James Primerose on Bezoar
A note to Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book III, chapter 23

From De vulgi erroribus, Liv. IV, chap. XXVI-XXVII (pp. 345-359), (in the London 1644 edition, translated by Robert Wittie, pp. 345-359). UNFINISHED

Chap. XXXVI.

Of the Errours about the Bezaar Stone.

Because we have been treating in the precedent chapter concerning Cordialls, something is to be said of the Bezaar stone, which is now adayes had in such familiar use, being thought by many to be endued with an admirable vertue of corroborating the heart, and a very strong Cordiall, to which, neglecting all others, they fly as to some sacred anchor. But they erre in three particulars.

1. First, in that they attribute too much to that stone.

2. Secondly, in that they are ignorant of the quality of it.

3. Thirdly, in that they do not mete out a due quantity of it. Concerning the first, some derive the name of the stone from the word Paser, which among the East-Indians is said to signifie a kinde of goat, in which that stone is found. Some would have it to be called Belzaar, which in the Moores language doth signifie the Lord of poyson, & it is a common name with them, for all those remedies which we call Antidotes, and preservatives against poyson. So 1 Averrhoes after he had beene treating of poysons, in the presedent chapter, at length he discourses of Bezaar, which is as if he should say, an Antidote. The Medicines (saith he) which are called Bezahar, which preserve from poyson, &c. And 2 Avicenne saith, Albezaar is a remedy, which by his owne property doth preserve health and vigour in the Spirit, that it may expell from it the malignity of poyson. Where it seemes to bee a generall name, for all such remedies. But among us, it is peculiarly taken for that stone so much in use, which is taken out of some creatures, and brought to us out of India. Now such is thought to bee the excellency of this stone by some, that they preferre it before all others, for the Arabians do highly commend it against poysons, the plague, jaundice, and all obstructions of the body and bowels. Avenzoar in his booke Theisier, saith that he saved one that had taken most deadly poyson, with three graines of Bezaar, dissolved in five ounces of the water of Gourds. But if wee consider well what Avenzoar writes concerning that stone, wee shall finde that it is not our stone which is brought unto us from the Indies, but the teare of an Hart, of which he talkes so much. The Hart, as Plinie also testifies, by the breath of his nostrils drawes serpents out of their holes, and eats them, immediately he is taken with a grievous thirst, for the quenching whereof he runs to some standing poole, in which he plunges himself up to the neck, but through natures instinct hee drinks not; for if he should hee would fall down dead presently. Then a certaine humour distils to his eyes, which by degres, thickens, unites, and compacts together, and grows to the bigness of an acorne, which afterwards being come out of the water the Hart shakes off, and is sought for by men, which some call the Bezaar stone, being as they say broad, tending to a Pyramis, of the colour of honey, which 3 Amatus the Portugall saith he hath seen. And Scaliger in his 112. Exercitation to Cardanus tells the same tale, and saith that he had the stone, let them beleeve him who list. But this stone of ours is not the teare of the Hart, which is too rare, if ever there were such a stone: But this stone which wee use is very common. Now it is, as writers testifie, of divers sorts, yellow, duskish, whitish; but the yellow is the best, then the duskish: Rhazes writes thus of it, it is a soft stone, of a yellow colour, without any tast, which he saith, he used with good successe against the poyson of Wolvesbane. Now it was of a yellow colour, tending to white, light, and glistering like light. But Garcias ab Horto Physitian to the Viceroy of India, describes it otherwise, who neverthelesse confesses, that he had only heard, that some by the use thereof had been preserved from deplorable diseases, and he will have it to be of a dark green colour; and he saith that they must all of necessity bee brought to the King of that country, and that they canot without much difficultie bee had from thence, and therefore, seeing they are now so common, much doubt is to bee made touching their goodnesse. And here Matthiolus notes well, that there are many adulterate stones of this sort, in shew very like it, but accompanied with no such vertues, And in his third book of Epistles, in his Epistle to Quacelbenus, the stone (saith he) which the Moores call Bozaar, did the most noble Prince reserve for his owne use. I saw long since many stones like to it, but whether they were true or adulterate, I know not: But if wee consult with Serapio and Rhazes, I see not why I should allow of this stone to be legitimate. Where hee ingeniously confesses, that he knew not whether the Bezaar stone of the Emperour were true or no, and he rather thinks that it is adulterate. Now there are two sorts of this stone, one brought out of the East, from Persia, and the adjoyning countries, which is found in a certaine kinde of Goat; the other brought out of the West, from America, which is found in divers creatures. Concerning which it is to be noted out of Iosephus Acosta, that this stone is found in creatures which are called Vicugna, which are a certaine sort of Goats, as also in a beast called Taruga, and in all those creatures which are proper to the counttry of Peru alone, it is found in their stomach and belly, sometimes but one, sometimes two or three, and sometimes more. Now these stones differ from one another, in magnitude, forme, and colour; for some are not bigger than a hazell nut, but others are as large as walnuts, pigeons egges, and henne egges, yea sometimes they are as great as an Orange, as Acosta reports he hath seen: The forme likewise is diverse and very different; so for the colour, some are black, others greene, white, of the colour of Gold, grey. Therefore neither the colour, nor the figure can be certaine and infallible signes of their goodnesse. In Peru they are taken out of severall sorts of creatures, both wild and tame, as the Ganacus, Pacus, Vicugna, Taruga, which creatures he describes; the Ganaci, and Paci, are a sort of Rammes, they have but little stones, and blackish, inferiour to the rest for use in Physick. Those that are taken out of the vicugnæ, are larger than these, and better, being green and somewhat white. But the best are those that are taken out of the Taruga, they are thick, white of colour tending to grey, having thicker shels than the rest. In new Spaine they are found also in Stags. But those that are brought of the East Indies are more excellent than these, being of an olive colour: the next in vertue are those that come out of Peru, and those that are found in new Spaine are to be put in the third place for use in Physick. But the Indians doe counterfait them with a notable sophistication, as 4 Acosta explicates at large.

