Tyrian Purple.

The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review
by Sylvanus Urban, Gent.
July-December 1864
London John Henry and James Parker. 1864.

That this colour was extracted by the ancients from a mollusk is well known, but of what species has not been fully ascertained. De Lamarck, in his magnificent work on Invertebrata, adopts the opinion that the species known among naturalists under the name of Murex brandaris was that which yielded the purple of the first quality. M. Boblaye proved the soundness of this opinion during his travels as a member of the scientific expedition to the Peloponnesus. Following the sea-coast, he was surprised to find at short distances certain considerable deposits of the Murex brandaris. At first he was inclined to attribute them to some geological cause; but on examining the neighbourhood, he ascertained that those deposits were in every instance close to some ruin, generally bearing traces of having once been dyeing establishments. Several other species of Murex seem to have been used for a purple of an inferior quality. Subsequently M. Fr. Lenormant found similar and much more numerous deposits on the coasts of Cerigo and Gythium. It was therefore on those islands chiefly that purple used to be manufactured from the Murex brandaris. M. de Saulcy, nevertheless, does not consider the question as definitively set at rest, and is of opinion that the best colour was derived from another mollusk. He states that in going from Tyre to Sidon, and entering the latter by a staircase built near the coast, and adjoining the rope-yards, an enormous mass of shells is perceived, all belonging to the single species called Murex trunculus. The deposit is upwards of a hundred metres in length, and between six and eight metres in height, with a considerable breadth which cannot be ascertained because the deposit is on one side covered with the soil. All the shells without exception are broken in exactly the same manner, evidently with a view to get at the animal itself. This is certainly not the effect of mere accident, and it can only be explained by supposing that the Sidonian dyers extracted their purple from this species, while in Greece the other was employed.

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