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Ricardo Pérez Montfort
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We were shown, indeed, a skein which was assured to contain no more than two cocoons; but so slight a slip is of no use at all. Most of them are made from seven or eight cocoons, and two of the former are joined in order to form a thread sufficient to be placed upon the loom. The woof is that which is passed by the shuttle from one side of the loom to the other, and which is enchased between the two surfaces formed by the warp. As the woof is subjected to more wear and tear than the warp, it should be stouter.

For this reason each of the two ends of which it is composed is twisted separately before the two are twisted together, while for the warp the latter of these processes is sufficient.

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The result of this difference is that, when looked at beneath the microscope, the thread of the woof has an uneven look, as though it were a small cable, while that of the warp looks flat and smooth, and is therefore adapted to reflect the [86] light, receiving the shiny look which makes a silk-stuff so attractive. This first stage of the spinning is performed in one or other of three ways, according to the kind of wheel which is employed for it. The method which the Spaniards have adopted from an early period has the following drawback; that the small threads of six, seven, and eight cocoons which are stripped at the same time, go to form a single thread, and are deposited upon a small spindle without the thread rubbing against another one, which friction serves to lay the little hairs which bristle up, so that the slip of silk thus formed retains a hairy nap and is easily frayed.

In the Piedmontese method, on the other hand, each slip is joined to another, and is not drawn apart until it has been twisted round it four or five times. In the wheel invented by Vaucanson, the two silk-slips are reunited after the first twisting, in order to be twisted once again.

Thence they are transferred to another machine, in which they are twisted all together; after which they are ready for the loom. Those which are destined for the web are not twisted as I have explained above until the moment when they are united. Both at Valencia and at Talavera de la Reina these machines, so precious to the weaver's craft, and which economise manual toil, are not unknown. The wheels I saw at Valencia were smaller, because in this city there is not, as there is at Talavera, a royal factory self-contained within a single building.

At Valencia each manufacturer, in order to carry out these various processes, requires to deal with workmen and machines distributed through several quarters of the town, and chooses from among them such as he best prefers. The perpendicular movement of all these little bobbins is looked after by women, and even children. If one of the slips should break, the harm is mended in a trice: the practised fingers of the machinist pick up the broken ends with marvellous despatch, tie them together by an imperceptible knot, and the bobbin which was thus delayed loses no time in overtaking its neighbours.

When they are still in skeins they are spread upon a large tub in which is a quantity of viscous substances heated to boiling point, the gases from which tend to make them adhere to one another. The silk, on issuing from this machine, is called organzine; and it is only when it is in this state that it can be exported from Piedmont, where the twisting process was better executed than elsewhere, until the time when it [90] was rendered yet more perfect by Vaucanson.

The present government has attacked this method by the only means efficient to bring about a change; that is, the slow but certain influence of persuasion. In the Count of Floridablanca contracted with a French merchant settled in Madrid, that he should supply a hundred tours of the Vaucanson pattern for spinning silk, [91] first to the Murcian factories of which province the Count was a native , next to the Valencian, and subsequently to any others that might wish for them; and with this object he granted to the merchant in question the privilege of exporting, free of duty, six hundred thousand pounds of silk in six years.

Nevertheless, it is possible that this measure may yet remain fruitless for many years owing to the apathy of the Spanish manufacturers, who were loth to use a finer, closer quality of silk, because it must be woven with greater care owing to its containing three ends instead of two, the work being greater on this account without a corresponding increase in the gain. It has also been found necessary to employ Frenchmen in the earliest trials made in Spain of this new method.

He employed barely two hundred persons for the most important work; nothing more was done than to spin the silk, divide it, and convert it into organzine. Thus treated, it cost from fifty to sixty reales more per pound than that which is prepared according to the Spanish method, so that its success was but small. The first of these operations is readily imagined; the second is hard to understand, and still more so to explain, unless one is assisted by engravings.

I will merely observe that all silk is dyed in skeins, just before it enters the loom. If it be required occasionally to dye it after it is woven, this is [93] only when the silk is spotted, or when the dyeing of the skeins has proved a failure. At the time of my visit to Valencia, there were a hundred and seventeen master-dyers in that city, but not all of them were working.

