17 MARCH 1855, Page 16


had the effect of lessening the supply and. increasing the price of the raw materials for cordage and linen. If the interruption to Russian trade were more strenuously carried out, it is likely that the supply would still further diminish, while the demand increased. Besides string, cordage, and linens, the important item of paper is closely connected with flax, and in a less degree with hemp ; and this is a subject of growing import- ance. The spread of education and the penny postage have vastly increased the demand for writing-papers. The extraordinary ex- tension of business has in like manner induced a call for account- books and packing-papers ; and the paper of account-books is, or rather ought to be, made wholly of linen rags. "Cheap litera- ture," and the increase of readers of every description of books and newspapers, have operated still more largely on the demand for printing-papers. Without reference to the war, and before it began, the papermakers of Europe and America required more rags than the world could supply them with; and the war has of course increased the difficulty. Hence the attention which for some time past has been turned to the discovery of a substitute for rags, and the attempts now making to find vegetables with a nature fibrous enough to supersede the hemp and flax of Russia.

To accomplish these objects, and at the same time to stimulate the industry and increase the products of India, is the leading pur- pose of Dr. Royle's book. It contains a brief exposition of the principles on which the fibrous plants and their uses depend, and notices an immense number of Indian plants more or less available for textile purposes, for all the varieties of cordage, and for paper- making. 'These notices are brief or full according to the pro- bable or actual availability of the plants ; for several are already in use, and indeed cultivated for exportation. The notices are accom- panied by information of a botanical, agricultural, and commer- cial character, as well as by accounts of experiments that have been tried at various times, chiefly under the patronage of the East India Company. This information is also varied by discus- sion or by exposition, still keeping the main object in view—that of finding a substitute for Russian produce and benefiting British India. To take an example of Dr. Boyle's more general informa- tion. Hemp and flax are already extensively cultivated; hemp with the object of supplying a strong dram, flax for the production of linseed and oil. These purposes involve a peculiar kind of cul- tivation, which renders the plants nearly useless for manufacturing


" The hemp plant being valued for its intoxicating secretions, it has been found by the people of India that these are best produced when the plants are freely exposed to light and air, and therefore they place them at dis- tances of nine feet apart from each other. This exposure to light, heat, and air, in a rich soil and brilliant climate, is so well suited to the plants, that they grow to a great size and throw out branches on all sides ; but the fibres, instead of being flexible and strong, are found to be woody and brittle.

• •

" Hence, to obviate this undue exposure of the plants to light and air, and to favour their shooting upwards, and to prevent the formation of lateral branches, the seeds of both the hemp and the flax plant are sown thick in Europe ; and the plants grown closer as the fibre is required to be finer. But the flax plant in India being cultivated for its seed, is on the contrary, either sown in lines on the-outside of and as an edging to, or broadcast and intermixed with, other crops. The seeds are collected when they are fully ripe, or when the other crops have been harvested. The effect is, that the plants are checked in their upward growth, and attain a height of only a foot or of eighteen inches, have numerous lateral branches, and are loaded with seed-vessels ; each seed containing a larger proportion of oil than is found in those grown in Europe ; but the fibre is short, brittle, and unfitted for the general purposes of _flax."

Although the author has present to his mind the objections which practical men interpose against the use of a new material, and some difficulties of a nature not so obvious, still he has that sanguine disposition which is absolutely necessary to enforce upon the world any change in established modes. In some instances, perhaps, this mood of mind carries the Doctor too far. He seems occasionally to overlook or not to allow sufficient weight to the difference between the possible as an experiment, and the practi- cable as a matter of trade. What a zealous and skilful man of science can do as an experiment, proves that the thing can be done. To be of practical utility, it must be capable of being done readily, steadily, and with the usual profit. Failure or irregu- larity on either of these points defeats the project. We have the authority of Cook as to the value of the New Zealand flax. Ex- perience has confirmed his opinion : ropes and sails have been made of it; it is used for various purposes in New Zealand and

• The Fibrous Plants of India fitted for Cordage, Clothing, and Paper. With an Account of the CultiNation and Preparation of Flax. Hemp, and their Substitutes. By J. Forbes Hoyle, M.D., F.R.S., &c., Sic. Published by Smith and Elder. its waters. Considerable quantities of the article "were at one time imported, and a factory was established by Captain Harris for their manufacture ; but the supply seems to have been irre- gular, and now to have fallen off rather than increased."

