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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.

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A, in almost all languages, is the first letter of the alphabet, because, if pronounced open, as in father, it is the simplest and easiest of all sounds. This is the only mode of pronouncing it in almost every language except the English. With this letter children generally begin to speak, and it serves to express many of the various emotions of the human mind. For the same reason, it is found in all original languages, in many words, which infants utter to designate the objects with which they are most nearly connected; for instance, the names by which they call their parents. Hence, in Hebrew, am is mother: and ab is father. In old Greek and Gothic, atta is father; and in Latin, mamma signifies the breast.

ABACUS. Signified, among the ancients, a kind of cup-board, or buffet. They were, in times of great luxury, plated with gold. It also signified a table covered with dust, on which the mathematicians drew their figures for illustration, as do the pupils of the Lancastrian schools at present. It also signified an ancient instrument for facilitating arithmetical operations, which was with the ancients, very necessary, as their way of writing numbers rendered any calculation very difficult.

ABBE. Before the French revolution, was the title of all those Frenchmen who devoted themselves to the study of divinity, or had at least pursued a course of theological study in a theological seminary, in the hope that the king would confer on them a real abbey; that is, a certain part of the revenues of a monastery. It was, therefore, a nominal abbotship, which neither imposed any duty, nor conveyed any emolument, but was valuable on account of the respect in which it was held by society, and the consequent assistance that it afforded to advancement in church or state. Abbés were, of course, admissible into the best companies; and, were often tutors in colleges and private families.


of which, the abbot, by his deputy, could even try offenders for capital crimes committed within the territories of the abbey. Among the advantages of these institutions, they afforded a welcome asylum to those who wished to forsake the active toils of life, and a tranquil retreat to persons of dignified birth, in indigence or old age. They supported the poor, received pilgrims, and afforded entertainment to travellers.

The Monks, in the middle ages, made use of many abbreviations in copying the classic authors, on which account the manuscripts of that time cannot be read with ease, except by practised eyes. These abbreviations often give rise to different readings. They have been much less used since the. invention of printing. The Germans employ them, for ordinary words, in greater proportion, than 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.

ABBEY. A monastery, or convent, governed by a superior under the title of Abbot, when occupied by males, and Abbess, when appropriated to females. Certain abbeys enjoyed extraordinary privileges. They were allowed to coin money; and an extensive jurisdiction was conferred on them, in virtue

ABBREVIATION. Is the shortening of a word by omitting some of the letters. Those languages which consist chiefly of consonants, such as the Hebrew, may be said to be written altogether in abbreviations, because a number of subsequent consonants would be mute, without the substitution of vowels. In such languages, therefore, it is in the omission of these vowels that the abbreviation consists.

ABERRATION. In astronomy, is a change in the position of the fixed stars, arising from the progressive motion of light, combined with the annual motion of the earth, by means of which they sometimes appear twenty seconds distant from their true position. This apparent motion of the heavenly bodies was detected in 1725, by the celebrated Dr. Bradley, and is one of the most brilliant discoveries which has enriched the science of astronomy.

ABLUTION. A ceremonious washing of the whole, or part, of the body, practised in ancient times, and still in use among Mahommedans and some portions of professed Christians. It was probably instituted for the prevention of those disorders, in the warm climates of the east, which result from the filth in which the greater part of the people were, and still are, obliged to live. For this purpose it was made a religious rite; and, by an easy transition of idea, the murity of the body was

made to typify the purity of the soul-an idea the more rational, as it is perhaps physically certain, that outward wretchedness debases the mind.

ABORIGINES. A name now given to the original inhabitants of any country. Thus the natives of America are called aborigines. The first people of ancient Italy were called by the same



ABSORPTION. Is the act or process of imbibing or swallowing; either by water which overwhelms, or by substances, which drink in or retain liquids; as the absorption of a body in a whirlpool, or of water by the earth, or of the humors of the body by dry powders. It is used also to express the swallowing up of substances by the earth in chasms made by earthquakes, and the sinking of large tracts in violent commotions of the earth. A few instances of the absorption of the earth will be given.

