A Dictionary of Arts: Archil.

A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines; containing A Clear Exposition of Their Principles and Practice

by Andrew Ure, M. D.;
F. R. S. M. G. S. Lond.: M. Acad. M. S. Philad.; S. PH. DOC. N. GERM. Ranow.; Mulh. Etc. Etc.

Illustrated with nearly fifteen hundred engravings on wood
Eleventh American, From The Last London Edition.
To which is appended, a Supplement of Recent Improvements to The Present Time.

New York: D Appleton & company, 200 Broadway. Philadelphia: George S. Appleton, 148 Chestnut St.


ARHIL. A violet red paste used in dyeing, of which the substance called cudbear in Scotland (from Cuthbert, its first preparer in that form), is a modification. Two kinds of archil are distinguished in commerce, the archil plant of the canaries, and that of Auvergne. The first is most esteemed: it is prepared from lichen rocellus, which grows on rocks adjoining the sea in the Canary and Cape de Verd Islands, in Sardinia, Minorca, &c., as well as on the rocks of Sweden. The second species is prepared from the lichen parellus, which grows on the basaltic rocks of Auvergne.

Tjere are several other species of lichen which might be employed in producing an analogous dye, were they prepared, like the proceding, into the substance called archil. Hellot gives the following method for discovering if they possess tis property. A little of the plant is to be put into a glass vessel; it is to be moistened with ammonia and lime-water in equal parts; a little muriate of ammonia (sal ammoniac) is added; and the small vessel is corked. If the plant be of a nature to afford a red dye, after three or four days, the small portion of liquid, which will run off on inclining the vessel, now opened, will be tinged of a crimson red, and the plant itself will have assumed this color. If the liquor of the plant does not take this color, nothing need be hoped for; and it is useless to attempt its preparation on the great scale. Lewis says, however, that he has tested in this way a great many mosses, and that most of them afforded him a yellow or reddish-brown color; but that he obtained from only a small number a liquor of a deep red, which communicated to cloth merely a yellowish-red color.

Prepared archil gives out its color very readily to water, ammonia, and alcohol. Its solution in alcohol is used for filling spirit-of-wine thermometers; and when these hermometers are well freed from air, the liquor loses its color in some years, as Abbé Nollet observed. The contact of air restores the color, which is destroyed anew, in vaeuo, in process of time. The watery infurion loses its color, by the privation of air, in a few days; a singular phenomenon, which merits new researches.

The infusion of archil is of a crimson bordering on violet. As it contains ammonia, which has already modified its natural color, the fized alkalies can produce little change on it, only deepening the color a little, and making it more violet. Alum forms in it a precipitate of a brown red; and the supernatant liquid retains a yellowish-red color. The solution of tin affords a reddish precipitate, which falls down slowly; the supernatant liquid retains a feeble red color. The other metallic salts produce precipitates which offer nothing remarkable.

The watery solution of archil, applied to cold marble, penetrates it, communicating a beautiful violet color, or a blue bordering on purple, which resists the air much longer than the archil colors applied to other substances. Dufay says, that he has seen marble tinged with this color preserve it without alteration at the end of two years.

To dye with archil, the quantity of this substance deemed necessary, according to the quantity of wool or stuff to be dyed, and according to the shade to which they are to be brought, is to be diffused in a bath of water as soon as it begins to grow warm. The bath is then heated till it be ready to boil, and the wool or stuff is passed through it without any other preparation, except keeping that longest in, which is to have the deepest shade. A fine gridelin, bordering upon violet, is thereby obtained; but this color has no permanence. Hence archil is rarely employed with any other view than to modify, heighten, and give lustre to the other colors. Hellot says, that having employed archil on wool boiled with tartar and alum, the color resisted the air no more than what had received no preparation. But he obtained from herm archil (Porseille d'herbe) a much more durable color, by putting in the bath some solution of tin. The archil thereby loses its natural color, and assumes one approaching more or less to scarlet, according to the quantity of solution of tin employed. This process must be executed in nearly the same manner as that of scarlet, except that the dyeing may be performed in a single bath.

Archil is frequently had recourse to for varying the different shades and giving them lustre; hence it is used for violets, lilachs, mallows, and rosemary flowers. To obtain a deeper tone, as for the deep soapes au vin, sometimes a little alkali or milk of lime is mixed with it. The suites of this browning may also afford agates, rosemary flowers, and other delicate colors, which cannot be obtained so beautiful by other processes. Alum cannot be substituted for this purpose; it not only does not give the lustre, but it degrades the deep colors.

The herb-archil is preferable to the archil of Auvergne, from the greater bloom which it communicates to the colors, and from the larger quantity of coloring matter. It has, besides, the advantage of bearing ebullition. The latter, moreover, does not answer with alum, which destroys the color; but the herb archil has the inconvenience of dyeing in an irregular manner, unless attention be given to pass the cloth through hot water as soon as it comes out of the dye.

Archil alone is not used for dyeing silk, unless for lilachs; but silk is frequently passed through a bath of archil, either before dyeing it in other baths or after it has been dyed, in order to modify different colors, or to give them lustre. Examples of this will be given in treating of the compound colors. It is sufficient here to point out now white silks are passed through the archil bath. The same process is performed with a bath more or less charged with this color, for silks already dyed.

