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The Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge and General Literature, was commenced with the year 1832; and, the publication of it, having been continued in monthly parts, agreeably to the Prospectus, is now brought to a close. Having thus completed an engagement with the public, the compiler avails himself of the opportunity now offered of making a respectful acknowledgement for the patronage received. The commendations bestowed, by Editors and others, on this enterprise, have been truly gratifying to his feelings. He would not be insensible to such indications of an approving community. To merit them is his highest ambition.
Although the first edition of the Family Encyclopedia has been published, as a periodical, in numbers of an uniform size, still it has been the intention of the compiler, to give it a character fitting it for standing use. Accordingly, it has been stereotyped, and will hereafter be furnished to the public in successive editions, as they shall be needed. A multitude of facts, pertaining to general literature, both interesting and useful, is here embodied in a cheap and convenient form, which could scarcely be found, except in larger Encyclopedias, till thus collected together. It is believed that most persons may accustom themselves to make this volume a source of amusement and instruction in their leisure hours. Let them open it where they will, they will probably be obliged to turn over but a few leaves, before they will meet an article that will catch the attention, and amply repay them for the time devoted to its perusal.
Boston, December, 1833.
ABL A, in almost all languages, is the first letter of of which, the abbot, by bis deputy, could even try the alphabet, because, if pronounced open, as in offenders for capital crimes committed within the father, it is the simplest and easiest of all sounds. territories of the abbey. Among the advantages of This is the only mode of pronouncing it in almost these institutions, they afforded a welcome asylum every language except the English. With this letter to those who wished to forsake the active toils of children generally begin to speak, and it serves to life, and a tranquil retreat to persons of dignified express many of the various emotions of the hu- birth, in indigence or old age. They supported the man mind. For the same reason, it is found in all poor, received pilgrims, and afforded entertainment original languages, in many words, which infants to travellers. utter to designate the objects with which they are most nearly connected; for instance, the names by ABBREVIATION. Is the shortening of a word which they call their parents. Hence, in Hebrew, by omitting some of the letters. Those languages am is mother: and ab is father. In old Greek and which consist chiefly of consonants, such us the Gothic, atta is father; and in Latin, mamma signifies Hebrew, may be said to be written altogether in the breast.
abbreviations, because a number of subsequent
consonants would be mute, without the substituABACUS. Signified, among the ancients, a kind tion of vowels. In such languages, therefore, it is of cup-board, or buffet. They were, in times of in the omission of these vowels that ihe abbreviagreat luxury, plated with gold. It also signified a tion consists. table covered with dust, on which the mathenia- The Monks, in the middle ages, made use of ticians drew their figures for illustration, as do the many abbreviations in copying the classic authors, pupils of the Lancastrian schools at present. It also on which account the manuscripts of that time signified an ancient instrument for facilitating arith- cannot be read with ease, except by practised eyes. metical operations, which was with the ancients, These abbreviations ofteu give rise to different readvery necessary, as their way of writing numbers ings. They have been much less used since the rendered any calculation very difficult.
invention of printing. The Germans employ them,
for ordinary words, in greater proportion, ihan other ABAFT. A sea term, the hinder part of a ship, civilized nations. The abbreviations in English law towards the stern.
are numerous; there are also many for English
titles. ABBE. Before the French revolution, was the title of all those Frenchmen who devoted them- ABERRATION. In astronomy, is a change in selves to the study of divinity, or had at least pur- the position of the fixed stars, arising from the prosued a course of theological study in a theological gressive motion of light, combined with the annual seminary, in the hope that the king would confer motion of the earth, by means of which they someou theni a real abbey; that is, a certain part of the times appear twenty seconds distant from their true revenues of a monastery. It was, therefore, a no- position. This apparent motion of the heavenly minal abbotship, which neither imposed any duty, bodies was detected in 1725, by the celebrated Dr. por conveyed any emolument, but was valuable on Bradley, and is one of the most brilliant discoveries account of the respect in which it was held by so- which has enriched the science of astronomy. ciety, and the consequent assistance that it afforded to advancement in church or state. Abbés were, ABLUTION. A ceremonious washing of the of course, admissible into the best companies; and, whole, or part, of the body, practised in ancient were often tutors in colleges and private families. times, and still in use among Mahoinmedans and
some portions of professed Christians. It was proABBEY. A monastery, or convent, governed by bably instituted for the prevention of those disora superior under the title of Abbot, when occupied ders, in the warm climates of the east, which result by males, and Abbess, when appropriated to females. from the filth in which the greater part of the peoCertain abbeys enjoyed extraordinary privileges. ple were, and still are, obliged to live. For this They were allowed to coin money; and an exten- purpose it was made a religious rite ; and, by an sive jurisdiction was conferred on them, in virtue easy transition of idea, the murity of the body was
made to typify the purity of the soul-an idea the valley, from the height of 2000 feet, and buried in more rational, as it is perhaps physically certain, its ruins the villages of Goldau, Busingen, and Raththat outward wretchedness debases the mind. len, with a part of Lowertz and Oberart. The tor
rent of earth and stones, which composed the ABORIGINES. A name now given to the mountain, rushed like lava into the valley, and original inhabitants of any country. Thus the na- overwhelmed more than three square miles of the tives of America are called aborigines. The first richest fields. A portion of this mass, mingled with people of ancient Italy were called by the same the trees and cottages, which it had torn from their
base, plunged into the lake of Lowertz, and filled
up nearly a fifth part of its bed. The immense ABSORPTION. Is the act or process of imbib-swell, which was thus occasioned, rolling in awful ing or swallowing; either by water which over- dignity along the lake, completely submerged two whelms, or by substances, which drink in or retain inhabited islands, and the whole village of Seven, liquids; as the absorption of a body in a whirlpool, which stood upon its northern extremity. In this or of water by the earth, or of the humors of the dreadful accident between 1500 and 2000 of the body by dry powders. It is used also to express inhabitants were buried alive. the swallowing up of substances by the earth in chasms made by earthquakes, and the sinking of ABSTINENCE. The avoiding or refraining large tracts in violent commotions of the earth. A from anything, to which there is either a natural or few instances of the absorption of the earth will be habitual propensity. In various systems of religion, given.