In this irregularity lies a great source of the difficulty. In- deed, where an article and its price are adapted to manufac- tures, irregularity is at bottom the real cause of failure in intro- ducing new raw material. Besides the irritation of disappoint- ment to manufacturer and customer, the machines and workmen are kept standing still, which diminishes profit : what cannot be depended upon ceases to be used. One source of irregularity is in the obstinacy of producers. They will not labour in an unaccus- tomed way, or upon a new crop; and Dr. Royle foresees a diffi- culty in the aversion of the Indian cultivator to change—to do other than " as his father did before him." Another source of irregularity is production not keeping pace with demand. An inexhaustible supply, which has been talked of in reference to a material for paper, is not very easily attainable. That which seems inexhaustible when running to waste, is quickly exhausted when an effective demand springs up. In many places land itself is or was a drug : let colonization begin and spread, land quickly becomes of value and is appropriated. A century ago in Scotland, salmon was nearly worthless, the ordinary food of servants, and loosely speaking inexhaustible : when a town demand arose, the supply was quickly limited, and the value enormously increased. So it is with game ; and so it is likely to turn out with certain spontaneous productions if brought into use. The Indian nettle and some other wild plants may be had for the gathering : if a regular demand could be created, and the natives induced to apply themselves to the task of gathering and preparation, the natural crop would soon be exhausted; and then would arise the obstacle of irregular supply or enhanced price.

It will aid the solution of this important problem at least as regards paper, to observe the facts as they actually exist. The best materials for the best white papers—linen and cotton rags, and for the strongest packing-papers—refuse of hemp, are in reality waste. They have already done their work, and but for the paper-mill and a few other processes would be thrown away. That paper can be made from a great variety of substances, is well known ; but the question for consideration is, would it answer to cultivate and prepare substances solely for paper ? If any plant or commodity exists which is already cultivated successfully, that would form the most available material, as being supplied at a sort of waste price' depending. upon demand, and not upon the cost of production. The plantain and banana seem the most com- pletely to fall under this description. It is already cultivated, and in many countries—in fact it is the potato of the Tropics, and more: it is a substitute for bread, and can be made into meal; it supplies a dessert both of fruit and preserve; it is capable of fur- nishing a fibre for cordage, &c., and a material for paper. "The plantain has been stated to abound in fibre ; indeed, almost every part of the plant may be said to be available for this product. It is related, that from the upper part of these spurious stems, spiral vessels may be pul- led out in handfuls, and are.used as tinder in the West Indies. Be Candolle has deseribed them as consisting, in Musa, of seven distinct fibres lying parallel, formed into bands ; and La Chesnaye of upwards of twenty, ar- ranged in a spiral manner. M. Mohl describes the secondary cell-membrane

as divided into as many as twenty parallel spiral fibres. * •

" As in the Manilla, so in the common plantain, the fibre is found to be coarse and strong. in the outer layers of the sheathing footstalks, fine and iteri

silky in the or, and of a middling quality in the intermediate layers. This fibre is separated by the natives of Dacca, for instance, and is used by them for making the string of the bow with which cotton is teazed (bowed.) Much of it is well adapted for cordage. Mr. Leycester, (v. supra,) when calling attention to the fibre of the Musa textilis grown in Calcutta, directed attention to the fibres of M. sapientum and of M. ornate, as fitted to answer as string for all gardening purposes. Mr. Crawford is of opinion that the common plantain most probably afforded the Indian Islanders the principal material for their clothing, in the same way that the indigenous species does in the Philippine Islands. The art of making cloth from these fibres seems also to have been known in Madagascar. There is no doubt that the large cultivated plantain of India contains a considerable quantity of strong fibre, in the same way that the common yellow plantain does in Jamaica. But it seems well worthy of inquiry, whether the wild and at present useless plan- tains, growing along the foot of the Himalayas and on the Neilgherries, may not yield a stronger fibre than any of the cultivated kinds."

