The Art of Embalming; Wherein Is Shewn the Right of Burial, and Funeral Ceremonies, Especially That of Preserving Bodies After the Egyptian Method
Library of Alexandria
It is not only the Authority of King Solomon, the greatest, richest and wisest of Men, that convinces us There is nothing new under the Sun, but also common Observation daily shews us the Truth hereof; for whether we respect Kingdoms and Monarchies, Cities or Villages, with their Civil, Military and Rural Transactions; whether we consider the Ambition of Kings and Princes, or the Captivity and Subjection of the Common People; or if we look into the various Sects, Religions, Habits, Customs, Manners, Arts and Sciences that are in the World, we shall in all things find we are but Imitators of our Fore-Fathers, and tread only in their Footsteps. The same Thing is acted to Day which was done a Thousand Years ago, and this, after a Vicissitude of fantastic Alterations, will in another Century come into Fashion again; so that we move like the Cœlestial Orbs, in the same Circumvolutions, and our whole Life is but Actum agere, & Penelopes telam retexere. It is the same with Books and Writings; for tho’ public Advertisements do daily inform us, that some Work or other is continually on the Stocks, yet is it but the same Story inculcated over again, in another Language, different Volume, larger Print, additional Sculptures, and some new Alterations; or else it is but a Translation, with Annotations, Comments, and a Table annex’d, which serve for new Amusements and the Maintenance of the Booksellers. Others which bear a greater Repute in the World, as being penn’d by the more Learned and Ingenious Persons, in a very Concise and Elegant Stile, are generally nothing but some new fine-spun Virtuosi Suggestions, extracted from an almost forgotten and out-of-fashionHypothesis, and each Improvement in Modern Arts, has undoubtedly ow’d its Original to somewhat hinted to us by the Ancients. All this I freely acknowledge to be my own Case, with this difference only, that I know my self deficient in that solid Learning and admirable Stile they were wont to use; yet for your encouragement to peruse this Treatise, I can assure you, you shall hardly find any other Book which so generally, particularly and completely handles this Subject: Besides, I can justly aver that I devis’d and compil’d the greatest part thereof before I met with any Author that gave me so much Satisfaction as I have since had; and notwithstanding my Notions were in a great measure agreeable to theirs, tho’ unknown to me, yet will I modestly submit and attribute the Invention thereof to them, First, As being my Seniors, and who Wrote before me, and, Secondly, as infinitely the more Learn’d and better Qualify’d Writers. Nor does this Submission detract the least from my Labour, it having been to me the same thing as a lost Art: And I would gladly be inform’d, by any one at this Day, of the true Method of the antient Egyptian Embalming; nay, would be content only to know the more Modern, tho’ more excellent Way, that of Bilsius. We must therefore grant that the Ancients knew many Things, which in process of Time, either thro’ Fire, Inundations, hostile Invasions, or other Accidents and Devastations, have intirely perish’d, and still remain so, as Pancirollus fully shews; or if we have any superficial Knowledge of them, as is somewhat apparent from our Modern Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, &c. yet are we even at this present so vastly deficient in the very best of our Imitations, that none have ever hitherto arriv’d to any tolerable Perfection; nevertheless should any one so perfectly apply himself to the Study of one of those lost Arts, as to make a new Discovery therein, I hope you would allow him the same Praise as if he had been the first Inventor; and, for my part, however I should fail in answering your Expectation, of what is seemingly promis’d in the Title-Page; yet, thus far I am pretty sure, that I have given more light into the Matter, than has been done by any of those imperfect Accounts of Herodotus.