abstinence has been enjoined, not only from alj In the time of Pliny, the town Curites, and the food for certain limited periods, but also, during a mountain Cybotus, on which it stood, were so com- particular season, from certain kinds of food. Durpletely absorbed, that scarcely a trace of them was ing one of the Mahommedan feasts, total abstinence left behind. The city of Tantalus, in Magnesia, from food is observed between sunrise and sunset. and the mountain Sypilus, suffered the same cala- The Jews, as is well known, abstain entirely from mity from a sudden opening of the earth. A similar swine's flesh; and, the Roman Catholics, on some fate befell the towns of Galanis and Gamalis, in days of the week, independent of their greater fasts, Phænicia ; and the huge promontory of Phegium, eat no flesh. in Ethiopia, disappeared after a violent earthquake. The effects of abstinence, and the surprising powThe lofty mountain Picus, in the Molucca Isles, ers of animated nature to sustain the absolute priwas instantaneously absorbed, in consequence of an vation of what seems indispensable to preserve life, earthquake; and an immense lake of water appear- are subjects of extreme interest. Wonderful effects, ed on the place which it occupied.
in the cure of disease, are said to have resulted from A similar accident happened in China, in 1556, a spare and meagre diet. One of these is recorded when a whole province was swallowed up, along in the history of Cornaro, a noble Venetian, who with its inhabitants, and left in its place an exten- after a life of luxury, was, at the age of forty, atsive sheet of water. We are also told, that several tacked by a disease attended with mortal symptoms; mountains of the Andes have disappeared from a yet he not only recovered, but lived nearly one hunsimilar cause.
dred years, from the mere effects of abstemiousness. In 1702, Borge, a seat in Norway, sunk into the We are told of several individuals that have reachground, and became a lake two fathoms deep; and ed a century, a century and a half, nay, have even in Finland, in 1793, a piece of ground of 4000 square approached to the age of two centuries, supported yards, sunk to the depth of fifteen fathoms. on an extremely slender diet, which was thought to
On the 23d of June, 1727, one of the Cevennes, contribute materially to the preservation of their a chain of mountains in the south of France, was health. But though physicians have ascribed many undermined by absorption, and the whole moun singular cures to this cause alone, it is not to be tain, with its huge basaltic columns, rolled, with a denied, that extraordinary abstinence will also be dreadful crash, into the valley below. An immense productive of disease. block of stone, ninety feet long and twenty-six in There is a wide difference between the faculty diameter, sunk in a vertical position ; and so great of subsisting on a given portion of food, however was the shock, that it was felt, and considered as small, and that of supporting existence under the an earthquake, at the distance of three miles. The total privation of sustenance. Neither is it to be village Pradines, which was situated on the decli- overlooked, in considering this subject, that, in cervity of the mountain, was overwhelmed by the tor- tain situations, the animal functions are feebly mainrent of huge fragments of rocks; but its inhabitants tained. Numerous animals are destined to pass a were fortunately celebrating midsummer eve, around large portion of their existence, in a state of absoa bonfire at some distance.
