Beyond Price: Pearls and Pearl-fishing : Origins to the Age of Discoveries

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American Philosophical Society, 1998 - Philosophy - 448 pages
Man has been intrigued by the origin of pearls, sensitive to their beauty, & convinced of their medicinal value for at least five millennia. A mixture of folklore & observation preceded the earliest scientific inquiries. Fishing & trade commenced in southern Asia, between India & Sri Lanka & around the Persian Gulf. In Western & Central Europe, Inner Asia & China, & North America, freshwater pearls were probably known & treasured before those of marine origin. R.A. Donkin combines written sources with the results of archaeological & philological research. A refined nomenclature lends support to other evidence pointing to long familiarity, & etymologically related words for 'pearl'- reflecting former trading connections or colonization. Pearls were prominent among the luxury products which, for many centuries, the West associated with the legendary East & South; conversely, the Chinese looked to the West & South. From the opening of the Age of Discoveries & for the next two & a half centuries marine pearls were high among the objectives of expeditions to the eastern & western Tropics. The often remote centers of demand were affluent & culturally advanced societies where dealers & purchasers exercised fine judgment in matters of shape & color & iridescence, as they continue to do today. Beyond Price: Pearls & Pearl-Fishing, organized both chronologically & by region is called by reviewer, James Parsons, "the crowning achievement of a world-class scholar....The folklore regarding pearls has created an endlessly imaginative literature, here analyzed meticulously." The book is enhanced with over 100 maps & illustrations.
 

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Page 118 - While sparkling cups delight our eyes, Be gay; and scorn the frowns of age. What cruel answer have I heard ! And yet, by heaven, I love thee still: Can aught be cruel from thy lip ? Yet say, how fell that bitter word From lips which streams of sweetness fill, Which...
Page 91 - Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls : who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Page 275 - HIGH on a throne of royal state, which far Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind ; Or where the gorgeous East, with richest hand, Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold...
Page 171 - The plunder was so great that every private man in the allied army became rich in gold, jewels, effects, tents, arms, horses, and slaves, as the sultans left every person in possession of what he had acquired, only taking elephants for their own use.
Page 208 - ... palace, and the floors of its chambers, are entirely of gold, in plates like slabs of stone, a good two fingers thick; and the windows also are of gold, so that altogether the richness of this palace is past all bounds and all belief.
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Page 208 - ... the outer fibres of the bamboo are woven into cloth. The weather is always hot. " There is a pond with pearls in it, and at night their light is seen on the surface of the water ; the natives sell pearls to the Chinese, and on the large ones enormous profits are made. When the (Chinese) merchant vessels leave, a few of their men are detained as hostages for their coming back again.
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