In the time of Pliny, the town Curites, and the mountain Cybotus, on which it stood, were so completely absorbed, that scarcely a trace of them was left behind. The city of Tantalus, in Magnesia, and the mountain Sypilus, suffered the same calamity from a sudden opening of the earth. A similar fate befell the towns of Galanis and Gamalis, in Phoenicia; and the huge promontory of Phegium, in Ethiopia, disappeared after a violent earthquake. The lofty mountain Picus, in the Molucca Isles, was instantaneously absorbed, in consequence of an earthquake; and an immense lake of water appeared on the place which it occupied.

A similar accident happened in China, in 1556, when a whole province was swallowed up, along with its inhabitants, and left in its place an extensive sheet of water. We are also told, that several mountains of the Andes have disappeared from a similar cause.

In 1702, Borge, a seat in Norway, sunk into the ground, and became a lake two fathoms deep; and in Finland, in 1793, a piece of ground of 4000 square yards, sunk to the depth of fifteen fathoms.

On the 23d of June, 1727, one of the Cevennes, a chain of mountains in the south of France, was undermined by absorption, and the whole mountain, with its huge basaltic columns, rolled, with a dreadful crash, into the valley below. An immense block of stone, ninety feet long and twenty-six in diameter, sunk in a vertical position; and so great was the shock, that it was felt, and considered as an earthquake, at the distance of three miles. The village Pradines, which was situated on the declivity of the mountain, was overwhelmed by the torrent of huge fragments of rocks; but its inhabitants were fortunately celebrating midsummer eve, around a bonfire at some distance.

valley, from the height of 2000 feet, and buried in its ruins the villages of Goldau, Busingen, and Rathlen, with a part of Lowertz and Oberart. The torrent of earth and stones, which composed the mountain, rushed like lava into the valley, and overwhelmed more than three square miles of the richest fields. A portion of this mass, mingled with 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 swell, which was thus occasioned, rolling in awful dignity along the lake, completely submerged two inhabited islands, and the whole village of Seven, which stood upon its northern extremity. In this dreadful accident between 1500 and 2000 of the inhabitants were buried alive.

ABSTINENCE. The avoiding or refraining from anything, to which there is either a natural or habitual propensity. In various systems of religion, abstinence has been enjoined, not only from all food for certain limited periods, but also, during a particular season, from certain kinds of food. During one of the Mahommedan feasts, total abstinence from food is observed between sunrise and sunset. The Jews, as is well known, abstain entirely from swine's flesh; and, the Roman Catholics, on some days of the week, independent of their greater fasts, eat no flesh.

The effects of abstinence, and the surprising powers of animated nature to sustain the absolute privation of what seems indispensable to preserve life, are subjects of extreme interest. Wonderful effects, in the cure of disease, are said to have resulted from a spare and meagre diet. One of these is recorded in the history of Cornaro, a noble Venetian, who after a life of luxury, was, at the age of forty, attacked by a disease attended with mortal symptoms; yet he not only recovered, but lived nearly one hundred years, from the mere effects of abstemiousness. We are told of several individuals that have reached a century, a century and a half, nay, have even approached to the age of two centuries, supported on an extremely slender diet, which was thought to contribute materially to the preservation of their health. But though physicians have ascribed many singular cures to this cause alone, it is not to be denied, that extraordinary abstinence will also be productive of disease.

There is a wide difference between the faculty of subsisting on a given portion of food, however small, and that of supporting existence under the total privation of sustenance. Neither is it to be overlooked, in considering this subject, that, in certain situations, the animal functions are feebly maintained. Numerous animals are destined to pass a large portion of their existence, in a state of absolute 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. Of this, a melancholy example lately occurred, when fourteen men and women, of a vessel wrecked on the coast of Aracan, lived twentythree complete days without a morsel of food; and it was not until the fifth day after the shipwreck, that two of their companions first died of want.