lute insensibility. On the simple approach of cold, These instances of absorption, however, are less without any other known cause, they become laninteresting than that dreadful calamity, which hap- guid and inactive; their members stiffen; and they pened at Schweitz, a canton in Switzerland, on the fall into a profound torpidity, from which they are 3d of September, 1806, and which appears to have only to be roused by augmenting the surrounding been owing to an absorption of the earth. Between temperature. But not to recur to such instances, the lakes of Zug and Lowertz, and the mountains where the animal functions are unquestionably imof Rosenberg and Rossi, lay a delightful and luxu- paired, we have witnessed many cases of beasts, riant valley decorated with a number of beautiful | birds, fishes, and insects, living incredibly long in a villages. At five o'clock in the evening of Septem- condition of total abstinence; and even some huber 3d, the Spitzberg, or northeast projection of man beings, who of all animals can least support the mountain Rosenberg, precipitated itself into the the want of sustenance, have survived in a similar
situation. Or this, a melancholy example lately, simple application of heat alone; and that it will occurred, when fourteen men and women, of a increase its size after it has burst its integuments. vessel wrecked on the coast of Aracan, lived twenty- Thus, the eggs of fishes, snails, and other aquatic three complete days without a morsel of food; and animals, will be hatched, and their young attain it was not until the fifth day after the shipwreck, considerable size, in nothing but water. Vipers althat two of their companions first died of want. so, if taken, when just produced by the mother, will
More than a century ago, it was observed, by the grow much larger, though supplied only with air. Italian naturalist Redi, that animals do not perish from hunger so soon as is commonly believed. A ABSTRACTION. An operation of the mind, civet-cat lived ten days with him; wild pigeons, by which we detach from our conceptions all those twelve and thirteen; an antelope, twenty; and a circumstances that render them particular, and very large wild cat, the same time, without food. A thereby fit them to denote a whole rank or class of royal eagle survived twenty-eight days; and Buffon beings. mentions one that lived five weeks without food ; & badger lived a month; and several dogs, thirty- ABUTMENTS. The extremities of any body six days. We have accounts still more surprising, adjoining another, as the extremities of a bridge from naturalists of undoubted credit. A crocodile resting on the banks or sides of a river. will live two months without nourishment. Leeuwenoek had a scorpion that lived three months. ABYSS. A deep place that is bottomless, or Redi kept a cameleon eight months, and vipers ten supposed to be so, as the deepest or unfathomable months, in a state of perfect abstinence. Vaillant parts of the sea. had a spider that lived ten months; nay, its strength was then sufficient to kill another of its own species, ACACIA. A beautiful shrub, a species of which as large as itself, and it was quite vigorous, when bears rose-colored flowers. A thorny shrub of this put under the receiver where it was kept. Accord- name is common in the deserts of Asia and Africa, ing to several authors, some of those animals that and produces gum Arabic. The Chinese employ have long supported the privation of food, did not the flowers of a plant called by this name to probecome nearly so much cmaciated, as might rea- duce that beautiful and durable yellow which has sonably be supposed. Mr. John Hunter enclosed a been so much admired in their different stufls. toad between two stone flower-pots; and, at the end of fourteen months, it was as lively as ever. M. ACADEMICS. A sect of philosophers who folSue quotes instances of the same animals living lowed the doctrine of Socrates and Plato, as to the eighteen months, without either nutriment or res- uncertainty of knowledge, and the incomprehensipiration, from being sealed up in boxes. M. Her- bility of truth. issant covered a box, containing three toads, with a coating of plaster, and on opening it eighteen months ACADEMY. A school or college for the imafterwards one was still alive. Land tortoises lived provement of arts and sciences, so called from the eighteen months with Redi; and Baker kept a grove of Academus in Athens, where Plato kept beetle without food three complete years, when it his school of Philosophy. The first modern school escaped. Dr. Shaw mentions two Egyptian ser- of this name is said to have been established by pents that lrad been preserved for the period of five Charle-magne. years, without sustenance, in a bottle closely corked; yet, when he saw them, they had cast their ACARUS. The tick or mite, in natural history, skins, and were as lively as if newly caught. so called because it is deemed so small it cannot be
There are some surprising instances of the pow- cut into two parts. It is said that there are more er of animals to survive long under the privation than eighty different species of them; of which, of food; and others occur, which are beyond the some are inhabitants of the earth, others of the possibility of deception, such as a decapitated snail, water; some live on trees and plants, others among which, though deprived of the very organs for ta- stones, and others on the bodies of other animals, king nourishment, will not only live months, perhaps and even under their skin. The most familiar speyears, but will acquire a new head, similar to that cies is the common cheese mite, which is a favorite of which it had been deprived.
subject for microscopic observations. This insect The state of an animal, living in the air without is covered with hairs or bristles, which resemble in sustenance, is, in the general case, very different their structure the awns of barley, being barbed on from one living without it in water. In this fluid, each side with numerous sharp-pointed processes. we have seen many of the smaller animals survive The mite is a very voracious animal, feasting equala long time, without any other support than what ly upon animal and vegetable substances. It is also the simple element afforded. Hydrachne have very tenacious of life; for upon the authority of been kept eighteen months without any supply of Leewenhoek, though not very creditable to his food; and leeches, as well as certain species of fish- humanity, we are assured that a mite lived eleven es, above three years. Still these instances are not weeks glued to a pin, in order to make observations to be compared with those where the privation of upon it. Dr. Bononio, an Italian physician, contendnourishment is absolute ; because it is difficult to ed that the itch is occasioned by another species ascertain, whether imperceptible animalcula might of the mite, called, on that account, the Acarusexulnot be the food of such animals. It has been thought, cerans. He wrote a curious essay on the subject, indeed, that living creatures may increase in size, which was published in the English Philosophical without nutriment; and it is certain, though thé Transactions, to which the reader is referred. point may probably be explained on different prineiples, that the animated form will unfold by the ACCELERATION. In mechanics, denotes the