From what hath been already said, it is manifest that too much credit ought not to be given to this stone.

First, because the effects of the stones that are brought to us, are not answerable to those which Authors write of them. For they will have them mightily to provoke sweat, and sometimes vomit, which thing if any man make triall in ours, he shall not finde to be alwayes true. I have very often given it to my Patients, but I never perceived any of those effects: which are attributed unto it. The same have many of our moderne Writers observed; Hercules Saxonia, a famous practitioner among the Italians, doth ingenuously confesse, that he could never observe any remarkable effect of them, although those stones which he had, were thought to be the best in Venice. 5 I (saith he) to confesse ingenuously, while I practised at Venice, spent a great quantity of this Stone, and yet never could perceive any notable operation of it; I know many to whom I administred it were cured, bbut I did never attribute it to the Stone, for this cause, because I finde in Writers, that after the taking of it, a great sweat ensues, after which they presently finde much ease. But I never saw any sweat break forth, or if it did appeare, it was a very imperfect sweat. Therefore for my owne part, I abandoned all hope of any good by this Stone in feavers; It may be I chanced on a sophisticate and adulterate Stone. But when I administred Physick in the Noblemens houses in Venice, they perswaded me that they were the most excellent of all others. Notwithstanding Matthiolus, and other Physicians do commend this Stone, but it is likely they had some true stones, which are very rare with us; yea, and he himselfe in his Epistle before cited, confesses that those stones which the Emperour had, were not naturall, but sophisticate. 6 Vallesius, a most learned man, chief Physician in ordinary to Philip the second King of Spaine, thinks that there is not a true Bezaar in all Spaine; but if the King of Spain had not a true one, much lesse is it likely that a true one should be sold among us.

Secondly, that ours are for the most part adulterate, this is not the least ground for suspition, that they are taken out of creatures that are slain and eviscerated; and it can scarce bee that one Country should afford so many creatures, but at length the species would become very rare. For such a number of these stones are in England alone, that it seemes a wonder ot me that they are not more rare. And if we consider the other Countries of Europe, we shall find abundance of them every where. Neverthelesse the Physicians which have practised Physick among the Indians, doe confesse that these stones are very rare there, and wondrous deare; and that the Indians doe keep them carefully for their own use: from whence then have we such a continuall supply of them in such plenty, if they bee not counterfeit.

