.

Lately too Mr. Cope produced a date on a chimney-piece at Widgel-Hall in
Hertfordshire, which was fj^ 16, the 01 for the lOOO, being here again mixed
with figures. And he now produces a still earlier instance of the use of figures
in England, being a draught of an inscription over a gateway at Worcester,
built, it is believed, in the reign of King Edgar, and is this (i')Xl> 97^, which
is 158 years before the date of Dr. Wallis's, 41 years before that Mr. Ward
produced last year, and is now 76O years standing. The account of this date
Mr. W. had given him by Mr. Joseph Dougharty of Worcester, who is an in-
genious and reputable person, and lives in the house over the gate-way on
which this inscription is : he also said, that his house goes by the name of the
oldest house m five counties ; and it is the current opinion there, and reported
by the ancient people in that place, that the house was built by King Edgar,

where they say he sometimes kept his court : and all historians agree that

Worcester was then a very considerable bishopric ; and that Dunstan and
Oswald, who were both successively bishops there in Edgar's time, were both
his great favourites, especially Dunstan, for whom King Edgar had a very great
regard : for it appears that the first thing Edgar did after he came to the crown,
was to recall Dunstan from Flanders, where he had been 3 years in exile, and
was immediately made prime minister, favourite, and confessor, as first bishop
of Worcester, and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury ; on which last pro-
motion his great friend Oswald succeeded him in the See of Worcester : and it
is very likely that either Dunstan or Oswald, as having so much power, interest
and riches, might erect a building there, of which this gate-way might have
been a part ; for as Edgar died in the same year 975, if we suppose the date to
be fixed on the building the year it was finished, as is now commonly done,
Edgar could not live or keep his court there, unless it was in some part of that
year in which we suppose it to be finished.


Remarks on the foregoing Ancient Dale, over a Gate-way, near the Cathedral,
at Worcester. By John IVard, F. R. S. N° 439, P- 136.

Mr. Ward having lately communicated to the Royal Society some remarks
on an ancient date, carved in wood, that was found at Widgel-Hall near

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