From Agepedia

Jump to: navigation , search

LINEN; a cloth of veiyextensive use,made of flax, and differing from cloths made of hemp only in fineness. In common linen, the warp and woof cross each other at right angles ; if figures are woven in, it is called damask. The species of goods which come under the denomination of linen, are tablecloths, plain and damasked, cambric, lawn, shining, sheeting, towels, Silesias, Osnaburgs, &c. The chief countries in which linens are manufactured are Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Flanders, Holland, Scotland and Ireland. Of these, Russia principally manufactures sheeting and sailcloth ; Germany, shirtings, sheeting and bagging ; Switzerland, both fine and coarse goods ; Flanders, the finer articles, especially cambric and lawn ; Holland, sheeting of the best description ; Scotland, coarse shirting; and Ireland, shining, damask tablelinen and towelling, of superior quality. Immense quantities of linen are annually exported from Ireland to England, and several other parts of Europe, as well as to North and South America, the West Indies and Africa. The flaxseed is, for the greater part, procured from America; but other nations, engaged in this lucrative branch of trade, either raise their seed at home, or procure it from the north of Europe. In several parts of Germany, Switzerland, Flanders and France, linens are frequently embellished with painting ; and at London and the other parts of England, the produce of the Irish linen manufacture is beautifully printed in the manner of calicoes. The beauty of linen consists in the evenness of the thread, its fineness and density. The last of these qualities is sometimes produced by subjecting it to rollers; hence linen with a round thread is preferred to that with a flat thread. The warp or woof is not unfrequently made of cotton yarn, which renders the cloth less durable. Linen threads cannot bf spun by the machinery used in spinnin| cotton and wool, on account of the length and rigidity of the fibres of the flax. The subject of spinning flax by machinery has attracted much attention, and Napoleon once offered a reward of 1,000,000 francs to the inventor of the best machine for this purpose. Machines have been constructed both in Europe and the U. States, which spin coarse threads of linen very well and rapidly. But the manufacture of fine threads, such as those used for cambrics and lace, continues to be performed by hand on the ancient spinningwheel.In a historical view, linen is interesting, as forming the dress of the Egyptian priests, who wore it at ail their religious ceremonies : hence they are styled by Ovid and Juvenal, " linenwearing." (See also Lev. xvi. 4, and Spencer On the Laios and Rituals of the Jews.) From Egypt, linen passed to the Romans, but not till the time of the emperors. The Roman priests also began to wear linen garments at that time. Linen was also used as a material for writing, though the expression libri lintei, carbasini, was also applied to cotton and silk, as well as linen. The Sibylline books and the mummy bandages, covered with hieroglyphics, are proofs of this use of linen. In the middle ages, linen and woollen cloth formed the only materials for dress ; and fine linen was held in very high estimation ; even the writer of the JYibelungenlied mentions it. Germany and Brabant then carried linen manufactures to the greatest perfection. Linen is yet necessary for the manufacturing of good paper. Cotton has, of late years, taken the place of linen for many purposes, on account of its greater cheapness. (See Cotton, and Byssus.)