Archil, in a quantity proportioned to the color desired, is to be boiled in a copper. The clear liquid is to be run off quite hot from the archil bath, leaving the sediment at the bottom, into a tub of proper size, in which the silks, newly scoured with soap, are to be turned round on the skein-sticks with much exactness, till they have attained the wished-for shade. After this they must receive one beetling at the river.

Archil is in general a very useful ingredient in dyeing; but as it is rich in color, and communicates an alluring bloom, dyers are often tempted to abuse it, and to exceed the proportions that can add to the beauty without at the same time injuring in a dangerous manner the permanence of colors. Nevertheless, the color obtained when solution of tin is employed, is less fugitive than without this addition: it is red, approaching to scarlet. Tin appears to be the only ingredient which can increase its durability. The solution of tin may be employed, not only in the dyeing bath, but for the preparation of the silk. In this case, by mixing the archil with other coloring substances, dyes may be obtained which have lustre with sufficient durability.

We have spoken of the color of the archil as if it were natural to it; but it is, really, due to an alkaline combination. The acids make it pass to red, either by saturating the alkali, or by substituting themselves for the alkali.

The lichen which produces archil is subjected to another preparation, to make turnsole (litmus). This article is made in Holland. The lichen comes from the Canary Islands, and also from Sweden. It is reduced to a fine powder by means of a mill, and a certain proportion of potash is mixed with it. The micture is watered with urine, and allowed to suffer a species of fermentation. When this has arrived at a certain degree, carbonate of lime in powder is added, to give consistence and weight to the paste, which is afterwards reduced into small parallelopipeds that are carefully dried.

The latest researches on the lichens, as objects of manufacture, are those of Westring of Stockholm. He examined 150 species, among which he found several which might be rendered useful. He recommends that the coloring matter should be extracted in the places where they grow, which would save a vast expense in curing, package, corringe, and waste. He styles the colorings substance itself cutbear, persio, or turnsole; and distributes the lichens as follows: -1st. Those which, left to themselves, exposed to moderate heat and moisture, may be fixed without a mordant upon wool or silk; such are the L. cinereus, armatonta, ventosus, corallinus, westringii, saxatilis, conspassus, barbatus, plicatus, vulpinus, &c.

2. Those which develop a coloring matter, fixable likewise without mordant, but which require boiling and a complicated preparation; such are the lichens subcarneus, fillenii, farinaceus, jubatus, furfuraceus, pulmonareus, cornigaius, cocciferus, digitatus, anciatis, aduncus, & c. Saltpetre or sea-salt is requisite to improve the lustre and fastness of the dye given by this group to silk.

3. Those which require a peculiar process to develop their color; such as those which become purple through the agency of stale urine or ammonia. Westring employed the following mode of testing: - He put three or dour drachme of the dried and powdered lichen into a flask; moistened it with three or four measures of cold spring water; put the stuff to be dyed into the mixture, and left the flask in a cool place. Sometimes he added a little salt, saltpetre, quicklime, or sulphate of copper. If no color appeared, he then moistened the lichen with water containing one twentieth of sal ammoniac, and one tenth of quicklime, and set the mixture aside in a cool place from eight to fourteen days. There appeared in most cases a reddish or violet colored tint. Thus lichen cinereus dyed silk a deep carmelite, and wool a light carmelite; the lichen physodes gave a yellowish-gray; the pustalatus, a rose red; sanguinarius, gray; tartareus, found on the rocks of Norway, Scotland, and England, dyes a crimson-red. In Jutland, cutbear is made from it, by grinding the dry lichen, sifring it, then setting it to ferment in a close vessel with ammonia. The lichen must be of the third year's growth to yield an abundant dye; and that which grows near the sea is the best. It loses half its weight by drying. A single person may gather from twenty to thirty pounds a day in situations where it abounds. No less than 2,239,685 pounds were manufactured at Christiansand, Flekkefiort, and Facksun, in Norway, in the course of the six years prior to 1812. Snce more solid dyes of the same shade have been invented, the archil has gone much into disuse. Federigo, of Florence, who revived its use at the beginning of the fourteenth century, made such an immense fortune by its preparation, that his family became one of the grandees of that city, under the name of Oricellarii, or Rucellarii. For more than a century Italy possessed the exclusive art of making archil, obtaining the lichens from the islands of the Mediterranean. According to an official report of 1831, Teneriffe furnished annually 500 quintals (ewts.) of lichen; the Canary Isles, 400; Fuerta Santura, 300; Lancerot, 300; Gomera, 300; isle of Ferro, 800. This business belonged to the crown, and brought it a revenue of 1500 piastres. The farmers paid from 15 to 20 reals for the right to gather each quintal. At that time the quintal fetched in London market 4t. sterling.

Archil is perhaps too much used in some cloth factories of England, to the discredit of our dyes. It is said, that by its aid one third of the indigo may be saved in the blue vat; but the color is so much the more perishable. The fine soft tint induced upon much of the black cloth by means of archil is also deceptive. One half-pound of cutbear will dye one pound of woollen cloth. A crimson red is obtained by adding to the decocton of archil a little salt of tin (muriate), and passing the cloth through the bath, after it has been prepared by a mordant tin and tartar. It must be afterwards passed through hot water.

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