Jorden on Ever-burning Lamps
A note to Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book III, chapter 21

From Edward Jorden (1633) A Discourse of Naturall Bathes, and Minerall Waters, Chapter 5; pp. 26-27. (The argument that perhaps the lamps did not burn continuously but were relit when exposed to air does not seem to have occurred to those who discussed these lamps. One reader believes, from the descriptions, that the lamps may have been an ancient form of flashlight, the two basins or sources invariably associated with ever-burning lamps forming a kind of battery. In any case, the final sentence of this selection will reveal a vast void between our understanding and that of seventeenth-century scientists, or savants.)

But what shall wee judge of those Lamps, which have beene found burning in old Sepulchres? some of them (if wee may beleeve histories) having continued 1500. yeeres together, as that which was found in Paulus the third his time, of Tullia, Ciceroes daughter: and another of Maximus Olibius, neere unto Padua, as Bernardinus Scardeo reports. It seemes here was no ayre to maintaine the Lampes, being closely shut up in glasses, and therefore they burnt without ayre, and were not extinguished, by reason they bred no fuliginous vapours to choake them.

Now whether these oyles which fed the Lampes were made by Art out of gold, as some think, & I hardly beleeve, or rather out of some pure kinde of Naphtha, which is most probable, I leave others to judge: onely I judge it to be the purity of that oyle, which yeelded no fuliginous vapours to choake the fire. If ayre had maintained the flame, it had not continued two minutes, for it would have beene spent and wasted by the fire. Wherefore ignis non est aer accensus. If other concrete juyce be mixed with stone, as Salt, Allum, Vitrioll, &c. it makes them to relent in water or moyst ayre; and these stones are never good to build withall. But let us take stone as it is in it selfe, without the admixture of other Minerals, and we shall finde it to be indissoluble and invincible, either by fire or water.

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