The state of an animal, living in the air without sustenance, is, in the general case, very different from one living without it in water. In this fluid, we have seen many of the smaller animals survive a long time, without any other support than what the simple element afforded. Hydrachnoe have been kept eighteen months without any supply of food; and leeches, as well as certain species of fishes, above three years. Still these instances are not to be compared with those where the privation of nourishment is absolute; because it is difficult to ascertain, whether imperceptible animalcula might not be the food of such animals. It has been thought, indeed, that living creatures may increase in size, without nutriment; and it is certain, though the point may probably be explained on different prineiples, that the animated form will unfold by the

simple application of heat alone; and that it will increase its size after it has burst its integuments. Thus, the eggs of fishes, snails, and other aquatic animals, will be hatched, and their young attain considerable size, in nothing but water. Vipers also, if taken, when just produced by the mother, will grow much larger, though supplied only with air.

More than a century ago, it was observed, by the Italian naturalist Redi, that animals do not perish from hunger so soon as is commonly believed. A civet-cat lived ten days with him; wild pigeons, twelve and thirteen; an antelope, twenty; and a very large wild cat, the same time, without food. A royal eagle survived twenty-eight days; and Buffon mentions one that lived five weeks without food; a badger lived a month; and several dogs, thirtysix days. We have accounts still more surprising, from naturalists of undoubted credit. A crocodile will live two months without nourishment. Leeuwenoek had a scorpion that lived three months. Redi kept a cameleon eight months, and vipers ten months, in a state of perfect abstinence. Vaillant had a spider that lived ten months; nay, its strength was then sufficient to kill another of its own species, as large as itself, and it was quite vigorous, when put under the receiver where it was kept. According to several authors, some of those animals that have long supported the privation of food, did not become nearly so much emaciated, as might reasonably be supposed. Mr. John Hunter enclosed a toad between two stone flower-pots; and, at the end of fourteen months, it was as lively as ever. M. Sue quotes instances of the same animals living eighteen months, without either nutriment or respiration, from being sealed up in boxes. M. Herissant covered a box, containing three toads, with a coating of plaster, and on opening it eighteen months afterwards one was still alive. Land tortoises lived eighteen months with Redi; and Baker kept a beetle without food three complete years, when it escaped. Dr. Shaw mentions two Egyptian serpents that had been preserved for the period of five years, without sustenance, in a bottle closely corked; yet, when he saw them, they had cast their skins, and were as lively as if newly caught. 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 is covered with hairs or bristles, which resemble in their structure the awns of barley, being barbed on each side with numerous sharp-pointed processes. The mite is a very voracious animal, feasting equally upon animal and vegetable substances. It is also very tenacious of life; for upon the authority of Leewenhoek, though not very creditable to his humanity, we are assured that a mite lived eleven weeks glued to a pin, in order to make observations upon it. Dr. Bononio, an Italian physician, contended that the itch is occasioned by another species of the mite, called, on that account, the Acarusexulcerans. He wrote a curious essay on the subject, which was published in the English Philosophical Transactions, to which the reader is referred.

ACCELERATION. In mechanics, denotes the

ABSTRACTION. An operation of the mind, by which we detach from our conceptions all those circumstances that render them particular, and thereby fit them to denote a whole rank or class of beings.

ABUTMENTS. The extremities of any body adjoining another, as the extremities of a bridge resting on the banks or sides of a river.

ABYSS. A deep place that is bottomless, or supposed to be so, as the deepest or unfathomable parts of the sea.

ACACIA. A beautiful shrub, a species of which bears rose-colored flowers. A thorny shrub of this name is common in the deserts of Asia and Africa, and produces gum Arabic. The Chinese employ the flowers of a plant called by this name to produce that beautiful and durable yellow which has been so much admired in their different stuffs.

ACADEMICS. A sect of philosophers who followed the doctrine of Socrates and Plato, as to the uncertainty of knowledge, and the incomprehensibility of truth.

ACADEMY. A school or college for the improvement of arts and sciences, so called from the grove of Academus in Athens, where Plato kept his school of Philosophy. The first modern school of this name is said to have been established by Charle-magne.

ACARUS. The tick or mite, in natural history, so called because it is deemed so small it cannot be

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