Dictionarium polygraphicum. Lacca.

Dictionarium Polygraphicum:
Or, The Whole Body of Arts Regularly Digested.
Vol II.
London: Printed for C. Hitch and C. Davis in Pater-noster Row, and S. Austen in St. Paul's Church Yard. MDCCXXXV.
Lacca, is a kind of gum, or rather wax, hard, red, brittle, clear and transparent, brought from Malabar, Bengal, and Pegu, and used in dying scarlet, &c.

Authors are not agreed as to the production of this curious wax.

F. Tachard, who was upon the spot, fays, that a kind of little ants, fixing themselves to the branches of several trees, leave behind them a reddish moisture, which lying exposed to the sun and wind, hardens in 5 or 6 days time.

Some again are of opinion, that this is not the production of the ants, but a juice which they draw out of the tree, by making little incisions in it; and indeed the trees where the Lacca is found do yield a gum; but then 'tis of a nature very different from the Lacca.

The ants are as it were a kind of bets, and the Lacca is their honey: they work at it 8 months in the year, and the rest of the time they lie by, because of the rains.

The Method of preparing the Lacca is as follows: the first thing they do, is to separate it from the branches, to which it adheres; pound it in a mortar, and throw it into boiling water, and when the water is well dyed, they pour on fresj, till such time that it will tinge no more.

Then this water is set in the sun to evaporate, and afterwards the liquid tincture is strained through a cloth.

This gum being examined by M. Geoffroy, appeared to be a kind of Comb, such as bees and some other inlects are accustomed to make. Upon breaking it into pieces, it appeared divided into a great number of little cells of an uniform figure, and which plainly shew that it never ouz'd from trees: these cells are not mere excrements, as some take them to be, but are destined for something to be deposited in them, and accordingly are found to contain little bodies, which those Persons who observed it first took for the wings, or other parts of insects which produced the Lacca.

These little bodies are of a beautiful red; and when broke make a powder as fine as cochineal.

It is most probable that these cells are designed for the lodging of the young brood in, as those of bees; and that these little carcasses are the embryo's of the insects, or perhaps their skins. This before mentioned is the natural Lacca.

There are several forts of Lacca, or Lake, or Laque; besides which there are several Lakes used by painters which go by these names, and are called artificial lakes; being coloured substances drawn from several flowers. See the article LAKE.

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