Thirdly, it is a very difficult thing, yea I think it altogether impossible, certainly to discern the naturall from the artificiall, such a notable craft have some of these Impostors. I saw a fellow at Paris, who made them so cunningly, that he himselfe could not distinguish them from the other, but by certaine marks which he set on them. Saxonia confesses that he could never finde an infallible token whereby to know this stone. Some say there is a tender spring of some plant in the middle of it, or a little sand, I have seen a pin, Acosta saw a straw in one; but these, and other such like things doe these jugglers know how to put into their counterfeit stones. Rodericus a Castro, in his Second Book of Womens diseases, teaches to know them thus. That which we have (saith he) from East India is the best ofall others, which is smooth, transparent, coated like an onion, of a dark green ccolour, without taste, the powder whereof, if you mingle with water and chaulk, it yields a pale green colour, and being cast upon the fire, doth presently vanish all into aire. But neither are these things very certaine. Authors write that these stones are of divers colours, but almost all ours are of the same colour, somewhat blackish, but the yellow are said to be the best; therefore the most excellent are seldome found with us, because wee have seldome any that are yellow. Acosta confesses that the Indians doe counterfait them, which is very likely, seeing that is usually done in medicaments of much lesse price and moment. If any man therefore have a stone, which hee certainly knowes to be true and naturall, I am not against his using of it, if hee hath once experienced the vertues thereof; only I would advertise thus much in this place, that men should not give credit to all stones of this kinde, that the true Bezoar is very rare, and which is worst of all, that there are no sure and infallible tokens, whereby the true may bee distinguished from the false. And there are stones sometimes very like to the Bezaar found in diverscreatures, as in horses, swine, and others, which are of no vertue at all. 7 Andreas Laurentius commends the Bezaar against melancholy, so that it be naturall and true, not counterfeit and adulterate, such as at this day the pedling Quacksalvers, Mountibanks, Confectioners, as also the fradulent and covetous Apothecaries almost throughout all France doe usually sell, a hundred graines of which counterfeit stone can never procure the least moment of health.


Of the temperature, and dose of the Bezaar Stone.

I will suppose in this Chapter, that the true Bezaar is familiarly found, because the people doe so confidently believe it. Neverthelesse many are very much afraid of the quantity of it, as if it were a very hot, and strong working medicament; and I have often seene women, which give the sick hot remedies to comfort them, as cinnamon-water, burnt wine, and the like, to bee notwithstanding very fearfull of the quantity of this Stone, and to contradict, and thwart a Physician, if anny time he prescribe more than two, or at the most foure graines at once. And indeed reason it selfe seemes to favour their opinion, for they say it provokes sweat. Now sudorificks doe seem to bee hot, because they attenuate, and cut tough humours, and expell them to the skin. Therefore this Stone seemes to bee so much the hotter, in that it performes this thing, being exhibited in a small dose.

But First, it is to be noted, that this Stone doth seldome provoke sweat now adayes, as the dayly experience shewes.

Secondly, if one takes a very great quantity of it, he shall never perceive that he is any thing hotter thereby; which any man that is in health may make triall of in himself.

Thirdly, of them that have written concerning this Stone, some would have it to be temperate, others cold, but none hot, for it hath neither taste, nor smell, which were a wonder, if it were so hot. It is therefore more probable that it works by an occult property; to wit, in corroborating the heat, and fortifying it against the malignity of poyson; wherefore by the way I inferre, that this Stone is of no force to corroborate, nor comfort the heart, as they call it, except there be malignant and venemous humours in the body, and therefore though it doth no hurt to take it, yet it doth no good.

Fourthly, they that have written concerning this stone, do not agree touching the dose thereof. Avenzoar gave it unto three graines, which is the common dose, but his Stone was not this Bezaar of ours. But Matthiolus prescribes it unto seven graines at the least, Garcias ab Horto unto thirty graines, and confesses that yet more may be taken without any hurt at all. I have heard some famous Physicians attribute very much to this Stone, who alledgeth this as the only cause why it is not so efficacious, namely, because it is taken in too little quantity. But moreover, I have read that Edward the Confessor had a dramme of Bezaar, that is threescore graines given him, as may be read more at large in Monardes, Fumanellus, Abra, Conciliator. Now because as we have said, the right Bezaar is seldome found, and that which we have is sold at too deare a rate, my consell is, that it be prescribed only for rich men, and not for others that are not able to undergoe the charge, and thatit bee alwayes administred in a large dose, for else it will bee altogether unprofitable. yea, I verily believe it may be safely taken to a dramme, it is such a gentle and innocent remedy. Fumanellus in his booke of the Plague commends it unto a Dramme, and Garcias ab Horto reports that it is usually taken in India unto thirtie Graines, too great a quantity (saith he) for although it have no noxious quality, yet it is more safe to take it in a little quantity. But if this stone be unhurtfull, a great quantitie is likewise unhurtfull, as some have observed. Therefore there is no cause to feare to give some children three or four graines thereof. For although Galen forbids to give children Triacle, yet there is a great difference betweene it and the Bezaar stone; for Triacle is a very hot medicament, and consists of divers simples, which may injure, and offer violence to the naturall heat of children, whereas Bezaar is not hot, but only corroborates and comforts the heart, by an occult, and not a manifest qualitie.


1. Cap. 23. l. 5. colliget.

2. Lib. 2. sen. 1. cap. 4.

3. Comment. in Dioscor. cap. 39. lib. 2.

4. Lib. 4. cap. 42.

5. Cap. de feb. pestiferis.

6. Lib. 4. method.

7. Consil. 1.

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