• After entering further into the subject of the fibres and their preparation, Dr. Hoyle gives some estimate of cost. The fibres would vary from about 71. to 10/. 108. per ton on the spot, that is the West Indies • to which freight would have to be added. "While half-stuff for papermakers might, at the same time, be produced from the refuse at about half that sum.

"As plantain fibre has not yet, as far as we have heard, been systemati- cally prepared as an article of commerce, these calculations of cost are some- what conjectural. But they are interesting, as showing, from the experi-

ments which had been made, that large quantities of a valuable product may be obtained at a comparatively cheap rate ; and this, from what is now a complete refuse—that is, the stem and leaves; while the expenses of culture are paid for by the fruit. And the more so as the data are West Indian, where the prices of material and the wages of labour are much higher than in India.

"Specimens of plantain fibre, and a barrel of it for experimental pur- poses, were sent by two exhibitors from Demerara, also some from Porto Rico (v. Illust. Cat.,' p. 982) ; and it was stated that the fibre might be obtained in very large quantities from the plantain cultivation of the former colony. a a a a

"Of the value of the plantain fibre for papermaking, there can, I con- ceive, be no doubt. Some paper, though unbleached, but excellent as far as substance and tenacity are concerned, was sent from India by Dr. Hunter, in 1851. In the year 1846, Mr. May showed the author some beautiful spe- cimens of note and letter paper made from plantain fibre. He was at that time anxious to establish a manufactory for plantain paper in Calcutta, but subsequently went to one of the British colonies in South America ; and we have also noticed (p. 89) the fact of a gentleman having shown specimens of paper made from plantain fibre in Demerara. Mr. Boutledge subsequently made some excellent paper, both of a tough and of a tine quality, from the fibres of species of Musa; sheets of which he has presented to the author, who has lately seen specimens of similar paper in the hands of Mr. Sharp. Besides which, excellent paper has for some time been made from the refuse of or from worn-out Manilla rope. All which facts prove that an excellent material for papermaking may be had in inexhaustible supplies, whenever those chiefly interested choose to take the necessary measures for securing such a supply."

The obstacles to the introduction of any new material of manu- facture are great, not only from aversion to change but upon more rational grounds—such as uncertainty of supply, doubt as to final success, the necessity of altering machines or making new ones, as well as of learning a new mode if not a new trade. These difficul- ties show that it would be better to extend an established cultiva- tion than to attempt forming a new one, unless the countervailing advantages are very great. -Various substances are already grown in or exported from India or other places in the Southern hemi- sphere; as Manilla hemp, jute, hemp, flax, (this last chiefly for seed,) and New Zealand hemp : and the trade is increasing. The follow- ing facts from M'Culloch show the enormous increase that has taken place in twenty years in the importations from India.

Quantities of Hemp imported into the United Kingdom-

1831. 1847. 1851.

From Russia 506,803 544,844 672,342 „ British Territories in East Indies 9,472 185,788 590,923

Upon which Dr. Boyle observes, that "under the head of hemp from India, are included the various fibres described in this work, with probably no real hemp, though this may be imported hem thence," if cordage will pay as well as drink. The volume is a valuable contribution towards a subject of na- tional importance; thorough, exhaustive, and suggestive. For the mere practical man its very completeness may overlay its utility. Another edition, containing only such plants as are already articles of commerce, or promise fair to be made such without very great difficulty, might more immediately contribute to the writer's object.