The Valencians follow as closely as possible the rapidity with which the French designs are changed, and those who profess to invent new ones are but copying the French ones in a greater or less degree. Notwithstanding, the Valencian Fine-Arts Academy is taking serious steps to form designers, and a school has been founded which has already developed able pupils—amongst others, a young man called Ferrers, who had died a short while before our arrival at the city, and some of whose designs of flowers we had occasion to admire.

Foz has rendered absolutely perfect. He gave [94] us a clear account of this process, which consists in passing a cylinder over the stuff to be watered, this cylinder being pressed upon by a heavy mass moved to and fro by a mule which draws a lever round and round. The stuff is folded in the manner of a closed jalousie, and these folds require to be often varied so as to distribute the undulations evenly.

Foz admitted that the shape and the arrangement of these undulations are more or less a matter of chance, but he proved to us that it is possible to influence them to some extent by moistening the stuff in a certain manner and direction, and this is the particular secret which he alone possesses in the whole of Spain. The excellence of this method is demonstrated by the beauty of the watered silk which issues from these presses.

Foz himself set us to judge of this by asking us to compare the blue ribbon of the Order of Charles the Third, watered by himself, with those of the Order of the Holy Spirit. The comparison, I must admit, was far from advantageous to these last. The subsequent vicissitudes of the Valencian silk trade are indicated by Laborde, who wrote, some few years later than the conscientious and observant author of the Nouveau Voyage en Espagne :—.

There are white mulberry-trees, which are lopped every two years. Algemesi, Alcira, Carcagente, Castillo of San Felipe, the county of Carlet, Undasuar, Gandia, Denia, Orihuela, and all the villages near the sea are places which produce the greatest quantity. It would be equal to the best and finest silks of Europe, if the Valencians, in spite of the vivacity of their imagination, did not obstinately persist in their old routine in the skeining; for in the skein they put an undetermined number of threads. The government has hired a man who has the most experience in this kind of work; but in vain does he endeavour to instruct them, since the manufacturers continue their bad custom just the same.

The quantity of silk wound annually is, on an average, about 1,, pounds [96] of twelve Valencian ounces 1,, pounds of sixteen ounces avoirdupois. The most important establishment of this kind is at La Milanesa, near the last mentioned town.

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Nevertheless, these machines are not able to furnish as much as the manufactures of the country require. Part of the silk is sent to Priego and Toledo in Andalusia, whence it is returned into the kingdom of Valencia to be worked…. If in that period the national manufacturers want it, they are at liberty to take it from the merchants who have bought it, on reimbursing them the purchase-money together with six per cent.

The consequence is that the merchants, uncertain whether they will be allowed to export the silk which they have purchased, no longer [97] take any foreign commissions for it, and so this branch of exportation has fallen. Besides this, a duty has been laid upon the silk sent out of the kingdom, of nine reals of vellon and one quartillo 1s. This is another obstacle to the exportation of it.

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A very small quantity, twisted and dyed, is sent into Portugal. They employ nearly 25, persons, and make taffetas, serges, silks, satins, plain damasks, striped, printed, of one colour and of mixed colours, full velvets, flowered velvets, plain and of various colours.

The plain stuffs are those in which they succeed best. There are also fine damasks made and worked with large flowers. According to the same writer, the manufacture at Valencia of silk stockings, galloons, silk ribbon, [98] handkerchiefs, and sashes revived to such an extent, that in the year the looms for producing these articles were more than they had been in Prado Gallery. Equally as instructive is Laborde's account of Barcelona.

There are looms of silk stuffs, and of ribbons and silk galloon.

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The silk works consist of taffetas, twilled and common silks, satins, and velvets of every kind and colour. These are mixed with gold and silver. Gold cloths and brocades are also made there. It is remarked that the stuffs would be better if they were closer, for their texture is commonly loose; they are also different in the gloss, which is seldom fine, and is never equal to that in the manufactures of France. Another fault in all these stuffs is the imperfect preparation of the silk, which leaves it nearly always shaggy: [] the cause of this is the silk being spun or twisted in an uneven manner.

The same unpleasant effect is observed in the silk stockings. They cannot be fine, their stitches being uneven, and often large and shaggy. They do not last long, and are as dear as the French stockings after the duty on their entrance into Spain has been paid. Galloons, laces, and gold and silver fringes, are likewise made here; but these are of no great importance.