A collection of letters illustrative of the progress of science in England, from the reign of Queen Elizabeth to that of Charles the Second/Letter 3

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[MS. Lansd. No. 121. Art. 14.]

A coppie of notes delivered to her Majestie by Raphe Rabbards[1].

Speciall breife remembrances of such moste pleasante serviceable and rare inventions as I have, by longe studdie and chardgeable practice, founde out, the whiche I holde myselfe bounde in dutie to offer with this learned worke unto your Majestie, as the firste fruites of my labor: the which, or any parte thereof, I shal be reddy to performe and put in execution, at as smalle chardge and to as greate purpose as any other ingeniors or practitioners of Christendome, when it shall please your sacred Majestie to commaunde me, not hetherto performed by any before my selfe.

All kinde of waters of herbes and flowers are first distilled by discensory.

Waters of purest substance from odours, flowers, fruites, and herbes, wholsomest, perfitest, and of greatest vertue, are first distiled by desensory, depured and rectified, clere as christall, with his owne onlie proper vertue; taste, and odor, contynuinge many yeares. One spoonefull is better then a gallon of other for any prynce, or noble person, or any that love their healthe; for medicyne inward or outward where other doe much more hurte then good, beinge unaptly distilled, and invenomed by the evill quallitie of mettalyne stilles, and other defectes.

Simple and compound waters.

Water for odors, moste sweete and delicate, of many severall kyndes, bothe simple and compounde.

Water of violetts and such like.

Water of violetts, jilly flowers, and pinckes, &c., contynue not nor reteyne not their owne proper odors and vertues, excepte they be distilled very cunningly and perfitly by desensory; or, their odors beinge holpen by other meanes, they are not medicinable.

A precious water for purifyinge and preservinge the teethe.

A moste precious and excellente water to purifie, preserve, and fasten the teethe, and with good order to keep them that they shall never decaye nor corrupte; moste wholsome, pleasant, and comfortable.

A principall water for moste outward diseases proceedinge of heate and colde.

A water that taketh awaye inflamations, rumes, swellinges, colde greifes, colde gowtes, aches, and other paynes; and healeth dangerous woundes, ulcers, sores, and the hardest diseases, with greate effecte and wonderfull speede, and in myne opinion farre exceedeth the farre fetched balmes.

Water for the eyes.

Waters for the eyes prooved of many as well for preservinge and comfortinge the sighte, as to restore that which is lost.

Water to make the skynne and fleshe fayre and brighte.

Waters to clense and keepe brighte the skynne and fleshe, and preserve it in his perfitt state.


An excellente kinde of salt-peter of greate force.

Saltepeter mighte be so refyned that the powder made therof mighte be of double the force, so that one pounde maye serve as manye shotte and as stronge as two pounde of that that is comonly used, and lesse chardge in cariage; and many other wayes apter and better for service.

A notable peece of service for your Majestie and the Realme.

That saltepeter, minerall sulphur, pitche, aspaltum, licquidion, and drye, and many other like drugges, mighte be founde in the domynions of your Majestie, which we wante and paye most extreamely for; and God knoweth what gayne and glorie mighte redownde to your Majestie and countrey, if skilfull and honest men were imployed therein.

Oyles for fireworkes.

Oyles bothe simple and composed to be distilled for fireworkes, there is none to be boughte or had; he that will have them must make them.

A strange kinde of flyinge fire many wayes serviceable.

A flyinge fire which shall, without ordynance, and farre of, wonderfully annoye any battayle, towne, or campe, and disperse even as if it did rayne fire; and the devydinge fires, being coted and made flyinge, maye touche many places, and leave them all burninge; very terrible both to men and horse.

A tridant or mace newly invented.

A tridant or mace for many notable effectes, bothe for shotte, and to sette any thinge on fire; a very apte instrumente, and moste soldierlike bothe for horsemen and footemen.

Balls of mettle serving to many purposes.

Balles of mettle to throwe into shippes, to enter in campes in the nightes, likewise in streightes or breaches, especially in battayles; and to have the said balles of all heightes, diamiters, and quantities, of a righte composition to devide in as many partes, and of such thicknes as it should; and to delyver a thousand at once amonge the enemy es with small chardge of ordynance, or other instrumentes, and to powre as much fire as your Majestie will upon any place.

A shotte to fire in passinge.

A shotte for greate ordynance to pierce deeper then any other shotte, and sett on fire whatsoever it strike throughe or sticketh in. A moste noble ingen, specially for sea service.

A forcible chariott for service defensive and offensyve.

A firy chariott with horses, suche as never was knowne or hearde of, for any prynce or man of greate valor or vertue to be in, in the feilde or battayle.

A firy chariott to be forc'd by engyne of greate service.

A firy chariott without horses to runne upon the battaile and disorder it, that no man shal be able to abide or come nighe the same, and wil be directed even as men will to tourne, to staye, or come directly backe upon any presente danger, or elles to followe and chase the enemye in their flighte.

Mynes for fireworke to worke strange effectes.

Mynes of fire and fireworke, bothe for sea and lande, to overthrowe or make havocke of all whatsoever a man will destroye.

A meanes to better the use of small artillery, moste serviceable.

To make that smalle shotte shall doe greater execution then the shotte that hath hetherto bynne knowne; yet where 1000 are nowe shotte, and not 10 men fall, it will appeare, by good demonstration and experience, that 10 shotte of 1000 shall hardly misse, good orders beinge observed.

A newe invented targett of proofe.

A targett of proofe, with his rest and loope hole, whereby men are notably defended and encouraged to the attemptinge of manye greate matters in service. Tenne of theis targettes are sufficiente to defende an hundred shotte, as if they were behinde a walle.

A rare invention.

A muskett or calyver, with dyvers strange and forcible shotte, which no armor will holde out, at three quarters of a mile or more; and will also become a most forcible weapon in the hande, as good as a pollox, and, with a teice, become a perfitt shotte agayne.

An armed pike moste forcible.

An arme pike which a weake man maye use or handle very reddily with such force as a man will not thincke, and the same pike will also become a very good shotte at all tymes. But when they come to the very pushe they be most terrible, bothe the shotte and the weapon.

An engyne of notable defence for the safegard of mens lyves.

A cariage in manner of a walle or curteyne to defende men from shotte in approchinge any sconse or other force, and wil be transformed into as many severall shapes of fortification as men will; and also be as tentes or lodginges drye above heade, and from the grounde, and also very offensyve, and of greate fury; whereof I wishe your excellente Majestie were furnished, but as secrette as I could keepe them in myne owne harte for some greate daye of service.

A speciall peece of service.

A meanes whereby our plowe-horses, carte jades, and hackneys, maye be made to doe greater service in our owne countrey, then the launces, or argulaters, or any horsemen of other nations, can possibly be able to doe in their ordinary services.

The rarest engyne that ever was invented for sea service[2].

A vessell in manner of a galley or galliotte to passe upon the seas and ryvers without oars or sayle, against wynde and tyde, swifter then any that ever hath bynne seene, of wonderfull effect bothe for intelligence, and many other admirable exploytes, almoste beyonde the expectation of man.

Matters to be prepared and had in reddynes.

Calibashes, caces, hollowe tronckes, and other instrumentes, of smalle chardge and greate effecte for the services of your Majestie and countrey many wayes, which have bynne more chardgeable to me, then they would be to your Majestie, if good order mighte be taken therein. For some workemen have taken my money, and have spoiled my modelles and devises, and I could never gette my money, the ingions, nor yet my modelles agayne, and the devises in some sorte made publique, which I woulde have kepte secrette. But if it pleased God to put into your royall harte, bothe for his owne glorie, the glorie of your excellent Majestie, and your valiant nation and subjectes, to erecte some academy, or place of studdy and practice, for ingenious, pollitique and learned men, and apte artificers, as in a corporation or bodie pollitique, maintayned partly by your Majestie and partly by your nobillitie, your clergie, and your comons, for theis moste noble effectes. And whereas many corporations, societies of artes, faculties, and misteries, have bynne erected, founded, and franchised, with many honorable guiftes, liberties, and freedomes, by your Majesties moste worthy progenitors, but never any comparable to this, in glorie to your Majestie and the safetie and comforte of your countrey and people, which every vertuous and good mynded man would willingly further and maintayne for their owne good and safetie, and to the perpetuall glorie of your Majestie, and your feirce people, and valiante nation, that ingenious pollicies mighte throughly joyne with strength and valiant hartes of men. The which I referre to your Majesties moste deepe consideration, for the service of my countrey, holdinge myselfe hereby fully every waye dischardged in dutie bothe towardes your Majestie and my countrey.

Your Majesties moste loyall subjecte,  
and faithfull servant,    
Raphe Rabbards[3]. 

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

  1. Ralph Rabbards is not a name that has much relation with the history of the science or literature of this period. He edited Ripley's "Compound of Alchemy," 4to, Lond. 1591.
  2. See Rara Mathematica, p. 87. William Bourne mentions a similar invention of his in the Inventions or Devises (Lond. 1578, 4to). How well does this meagre description suit the modern steam-boat! I may mention here that the invention of paddle-wheels is ascribed to him by some writers, and he appears to consider them as a new invention; but there is a drawing of a boat with paddle-wheels, precisely similar to our modern steam-vessels, in MS. Harl. 3281, fol. 43, v°, written in Italy in the fifteenth century. See also the ff. 43, r°, 51, v°, and 57, r°, of the same MS.
  3. The writer has annexed the following note addressed to Lord Burghley:—"At your Honors pleasure and leisure I shall so satisfie your Lordship, that you shall not doubte of the performance of them, which none shall knowe but her Majestie and your Honor."